Terrorism and extremists are believed to be the biggest threat to Canada’s national security, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Public Report for 2014-2016.
“I welcome the release of the 23rd CSIS Public Report, which provides key trends affecting our country’s national security. Terrorism and violent extremism remained the most immediate threat to Canada’s national security during the period covered by this report. Interested Canadians will find engaging insight into the service’s work to keep us all safe while protecting our rights,” said
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The CSIS report stated the “principal terrorist threat to Canada remains that posed by violent extremists who could be inspired to carry out an attack in Canada. Violent extremist ideologies espoused by terrorist groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda continue to appeal to certain individuals in Canada.”
CSIS Director Michel Coulombe said he recognizes Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism, and highlighted the increased concern of the “extremist traveler” phenomenon: Canadians who leave the country to participate in terrorist activities abroad.
In his preface to the report, he said, “It should come as no surprise that terrorism and violent extremism remained the most immediate threat to Canada’s national security during the period covered by this report, and represented our top priority. The number of terrorism-related threats, the speed at which they evolve, and the use of technology and social media has created some very real and complicated challenges for the service.”
“Daesh, in particular,” he stated, “has developed a robust social media presence, allowing it to successfully recruit thousands of individuals, including Canadians, to travel to Syria and Iraq.”
And “These extremists … pose a potential threat if they return to Canada,” Coulombe noted, adding, “For instance, they may radicalize others, help with logistics and financing for those who may want to travel abroad, or engage in attack planning here in Canada. Terrorism is a global threat and we are not immune from its reach.”
The report added that, “As in recent years, the Government of Canada has continued to monitor and respond to the threatof extremist travelers, that is, individuals who are suspected of travelling abroad to engage in terrorism-related activity. The phenomenon of extremist travelers—including those abroad, those who return and even those prevented from traveling—poses a range of security concerns for Canada. As of the end of 2016, the government was aware of approximately 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada who were abroad and who were suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities. The government was also aware of a further 60 extremist travelers who had returned to Canada.”
Continuing, the report stated, “Over the past several years, the globalization of terrorism, fueled by elaborate online propaganda videos by extremist groups, has expanded the breadth of radicalization. In some instances, individuals influenced by extremist ideology and driven by a need to feed their sense of belonging have travelled (or attempted to travel) abroad to participate in terrorist activity. Others may continue to support their extremist ideology through training, fundraising, recruitment and attack planning within Canada. As the threat posed by ‘foreign fighters’ is international in scope, a global reach is an absolute necessity in efforts to track and thwart threats to Canada and its allies posed by such individuals.”
CSIS said its “security screening program represents one of the most visible of the service’s operational sectors. It helps defend Canada and Canadians from threats to national security emanating from terrorism and extremism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Security screening prevents persons who pose these threats from entering or obtaining status in Canada, or from obtaining access to sensitive sites, government assets or information. In addition, through its government screening program, CSIS assists the RCMP with the accreditation process for Canadians and foreign nationals seeking access to or participating in major events in Canada.”
The report also outlined other security concerns and long term threats such as espionage, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and cyber threats.
Regarding the cyber threat, the report said, “Cyber threats from hostile actors continue to evolve. State-sponsored entities and terrorists alike are using Computer Network Operations (CNO) directed against Canadian interests, both domestically and abroad. Canada remains both a target for malicious cyber activities, and a platform from which these hostile actors conduct CNO against entities in other countries.”
“The Government of Canada monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them,” the announcement of the report stated, adding, “CSIS uses a suite of investigative techniques that include, among others, open source research physical surveillance, interviews and analyzing intelligence from a variety of sources. The service works very closely with other government departments and agencies, police forces across Canada as well as international partners and continuously assesses their operations in response to the current threat environment.”
“CSIS and I, as Minister of Public Safety Canada, are committed to inform parliamentarians and members of the public on programs and on issues important to the national security of this country,” Goodale said. “Consistent with the Government of Canada’s digital by default approach, CSIS has created a digital version of this report as a means to better connect and interact with the public.”