The federal government has revoked the citizenship of an Islamic extremist who masterminded a plot to bomb downtown Toronto in an effort to terrorize Canadians and cripple the economy.
A member of the so-called Toronto 18, Zakaria Amara was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison with no chance of parole until 2016 after admitting his role in the plan aimed in part at forcing Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney sent a tweet describing him as a man who hated Canada so much that he "forfeited his own citizenship" by plotting to murder hundreds of Canadians.
Kenney said this is the first case that he knows of where the federal government has revoked the citizenship of someone found guilty of terrorist offences since the Conservatives pushed through changes to the Citizenship Act earlier this year allowing such a sanction against dual citizens.
"If somebody is found guilty of violent disloyalty to Canada, in this instance planning to murder hundreds or potentially thousands of Canadians for ideological reasons, that they are in so doing forfeiting their Canadian citizenship," Kenney said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"They are renouncing through their actions, through their own violent volition, they are renouncing their Canadian citizenship."
Police thwarted the plot when they arrested Amara and 17 other people in the summer of 2006.
In an agreed statement of facts, Crown lawyer Ione Jaffe told court that Amara planned to rent U-Haul trucks, pack them with explosives and detonate them via remote control in the Toronto area.
The Mississauga, Ont., man said the attack, which he planned over three consecutive days to maximize the panic, also involved bombing RCMP headquarters, nuclear-power plants and attacking Parliament.
The group also considered attacking the Sears Tower in Chicago or UN headquarters in New York three months after the proposed "Battle of Toronto," court heard.
"This man hated Canada so much, he planned on murdering hundreds of Canadians," Kenney tweeted today. "He forfeited his own citizenship."
Amara, who was married with one child at the time, planned to flee to Pakistan around the time of the blast and then move onto Afghanistan.
He also admitted to a leadership role in organizing a winter camp north of Toronto in December 2005 in which "recruits" were given basic combat training along with indoctrination in the extremist jihadi cause.
On several calls with his confidantes, Amara acknowledged that he risked a lengthy jail term but said he "won't feel sorry" if arrested as long as he had "tried his best."
Through an undercover police agent, Amara attempted to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate – commonly used in fertilizer – and other chemicals to build the bombs, court heard.
Police pounced on June 2, 2006, when an undercover agent delivered 120, 25-kilogram bags labelled ammonium nitrate but containing a harmless substance to a warehouse in Newmarket, Ont., rented by the plotters.
RCMP explosives experts determined a one-tonne truck bomb would have caused "catastrophic" damage to a high-rise building 30 metres away and death and injury to anyone nearby.
Amara pleaded guilty to two counts – knowingly participating in a terrorist group, and intending to cause an explosion that could kill people or damage property for the benefit of a terrorist group.