Overview: During the summer and fall, media reported several cases of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members’ association with right-wing violent extremist groups, an issue that has plagued CAF for several years. In October, Defense Minister Sajjan publicly denounced violent “extremists” and promised swift action to address this challenge.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: The following terrorist attacks occurred in Canada:
- On February 21, Saad Akhtar allegedly killed a Toronto woman in a hammer attack inspired by violent radical Islamic beliefs. He faces a charge of “first-degree murder — including terrorist activity.”
- On February 24 a minor stabbed two victims, one fatally, at a Toronto erotic massage parlor in an attack linked to the involuntary celibate movement. The individual faces charges of “first-degree murder — terrorist activity” and “attempted murder — terrorist activity.”
- On September 12, Guilherme Von Neutegem killed a volunteer caretaker at a Toronto mosque. Authorities have charged him with first-degree murder. Neutegem is allegedly a neo-Nazi supporter, based on review of his social media activity.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2020 the following legal activities affecting the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenses occurred:
- The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency received a complaint in January concerning Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) actions in the U.S. arrest of Toronto resident Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy. El Bahnasawy’s parents have alleged the RCMP knew of their son’s medical conditions and should have sought treatment for him.
- Ottawa professor Hassan Diab in January filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government for CAD 90 million in damages based on his extradition to France and subsequent imprisonment connected to a 1980 bombing near a Paris synagogue. French officials later dropped the investigation for lack of evidence.
- An Ontario Superior Court in February ordered Omar Khadr to answer questions related to a wrongful death suit emanating from a confession he signed during his time as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. Khadr claimed he did not present a defense to the Utah-based suit, owing to lack of funds, and argued that enforcement of the Utah judgment would be contrary to Canadian public policy.
- In an opinion published in July, Canada’s Federal Court ruled May 15 that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) obtained some terrorism-related warrants for alleged foreign fighters based on illegally acquired information. The government later announced it had begun to address the court’s recommendations.
- In July, Mohamed Mahjoub filed a legal request for information the government used as the basis for a national security certificate that would require his deportation to Egypt. The filing marks the latest step in the two-decade case.
- In November, the Quebec Court of Appeals ruled Alexandre Bissonnette, convicted and sentences to life in prison in 2019 for the murder of six people at a Quebec City mosque, would be eligible to request parole after 25 rather than 40 years. The court found consecutive life sentences unconstitutional.
- In December the Parole Board granted “closed day parole” to Shareef Abdelhaleem, a member of the Toronto 18 convicted of terrorism offenses and sentenced to life in prison for plotting to blow up CSIS Headquarters, a Canadian military base, and the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2006.
Canada opened several new terrorism prosecutions, while others remain ongoing:
- In July, Calgary resident and accused ISIS fighter Hussein Borhot was released on bail following four terrorism-related charges and a seven-year investigation. Law enforcement alleged Borhot visited Syria in 2013 and 2014 for ISIS training and participated in an ISIS-led kidnapping.
- On July 28 a Kingston, Ontario, minor pled guilty to four terrorism charges. The minor, initially charged in 2019, admitted to viewing ISIS as his inspiration for seeking martyrdom. The Crown sought his sentencing as an adult.
- In August, CSIS admitted in federal court it had obtained some evidence illegally and failed to provide exculpatory evidence in the case against alleged ISIS recruiter Awso Peshdary.
- On August 26, authorities arrested Toronto resident Haleema Mustafa on two terrorism-related charges, alleging she departed Canada in 2019 for Turkey to join ISIS in Syria. Her husband, Ikar Mao, was arrested later that year on the same charges.
- On October 8 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled VIA Rail terror offenders Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier did not require new trials because of improper jury selection. Additional appeals are still pending.
- On November 10, Alek Minassian faced trial for 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder stemming from a 2018 van attack in Toronto.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Canada is a member of FATF and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (or FINTRAC), is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant changes in 2020.
Countering Violent Extremism: Media and experts reported terrorism offenders often leave prison still radicalized to violence. According to February media reports, at least three terrorism offenders were due to be released in 2020. The Parole Board reported several offenders released in 2019 owing to statutory requirements remained “radicalized” and posed “significant” risks to public safety. While most terrorism sentences are seven years or less, according to Public Prosecution Service of Canada records, many individuals serve substantially less time, owing to credit for pretrial custody and statutory requirements that federal offenders who have served two thirds of their sentences be released under supervision. Canada is a financial supporter and board member of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (or GCERF), a multilateral organization based in Geneva, that funds local programs to prevent and counter violent extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Canada is an active participate in the OAS-CICTE and served as chair until the Dominican Republic assumed the chairmanship in September during the 20th regular session.