Chance of reintegrating Canadian ISIS fighters 'pretty remote': Goodale
Published Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:00AM EST
OTTAWA – The likelihood of successfully reintegrating ISIS fighters with ties to Canada who have returned home is "pretty remote," admits Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
After days of questioning over Canada’s plan to rehabilitate returning ISIS fighters, the federal government’s point man on national security says it might be too late for some.
"If you want to have a good solid hope of some kind of successful intervention, it has to be at a much earlier stage. You have to prevent the problem before it exists," said Goodale in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period.
"Once a person has been in a war zone, once they’ve been actively engaged in terrorist-related activities, the capacity to turn them around is pretty remote. That’s why you have to use the other tools, including collecting the evidence and prosecuting wherever and whenever you can," he said.
Though, Goodale admits pursuing charges against these people is difficult. So far charges have been brought in two cases since the Liberals came to power. The challenge, Goodale said, is in translating intelligence that Canadian security agencies have on these people into evidence that will stick in court.
For now, Canadian authorities are using surveillance measures, and passport revocations as methods to monitor those who have come back to Canada.
Goodale said there are between 180 and 190 with a connection to Canada that they know have travelled to Syria and Iraq, among other locations.
As well, there are roughly 60 foreign fighters who have returned to Canada, about the same number as two years ago.
"Some of them will have engaged in fighting and been an active part of the terrorist network. Others will have done other things to support the terrorist network in some other way… some of them may well be dead," Goodale said.
Goodale faced criticism in the House of Commons over the potential national security threat these people pose.
On Friday, the Conservative Party sent a fundraising email to supporters saying that the Liberals are "putting the safety of all Canadians at risk."
"These are people that got on a plane to fight for a terrorist organization committing some of the worst atrocities imaginable… They need to be prosecuted and dealt with to the full extent of the law," the email reads.
Earlier this year the government launched a counter-radicalization centre -- the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence -- to counter extremism. Budget 2016 earmarked $35 million over five years for the centre.
Rules could change following Trudeau's mall swarming
After being whisked away by his protective detail from a suburban Toronto shopping mall while campaigning with a byelection candidate on Wednesday, questions were raised about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's security.
In an interview with CP24, former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster said that despite official assurances that Trudeau’s personal safety was never compromised, anything could have happened.
"You do need to keep a cordon around the prime minister so that no one can get within reach of him should they want to do him harm," Inkster said. "Clearly, things got out of hand."
Goodale, who is responsible for the RCMP said Trudeau’s security team did their job reacting to a "spontaneous," "developing situation" by getting him out of there, but it’s possible the protocols could change going forward.
"Every time there’s an incident, the people who are involved go to school on that incident and determine what, if anything, could have been done better, and do they need to change the rules of engagement. They will if that is necessary," said Goodale.
"They’ll learn the lessons from that, and the appropriate actions will be taken."
New RCMP commissioner coming 'early' in New Year
Goodale also said that Canada will have a new commissioner of the RCMP soon, replacing retired Comm. Bob Paulson. In the interim, deputy commissioner Daniel Dubeau has been acting in the role.
"We’re in the final stages of the interviewing process… there was a medium list and a short list, and now down to the final interviews in the next number of days and I hope to be able to make a recommendation to the prime minister very early in the New Year," Goodale said.