VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As terror groups in Syria and Iraq suffer more and more losses on the battlefield, it is driving up the risk of domestic attacks here on Canadian soil, according to a government report based on first-hand interviews with western-born jihadists from across the country.
The report is part of a larger federal project funded by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Canadian Safety and Security Program.
It is not public yet, but one of the co-authors tells the Toronto Star that, if ordered to, he believes many jihadists would obediently return and carry out domestic terror attacks here.
The report tracked a number of Canadian or western-born jihadists believed to have travelled overseas to fight with ISIS or other groups and it challenges some common beliefs about what drives some people toward radicalization.
Many of those interviewed come from a comfortable or even luxurious upbringing but became disillusioned and then drawn to an ideology that gave them an identity or sense of purpose.
“We’ve seen these counter narratives where on the one hand some suggest these people are essentially quasi-criminals with mental health issues and they get pulled into this world because they have nowhere else to go,” says David Hyde, an independent security consultant based in Toronto.
“This runs counter to that. The real world doesn’t hold relevance to them — whether it’s religiously, ideologically or philosophically — and they find something in this extreme version of Islam. It’s very easy to get radicalized over the Internet and to find other people of like mind.”
Hyde says it is a “stark reminder” that we need to throw away the old assumptions about who Canadian jihadists are and how they become indoctrinated.
“We need to be ever on guard with education in terms of counter-programs so that we give these folks reason to believe there are options and there’s more than this jihadi-type path open to them.”
The report examined a core group of 20 jihadists who were interviewed along with family and friends.
The Star reports that seven of the 20 are Canadian. The rest are from the United States, the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.