Canadians were given a clearer picture of home-grown terrorism in this country last week with the release of two important numbers.
The first came out of testimony before a Senate committee last Monday, when the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service testified that CSIS and its partners are tracking approximately 60 Canadians who have returned home after fighting or attempting to fight with the so-called Islamic State.
The second number was six. That’s the number of Canadian names on a massive, albeit dated, list of ISIS recruits obtained last week by Germany.
According to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, both numbers are troubling, and there has been a “small increase” in the number of Canadians joining ISIS in recent years.
“I think it’s largely a matter of data improving, but you can never be naïve about these circumstances,” Goodale told Tom Clark during this week’s edition of The West Block.
“And what we need to get very good at is stopping that phenomenon before it happens.”
Goodale said the fact that the 60 would-be jihadists are still walking the streets is unavoidable at this point, but they are being monitored closely. Additional suspects were able to leave the country again, even though they were being watched, CSIS has acknowledged.
Simply throwing the remaining people in jail isn’t possible, Goodale said.
“The issue is making sure you’ve got a case on the basis of hard evidence that will actually stick in court,” the minister said.
“There is a distinction between intelligence information and the conversion of that information into evidence in court. And the police authorities and the prosecutorial authorities are working day and night on that evidence to make sure when they lay charges, as they have done most recently, that that will in fact stick.”
Goodale, who is a former finance minister, would not speculate about funding for existing Canadian intelligence bodies that might be outlined in the Liberals’ March 22 budget.
He maintained that a new Canadian Office of Community Outreach and Counter-Radicalization would be created and folded into the federal budget sometime over the next three to four years.
Montreal and other jurisdictions have already set up similar centres locally to try to prevent radicalization of young people before it drives them to commit acts of violence or to travel overseas to fight with groups like ISIS.
Watch the full interview above.