As the Liberals prepare to launch their signature anti-terrorism initiative, they have closed the door on a previous one by the Conservative government.
On Thursday, Liberal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released a report on the terrorist threat to Canada that said the Islamic State is the main concern. The report also said that a five-year initiative by the Tories that had delivered $10-million, mostly to academics researching terrorism in hopes of finding ways to understand and fight it, had ceased operations in March.
The initiative, known as the Kanishka Project, began in 2011, and the Conservatives promised last year to renew it if they were re-elected. The Liberals pledged a more hands-on approach. Last week, Mr. Goodale said that by the end of the summer, he will appoint an official to advise the government on de-radicalization.
The office of the adviser is expected to cost $7-million to $10-million a year, and the government says it is intended to get civil servants, academics, religious and ethnic communities to work together to find ways to deal with extremists.
The Liberals are calling this a wholly new approach for Canada, but experts say this office may absorb the function of the Kanishka Project.
"In a sense, the new office will be the successor of Kanishka. … There is more continuity than discontinuity," said Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo professor who studies terrorism. The one big difference, he said, is "that there is now a stress on actually doing something in terms of [countering violent extremism]."
In 2012, Dr. Dawson co-founded the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, which got hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Kanishka. Saying the old program blazed a trail for serious study of terrorism, he anticipates the new government office will also finance such work.
The terrorism report said Kanishka was not renewed when its five-year funding ran out in the spring. "Public Safety and its partners continue to publish results and build on the program's research," it said, adding that the new counterradicalization office will "foster research on radicalization to violence" among other functions.
In a preamble to the Public Safety Department's annual report on the terrorist threat released on Thursday, Mr. Goodale said he has directed his officials to stop referring to the Islamic State as ISIS and to use the group's Arabic acronym instead. "The group is neither Islamic nor a state, and so will be referred to as 'Daesh,'" the Public Safety minister wrote. The United States and France currently use that name.
Recapping recent testimony to Parliament from security officials, the report said 180 people from Canada are estimated to be overseas with foreign terrorist groups. Another 60 have returned.
A surprising number of such travellers are female, the report said. "Women now constitute approximately 20 per cent of total extremist travellers from Canada. In some cases, women have taken their children to conflict zones."
Islamic State tells its sympathizers in the West to launch attacks where they are. On Aug. 10 , Aaron Driver, a 24-year-old in Ontario, was killed by police as he tried to detonate an apparent suicide bomb after making a video pledging allegiance. The case "demonstrates the importance of continued vigilance," Mr. Goodale said in his preamble.
The report added that Ottawa is part of several multilateral coalitions that aim to fight Islamic State, and not just militarily. "Canada is working with other coalition partners to provide populations in territory held by Daesh with information that challenges Daesh propaganda," the report said, without elaborating.
"Kanishka" refers to the name of an Air India jet that was blown up 31 years ago by a terrorist bomb. A total of 329 people were killed in the attack launched by Sikh extremists. Most were Canadians of Indian heritage.
Families of the victims spent years demanding the federal government answer for failing to stop the attack, the worst mass murder in Canadian history.