Terrorism in Canada: Are We Safe?

IN THIS ISSUE Terrorism in Canada: Are We Safe? (Duration: 19:55) Amid growing concerns about terrorist attacks at home, the federal government introduced Bill C-51, new
legislation to give security agencies more powers to protect Canadians. CBC's Adrienne Arsenault went
inside a top-secret security operation centre to find out how much of a threat terrorism really is to
Canadians and how concerned we are about it.
News in Review Study Modules Evolving Terrorism, February 2015
Parliament Hill Shootings, December 2014
ISIS: The Making of a Terrorist Organisation,
October 2014
Homegrown Terrorism, September 2014
Terrorist Attack: Protecting Canada,
November 2001
Related CBC Programs Air India 182
Inside CSIS
Mother of Canadian Jihadi Speaks Out Credits News in Review is produced by CBC News
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News in Review – April 2015 – Teacher Resource Guide TERRORISM IN CANADA: Are We Safe? Note to Teachers The classroom must promote a safe place for students to discuss sensitive issues such as violence and death. Prepare students for the topics that will be discussed. Allow for individual reflective time in addition to small group activities where students can safely process their thoughts and emotions. MINDS ON Consider the following questions before you
start reading:
1. How concerned are you about the prospect
of a terrorist attack in your community?
2. Do you think Canada is a desirable target for
3. What can Canada do to prevent significant
terrorist attacks?
SETTING THE STAGE After two lone wolf attacks in the fall of 2014,
Canadians from coast to coast began wondering
if they were now officially on the radar of
terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Certainly Canada had been mentioned in
terrorist propaganda but the two attacks served
to set Canadians on edge — mainly because they
resulted in the deaths of two soldiers serving on
home turf, with one of the attackers coming
shockingly close to gunning down prominent
politicians including the prime minister. In the
aftermath of the incidents, the issue of averting
terror threats and staying safe vaulted to top spot
on the national agenda.
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Background Martin Couture‐Rouleau and Michael Zehaf‐
Bibeau staged separate lone wolf attacks in October 2014 resulting in the deaths of two Canadian soldiers. Zehaf‐Bibeau’s attack led to a frantic shootout in Canada’s Parliament building. A few months earlier, Justin Bourque gunned down five RCMP officers, killing three, in Moncton. Capitalizing on the issue Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his
Conservative majority capitalized on this issue
shortly after the attacks. In early 2015, his
government introduced Bill C-51, a
controversial anti-terrorism law that had a
polarizing effect on the Canadian social and
political landscape. On the one hand, the law
enforcement community said that Bill C-51
would give them the tools they needed to
effectively investigate and, in many cases,
prevent terrorist attacks. On the other hands,
civil rights groups said that the proposed law
undermined free speech and free assembly, gave
law enforcement broad surveillance and arrest
powers, and invited the government to snoop
into the lives of regular Canadians.
Culture of fear The emergence of Bill C-51 came to represent
the arrival of a culture of fear in Canada.
Inspired not only by the lone wolf attacks but
also by chilling incidents in Australia, France
and Pakistan, Canadians began wondering if
terrorists were preparing to stage attacks right
across the country. Whether these fears were
justified remains a matter of debate.
Anti‐Muslim sentiment Critics also wondered if the Harper government
was fostering a climate of fear by using
language that seemed to suggest that all
terrorism comes from Islamic militants. Some
worried that Harper’s messaging encouraged an
anti-Muslim sentiment among Canadians. The
Muslim community was quick to point out that
Islam does not promote or condone murder.
They also argued that, while lone wolf attackers
Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael ZehafBibeau were labeled Islamic militants by
authorities, Justin Bourque, who killed three
RCMP officers in a shooting rampage in New
Brunswick was referred to as a “gunman.” Since
all three incidents were inspired by twisted
ideology perhaps they all should have been
called terrorist attacks.
Not interested in a war of words The Harper Conservatives and the law
enforcement community were quick to counter
that they were not interested in a war of words.
International terrorist groups have been
encouraging young Canadians to leave Canada
and join their cause as well as inspiring attacks
on Canadian soil — and the most well-known
terror networks, ISIS and al-Qaeda, use
fundamentalist Islamic ideals as their guiding
ideology. The unfortunate outcome of so much
news focusing on radical Islamic terrorism is
that too many Canadians are unable to avoid
linking faithful Muslims to terrorism.
To consider 1. Why were Canadians on edge in the fall of 2014?
2. What is Bill C-51?
3. What is the relationship between the emergence of a culture of fear and the rise of anti-Muslim
sentiments among some Canadians?
4. Why were the Harper Conservatives unapologetic about the language they used when describing
Reflection 1. Should the government and the media be more careful when it comes to identifying terrorists with the religion they practice? 2. Do you think some Canadians have failed to distinguish between faithful Muslims and radical Islamic militants? News in Review ∙ CBC Learning ∙ curio.ca/newsinreview
VIDEO REVIEW Pre‐viewing In the aftermath of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack in Ottawa, filmmaker Assma Galuta said, “It’s not fair
to judge or stereotype a whole faith or population [based] on the actions of one individual, where we all
have to suffer because of it.” While Zehaf-Bibeau claimed to be representing Islam, the overwhelming
majority of Muslims condemned his actions and pointed out very clearly that Zehaf-Bibeau’s decision to
kill people was in no way condoned by the fundamental principles of Islam. Does Galuta have a point?
Are Muslims subject to stereotyping based on the actions of a few people carrying out actions under the
guise of Islam? Explain your point of view.
Viewing 1. a) What is the Canadian federal government doing to combat terrorism? What legislation are they
pursuing to try to help make Canada safer?
b) What do critics think of the federal government’s approach to this issue?
2. What do Canadians think of the Harper government’s efforts to manage terrorism?
3. What role will the issue of terrorism play in the coming election?
4. Which agencies are working together at the national security joint operation centre?
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5. How difficult is it for authorities to monitor high-risk terror suspects? How taxing is this surveillance
on the authorities?
6. What role did Xris Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej play in the terrorist attack on the Amenas gas plant in
January 2013?
7. How significant a problem is terrorism? Is it a regional or a national problem?
8. a) Why is it surprising that more Canadians are joining overseas extremist groups than Americans?
b) How does security researcher Jeff Wyers explain this trend?
9. Why does Wyers believe that Canadians need to be concerned about terrorism?
10. What does Wyers feel is missing from the CBC terrorism map? Why is this a significant “miss”?
11. Which crimes are not investigated because police need to re-align resources to fight terrorism?
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12. a) What percentage of Canadians fear that an attack similar in size and scope to the attack on
Parliament Hill will occur within the next five years?
b) What percentage of Canadians fear that youth will be radicalized by extremists?
13. a) How quickly are some Canadians undergoing radicalization at the behest of extremist groups?
b) What do the police think of this development?
14. According to Ali Soufan, what is the difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS?
15. What does Soufan believe Canada needs to do to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS ideology?
16. According to filmmakers Assma Galuta, Mustafa Mawla, and Maaz Khan, how are Muslims
perceived by many Canadians?
17. a) How did people on the street react to the filmmakers’ “Give me a hug” request?
b) Would you have hugged the man on the street?
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18. a) Why doesn’t Assma Galuta wear her hijab (headscarf) anymore?
b) Why did she lose friends after the Ottawa shootings?
Post‐viewing Answer the question posed by Adrienne Arsenault at the end of the documentary, “How do you balance
keeping people safe and keeping them compassionate?”
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BILL C‐51 Minds on Imagine a secret court hearing where Canada’s
spy agency asks a judge for a warrant that would
give them permission to break the law and/or
breach the Charter rights of a Canadian citizen
they suspect of planning a terrorist attack.
1. Would you be okay with the judge agreeing
to break the law to help the spy agency with
their investigation?
2. Are you okay with the spy agency asking the
judge to break the law?
3. What if the investigation turns out to be
based on false information and the accused
is not tied to a terrorist plot? What should be
done to make amends with the innocent
Bill C‐51: Immediately divisive In January 2015, the Harper government
introduced anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51.
The proposed law drew immediate praise from
the law enforcement community and immediate
criticism from civil rights groups. Both sides put
their positions forward, leaving Canadians
wondering whether Bill C-51 was a necessary
next step in the battle against terrorism or a
massive violation of their constitutional rights.
What really jammed me up when I was in the business was the fact that, over time, [when] I turned to the tool kit, I was missing a wrench, I was missing a screwdriver, I was missing a hammer and the other thing I had were all the reasons not to do things. So this is a paradigm shift to where the toolbox is going to be pretty full…
– Ray Boisvert, Maclean’s, March 16, 2015 The bill itself allows for provisions to:
Improve information sharing regarding
terrorist threats among 17 government
Improve the “no-fly” list to include people
who pose a specific threat to air travel or
people who have travelled abroad to take
part in terrorist activities.
Amend the Criminal Code to prohibit the
promotion of terrorism.
Expand the powers of CSIS to operate both
inside and outside of Canada — even
allowing the agency to take part in illegal
activities with the approval of a judge.
Detain terrorism suspects for up to seven
Protect victims who come forward with
information about terror threats.
Arguments for Bill C‐51 According to the government, Bill C-51 gives
the police and CSIS (Canadian Security
Intelligence Service) more power to investigate
and thwart potential terrorist attacks. It also
facilitates more effective information sharing
between police and Canada’s spy agency. When
asked for his view on the bill, Ray Boisvert, the
former CSIS chief of counter-terrorism and
assistant director of intelligence, shared the
following insight:
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All of these provisions target terrorist activities
determined to be a threat to Canada’s national
Arguments against Bill C‐51 Those opposed to Bill C-51 have picked the bill
apart and claim that Canadians need to be
worried about the following:
The information sharing provisions in the
bill are too vague and will allow police and
CSIS to gather information using a wide net.
In other words, regular Canadians — who
are in no way linked to terrorism — may be
investigated if the police or CSIS deem this
to be in the interests of national security.
Provisions designed to eliminate terrorist
propaganda — particularly on the internet
— could be used to limit the free speech (a
Charter right!) of Canadians looking to
discuss, in the broadest possible terms, the
issue of terrorism.
Protests unrelated to terrorism could be shut
down by law enforcement in the interests of
national security.
CSIS would be given too much power under
the act. Critics are particularly concerned
with the potential for secret court hearings
that would give CSIS the power to break the
law or violate a person’s Charter rights with
the permission of a judge.
The biggest concern critics have with Bill C-51
is the lack of accountability for law enforcement
and CSIS when they use the new tools at their
disposal. A column in the Toronto Star claimed:
…the government is about to give its controversial security and intelligence agencies a blank cheque to operate without effective accountability.
– Tony Burman, Toronto Star, April 11, 2015 While CSIS is subject to some objective review,
the Conservative government has rejected
repeated calls to create improved oversight.
Canada’s poor system of review and
accountability for its spy agency is well known.
In a teleconference call with Ryerson University
students in March 2015, U.S. whistleblower
Edward Snowden told his audience
Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks of any western intelligence agency in the world.
– Edward Snowden, Toronto Star, April 11, 2015 Without effect oversight, critics of Bill C-51
worry that innocent people will get pulled into
CSIS and police terrorism investigations.
To consider 1. Why does Canada need Bill C-51?
2. Why do people oppose Bill C-51?
3. Where do you stand on the issue? Do you believe Canada needs a rigorous anti-terrorism framework
like the one proposed in Bill C-51 or do you believe the bill goes too far?
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ISLAMOPHOBIA Minds on Many people believe terrorism is almost exclusively carried out by Muslims, and the word
“Islamophobia” has started to make its way into the mainstream. When we break down the word, it comes
out looking like this:
Islam – a monotheistic religious tradition based on the revelations of Allah (or God) as revealed to humanity by the Prophet Mohammad. The word itself means “submission’” or “surrender” and people who practice the religion are called Muslims (people who submit to the will of Allah). Phobia – an extreme fear of something. This kind of fear is often irrational or unreasonable. Put the two definitions together and you get an irrational or unreasonable fear of Islam.
Is Islamophobia real or not? Simply use your knowledge of current events to answer the question.
Why do people fear Muslims? People have been associating terrorism with
radical Islamists for decades. This image took on
new significance after the attacks of September
11, 2001, and the ensuing U.S.-led War on
Terror. The rhetoric and imagery surrounding
terrorism focused on righteous soldiers
combating evil mujahedeen (a Muslim term
referring to one who is engaged in jihad), with
Osama bin Laden as the poster boy for Muslim
extremism. Suddenly, etched in the
consciousness of many non-Muslims was the
idea that terrorism and Islam went hand-in-hand.
Eventually, this idea began filtering into
television shows and films. The Showcase hit
Homeland is one such example. The show pits
the CIA’s Carrie Mathison against Islamic
terrorist Abu Nazir. Critics of the show say that
the storyline promotes distorted ideas about
Muslims. Boosters of the show say the plot is
carefully crafted to show the potential reasons
why terror threats surface. They also claim it
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humanizes not only those fighting terrorism but
also those making the decision to engage in such
acts. Regardless of which perspective one
favours, the show provides a less than flattering
view of Islam. Homeland is just one example of
how Muslims are depicted in the mainstream
Even the language used by the Canadian
government fosters a belief that Islam is proterrorism. Prime Minister Harper has frequently
referred to “violent jihadists” when speaking
about threats to Canada while virtually ignoring
other non-Muslim terrorist entities like Babar
Khalsa International — a Sikh group that figures
prominently on Canada’s list of “current terrorist
This type of messaging has prompted some
people to use the word Islamophobia to describe
the overarching fear of Islam being promoted —
unwittingly or not — in Canada. Proponents of
this perspective point to the tendency of
politicians and reporters to label the actions of
people claiming to be Muslims as terrorism,
while those who with no connection to Islam are
referred to as perpetrators. Case in point:
Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael ZehafBibeau were inspired by the terrorist group
ISIS but were not directly connected to the
group. Both men identified themselves as
Muslim and both were labeled terrorists.
Justin Bourque killed three RCMP officers
in Moncton and he was labeled a gunman.
Bourque was raised in a strict Catholic
family but eventually abandoned religion.
He was never identified as a Catholic or an
atheist in reports dealing with the specific
details of his crime.
Language is a powerful instrument. It helps
people to paint a mental picture in order to
understand their world. However, used
recklessly or thoughtlessly, language can be
used to destroy relationships and build division
among people.
To consider 1. What is the bias of this article? Who is the author favouring?
2. What is the point the author is trying to make?
3. Is Islamophobia a reality in Canada? Are faithful Muslims unfairly lumped in with terrorists?
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