WATCH ABOVE: A coalition of Edmontonians gathered at the legislature to rally against ISIS Sunday. Eric Szeto reports.
EDMONTON — A rally was held on the steps of the Alberta Legislature Sunday afternoon to protest ISIS and condemn the group’s acts of violence.
“We have come together in the spirit of humanity to condemn the killing of innocent people and we think that any religion and any person, even people that are not of a religious background, would condemn what’s happening in the Middle East,” said organizer and participant Safana Makhdoom.
People of all backgrounds and religions took part in Sunday’s protest. While it wasn’t a large crowd, it was vocal, and the message was clear: ISIS does not represent Islam.
“We think it’s a perversion … of Islam because we think it shows a lack of understanding of what Islam actually is,” said Makhdoom. “We think their message is actually incomplete and we think it manipulates Islam towards their end, but not to actually the true spirit of Islam.”
The Edmonton area has had a few links to ISIS in recent months. Late last week a Beaumont teen was arrested and charged with trying to leave Canada to take part in terrorist activity.
In January, three Edmonton cousins were reportedly killed while fighting for ISIS.
“ISIS quite deliberately preys on younger people who are more manipulative. And we know, for instance, that they use methods that are actually quite similar to the way child pedophiles or people prey on children,” said Christian Leuprecht, a terrorism expert with the Royal Military College of Canada.
New anti-terror laws enacted in 2013 gave authorities more power to stop people from going overseas, but experts say officials need more tools. The federal government believes the latest legislation, Bill C-51, would help, but it has been heavily criticized by opponents who say it will infringe upon Canadians’ civil liberties and right to privacy, especially online.
“I find it even more disturbing that under Canadian law right now we have very few instruments, other than surveillance or going as far as having to charge an individual and collecting sufficient evidence, to have a reasonable chance of conviction – that we have no other means to inform parents to be able to stop them from boarding planes or to otherwise intercept them before they might actually leave the country,” said Leuprecht.
While it’s hard to peg exactly how many Canadians have gone overseas, researchers estimate about 150 Canadians have gone abroad to join a terrorist group. Security agencies say they’re actively tracking at least 90 suspected extremists in Canada.
WATCH: Canadians and terrorism by the numbers
With files from Eric Szeto, Vassy Kapelos, Global News.