Harper’s terror talk could drive terrorist recruitment: ex-CSIS operative

Nine years ago, a group of radicalized youth in Ontario hatched a plan to blow up the CN Tower, attack the CBC headquarters and storm the Parliament buildings.

The so-called Toronto 18 didn’t get very far. A high-profile member of the Islamic community named Mubin Shaikh was concerned about violent extremism and approached CSIS to offer his help infiltrating groups like this.

With his assistance, up to 200 officers monitored the group at their makeshift training camp north of Toronto. When the police finally arrested them, the group had one illegal handgun between them and more than a tonne of fake fertilizer the RCMP had sold them as bomb-making material.

This successful operation stands in stark contrast to the wretchedly bungled Air India investigation. A series of culturally inept blunders by the RCMP and CSIS, who lacked a single agent who spoke Punjabi, resulted in the deaths of 329 people in 1985 — the worst terrorist event in Canada’s history…

…Stephen Harper’s overheated rhetoric on so-called jihadi threats is making our country more dangerous, not more safe. His recent election-style speech unveiling Bill C-51, Canada’s new anti-terror legislation, referenced ‘jihad’ 15 times. A month earlier he stated that “an international jihadist movement” had declared war on Canada…

The Air India attack investigation was well and truly bungled. Fortunately, it appears to have been a one-off event whose target was not Canada but India. It was more like how citizens of Irish descent in the North America would support the IRA in Northern Ireland: an ethnic squabble based elsewhere but carried here.  But such squabbles are by definition restricted to the players involved.

The Islamic attacks are very different: they are clearly targeted at the West. We are the enemy here. That is why there is a word “Islamophobia” but no “Sikhophobia.”

Yet it is true that expanding police powers, especially over free speech, is a very slippery slope. The government can never control foreign sites based in the Middle East (unless it turns truly draconian, in the manner of Iran or North Korea).

And I would say that it is better to let people have their say loud and clear: trying to silence them will not change their thinking but it will make the public much less aware that they even exist.