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A Canadian Maple Leaf flag flies near the Peace tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb.15, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Is Canada a safe haven for terrorists?

Like all Western countries, Canada is grappling with extremists intent on wreaking havoc in the wider world.

But here's the good news about national security in 2013.

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No hostages are being snatched off the streets, as was the case during the FLQ crisis in the early 1970s. No passenger planes are being blown out of the sky, as was the case when B.C.-based Sikh extremists killed 329 people aboard an Air India flight in 1985. No al-Qaeda trained terrorists are known to have lately crossed the U.S. border in hopes of causing carnage down south, as did the Montreal "Millennium bomber" caught in Washington State in 1999.

Now, here's the bad news.

In the span of just more than two weeks, two unidentified Canadians have been implicated in deadly terrorist attacks in Algeria and Bulgaria. Much of the information remains sketchy – but should any of this prove true, it will feed into concerns about Canada being unable to contain its extremists.

The federal intelligence service says it has its hands full trying to keep up with 45 to 60 Canadians who have lately tried to join terrorist causes abroad. Canadian citizens have been captured or killed as suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Israel, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tunisia and the United States.

The terrorist threat is no longer one that arrives to Canada from abroad – it's an export too.

Confiding to a reporter a few years ago, a senior RCMP official remarked on how his political masters wanted reassurances that Canada was doing everything it could to keep out the terrorists. "Keep them out?" he said gloomily. "They are already here!"

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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