Overview: Canada played a vital role in international efforts to detect, disrupt, prevent, and punish acts of terrorism in 2013. Canada and the United States maintained a close, cooperative counterterrorism partnership, working together on key bilateral homeland security programs such as the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Cross Border Crime Forum. Canada made major contributions to the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), while Canadian diplomacy supported global efforts to prevent radicalization, counter violent extremism, and promote the rule of law overseas. Canadian law enforcement made some significant terrorism-related arrests in 2013, including disrupting a nascent conspiracy to derail a passenger train traveling between Toronto and New York City.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents in Canada in 2013. However, in January, two Canadian citizens who participated in the seizure of the In Amenas gas plan in Algeria, Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej were killed in the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Canada’s legal framework includes significant penalties for committing terrorist acts, conspiring to commit terrorist acts, financing terrorism, and traveling abroad to engage in terrorism. The Canadian government passed two counterterrorism-related bills in 2013, and introduced one more that failed to pass the House of Commons and terminated in September at the end of the first session of Parliament.
In April, Bill S-7, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, and the Security of Information Act, known as the Combating Terrorism Act received Royal Assent (the final legislative stage), and entered into force on July 15. The law restored clauses of the Antiterrorism Act of 2001 that had lapsed in 2007 under automatic sunset provisions. The law compels testimony at investigative hearings and permits preventive arrest and imposition of recognizance with conditions (preemptive bail conditions) on individuals to disrupt terrorist activity prior to the commission of a terrorist offense. New provisions include the offense of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of engaging in terrorist activity or participating in terrorist training. It also increases penalties for individuals who knowingly harbor or conceal persons who have committed terrorist offenses.
In June, Bill S-9, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code, known as the Nuclear Terrorism Act received Royal Assent, and it entered into force on November 1. The law amended the legal definition of “terrorist activity” to include four new criminal offenses relating to the possession, use, transfer, export, import, alteration, and disposal of nuclear material or a radioactive device with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm, or substantial damage to property or the environment; committing acts against a nuclear facility; committing an indictable offense for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material or to obtain access to a nuclear facility; or threatening to commit any of these offenses. The passage of the law permits Canada to ratify the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Canadian law enforcement units have effectively demonstrated their capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Canadian law enforcement and homeland security entities readily share terrorism-related information with the United States and other investigative counterparts, and have clearly demarcated counterterrorism missions and effective working relationships with elements of the Canadian Forces that also have counterterrorism roles. Prosecutors work in close cooperation with specialized law enforcement units, all of which demonstrate its adherence to strict standards of accountability and scrupulous respect for human rights.
Canada has an extensive border security network, and makes excellent use of travel document security technology, terrorist-screening watch lists, biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry, and information sharing with other countries. Canada and the United States enjoy extensive border security collaboration under the auspices of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, the Cross Border Crime Forum, and other ongoing law enforcement exchanges.
Notable terrorism-related arrests in 2013 included:
- On April 22, police charged Chiheb Esseghaier — a Tunisian national — and Raed Jaser — a Palestinian national — with conspiring to derail a VIA Rail passenger train between Toronto and New York City. Neither of the suspects is a Canadian citizen. At year’s end, both men remained in custody and no trial date had been set. In a coordinated arrest, authorities in New York City arrested a third individual, Ahmed Abassi, whom they alleged radicalized Esseghaier and fraudulently applied for a visa to remain in the United States to commit acts of terrorism and develop a network of terrorist recruits.
- In June, the Canadian Minister of Justice ordered the surrender of Iraqi-born Canadian citizen Sayfildin (Sayf) Tahir Sharif (also known as Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa) to the United States to face charges of conspiracy to murder Americans abroad, aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. nationals abroad, and provision of material support to terrorist conduct. Sharif filed for judicial review of the Minister’s decision and also appealed the 2012 judicial ruling by an Alberta court that found sufficient evidence existed to justify extradition. The hearing date on both of these matters was set for May 1, 2014. On October 29, 2013, by Diplomatic Note, the U.S. provided assurances that the death penalty would not be sought or imposed should Sharif be convicted. Sharif remained in custody at year’s end.
- On July 1, police charged Canadian citizens John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody of Vancouver with plotting to explode pressure-cooker devices among crowds on the grounds of the British Columbia Legislature. Police alleged that the pair were self-radicalized and inspired by al-Qa’ida (AQ) ideology on the internet, but acted independently with no support from outside the country. In August, authorities transferred Nuttall to a forensic mental health facility. No trial date had been set by year’s end.
- In October, the Canadian Supreme Court heard an appeal of the constitutionality of an immigration security certificate against Ottawa resident Mohamed Harkat, which the Federal Court had upheld in 2010 on the basis that Harkat constituted a threat to national security. Authorities alleged that Harkat was an AQ sleeper agent. Separately, in June the Federal Court relaxed some restrictions on Harkat’s supervision in the community, including removal of his GPS tracking bracelet, and permitted him to travel domestically and have access to a mobile telephone and computer. The court ruled that Harkat had complied with previous conditions and that the danger he posed to the community had lessened with the passage of time.
- In October, a Federal Court judge upheld the reasonableness of an immigration security certificate against Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub. The judge found credible evidence that Mahjoub was a member of two Egyptian terrorist groups: al-Jihad and Vanguards of Conquest. In January 2013, the Federal Court had relaxed conditions against Mahjoub on the basis that he had complied with restrictions and that the danger he posed to public security had lessened with time.
- As of December 2013, Misbahuddin Ahmed, Khurram Sher and Hiva Alizadeh continued to await trial as a result of their August 2010 arrest and charges related to an alleged conspiracy to bomb targets in Ottawa and participate in and facilitate terrorist activity. Authorities released Misbahuddin Ahmed and Khurram Sher on bail in 2011, while Hiva Alizadeh remained in custody.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Canada is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Egmont Group, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and is a supporting nation of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. Canada is also an observer in the Council of Europe’s Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financial Action Task Force of South America against Money Laundering. Canada has a rigorous detection and monitoring process in place to identify money laundering and terrorist financing activities. The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada is Canada’s financial intelligence unit and is responsible for detecting, preventing, and deterring money laundering and financing of terrorist activities. From April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, FINTRAC made 157 terrorist finance and security threat-related reports to law enforcement and national security partners, up from 116 the prior year. Canada has criminalized terrorist financing in accordance with international standards; freezes and confiscates terrorist assets without delay; monitors and regulates money/value transfer and other remittance services; requires collection of data for wire transfers; obligates non-profits to file suspicious transaction reports and monitors them to prevent misuse/terrorist financing; and routinely distributes UN lists of designated terrorists and terrorist organizations to financial institutions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Regional and International Cooperation: Canada prioritizes collaboration with international partners to counter terrorism and international crime, and regularly seeks opportunities to lead. Canada is a founding member of the GCTF and co-chairs the GCTF Sahel Working Group with Algeria. Canada was also active in fora dealing with counterterrorism, including the OSCE, UN, G-8, OAS, APEC, ASEAN, and the ASEAN Regional Forum, Commonwealth, International Civil Aviation Organization, and the International Maritime Organization. Canada makes major contributions to the GCTF and the GICNT, while Canadian diplomacy supports global efforts to prevent radicalization, counter violent extremism, and promote the rule of law overseas.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development maintains a Counterterrorism Capacity Building Program, and provides training, funding, equipment, and technical and legal assistance to states to enable them to prevent and respond to a broad spectrum of terrorist activity. Examples of Canadian counterterrorism assistance include: border security; transportation security; legislative, regulatory and legal policy development; human rights training; law enforcement, security, military and intelligence training; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and explosives terrorism prevention; mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery; detecting and preventing terrorism financing; cyber security; and protection of critical infrastructure.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s National Security Community Outreach program promotes interaction and relationship-building with at-risk communities. The Department of Public Safety’s Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security fosters dialogue on national security issues between the government and community leaders, including diaspora groups. Both of these initiatives are part of Canada’s aforementioned Counterterrorism Strategy, which seeks specifically to reduce the risk of individuals succumbing to violent extremism and radicalization. The government continued to work with NGO partners and concerned communities to deter violent extremism through preventative programming and community outreach.