Last fall, counterterrorism agents trained their investigative crosshairs on a 33-year-old Pakistani man who had spent a decade residing in Toronto. Detectives secured the services of an undercover officer, and put him in place to win the target's confidence.
During the course of the six-month probe, authorities allege that the globetrotting suspect made many incriminating admissions. He boasted of taking "weapons, combat and landmine training" in Libya, according to a synopsis. He even is alleged to have wanted to bring the undercover officer in on a scheme "to blow up the U.S. consulate and other buildings in the financial district in Toronto."
The ultimate result of all these admissions? Not one single criminal charge.
Instead, the case has become a government bid to deport the man to his native Pakistan, on the grounds that he poses a potential security threat to Canada.
This is a relatively constrained legal approach to a sensational set of allegations. The strange case against Jahanzeb Malik, 33, came to light during a hearing on Wednesday. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and sporting a thick black beard, he appeared via videolink from a jail in Lindsay, Ont., where he has been jailed since Monday.
During this first appearance, Mr. Malik kept his head lowered as he heard the charges. When he asked to speak, he was told he could not address the tribunal. His defence strategy is not known at this time.
Under Canada's immigration laws, the government can kick out a non-citizen if authorities can prove that he or she might engage in acts of violence. "Mass destruction or possibly the loss of life would have been the result," a government representative told the tribunal.
It's not known why a criminal prosecution against Mr. Malik was not deemed to be viable. But authorities have released no information suggesting he took any concrete steps toward wreaking violence within Canada.
The tribunal did hear that he openly sympathized with jihadis. For example, Mr. Malik was said to have proudly shown the undercover officer the Islamic State's infamous beheading videos. It's also alleged that he claimed to have been in communications contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda suspect who was killed in Yemen by a 2011 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency drone strike.
After news of the case broke in Toronto, federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney spoke from Ottawa to laud federal agents for neutralizing a man who was said to be "promoting jihadi ideology." And with that, the minister starting promoting the Conservative government's 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act. This legislation would make it a criminal offence for anyone in Canada to openly glorify terrorism.
Various types of federal agents have been scrutinizing Mr. Malik over the years.
One of his lawyers says he complained of harassment by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service starting several years ago.
The RCMP-led National Security Enforcement Team picked up the investigation last September, tasking an undercover officer to sidle up to him with a cover story: The mole would create trust by posing as a veteran of the 1990s war in Bosnia.
The tribunal heard that Mr. Malik arrived to Canada on a student visa in April, 2004, to attend York University, before getting permanent residency five years later. He has faced past criminal charges of fraud and assaulting his wife, but was conditionally discharged.
Mr. Malik was denied bail Monday. Immigration tribunals can take months or years to weigh whether individuals are deportable. Periodic detention reviews determine whether suspects stay jailed in the interim.
With a report from Daniel Leblanc in Ottawa