Beefed-up borders and stricter refugee screening won’t do much to reduce the threat of Islamist terrorism in Canada, which is largely homegrown, according to one of Canada’s top experts on terrorism and national security.
Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations at Carleton University, says Canada’s border security regime is already strong and counter-terrorism resources would be better spent on programs to prevent radicalization of youth.
“It’s not clear to me that further spending of resources on enhancing [border security] procedures is the best way to spend money,” Carvin said on The West Block on Sunday.
“If you want to improve counter-terrorism in Canada, you need to be funding programs here, not enhancing what is already… a pretty robust regime on the refugee side.”
WATCH: 2nd man arrested in Kingston, Ont., ‘attack plot’ released without charge, RCMP say
On Friday, the RCMP announced that it charged a Kingston, Ont., youth of knowingly facilitating terrorist activity.
A 20-year-old Syrian refugee was also arrested in the investigation before being released without charge.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responded to the arrests by accusing the Liberals of being weak on terrorism and border security following what he said were “several examples of dangerous individuals entering the country due in part to lax screening procedures.”
The RCMP have not revealed whether the terror plot was tied to any specific ideology or group.
Asked about Scheer’s comments, Carvin said that while Canada clearly needs a strong CBSA to screen individuals who want to come to the country, that’s not enough to root out Islamist extremism.
“On the Tamil side, on the Sikh side and other kinds of terrorism, we have seen individuals of a radicalized mindset end up in Canada so we do need [refugee screening] in place,” Carvin said.
“That being said, in what we call Sunni Islamist extremism, most of the radicalization has typically happened in Canada. Would more screening actually have helped in this case? It’s not at all clear.”
Canadian Islamist extremists are more likely to have been born in Canada or arrived at a very young age, so enhanced refugee-screening won’t solve the problem of domestic radicalization, she said.
WATCH: Lawyer of man released amid Kingston terror probe raises concerns about people playing ‘political football’ over investigation
Carvin said much remains to be learned about how radicalization happens in Canada, but it’s clear that Canada’s threat environment is very different to that of European countries.
“Our terrorism problem is there, but to the extent that I think some people worry about it — I think not,” she said.
She pointed to CSIS director David Vigneault’s remarks last month about cyber-espionage and economic espionage representing “the greatest threat to our prosperity and national interest.”
Carvin said there are likely good reasons for why the RCMP have revealed so few details on the terror plot in the Kingston investigation, which was set off by a tip from the FBI.
“Perhaps the FBI is looking into some angles in the United States and if there’s a cross-border angle to this, they don’t want to prejudice the investigation at this stage by giving away more than they want to,” she said.
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