MLI Senior Fellow says Canada must do a better job of tracking the flow of terrorist financing and radicalized individuals in and out of the country

OTTAWA, May 22, 2015 -- With the recent arrest of 10 teenagers in Montreal suspected of seeking to join jihadists fighting in Syria and Turkey, and the conflict against Islamic State in the region intensifying, Canada’s efforts to deal with violent radicalism at home and abroad are at the top of the policy agenda. How great is the risk? What can be done to keep funds from flowing to terrorist networks? And how well are we tracking those who might move from terrorist sympathies to action?

In a commentary paper released today, titled, Facing the Challenge of Violent Extremism in Canada, MLI Senior Fellow Christian Leuprecht argues that there is much Canada could do to improve its efforts to counter terrorist financing and home-grown radicalism. Click here to read the full report.

With regard to Canadians fighting in foreign conflicts, Dr. Leuprecht writes, “When we see teenagers leaving the country or attempting to leave the country to join foreign conflicts or radical groups, and we're unable to stop them, then I think we, as a state, have failed in our obligation to make sure that we protect people from themselves.” He notes that 90 percent of those who return from such ventures tend to be dealing with mental health issues and feelings of detachment from society, and 10 percent come back as hardened ideologues.

“I think we haven't thought systemically about how we engage with individuals like that who might come back and engage in action, financing, recruitment or any other terrorism-related activities back here”.

He makes the following recommendations:

Develop the necessary skills: Improve professional development mechanisms to build the skill sets and recruit the skill sets into our national security organizations — in particular, on the law enforcement side — that are necessary in order to get a handle on this particular issue. Some countries do somewhat better at this — the Americans, for instance.

The RCMP needs to do less: The Mounties should get out of the business of contract policing for provinces and municipalities so the organization can focus on federal priorities.

Address the listing regime for terrorist organizations: It took until 2012 for Canada to list the Taliban as an organization on our terrorist scheduling, indicating the system is very inefficient. Considering terrorist organizations are constantly morphing and changing names, our system is simply way too inflexible to keep up.

Take on the data-sharing challenge: We have a great financial intelligence tracking agency, FINTRAC (the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada). But it's very difficult for this agency to share the data with law enforcement so we can undertake the appropriate investigations into cases of money laundering and terrorist financing.

Generate more research: Law enforcement needs to better understand the patterns of terrorist organizations so that they can identify and investigate those who are likely to be involved in terrorist financing or recruiting.

Recognize that all security is local: We can't have the RCMP and CSIS trying to counter violent extremism in local communities. It's like having the federal government take out our garbage. We need to get around to what federal institutions can do to reinforce local capacity of local actors and provincial actors.

Dr. Leuprecht concludes that “rather than sending our Canadian Armed Forces to go firefighting across the world, we need to be more proactive” in dealing with radicals at home. “The government has done very good things here that aren't getting enough press and I think that any future governments would continue to do,” he writes, “but there's more to do on the capacity-building side”.

Dr. Leuprecht’s commentary is based on testimony he gave on May 4  before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence hearings into security threats facing Canada. For more information, a full transcript and video, click here. Sun columnist David Aikin reported on the hearings, commenting on Canada’s failure to disrupt terrorist financial networks and quoting Dr. Leuprecht.

Dr. Leuprecht is frequent commenter in the media and author or co-author of a number of MLI reports on policing and national security issues including The Blue Line or the Bottom Line of Police Services in Canada: Arresting runaway growth in costs, What do Muslim Canadian Want? with Conrad Winn, and Organized Crime Beyond the Border, with Todd Hataley.

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Christian Leuprecht is Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Economics at the Royal Military College of Canada, and cross-appointed to the Department of Political Studies and the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University. He is a Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Join us in 2015 as we celebrate our 5th anniversary.

For more information please contact David Watson, managing editor and communications director, at 613-482-8327 x103 or email at david.watson@macdonaldlaurier.ca.