Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security

Overview of the security agency perspective from Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert. Challenge to the rest of government and society lies with counter-radicalization efforts, as they flag below:

Radicalization prevention begins at home, in our communities and across various levels of government. Furthermore, the development of counter-narratives to violent extremism must not be seen as the exclusive domain of security agencies. Counter-radicalization is a long-term battle of ideas that can only be won through collaborative action across society, and more specifically by applying proven commercial marketing strategies.

With the move of the multiculturalism program back to Canadian Heritage, there is an opportunity for the program to play a larger role in such policy discussions and initiatives than was the case recently at CIC/IRCC (as was done previously before the move to CIC/IRCC).

Source: Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security | National Post

Don’t overstate risk of terrorism among refugees, experts say

Good placing in context:

“When we are dealing with people that are from, in many cases, a terrorist war zone, we are going to make sure that we screen people appropriately and the security of this country is fully protected,” Harper said at a campaign stop in Welland, Ont.

“We cannot open the floodgates and airlift tens of thousands of refugees out of a terrorist war zone without proper process. That is too great a risk for Canada,” he added during a question-and-answer session.

Harper’s remarks continue a security narrative the Conservatives launched after the fatal terror attacks by ISIL sympathizers in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu almost a year ago. National security is a key plank in the party’s election platform.

But the government should not be presenting refugee resettlement here as an either/or option with anti-terrorism efforts, says Scott Watson, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Victoria.

“I think it’s possible to do a large-scale operation of assisting refugees that (also) has a thorough screening component for security reasons, if there was enough political will to do so. I think both can be done,” he said.

“The vast majority of the people have no interest in contributing to further violence. There could be a couple of people who are sympathetic to ISIL coming in, but if there’s proper security screening and proper integration once refugees are brought into the country, I don’t think it’s something we need to be concerned about.” Besides, “there’s much better ways for them (ISIL) to do what they want to do than to use refugees as the means of doing it,” said Watson.

He and Whitaker have done extensive research on the rise of national security fears that have accompanied concentrated waves of immigration to Canada. Harper’s framing of the Syrian refugee crisis in security terms is similar to concerns, ultimately unfounded, that communist infiltrators would accompany the arrival of Hungarian refugees to Canada in 1956, or with the Cambodian and Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970s.

Whitaker concludes many refugee groups now tend to be seen as importers of external political conflicts to the West.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officers overseas are responsible for much of the security vetting of refugees and immigrants. Many refugees understandably have no official identity documents. But, “you can’t go back to the Syrians or an area that’s no longer under Iraqi government control and say, ‘by the way, is Mohammed a resident of Erbil?’” said Ray Boisvert, a former CSIS assistant director of intelligence.

“You try to do your best to interview them and get a decent sense of their background and see if you can poke any holes in it.”

Source: Don’t overstate risk of terrorism among refugees, experts say | Ottawa Citizen

Government looks to terrorism studies to stop radicalization

Not out of character: denouncing something for political purposes while quietly carrying out some needed work:

According to a request for proposals posted online on Wednesday, Public Safety Canada is looking to carry out five research projects delving into such areas as the “psychology” of violent extremism, the role of the Internet in radicalization, and the extent to which women become involved in terror movements.

“We are funding research that is studying the participation of western extremist travellers in the conflict in Syria, how they communicate, how they travel. This research will give us the building blocks that we can use to develop better strategies to stop radicalization before it ever manifests itself,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told the House of Commons public safety committee on Wednesday.

Government looks to terrorism studies to stop radicalization.

CBC report on how the Government continues to emphasize enforcement, not prevention, in its public messaging (both are needed):

[Michael] Zekulin had hoped to hear details of a counter-radicalization strategy announced months ago by the RCMP. He didn’t get it.

“The whole counter-radicalization strategy is to prevent the next generation of fighters. We need to get into communities, recognize the threat at home because groups like ISIS are very sophisticated using social media to recruit to their cause.”

In fact, Canada is well behind other allies in developing a counter-radicalization strategy. Britain, the U.S. and Australia already have such plans in place.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says cooperation between his force and CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) has provided timely information that has led to successful arrests and prosecutions in recent years.

“We have about 63 active national security investigations on 90 individuals related to the travelling group — both people who intend to go or who have returned — so the pace and tempo of the operations is quite brisk,” he told the committee on Wednesday, adding “that it’s nothing Canadians need to be alarmed about.

“I think we are managing through our collective efforts our response that is appropriate to the nature of these suspected offences.”

Ray Boisvert, a former assistant director of CSIS, points out that while Canadian security agencies have increased their vigilance, Canadians still wind up in conflict zones.

“At the end of the day when they come back there’s a good chance they are deeply radicalized,” he told CBC News. “They are trained in weapons of war and they may hurt Canadians at home.”

For his part, Zekulin also worries that those radicals will become effective recruiters once they’ve returned. As fighters and as Canadians, he says, they have credibility and a story that can influence others in their community.

So while the federal government is sending jets to stop the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, an important battle over radicalized Canadians may also be taking shape here at home — a battle in which Ottawa may already have waited too long to intervene.

Has Ottawa been too slow to take on radicalized Canadians?

How much of a threat do terrorists pose to Ottawa?

Wark’s comments appear to be the most sensible of those cited:

So, has Iran reached a violent tipping point with Canada? Is Ottawa sufficiently fortified? How concerned should we be?

Experts interviewed this week conclude this: Hezbollah is an important threat, but the probability of an Iranian-Hezbollah hit on the capital is low. If the aim was to strike against the West, there are other higher-value targets outside Canada.

“Canada is by and large off the political radar screens of most of these groups. It’s hard to see al-Qaida affiliates or terrorist movements abroad turning their sights on Ottawa specifically,” says Wesley Wark, a national security expert at the University of Ottawa.

“But a Canadian urban centre might be the bullseye of some disaffected Canadian who went the route of jihad and had the means to try violence. We’ve been there before in terms of the so-called Toronto 18 plot.”

How much of a threat do terrorists pose to Ottawa? | Ottawa Citizen.