Canada must change strategy against homegrown terror: expert
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, October 21, 2014 8:06AM EDT
Canada needs to change its strategy when it comes to identifying potential terror recruits, a former CSIS agent says after a suspected terror attack in Quebec that left one Canadian soldier dead and another injured.
Martin Rouleau, the suspect in Monday’s hit-and-run attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, had become “radicalized” and was “known to federal authorities,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Police shot and killed Rouleau following a brief car chase after the two soldiers were hit late Monday morning as they walked through a strip-mall parking lot.
Former CSIS agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya said his first reaction upon hearing of the incident was that “it was just a question of time before it happened.
“We have a phenomenal number of people now that are currently under surveillance and are suspected to have subscribed to the jihadist ideology,” he told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday morning.
While the motive for Monday’s attack in Quebec was not immediately known, Juneau-Katsuya says it represents the latest kind of terror threat the world is facing: the threat to average people of being attacked on the street.
Recent attacks on citizens in England and Belgium, and the arrests of 15 people in Australia for planned attacks on local residents, illustrate this threat, Juneau-Katsuya noted.
And where Canada lags behind other countries in dealing with that threat is with public awareness campaigns that ask Canadians to be vigilant and to report suspicious behaviour.
In the United States, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has a “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.
It asks members of the public to report “suspicious behaviour and situations,” including unattended bags in public spaces or someone trying to access a restricted area.
The program was launched in 2010 and initially implemented on New York City’s public transit system.
One incident in which a vigilant member of the public thwarted a planned terror attack was on May 1, 2010, when a street vendor spotted smoke coming out of a parked SUV in New York’s Times Square. The vendor called police, who quickly cleared the area and defused the explosive.
A suspect was arrested within days and sentenced to life in prison.
‘Targets are normal people’
Monday’s attack in Quebec may have been difficult to prevent, given that the suspect was sitting in a parked car before the incident and therefore not doing anything illegal, Juneau-Katsuya said. The attack itself also took place “in a fraction of a second.”
However, the Canadian government and law enforcement agencies “needs to think about” greater public awareness because of the threat to everyday citizens.
“Now the threat is not only against major targets, like the prime minister or various establishments,” Juneau-Katsuya said. “Targets are normal people.”
There are also concerns about the number of people in Canada who are being watched by federal authorities on the suspicion that they have been radicalized by terror recruiters.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told a House of Commons committee this fall that the force has 63 case files on 90 suspected extremists.
“We’re seeing a phenomenal success with ISIS to be able to recruit people in the privacy of their home. The recruitment takes a long, long time, but when the recruitment is done it is very, very much embedded in the mind and the heart of the people that have been recruited,” Juneau-Katsuya said.
Putting an ever-increasing number of people under surveillance is costly and will stretch manpower and other resources, he said.
“So we need to change our strategy.”