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A man holds a placard that reads "Je suis Charlie, n'oublions pas les victimes de Boko Haram" (I am Charlie, let's not forget the victims of Boko Haram) as people gather outside the French embassy in Abidjan, on January 11, 2015, in tribute to the 17 victims of the three-day killing spree in Paris last week. The killings began on January 7 in Paris with an assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris that saw two brothers killing 12 people including some of the country's best-known cartoonists and the storming of a Jewish supermarket on the eastern fringes of the capital which killed 4 local residents. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty ImagesSIA KAMBOU/AFP / Getty Images

Millions gathered in Paris this weekend as a tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and in defiance of the Islamic extremists who murdered them.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Islamic extremists continued the grim work of slaughtering innocents.

The heavily armed Islamist group known as Boko Haram has cut a bloody swath through the country since 2009. It now controls a territory of roughly the same size as the one that suffers under the yoke of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It's not yet known how many people died during a vicious, week-long rampage in and near Baga, a fishing town in the strife-ridden northeast. Estimates vary, but it's claimed that between 600 and 2,000 were killed.

The weekend toll from the towns of Potiskum and Maiduguri is more precise: 19 dead and 26 injured, after a pair of explosions in crowded outdoor markets. It's believed the suicide bombers were 10-year-old girls.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that "the international jihadist movement has declared war" and that countries like Canada must face it head on.

International jihadists may or may not amount to one monolithic enemy. But Mr. Harper is right.

With the Nigerian military on the run in Baga – where the national army has itself been accused of mass killings in the past – and as calls multiply for greater international involvement, this is a good opportunity for Canada to define more clearly how this country could contribute to thwarting radical Islamist violence.

Ideally, it would go beyond the modest military involvement in Iraq. It's not realistic to send on its own a Canadian mission, military or otherwise, to Africa's most populous nation. But surely Canada has a role to play. Mr. Harper and the other party leaders should urgently sketch out their conceptions of it.

The insurgency led by Boko Haram – which explicitly rejects Western niceties like public education, gender equality and democracy – is precisely the sort of thing a country serious about opposing violent, obscurantist zealots ought to help stamp out.

It's time to break with the West's scandalous pattern of inaction in the face of large-scale loss of life in Africa.

Millions proclaim, "Nous sommes Charlie." Let's also be Baga.

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