Skip to main content

Ontario fugitive Mohammed El Shaer has been facing passport fraud charges since June.Arlene Gee

A 26-year-old Ontario fugitive who is one of 90-odd Canadian suspects designated by police as a "high-risk traveller" was arrested on Wednesday.

"Mohammed El Shaer was arrested by RCMP in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2014, upon his return to Canada," Sergeant Greg Cox said in a statement. "The RCMP executed an arrest warrant that had been issued following his failure to appear in court on previous charges related to passport fraud."

Police did not say where Mr. El Shaer has been. Court records show that since June he has been facing charges in his native Windsor, Ont., for passport fraud following his travels to Turkey last December.

Because he has not been showing up for some of his hearings, a bench warrant was reportedly issued for his arrest.

Turkey is seen as a transit country for young extremists from the West who are looking to join jihadist groups in the Middle East, such as the Islamic State militants who now claim to control a "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.

In recent months, federal security officials have formed a "high-risk traveller" task force led by the RCMP to address concerns about such individuals migrating from Canada to foreign war zones.

RCMP Superintendent Wade Oldford recently told The Globe and Mail that the task force was "born out of necessity" after "the number of individuals brought to our attention leaving the country started to increase significantly as the events in Syria started to unfold."

Because criminal prosecutions against such suspects are not usually considered viable, the police strategy to date has often been to seize travel documents from them to keep them grounded in Canada.

But last month, another designated high-risk traveller ran over two soldiers with a Nissan Sentra in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent before being shot dead by police. Martin Couture-Rouleau had been prevented from travelling abroad.

Police suspect that his attack, and the subsequent killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Ottawa two days later, were inspired by jihadist calls for Westerners to strike against the U.S-led warplane coalition now bombing Islamic State targets overseas.

Canada voted to join the coalition earlier this fall.

The two attacks have spawned a political debate in Ottawa about whether federal security officials in Canada have enough powers to prevent such attacks.

In a handful of cases against designated high-risk travellers to date, police have been able to lay some Criminal Code passport-fraud charges. In addition to Mr. El Shaer, another Windsor man who is believed to have left Canada faces outstanding charges.

Three young people in Calgary have pleaded guilty to passport fraud offences over the past six months.