Also uncovered was the only other case that has resulted in charges: the 2006 plot by the “Toronto 18” to bomb several Canadian institutions, including Parliament, CSIS headquarters and the CBC in Toronto.
Ar first, the plan seemed amateurish to the point of being ridiculous, but in the end proved real enough, and now 11 of the 18 defendants are serving serious jail time.
The means by which the plot was detected and the culprits captured, however, were questionable.
CSIS used two paid informants who participated in planning and preparing for the attacks. One informant purchased the large quantity of fertilizer needed for the bombs, and received a payment of about $4-million from Ottawa.
Such large-scale payouts risk becoming incentives for informants to push some people into planning acts of terrorism. “It’s a big concern,” Mr. Atkey says, “something that SIRC is constantly on the lookout for.”
Further corrections in CSIS’s practices flowed from both the Arar inquiry and the Toronto 18 case, leading to an extensive array of outreach efforts. These included round-table sessions at which members of ethnic and religious groups joined CSIS and police representatives to discuss each other’s concerns, as well as community policing, informal meet-and-greet events.
The many attempts to build trust were effective – but identifying a potential terrorist remains extremely difficult.
For starters, Mr. Hashmi says, Muslims and other hyphenated Canadians often live dual lives. “By day, at school, they are Westerners. In their home and at the mosque, they are Muslim, often changing their clothes to look the part and please their parents.
“It frustrates many young people, especially if they feel alienated because they are Muslim.”
If the goal of Canadian officials is to get the kind of tip that led to this week’s charges, he adds, the goal of Canadian Muslims, Sikhs, Tamils or any other group must be to derail radicalism.
However, a lot of people who turn to jihad are already outside the mainstream religious and community groups. “They fly under the radar,” Mr. Hashmi explains, and are difficult to detect. “That’s the big challenge.”
It’s not likely the police or community leaders who will learn of these people – the discovery has to come from family and friends.
That is why Mr. Hashmi begins meeting with kids in his mosque when they are as young as Grade 4. He fears that global jihad is the most widespread ideology now available, and “young people need to hear alternatives.”
“The problem is that a lot of imams in Canada are uncomfortable using the ‘j-word,’ ” he says. “They are defensive. They worry that security officials will hear that they’re talking about jihad. They avoid it.”
And then there is the role played by technology – the immediacy and intimacy of satellite TV and social media.
Mr. Hashmi also meets regularly with university-age Muslims in Kingston. “I asked them recently where they turn for information on the big questions [such as jihad and radical Islamic beliefs]. Every one of them said they go to the Internet.”
Even in discussing the subject, he says, community leaders run the risk of losing credibility, of raising suspicions that they don’t really care but are just hoping to file a report to the police. You can’t be both a partner and a suspect.
Which is why Mr. Hashmi considers the Leafs’ Mr. Kadri a godsend. “He is a great role model. He shows that you can be both a Muslim and a real Canadian.”
There are many paths to violent radicalization and many ways of dealing with it.
Most Euro nations considered global jihad strictly an external threat until 2002, when Dutch politician Pym Fortuyn was killed, followed by film director Theo van Gogh and the Madrid train bombings two years later. Especially after the London Underground attack in 2005, governments got serious, even if members of the public, gripped by varying degrees of Islamophobia, still see the threat as a foreign one.