WATCH ABOVE: Experts stress vigilance but not panic with regard to a terror report leaked to Global News, which says there is a medium threat of terror against Toronto but a low threat against the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO – An internal federal government report classifies Toronto’s susceptibility to a terrorist attack as “medium,” while the Pan Am/Parapan Games ranks as “low,” but experts are urging Torontonians not to take the warnings too literally.
The Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre report obtained by Global News classifies the terror threat level in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and the Greater Toronto Area at “medium.”
“I think we’re at a time where the concern about threats is real but there’s no surprise here,” said Janice Stein, founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs.
“Generally speaking there are concerns around ISIS recruits and ISIS returnees that are probably pushing up the threat level somewhat for the Canadian government as a whole.”
Medium means an individual or group has the capability and intent to carry out an act of terrorism – it “could occur.”
A “low” threat level means and individual or group has the capability or intent to carry out an act of terrorism – it’s “possible but unlikely.”
“There are people who would like to attack the Pan Am Games but it’s very hard for them to develop the capability to do that in Canada – assault weapons and explosives are just so hard to acquire,” said John Thompson, vice president of intelligence with the Strategic Capital Intelligence Group.
“The real threat is of various low level actors who take the grounds of protest too far and there’s always the ever present risk of a lone wolf.”
The report stated that most likely attack scenarios for all cities “would involve small arms, IEDs, bladed weapons, or other simple attack methods,” carried out by lone-wolves or small groups inspired by ISIS.
The situations laid out in the report are similar to the Ottawa shooting last October, carried out by lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
Global News first reported that the domestic terror threat level quietly rose the day before the Oct. 22 attack.
“We always tend to over generalize from the last incident,” said Stein. “Intelligence officials, police officials, have to be on the alert but what they need is specific actionable intelligence.”
Thompson said that rioting protesters are a threat to the Games, as they were during the G20 Summit protests in June 2010, but that threat doesn’t seem to be as present today.
“There are some people that think their right to protest includes violence and vandalism and they might try and come out for the Pan Am Games but again its a low risk and the background chatter just doesn’t really seem to be there,” he said.
“For the Pan Am Games the groups with the motive to attack don’t have the ability and the groups with the ability to attack don’t have the motive.”
Thompson said that Torontonians don’t have any more reason to worry about the threat of terrorism than most people already do.
“Terrorism always maintains the capacity to surprise but an attack could come from any particular direction for any particular motivation,” he said.
“Really damaging terrorism of the sort that has really shocked the world in the past is always a risk but it’s not a very high risk, not in Toronto.”
READ MORE: RCMP says Air India bombing probe ‘active’
Unlike the United States and Europe, where terror threat levels are public, they aren’t in Canada.
And while Public Safety reports on the overall terror threat, it does so only once a year.
“Due diligence is certainly done, it’s done every single day, these alerts are updated all the time, Canadians can be confident of that,” said Stein.
“I don’t think that we do have a false sense of security, I’m more worried that we will have an elevated level of fear.”
Asked about the threat assessments, a government spokesman told Global News, “the threat is real,” and pointed to the recently-passed anti-terror bill C-51.
At this point, the threat level is “low,” although there will be a new assessment each week.
With files from Vassy Kapelos and Mark Carcasole