Are more homegrown terror attacks inevitable in Canada?
October 30th, 2014
09:35 AM ET

Are more homegrown terror attacks inevitable in Canada?

By Ronald Crelinsten, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Ronald Crelinsten is an expert on terrorism and radicalization and the author of Counterterrorism. He is an associate fellow at the Centre for Global Studies at University of Victoria and Adjunct Professor at Royal Roads University. The views expressed are his own.

Last week's shocking events in Canada's capital, Ottawa, and in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, near Montreal, Quebec, confirm that the terrorist threat stemming from the Middle East knows no boundaries, and can take many forms. Yet while the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria, currently wreaking havoc in that region, has recently called for low-tech attacks in countries that have joined the U.S. coalition conducting airstrikes against them, this kind of threat is not new.

Back in October 2009, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for simple attacks with "readily available weapons such as knives, clubs or small improvised explosive devices". A few months later, as Stratfor notes, U.S.-born AQ spokesman Adam Gadahn issued a "A Call to Arms" for "grassroots jihadists" or "lone wolves" to strike targets close by rather than travel abroad, similar to the November 2009 attack by Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. Two months later, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, attempted to blow up a car in Times Square. And last May, two British citizens of Nigerian descent, ran over off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby in southeast London. They then hacked him to death with knives and a meat cleaver.

Canada has also seen its share of terrorism, including both domestic and international terrorism, homegrown and imported, nationalist and religious, single-issue and revolutionary. FULL POST

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Topics: Canada
Canada confronts the openness/safety paradox
October 26th, 2014
12:27 AM ET

Canada confronts the openness/safety paradox

By Scott J. White, Special to CNN

Scott J. White is an associate professor for National Security and director of External Academic Programs at Drexel University's College of Computing and Informatics. The views expressed are his own.

At its core, terrorist violence challenges a state’s commitment and adherence to liberty and democracy, and the threats we face within our borders and beyond test the very underpinnings of our society. Canada faced just such a threat this week.

On October 22, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is alleged to have engaged in an unspeakable act of wanton violence, reportedly walking up to a soldier guarding a memorial and shooting him, before opening fire inside the country’s parliament.

In 1927, the Right Hon. Raoul Dandurand, a lawyer and Canadian senator, said that Canada and defacto the United States were “a fireproof house, far from the sources of conflagration.” The longtime politician was noting our geographic distance from Europe and that continent’s history of conflict. However, the events of 9/11 demonstrated that the United States was no longer exempt from the direct impact of a spillover of terrorist violence. And this week’s incident was a reminder that neither is Canada. FULL POST

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Topics: Canada • Terrorism
Rethinking education key to tackling inequality
February 3rd, 2014
02:52 PM ET

Rethinking education key to tackling inequality

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor for 'The Economist,' and Canadian member of parliament Chrystia Freeland about rising inequality – and how the West should respond.

You were elected as a member of parliament in Canada last year. How do you think the big debate going on over inequality in the United States compares with how it is unfolding in Canada?

Freeland: Basically, these are global phenomenon that are driving the surge in inequality. It’s globalization. It’s technological change. And there’s a political aspect, a set of political changes – deregulation, weakening of unions, privatization, changes in taxes. So this is really something that is happening in all of the Western industrialized countries, and also in a lot of the emerging markets – you see income inequality surging in China, Russia, India. So it’s a big issue in Canada.

Interestingly, I think it’s becoming a truth universally acknowledged, which it wasn’t before the crisis. Things have changed. Income inequality is higher than it has been. So if you think back pre-2008, people were still debating that. Now, we all get that this is the new reality, and I think what you are starting to see is people focusing on what part of all this is bad, and what can we do about it. And I think the focus rightly is narrowing in on really the big problem of the hollowed out middle class, the stagnant middle class jobs and there not being enough middle class jobs.

I think what you’re going to see increasingly is people saying that this is the thing we need to focus on, and also how do we improve social mobility?

FULL POST

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Topics: Canada • Economy • Inequality • Q&A • United States
January 28th, 2014
09:03 AM ET

Canada’s Harper tries some ‘musical diplomacy’

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Take a listen to this rendition of the Beatles classic “Hey Jude.” Not the best you've ever heard of course, but perhaps the best by a world leader. That is Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, rocking out on the keyboard.

Harper was serenading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel last week and yes, that's Bibi singing along.

If there's any doubt about the state of Israeli-Canadian friendship, yes, that is Harper singing "With a Little Help From My Friends."

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Topics: Canada • Last Look
December 20th, 2013
06:02 PM ET

Canada in 2014: Separatist issue looms

By Jonathan Kay, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Kay is Comment Editor of the Toronto-based National Post newspaper. You can follow him @jonkay. The views expressed are his own. This is the fifth in the '14 in 2014' series, looking at what the year ahead holds for key countries.

The biggest challenge facing Canada in 2014? It’s the same one that has threatened Canadian unity since the country’s genesis: the status of the majority-French province of Quebec within Canada’s majority-Anglo confederation. But due to a series of political gambits recently launched by Quebec separatists, this age-old issue now comes with a new and disturbing post-9/11 twist.

American visitors to Montreal and Quebec City often come back describing the province as “European” in character. The term bespeaks praise for these cities’ cobblestoned historic areas, multilingual character, fine restaurants, and continental sophistication.

But, less charmingly, Quebec politicians also are more “European” than the rest of North America in their suspicious attitude toward immigrants. And this fact is creating a growing cultural estrangement between Quebec and the rest of Canada, further exacerbating the country’s longstanding rift over language.

FULL POST

Topics: Canada
April 23rd, 2013
05:43 PM ET

How big is Canada’s terrorism threat?

By Veronica Kitchen, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Veronica Kitchen is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. The views expressed are her own.

News that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s “Project Smooth” foiled an alleged terrorist plot in Canada was greeted in some quarters with the usual tongue-in-cheek surprise that violent extremists would target a “nice country” like Canada. But the fact is that Canada has long been concerned with its status as a potential terrorist target.

Terrorism in Canada (and the United States) is a rare event. In the 1960s, the FLQ, a group of violent and revolutionary Québec separatists, launched a bombing campaign that culminated in the 1970 October Crisis, when they kidnapped and murdered the deputy premier of Québec, Pierre Laporte; Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau controversially enacted the War Measures Act and declared martial law. Canada’s most deadly terrorist attack came in 1985, when Sikh militants orchestrated the bombing of Air India flight 182, which exploded near Ireland killing all passengers, including 268 Canadians. Twenty-six Canadians were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

More recently, it was revealed last month that two young Canadian men from London, Ontario travelled to Algeria and allegedly participated in a terrorist attack on a gas plant that resulted in the deaths of dozens of workers, as well as most of the terrorists. Soon after, it became clear that two others from the same high school were also suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. Coming from different ethnic backgrounds – and not all from Muslim or even particularly devout families – these young Canadians have forced us to confront our stereotypes about what a terrorist looks like. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to score political points by arguing that Canada doesn’t spend time figuring out root causes, understanding domestic radicalization is imperative both to avoid attacks on Canadian soil and to help stop Canadian citizens travelling to other countries to participate in terrorism. (And indeed, as the journalist Paul Wells has pointed out, the Canadian government funds research into precisely that question).

More from GPS: Canada shouldn't be surprised

Canada’s response to terrorism has evolved with the terrorist threat. The response to the Air India attacks was generally considered to be poor, marred by a lack of co-operation between the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP. Now, intelligence and law enforcement officials co-operate on national security matters under a strict set of guidelines through the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs) located in Vancouver, Alberta, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

The Toronto and Montreal INSETs led the investigation in to the plot against VIA rail. Information is also shared beyond Canadian borders; in this case, the FBI was closely involved. Such co-operation can yield excellent results, as it appears to have this week. But we should also be conscious of cases such as that of Maher Arar, where information shared by the RCMP with American officials without the correct qualifications and restrictions led to the detention, rendition and torture of an innocent individual.

This week, the Canadian House of Commons is debating Bill S7, the Combatting Terrorism Act, which would re-introduce controversial provisions allowing for preventive arrest and investigative hearings that expired in 2007. The Canadian Bar Association argues that such provisions duplicate existing laws; the charges in Montreal and Toronto this week would lend credence to that view. While Bill S7 has made its way rather slowly through the legislative process up to now, Harper’s Conservatives now have a majority. The bill is also likely to gain momentum from the arrests in Project Smooth. Indeed, some critics have suggested that the last-minute scheduling of the Combatting Terrorism bill debate is suspicious.

Yet despite a few missteps, the Canadian government has largely avoided excess in its domestic governance of counter-terrorism, as befits the comparatively small magnitude of the terrorist threat relative to other public policy concerns. In some cases, Canada has been able to learn from American errors, for instance, in a more prudently designed no-fly list with clearer provisions for removing names. In others, Canada has bent too much to perceived American priorities. Delays in returning Abfousian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, to Canada after charges of terrorism were dropped seem to be influenced at least in part by concerns about the American reaction. The reality is that terrorism policy in Canada is shaped by what happens in the United States. Our shared continent and the fact that threats can come from anywhere at home or abroad make this inevitable.

As the rhetoric of terrorism inevitably ramps up in Canada and the United States in the wake of the Boston bombings and the VIA rail plot, we should avoid drifting back into the intense culture of fear and division that characterized the years after 9/11. While the Boston bombings show the impossibility of perfect security from attack, they also demonstrate the superior preparedness of our first responders.

The Canadian arrests demonstrate that our security agencies have the tools they need to work together to investigate and charge violent extremist plotters. Trying Tsarnaev as an unlawful combatant or routinizing extraordinary measures such as those proposed in Bill S7 would be a step backwards. We can’t end terrorism, but we can address it without unduly changing the fabric of our societies.

Topics: Canada • Terrorism
April 23rd, 2013
12:32 PM ET

Canadians shouldn’t be surprised about alleged terror plot

By Wesley Wark, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Wesley Wark is a Canadian expert on security, intelligence and terrorism issues and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  He served for two terms on the Canadian prime minister’s Advisory Council on National Security. The views expressed are his own.

When it comes to terrorism, North America is a shared space. That has always been the conviction of Canadian officials and is written into our official counter-terrorism strategy.  It is also a belief shared by much of Canadian society, though subject to a multitude of interpretations.

Sometimes the reading of this shared political space is that terrorist events will occur in the United States, and Canada will feel the consequences in things such as tightened border security and more restrictive measures around travel to the U.S., or the movement of goods across our shared border. Since the 9/11 attacks Canadians have gotten used to girding themselves for something bad to happen in the aftermath of a terrorist outrage or foiled attack south of our border. We have also been keenly aware that a perception exists in some U.S. quarters that Canada is “soft” on terrorism. This has been an unhelpful slur.

Canadian government and society at large are profoundly moved when tragedy strikes the United States, as was evident in their response to the tragic circumstances of the Boston marathon bombing last week. What they are relatively unused to is the notion that we might face our own serious terrorism threats.

FULL POST

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Topics: Canada • Terrorism
December 14th, 2012
07:47 PM ET

Canada in 2013: It’s all about the oil

This is the fifth in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.

By Jonathan Kay, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Kay is the Managing Editor for Comment at Canada’s National Post newspaper and a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him @jonkay. The views expressed are his own.

Canada is in a fortunate position relative to other developed Western nations. Our government is stable. Our budget deficit is small. Our real estate market is healthy (if somewhat overheated). And unemployment is relatively low. Only the occasional flourish of Quebec separatism keeps things lively in the Great White North. The biggest challenge my country will face in 2013 – and for many years after that – will be the problem of plenty. Specifically, how will Canada manage its large and growing oil wealth?

Canada currently produces just over 3 million barrels of oil per day (b/d), making us the world’s 7th largest producer, and the single largest supplier of oil imports to the U.S. market. Thanks to the ongoing expansion of Alberta's oil sands, production is expected to more than double by 2030, to 6.2-million b/d, transforming Canadian into an energy superpower.

FULL POST

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Topics: Canada • Energy • Oil
Immigration lessons for the U.S. from around the world
New citizens wave flags before being sworn in during a Naturalization Ceremony in October at the Statue of Liberty.
June 10th, 2012
10:41 AM ET

Immigration lessons for the U.S. from around the world

Fareed Zakaria looks at how the immigration systems work – and don't work – in Japan, Europe, Canada and the U.S. in the TV special: "Global Lessons: The GPS Roadmap for Making Immigration Work" which aired on CNN on Sunday, June 10. Watch on CNN International on Saturday, June 16, at 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET

Immigrants founded America hundreds of years ago, coming to the promised land in search of freedom and opportunity, in pursuit of the American dream.

Today, many Americans see immigrants as a danger to that dream.

They worry that immigrants are taking their jobs, using government services and changing the country's national identity. The average American believes that 39% of the U.S. population was born abroad. The real figure is 13%, still the highest level since 1920.

Related: How much do you know about U.S. immigration?

Immigration is divisive, a wedge issue in this election year. But most Americans (73%) agree that the government is doing a poor job of managing it.

So, how should the U.S. handle immigration? Does anyone else do it better? What can the U.S. learn from successes – and possible mistakes – from other countries? FULL POST

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Topics: Canada • Europe • Global Lessons • Immigration • Japan
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