CSIS director Michel Coulombe (L) and John Forster (R), head of CSEC, Canada's cybersecurity agency testifying before a Senate security hearing in February.
Photo Credit: CBC

Canadian security agencies track Canadian “foreign fighters” returning home


It’s believed  the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)  is tracking up to 80 Canadians it suspects of having travelled abroad to engage in terrorist activities.

CSIS  says some engaged in paramilitary activities, while others attended extremist Islamic schools, others may have been involved in logistical or fund-raising support, and some simply never made a connection and have returned.

Security agencies are concerned that any or all of the group could be returning more radicalized than when they left. Some may have learned potentially dangerous new skills which they could teach to others. This would include such things as bomb-making as an example.

A CSIS spokesperson said the agency. “is aware of Canadians who have returned to Canada after having been abroad for terrorist purposes,” adding that the agency, “actively investigates such individuals and is coordinating with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in order to keep Canadians safe.”

A former senior intelligence officer with CSIS, Michel Juneau-Katsuya said  that the 80 individuals have to be considered “very high risk” and are likely being closely watched.

The RCMP in response to reporter requests, said it couldn’t comment as it might compromise privacy rights and current investigations.

CSIS director Michel Coulombe, made no mention of the 80 individuals in his testimony before a Senate National Security and Defence Committee hearing in February, although the figure of 80 people was in his speaking notes obtained by media through an access-to-information request.

Coulombe did tell the committee  that some 130 Canadians were still abroad, about 30 in Syria with others in Yemen, Somalia, and north and east Africa.

He also said, “Despite our best efforts it is highly likely there are Canadians we do not know of who are travelling overseas to engage in terrorist activities.”

Three Canadians have died in the last few months while fighting in Syria, and two others were killed last year while taking part in an Al Qaida attack on an gas plant in Algeria in which 40 foreign workers were also killed.

The government also suspects that Somali-Canadians  are involved with the Al Qaeda-linked militant Somali group Al Shabab.  Unconfirmed reports say that a Canadian was killed while taking part in the attack last year on the Supreme Court in Mogadishu

Last year the federal government pass laws increasing penalties for those leaving the country to take part in terrorist activities abroad.

CSIS director Michel Coulombe however said it is difficult to track “foreign fighters” as they are often in conflict areas or failed states so getting information about activities is very difficult to impossible.  His speaking notes also point out those engaged in terrorist activities often travel on falsified documents and “Canada has not, to date, systematically collected exit information that could be used to reliably confirm an individual’s departure.”

Michel Juneau-Katsuya says foreign fighters are an increasing concern for all western countries.


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One comment on “Canadian security agencies track Canadian “foreign fighters” returning home
  1. Michel says:

    From the CSIS website – namely the Artifacts section https://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/index-en.php

    In the “Featured” section we quote from Michel Coulombe, the director of CSIS:

    “we at CSIS see the value in transparency,to the extent such is possible“

    OK, does that mean CSIS promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth even when it is a figment of their imagination supported by well payed informants to steer “official” terrorist into fabricated Armageddon style plots. How can defendants prove their innocence when CSIS hides all information under the pretext of “national security”.

    Another one of your not so innocent platitudes is:

    “CSIS and its partners are mandated to protect Canada’s security interests”

    OK, where were you when Revenue Canada had taxpayers information stolen via the internet. That was not a simple Canadian consumer that went “click” as you say Where were you when China attacked corporations in Canada. The list goes on, and you are asleep at the wheel.
    NO, wait, sorry I meant to say that your failures are designed to be failures so that you can continue to extort millions upon millions of taxpayers money gullible and very well payed parliamentarians to augment your “secrecy” and arm police, the military, and any other “lucky” enforcement agency to subdue Canadians. As with many mafioso type organizations that use legitimate businesses as frons for their crimes, you use secrecy and the claim that we are stopping “terrorists”.

    CSIS as with its masters in the NSA fabricate and/manipulate “evidence” to suit its “security” needs. In other words, as is so eloquently said by hollywood – “Your ass is grass”. All Canadians are legitimate targets.

    In your own words: “…a terrorist’s objective was more often than not to draw attention or support for a cause”. Hence, anyone engaged in the pursuit of Canadian freedoms, of human rights, of supporting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is fair target. Hooray for democracy.

    Wow, I am so happy to not live on the moon.

    Ah let us not forget 9/11 that you could not resist to bring up again to justify your terrorizing of Canadians into submission.

    And of course, our friend Anders Breivik from Norway who so brainwashed into believing that Muslims are the enemy and must be exterminated at all costs.

    Why did you not bring up Israel that has and continues to terrorize the Palestinian women, men and children for the last 50 years. They would be an excellent example of terrorist activities, all supported to the tune of 2 to 3 billion US dollars by our southern friends.