Are you worried about terrorists operating in Canada?

Canadian Security Intelligence Service headquarters in Ottawa (Source: CSIS)

Yesterday’s announcement that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had foiled a terror plot based in Montreal and Toronto follows a long, controversial narrative in Canada that stretches back to the 1990s.

That’s when Algerian terror cells allegedly used Canada’s loose immigration policies to stage and plan attacks aimed at France and the US in Quebec.

The so-called Millenium bomber, Ahmed Ressam, first drew international headlines in 1999, when the Algerian national tried to bring a car bomb into the US to attack LA’s international airport.

In 2005, Canadian intelligence “dismantled” an Al Qaeda cell operating in the Toronto area, including four Algerians.  But tensions rose again in 2006 when 18 Toronto men were arrested for operating terror training camps in Ontario.

Then came troubling news that men from London, Ontario were involved in the Islamic terror attack on an Algerian refinery in January of this year.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service now says as many as four people from Canada may have been involved or have ties to that deadly attack.

Which brings us to yesterday’s announcement that two foreign nationals were operating in Montreal and Toronto, allegedly working with Al Qaeda elements in Iran to attack a New York City-bound passenger train, according to the RCMP.

In February of this year, the head of CSIS, Richard Fadden, spoke at a committee hearing in Ottawa and suggested that Al Qaeda continues to make inroads in Canada.

“They are beginning to communicate between themselves far more than they used to. And in every single case, there are Canadians who have joined them,” Fadden said.

“CSIS is currently aware of dozens of Canadians — many in their early 20s — who have travelled or attempted to travel overseas to engage in terrorism-related activites in recent years.”

So what do you think?  Is Canada doing enough to reduce the risk of Islamic terror activities in Ontario and Quebec?  Has enough been done to beef up border security and cooperation between the US and Canada?

Do you see what’s happening in Canada as different from what we’re seeing in Europe and the US, where young Muslims like the Boston-area bombers have been recruited and carried out attacks?

As always, comments welcome.

54 Comments on “Are you worried about terrorists operating in Canada?”

  1. Two Cents says:

    can they milk cows?

  2. Pete Klein says:

    And by the way, why is a pressure cooker a weapon of mass destruction but a 30 round magazine is not?

  3. Two Cents says:

    amen , pete

  4. Two Cents says:

    …….next time I go buy a 50lb. box of 10d galvanized nails will I need my drivers license?

  5. Two Cents says:

    …weapons of mass construction….

  6. Paul says:

    It will be interesting to see the comments here on this question. I would imagine that if you are someone like a writer working in Hamilton County you would have a different view on the dangers of terrorism than someone like a commuter living near Toronto. I know that I am not too concerned about it but I too am a pretty unlikely target.

  7. Brian Mann says:

    One thing that’s interesting is how Canada sort of gets a pass on this stuff in the American imagination. It’s a little weird, right?

    In the modern terrorism age, there has been strong evidence of Canada as a staging ground for terror groups, operating against the US, against France, and against Canadians.

    Canadian officials have confirmed that Al Qaeda cells are operating in Canada’s cities. But the collective public response in the US, generally speaking, is a big yawn.

    Imagine if a single terror plot comparable to the Toronto 18 or the Millenium bomber or this latest scheme were identified in Mexico.

    I rather suspect that the lid would come off.

    And maybe this is exactly how it should be? Keep calm and carry on and all that?

    –Brian, NCPR

  8. Pete Klein says:

    My problem with this whole terrorism thing is that after all is said and done, the terrorists are mostly impotent except for in our imaginations.
    The odds of getting killed by anyone other than a terrorist are much higher than the odds of being killed by a terrorist.
    Their power is immensely magnified by the news media and our politicians who are always talking about their war on terror.
    Will the war on terror become a never ending war such as the war on drugs – and continue for 100′s of years without any resolution?
    This is what I fear.
    I am not in any way dismissing the horror of what happened in Boston but compared to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, it ranks very low on a scale of death and destruction. It doesn’t rise to the level of what happened in Sandy Hook.

  9. Paul says:

    Pete, I totally agree. It has nothing to do with statistics and everything to do with communication. The same dynamic is fueling the recent gun control debate. Statistics show that your chances of being killed in gun related violence is falling over the past decades. But despite that we now see any shooting incident that took place anywhere immediately. The world seems like a much more violent and dangerous place. I recently heard a great piece on one of the public radio stations I was listening to where they were interviewing some guy from Harvard (ping, did you hear me drop that name!) who’s research shows that we live in the most peaceful time in the history of our species. You wouldn’t know it if you look at any media out there.

  10. Ken Hall says:

    I am far more concerned about the “too big to fail banks, corporations, stock market manipulators, CEO’s, military industrial complexes, Alberta oil sand pollution, atmospheric COO pollution, water pollution, resource depletion, ., ., and last but not least too damn many humans having too damn more humans ultimately causing all of the ills facing spaceship Earth” to worry about my demise being orchestrated by Canadian coddled “terrorists” slipping across the border to attack me in my home.

  11. Paul says:

    So many things to worry about and so little time.

  12. Two Cents says:

    “Imagine if a single terror plot comparable to the Toronto 18 or the Millenium (sic) bomber or this latest scheme were identified in Mexico.”

    the disparity between the perceptions of one border vs other is clearly in the minds of the Americans who live along each.
    clearly the focus has been on our southern line in the past. as a journalist brian, you are in a position to change that, rather than make a veiled comment on racial prejudices.
    as an American I want both borders respected, and not because I think it’s a brown vs white issue.
    i’m open minded enough to dislike anyone who attempts to hurt me, or mine, regardless of where they originate.

  13. Brian Mann says:

    Two cents –

    Where was the veiled comment about racial prejudices? If you think that’s the reason for the disparity, say so. But don’t ascribe those sentiments to me.

    If I thought racism played a noteworthy role here, and wanted to chat about that, I would say so loud and clear.

    I think there are big, interesting cultural forces at play here. Race may well be a factor. But so too is language, differing cultural ties, economics and class and on and on.

    Again, feel free to tease out the race issue if that’s what you want to comment about, but leave my tea leaves alone!

    -Brian, NCPR

  14. Paul says:

    “young Muslims like the Boston-area bombers have been recruited and carried out attacks?”

    Who was it that “recruited” these guys? Where are we with that now?

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    Im more concerned about drunk drivers

  16. Paul says:

    Peter, doing a lot of traveling lately. Please don’t go there! I hear you. Your last comment should have given some terrorists a new idea. Be careful! Clowns are also very scary. Steven King was a genius with that one.

  17. Peter Hahn says:

    good point – what would happen if terrorists went around spreading bedbugs everywhere.

  18. Peter Hahn says:

    They could bring them in from Canada easily. (or to Canada from NYC for that matter)

  19. Paul says:

    There was a period not too far back where they probably were! Nasty. It did create the bedbug alert apps as well as products for the likes of BASF, Bayer, and others (seems like the Germans still rule in the chemical world) so some economic good did come of it! (Maybe that is why the Germans are doing so well, German terrorists??)

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Political violence happens because of underlying political problems, fix the problems and the violence disappears. Too many people aren’t interested in understanding the problem but are willing to keep fixing the symptoms forever.

  21. Paul says:

    Knuck, that is true. But not all violence has a political basis. These guys just sound like the got off on the radical stuff they saw on the internet. There is always going to be underlying issues like poverty and a lack of opportunity somewhere these boys seem to be in pretty good shape as far as the opportunities they had. They just chose to squander it, and they ended up dead and half dead in the bottom of a boat. It seems to me that you have to work on the underlying problems and the symptoms at the same time as best you can.

  22. Paul says:

    Knuck, I look at the pictures of the younger brother and I can easily see one of my own sons. Who has similar opportunities, has access to the same information that these boys had, and I hope (and am optimistic) that they will not end up like that. Same political situation different outcome, god willing.

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, my statement was a general one. Yes, after a crime has been committed the criminal should be held accountable. And I am thankful for the many people who work to prevent criminal acts in a manner that is Constitutional and does not violate individual and collective rights. But all that kind of thing is a response to policy failure.

    All of a sudden since the Boston bombing lots of people are going to know, for maybe the first time, that a place and people call Chechnya and Chechens exist. And they aren’t dark skinned, in fact they are Caucasians from the Caucasus. And there have been many Chechins involved in armed struggles from the former Yugoslav republics to Afghanistan to northern Africa. Why? Because of a history of conflict and unresolved political issues with Russia.

    I can go around the world naming unresolved conflicts that we could be spending a small amount of money trying to resolve which would go a long way toward preventing political violence either here at home or in other countries. Israel/Palestine. Pakistan/India. Iran and lots of other players. China and several ethnic minorities including Tibettans and Uigurs. Africa! Africa is a whole continent full of various conflicts… We need to be using our State Department to work on understanding and resolving theses sorts of difficulties proactively so that we don’t have to use drones and Homeland Security in the future and so that we don’t have to shut down major American cities to hunt for one punk kid.

  24. dave says:

    I’m absolutely worried about home grown terrorists. Canadian, American, Mexican, or other.

    This is such a disturbing and complex phenomenon that I am still not sure how to think about it. These are not folks who are members of an organization… where we could formulate a plan and methodically try to crack down and eliminate them. Heck that is hard enough to do, as we’re discovering in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But these people. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates. I am not sure how we can ever expect to completely predict and prevent acts of terror from people like this. An otherwise seemingly normal kid who was popular, was captain of his HS wrestling team, and was socializing and attending parties with friends in the days after his crime? How the heck do our law enforcement agencies protect us from someone like that?

    Ultimately, I feel like we, as a society, are going to have to get serious about having some really tough and awkward conversations about the bigger issues surrounding all of this. That will involve discussing our role in provoking these kinds of people, but it will also involve discussing the role that certain ideologies play, whether they intend to or not, in producing an unacceptably high amount of dangerous radicals who harm us. Instead of playing whack-a-mole with These are going to be very uncomfortable conversations that a lot of people will resist having.

  25. mervel says:

    I think Brian has a great point.

    If these guys were in Mexico people would be freaking out. But it is Canada, so we kind of think things will be taken care of. Maybe they will be? The Canadian system is less corrupt than the Mexican system, I think in general we trust them more.

    But I think we should be more attentive to what is happening in Canada in relation to Islamic terrorism. I am not overly worried about terrorism in general. But I do recognize that this is in general Islamic terrorism lets get serious about why and who and really look at what is happening, I think we are worrying far far too much about Muslim sensibilities.

  26. dave says:

    “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with These are going to be very uncomfortable conversations that a lot of people will resist having.”

    Oops, I didn’t really finish my thought there. Apologies. I think what I meant to type was…. “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with home grown terrorists as they pop up in our society, we need to address the root causes. These are going to be very uncomfortable conversations that a lot of people will resist having.”

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Yes, Brian has a good point about Mexico. And how is Mexico different from Canada? Well, to start with the gap in income between ordinary citizens and the elite is extremely wide which results in a society in which people easily slide into relatively benign black market activities which become precursors for more serious criminal activity. Mexico is awash with drug money, mostly coming from the US – and illegal guns, mostly coming from the US.

    And the result in Mexico? They find piles of headless bodies in the desert somewhere, 20 or 50 of them, and it doesn’t even register as big news here. There are massive shoot-outs between rival gangs, or gangs and the police. There are assassinations of police officials on a regular basis. Attacks like the Boston bombing happen in Mexico regularly and barely register as news here north of the border.

    And guess what? The are pretty much all Catholics down there.

  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Why are Catholics so prone to drug and gun smuggling? It must be something in their social fabric. Maybe we are worrying too much about Catholic sensibilities.

  29. Brian Mann says:

    KHL – Are you joking with this Catholic stuff or making some kind of stab at irony? Maybe suggesting that we shouldn’t broadbrush Catholics in the way that some people broadbrush Muslims?

    I hope so.

    –Brian, NCPR

  30. Pete Klein says:

    Speaking of the younger bomber, am I the only one who thinks that in some photos he looks a lot like a young Bob Dylan?
    And thinking about Bob Dylan, he just goes to show the pen is often mightier than the sword or bomb.
    These terrorists need to realize they will make more progress in their causes to the extent their causes are justified, if they pick up the pen instead of the sword, bomb or bushmaster.

  31. Two Cents says:

    the quote is the sentence i question. Why is mexico border reaction vs Canada more probable to blow the proverbial “lid” ?
    you made the comparison. i feel the border is not a north line or south, east west, line, but an encompassing circle.
    who, or what comes in from where is secondary only to why in my opinion.

  32. Peter Hahn says:

    The drug cartels in Mexico are far far more dangerous than any terrorists.

  33. Two Cents says:

    Nah pete,
    their motives are predictable, and their methods straight forward.
    malcontents are far more dangerous.
    i read here often the north country wants immigration, i muse the great need for farm hands to milk cows,
    i don’t know if the trade is as good as the north country thinks.
    drug cartels don’t want to live in America, or bring it’s rail road to destruction, they want/cater to consumers, just like china
    if the us wanted, they could wipe out the drug lords in a second.
    they usual problem is what to do with the power vacuum created.
    the us will destroy the cartels when phillip morris starts selling pre-rolls.

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    What?!? People broad brush MUslims? I hadn’t noticed.

  35. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Okay, okay, sarcasm, irony, sardony. Seemed somewhat obvious to me.

  36. Paul says:

    “And I am thankful for the many people who work to prevent criminal acts in a manner that is Constitutional and does not violate individual and collective rights.”

    Knuck this is a classic line. Spoken like I would expect given your moniker!

  37. Paul says:

    How many people a year are we alerted to by foreign governments as possibly having terrorist tendencies that we should take a closer look at. I understand that till this incident the guy had done nothing wrong and that we “investigated” him but how much of that is going on, I am very curious. Are we talking about a handful, a truckload, or way more? Brian Mann, any info on that? Seems like a reasonable question, and it sounds like we were close to doing something that might have prevented this. Obviously the attacks that we have prevented had some similarity to this case.

  38. Paul says:

    “The drug cartels in Mexico are far far more dangerous than any terrorists.”

    This may be true, or I would say as dangerous. September 11 almost sank the whole American economy in one attack, maybe it did?

  39. dave says:

    The question I struggle with is this:

    Is it possible to avoid broad brushing (the term we seem to be using here) certain groups… while at the same time acknowledging the fact that these groups are producing harmful individuals?

    If it is possible, how would that conversation even go? Something like this?

    We understand that the vast, VAST majority of people who are associated with your ideology/religion are not dangerous radicals, but that said, your ideology/religion is producing radical individuals at a far greater rate than other ideologies/religions, a rate that we as a society have deemed unacceptable, and together we need to figure out how to stop that.

  40. Walker says:

    “September 11 almost sank the whole American economy in one attack, maybe it did?”

    Only because a certain leader who shall go nameless used it as a pretext to go to war in the wrong country (fattening the bank accounts of numerous cronies in the process.)

  41. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Dave, it isn’t religion that is producing radicals, as my point about Catholics in Mexico was intended to point out. It isn’t Buddhism in Thailand that is responsible for attacks on Muslims or vise-versa. It wasn’t Catholicism or Protestantism that caused bombings in Northern Ireland. Superficial understanding of complex problems is the danger. It wasn’t very long ago that the US supported the apartheid South African government in sir efforts to put down the ANC because the ANC was deemed a terrorist organization and Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Did Nelson Mandela change? Black South Africans were responsible for lots of violence, does that mean that all black South Africans were terrorists and ungovernable?

  42. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed my statement. It is meant to point out that sometimes we do things that may, in the end, be counterproductive in the effort to make ourselves safe and secure. Extraordinary rendition, water boarding, targeted assassinations and the like are likely to have radicalized many people — people who may draw the incorrect conclusion that Americans are violent Imperialists bent on squashing Islam.

    If anyone has ever dealt with a mule you know that once a mule has decided it won’t turn right there is no way for you to force it to turn right. You can beat it and all that will happen is you will make the mule hate you. But you CAN ask the mule take 3 left turns and everyone is happy.

  43. mervel says:

    The drug cartels are more dangerous to Mexicans than Islamic terrorism, that is a fact. However for the average American, Islamic terrorism is a bigger threat and for the world they are a much larger threat. Every time an Islamic terrorist does something in the US or Pakistan or wherever, I think we need to look at the threat realistically and not worry so much about being politically correct. No not broad brush the entire religion but really look at the true actions and threats, there is something happening that is radicalizing these young men that is uniquely Islamic and our PC sensibilities are not going to change that. We should look at the issue and not shy away from it.

  44. Dave says:

    “it isn’t religion that is producing radicals”

    Of course religion has a role in producing these radicals.

    Jihad is specifically a religious term. Fatwa is specifically a religious edict.

    We are not talking about a loose association here. These are not terrorists who just happen to be muslim… like the older Tsarnaev brother was a terrorist who just happened to be a boxer.

    No, we are talking about terrorists who do what they do because they are devoted to an extreme religious view that encourages and calls for (and then celebrates) the type of violence we saw in Boston.

  45. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    How about Crusade?

    But the Crusades weren’t about religion either. Misuse of religion may be producing radicals but misuse of religion is done for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. Osama bin Laden didn’t care about spreading terrorism to the US, he wanted the US out of Saudi Arabia. It was a geo-political issue.

    The inability of people to separate the issues in their minds makes it impossible to find solutions that work. If your car wont start and you are convinced that you aren’t getting spark it will be a long time before you discover you are out of gas.

  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Okay Mervel, I guess were going to have to get into a tit-for-tat.
    Christian terrorism:
    Oklahoma City bombing, Bull Connor, burning Black churches across the South, the Birmingham Church bombing, the KKK, the Aryan Nation and Neo-Nazis, Ted Kuczinski, Anton Breivik, assassination of MLK, Adam Lanza, and Argentina’s Dirty War that the current Pope was up to his neck in.

  47. Walker says:

    “Every time an Islamic terrorist does something in the US or Pakistan or wherever, I think we need to look at the threat realistically and not worry so much about being politically correct.”

    You might want to take a look at mid-East history.

  48. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Do drone attacks that kill innocent children in Waziristan or Yemen count as mid-east terrorism? What about drone attacks that kill US citizens? What are we willing to give up to feel safe? We wont give up our guns at home – the same guns that are often used or misused to kill innocent people. The same guns that little kids find in dad’s underwear drawer and kill their brother with.

    The same people who will fight tooth and nail against a woman’s right for an abortion apparently have no qualms about killing 3 year old Ayeesha in Pakistan. here’s a list of some more:

    So who is the Terrorist? And what is causing radicalization?

Comments are closed.