December 18, 2018, OTTAWA—Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and the Canadian government must go further than simply reviewing the wording of the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada, and take action to address the unfounded allegations and stigmatization of Muslim and Sikh communities in the report.
“When the most lethal acts of politically-inspired violence of the past decade in Canada come from individuals espousing extreme right, misogynistic and racist ideologies, how is it that this threat continues to be minimized by state security agencies?” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG). “The public, and especially the Muslim and Sikh communities, deserve clear answers, and not just an internal review of the wording of the report.”
The ICLMG shares the concerns of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the World Sikh Organization, and the Canadian Anti-Hate Coalition, all of whom raised the alarm last week over the stigmatization of Muslims and Sikhs, and the downplaying of right-wing violence in the latest threat assessment report.
While Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said that officials will review the inclusion of Shia, Sunni and Sikh as qualifiers in the text, the ICLMG says the problem runs deeper.
“There is no doubt that Canada faces threats from those inspired by violent groups like Daesh. But the use of vague qualifiers like ‘Islamist extremism’ and the refusal to acknowledge the real threat posed by white supremacists and their organizations, which already led to tragedy in Quebec City in 2017, continues to frame Canada’s Muslim communities as a threat, and not one of the primary targets, of hatred and violence,” said McSorley.
It is also highly troubling to see, without evidence or justification, the sudden inclusion of Sikh (Khalistani) extremism as a threat to Canada’s national security. “For the first time, Canada has included ‘Sikh extremism’ in a terrorism assessment report, without any evidence of recent violence or credible threats in Canada. While the tragedy of the Air India bombing still weighs heavy in Canada, it cannot be used to tarnish a community decades later,” McSorley added.
This report fits a troubling trend that the ICLMG has observed over the past 15 years, where vague security concerns with little transparency or clear basis have been used to increase police and security powers, and to place greater limitations and restraints on civil liberties. When compared to the scope of reported national security threats, these measures are disproportionate. For example, in the 2018 threat assessment, one of the “plots” used to support the report’s focus is the so-called “Canada Day” bomb plot from 2013. However, both accused in the case have been released after an appeals judge found they had been entrapped by the RCMP. While the government continues to appeal the case, it is questionable that this would be cited – without clarification – as one of only nine key events from the past 12 years.
The ICLMG is calling on the government to take immediate action to revise the 2018 threat assessment report, and to meet with concerned civil society groups to form a process of greater clarity, transparency and accountability in its national security operations and assessments.
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group