An estimated 180 individuals with ties to Canada left the country and were believed to be involved in terrorist activity at the end of 2015, Canadian government says.
Canada’s public safety department said another 60 people had returned to Canada after allegedly participating in extremist activity abroad. The figures were contained in the government’s 2016 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, which was published online Thursday, and match those provided by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service during an appearance before a Senate committee earlier this year.
Canada and other western countries have struggled in recent years with how to prevent their residents from traveling abroad to join terrorist groups like Islamic State, as well as what to do with those individuals if they return home.
But the greatest terrorist threat to Canada, the report said, comes from violent extremists living in the country who might become inspired to carry out an attack on Canadian soil.
Earlier this month, a 24-year-old man was killed in a small Ontario community after police received a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation about plans for a potential terror attack. The man, who the police had previously flagged as a security risk but who hadn’t left the country to participate in terror-linked activity, detonated an explosive device when he was confronted by police.
In a separate incident two years earlier, a gunman killed a sentry at a war memorial in Ottawa before entering and firing shots inside Parliament.
The government report identified the number of Canadian women traveling abroad to join Islamic State as a key emerging issue for the force, noting that about one in five so-called extremist travelers from Canada are women. In some cases, women have taken their children to conflict zones, the RCMP said.
“It is often unclear which roles women who travel to Syria perform,” the report said. “The most commonly held assumption is that women travel abroad to marry terrorists, but the reasons for travel and eventual roles vary. Some may occupy secondary roles within terrorist groups, while in other cases they appear to be training and taking part in combat. Some women have also facilitated the travel of others.”
A total of 20 people have been convicted of terrorism offenses under Canada’s criminal code since 2002, and 21 others have been charged, the government report said.
Corrections & Amplifications:
A report on the terrorist threat to Canada was produced by Canada’s public safety department. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated it was produced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (Aug. 25, 2016)
Source: The Wall Street Journal