Canada, Counter-Terrorism Policy

Canada, Counter-Terrorism Policy


Canada's measures to respond to or prevent terrorist activities have their origin in the October Crisis of 1970. At that time, a minister in the government of the Canadian province of Quebec and the British trade commissioner were kidnapped by members of a radical organization who advocated the separation of Quebec from Canada. The minister, Pierre Laporte, was killed by his captors.

One response of the federal government was to invoke an act of Parliament that temporarily revoked many democratic freedoms of Canadians in the interest of national security. As well, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began a campaign of investigation and infiltration of the separatist organization and other perceived domestic terrorist organizations.

This counter-terrorism function shifted to the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) upon its establishment in 1984.

In the 1980s and 1990s, terrorism in Canada involved religious extremists (mainly Islamic groups), political activities surrounding the separation of states in India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, and the Middle East, and the activities of groups opposed to abortion, animal rights, and globalization. CSIS and other law enforcement agencies in the country assumed responsibility for the investigation of such incidents and prevention of further domestic violence. A full-scale government counter-terrorism policy did not yet exist.

The September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States prompted Canada to formulate policies to address the possibilities of terrorist movement through Canada to the U.S. and the presence of terrorist bases of operation in Canada. As well, Canadian officials were concerned that Canada might itself become a target of terrorism.

Canadian counter-terrorism policy involves several federal government departments and agencies. CSIS has assumed a prominent role in its capacity as an intelligence-gathering agency and as an advisor concerning possible national security threats. In the 1990s, some 80% of CSIS resources were devoted to counter-intelligence with only 20% dedicated to counter-terrorism. As of 2002, this ratio is reversed. Public safety has become the priority of CSIS.

The Threat Assessement Unit in the Counter-terrorism Branch of CSIS collects and evaluates information about domestic and international terrorism. This information is passed on to other government departments to initiate specific action (i.e., tightening of Canada-United States cross-border security by the departments of Citizenship and Immigration, and Transport). Information is also gathered prior to major international events to be hosted by Canada, which could become the target of terrorist activity.

CSIS, in combination with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, has tightened the screening of citizenship and refugee applicants, and has streamlined the review process for applicants in order to speed up approval or deportation. The rights of an applicant to appeal have been limited if their claim is rejected on their grounds of national security. Prior association with a recognized terrorist organization is a legal reason for refusal of entry to Canada and immediate deportation.

The United States-Canada border is the longest undefended national border in the world. Movement of terrorists across the border, particularly from Canada into the U.S., has not been difficult. As of late 2002, the Canadian government has taken steps to increase border security, searches of vehicles, and is developing joint strategies of border security with the United States.

Canada was one of the first countries to implement Resolution 1373 (2001) of the United Nations Security Council, which required states to take action to prevent and suppress terrorism.

On October 2, 2001, the government of Canada implemented Resolution 1373. On October 15, 2001, the Antiterrorism Act was tabled in Parliament. The act (Bill C-36), which was passed in December 2001, amended the Criminal Code to restrict the ability of terrorists to finance their activities from Canada, restricted known terrorists from owing property in Canada, and increased the surveillance powers of the RCMP and CSIS. As well, stricter controls were put in place concerning the purchase and ownership of firearms.

Another piece of legislation, Bill C-42, proposes to amend the Immigration Act to allow the Minister of Immigration to approve the destination of anyone being deported. This would help ensure that the deportee did not escape to a jurisdiction that is sympathetic to their cause. The bill would also strengthen the search and seizure powers of customs agents at border crossings.

Objections to Bill C-42 concerning its infringement on civil liberties prompted its withdrawal and reformulation. New legislation called the Public Safety Act was introduced in April 2002. Among the recommendations is the coordination of federal and provincial government databases, to make a variety of information more widely accessible.



Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "Counter-Terrorism: Backgrounder Series No. 8." Government of Canada. August 8, 2002. < > (26 November 2002).

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. "Report of the Government of Canada to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the United Nations Security Council on Measures Taken to Implement Resolution 1373 (2001)." Government of Canada. July 13,2002. < > (26 November 2002).


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