Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence
Issue 11 - Evidence - Meeting of November 24, 2014
OTTAWA, Monday, November 24, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day
at 1 p.m. to study and report on security threats facing Canada.
Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I call this meeting to order. Welcome to the Standing
Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for Monday, November 24, 2014.
Before we welcome our witness, I would like to begin by introducing the
people around the table. My name is Dan Lang, senator for Yukon. On my immediate
left is the clerk of the committee, Josée Thérien. On my far right is our
Library of Parliament analyst assigned to the committee, Holly Porteous. I would
like to go around the table and invite the senators to introduce themselves and
state the region they represent, starting with our deputy chair.
Senator Mitchell: Thanks, chair. Grant Mitchell, senator for Alberta,
Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais, from the Montreal region in
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.
Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator Ngo: Senator Ngo, Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you. Colleagues, on June 19, 2014, the Senate agreed
that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence would be
authorized to study and report on security threats facing Canada, including, but
not limited to, cyber espionage, threats to critical infrastructure, terrorist
recruitment and financing, terrorist operations and prosecutions, and that the
committee would report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2015.
This afternoon, the committee will be meeting for three panels as we look at
the threats to Canada, specifically terrorism. Canadians are learning disturbing
news about the threats we face. We now know that 93 Canadians are defined as
high-risk travellers, that is, they are seeking to leave Canada to support ISIS.
These people are under surveillance and in some cases have had their passports
seized. In addition, there are 80 Canadians and dual nationals who have returned
to Canada after providing material support for ISIS; and we now know there are
145 Canadians currently abroad with ISIS. Together, we have now a total of a
minimum of 318 Canadians that are involved one way or the other with terrorism,
and these are the ones known to our law enforcement officials.
To put it clearly, there are 173 radicalized individuals living amongst us
and obviously consuming vast amounts of law enforcement resources while posing a
threat to Canada and Canadians.
The committee has also learned that significant financial support leaves
Canada to finance terrorism. FINTRAC, the agency that tracks terror funding and
organized crime, tabled their annual report last week, which states they made
1,143 disclosures to law enforcement agencies in 2013-14, up from 919 the
previous year. Of that, 234 were related to terrorist financing or threats to
the security of Canada. This is very disturbing and will be examined as we move
forward on this study of threats to Canada.
In our first panel today, we will be focused on what is happening in the
social media sphere with a guest from SecDev Foundation. In the second and third
panels, we will be hearing from prominent members of the Muslim community.
Colleagues, joining us today is Mr. Rafal Rohozinski, Senior Fellow of SecDev
Foundation. Mr. Rohozinski has been a leading expert in cyberterrorism and
espionage. He has played a key role in helping government understand the threats
we face when it comes to cybersecurity and terrorism.
Commissioned by Public Safety Canada under the Kanishka Project, SecDev has
been conducting a two-year study entitled ''Social Media Target Audience
Analysis: Measuring the Impact of Counter Narrative Resources for Education
Professionals in Canada.'' As part of this study, they are seeking to measure
the impact of films created to counter narratives of violent extremism,
especially in the social media space, as well as create an advanced tool kit for
practitioners to help not only in measuring impact but also in more effectively
tailoring and disseminating such educational resources for intended audiences.
Mr. Rohozinski, we are very pleased to have you here today. We look forward
to your presentation. I understand you have an opening statement. Please begin.
Rafal Rohozinski, Senior Fellow, SecDev Foundation: Thank you,
senator. Members of the committee, thank you for the privilege of addressing you
today on the topic of social media and countering violent extremism. By way of
background, I'm appearing as a witness today on behalf of the Ottawa-based
SecDev Foundation, an operational think tank working at the intersection of
technology and social change. SecDev Foundation is currently engaged in work on
conflict and radicalization in Syria, Iraq, Latin America and the Commonwealth
of Independent States. The foundation has also been a recipient of two grants
from the Public Safety Canada Kanishka program and has conducted research in
experimental work examining the phenomenon of online radicalization and the
measures that can be taken to address populations at risk for radicalization. I
will also state for the record that I'm also senior fellow for cyber and hybrid
threats with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies,
where these issues are also of significant concern.
If I may, I'd like to begin unconventionally with a story. Almost 24 years
ago, at the end of the Cold War, I worked for a U.S. agency involved in the
early years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. My task at that
time was to work with members of the former Soviet academic community,
specifically those with skills in areas of nuclear physics and biochemistry. The
intent was to civilianize their activities so as to prevent them from emigrating
to countries such as North Korea and Libya. Our idea at that time was to
reintegrate the scientists by connecting them to the global scientific
community. Our solution was the Internet.
For those of you who remember the Internet 24 years ago, it was largely the
preserve of around 14,000 scientists, mostly in North America and Europe. Back
then, to the best of our knowledge, the Soviet Union had never developed the
Internet. The technology was Western, foreign and at odds with networks that
supported automated data processing in support of the centrally planned Soviet
economy. Consequently, it was much to our surprise that upon visiting the closed
institutes of the academy of sciences, we found the Internet, but this Internet
was not built through state funds. Rather, it was built by the scientists
themselves. They used pilfered computers and telephone lines to build, for all
intents and purposes, a covert Internet not because of but despite of the Soviet
Soviet scientists were not the only ones to first appropriate technology to
build a network. A clever 20-year-old Mafioso by the name of Semen Yufa in Kiev
also built his own Internet. He realized that by connecting his casinos and
brothels in real time he could gain an advantage over his competitors.
The point of the story is perhaps simple but also important: Technology
rarely develops along the lines and purposes to which it was first designed.
Human needs, whether they are altruistic or instrumental, will ultimately shape
technology and the purposes to which it is put to use. This matters as we
consider the degree to which the Internet — social media — has enabled and
emboldened actors that are increasingly being recognized as a threat to
Canadians and Canada's national security.
The Internet has grown at a phenomenal speed. It has colonized and
transformed our daily lives beyond recognition. We currently take for granted
and are reliant upon technologies that did not exist five years ago. We truly
live in revolutionary times.
Currently, more than two thirds of all humanity is connected to broadband
Internet. There are more cellphones on the planet than there are human beings.
The online population is young. Two thirds of those currently online in the
global era are under the age of 35; just over 50 per cent are under the age of
25. These are young adults entering into their most productive years of life.
This is the population that is most motivated to change the circumstances of
their lives. Their agency, the way they choose to express this, is being felt in
different ways, from the booming new economy to the Internet, through to new
forms of political activism, including ''hacktivism,'' which we have seen
through the impact of groups as disparate as Anonymous, the Occupy movement, the
Syrian Electronic Army and, more recently and graphically, the so-called Islamic
It is important to recognize the profound impact of the Internet. Looking
from the perspective of the future, historians are likely to see this as an era
of profound empowerment of individuals. More people in more places in the world
are able to make fundamental decisions about their lives informed by knowledge
and information. The globally contiguous nature of the Internet has made it
possible to overcome the barriers of geography, ignorance and middlemen and has
led to leaps in education, economic development and empowerment.
In fact, we at the foundation called this the era of open empowerment, where
the ability of individuals to act has scaled faster than institutions and rules
have been able to adapt. These are profound changes that have thrown up
challenges to developing and advanced industrial nations alike. As in my example
of 24 years ago, technology has created its own form of democracy where people
have used it to actively affect the circumstances in their lives in ways that
the inventors and vendors of these technologies could never have predicted.
More to the point, as the Internet has grown to encompass an ever-larger
percentage of humanity, so too has it become reflective of the societies
themselves. It is no longer the preserve of academia or the rich or the Western;
it is now a reflection of the full spectrum of society, and that includes
criminality, the views and beliefs of marginal populations, as well as the
The challenge, broadly seeking, is that the rules that we've developed over
the decades in real space, not virtual space, are difficult to adapt to the new
online world. Fundamental rights such as those of privacy, protest, freedom of
speech and policing have taken decades, if not centuries, to codify in our legal
system and have only begun to scratch the surface of what they will need to
become to be relevant in the new online world.
Let me now turn to an issue which I know is of concern to this committee: the
radicalization of Canadians through material found on the Internet, and
especially social media and the degree to which this has been exploited by
groups, including White supremacists, right-wing groups and the so-called
Islamic State as a means of recruitment and incitement to violence.
In recent months, and especially in the wake of the tragic events in
St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, the role of social media as a potential vector
mobilizing young people into acts of violence has risen to the fore. Certainly
there is merit to this concern.
Access to information and knowledge from the Internet has made it possible
for individuals to seek meaning, communion and a motivation for action in
solitude, mediated only through their Internet connection. Because the Internet
connects the world, the ability of an individual to find just that specific
meaning that motivates them into action — good, bad or ugly — is greater than in
the era where their interaction with people, ideas and institutions was
circumscribed by education, economic means, language and the ability to travel.
It is also true that groups seeking to incite violence have leveraged the
ability to reach out and touch the individual as a means of spreading their
message and influence. As an example, a principal difference between al Qaeda
and the Islamic State is that the former was a conspiracy. Al Qaeda members
shared bonds of trust, usually forged through face-to-face relationships or a
vetting process that ensured that every member of that organization was known to
someone. The so-called Islamic State is more of a brand, spreading an
aspirational liturgy, calling on individuals to find their own path into taking
action. This is why their message is effective, especially among those who feel
the need or desire to become part of a cause larger than themselves.
While this is true of those who follow the creed of IS, Islamic State, it is
equally applicable to those who ascribe to radical views on the environment,
extreme libertarian views or racism.
While it is relatively easy to agree on the nature of the problem, proposing
a solution is far more challenging, first of all because the science is
incomplete at the moment. While we have significant anecdotal evidence that
leads us to suspect that the Internet does play a role in radicalization, we do
not as of yet have conclusive studies that lay out how exactly it contributes to
Second, cyberspace is a domain which is unique in that it is described
entirely in data. It is far easier to find, identify and track an individual and
groups than it is in any of the other domains of land, air or sea. There is a
fundamental risk that in exercising this technical capability of finding
individuals — by that I mean not just the capability of organizations such as
the NSA but the information that is gathered by organizations as disparate as
banks, credit agencies, online social media platforms and search engines — the
fundamental rights that define our society, including the right to privacy and
of due process before the law, may be thwarted or trampled and the social
contract between citizens and the state silently rewritten.
The revelations made by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden point to some of
the dangers implicit to addressing through national security law what may be
issues that have a deeper, more fundamental impact on advanced democratic
societies, as they have the potential to touch on all aspects of our lives:
profiling individuals based upon their genetic risk of disease, insurance, life
chances, et cetera. These are issues that must be taken into consideration and
require a much more fundamental, deep-seated debate than one focusing on the
risks of radicalization and its relationship to the Internet and national
At the same time, one of the characteristics of modern societies has been the
ability to address and manage risk which balances the interests and rights of
citizens and collective responsibilities such as security.
The work of the SecDev Foundation under two consecutive Kanishka grants has
focused on this challenge. Through a series of controlled experiments and policy
engagements, we have explored the role of social media in the process of
radicalization and the means by which technology could be applied within
prescribed policy to facilitate community security by identifying those
communities at risk of radicalization.
Our inspirational starting point here was twofold. First was public health
surveillance, which uses data as a means of identifying risks to public safety
emanating from the spread of disease by using anonymized statistical monitoring.
The second starting point was in some of the path-breaking work done on
community policing, where police forces working together with social welfare
organizations seek to identify communities at risk before they come into contact
with the law enforcement community. In both cases, our key takeaway here was the
importance of looking for local community engagement and seeking community
responses to risks rather than elevating them to a response requiring national
institutions of state or the criminal justice system.
The work is challenging and not without its risks. A workshop we held earlier
this year that brought together the federal Privacy Commissioner with
representatives from Canada's security agencies and university-based researchers
recognized the gaps that exist in Canada's privacy legislation that make it
difficult to develop policy or guidance for the government, law enforcement or
even community groups engaged in this work.
However, at the same time, some early path-breaking work was accomplished,
suggesting how it might be possible to identify risk not by targeting or
profiling individuals or groups but rather by identifying content hallmarks that
are associated with radical views and potentially working backwards to develop
narratives, strategies and approaches to narratives that aim at engagement and
reducing the level of risk to communities and individuals.
Not unlike public health surveillance and violence reduction work undertaken
by the WHO, our hunch was and remains on the importance of risk factors and not
targeting specific groups of individuals. While I would stress that all of this
work is still something in progress, our thinking is that identifying hallmarks
of radicalization in content as a means of seeking out points for appropriate
intervention is the best way forward to balance the critical equation of privacy
and collective security.
We would equally stress the need to identify, engage and work with community
gatekeepers, such as teachers, schools, community groups, leaders and medical or
mental health practitioners, often because the message and material that exist
in cyberspace are not available to those engaged on the ground in real life.
They simply may not be aware of the content hallmarks that are making an impact
on their communities.
Making them aware effectively arms them with the means to engage in debate,
through education and other means, so as to provide a reality check and a means
to discuss issues that impact and have effect, especially on the youth and
individuals and communities already feeling marginalized and excluded from
In some respects this work is still aspirational, as even the basic mapping
of key community gatekeepers and their influence intersection with social media
is underdeveloped. Quite simply, we do not have the equivalent of Yellow Pages
of community gatekeepers in cyberspace quite in the same way as we do in
physical space. There is much fundamental work that still needs to be done on
At the same time, while this work is new and experimental, it is applied and
practical. Here I would commend the objectives of the Public Safety Canada
Kanishka program that has made this avenue of research and cooperation between
public and applied research institutions a reality.
One of the emerging lessons learned we have taken away from this process thus
far is the need for restraint — to always default to a more conservative stance
on privacy and to avoid seeing counter-narrative or counter-violent-extremism
work exclusively through the lens of policing or national security law.
Self-radicalization to violent extremism is a relatively new phenomenon, made
possible through the emergence of the Internet and social media. But that does
not mean that everyone who follows this path is either committed or necessarily
compos mentis. Besides the clear dangers of undue surveillance that risks the
very democratic values upon which our society is founded, intervention should
also be carefully managed, based upon assessments that determine whether the
best path forward is through the social welfare system or the criminal justice
Further, the marginalization of already marginalized populations runs the
risk of a more systemic and intransigent adherence to violent ideologies. This
is a lesson that has been learned by our community leaders and police forces in
the province of Saskatchewan, for example, and others who have experimented with
community approaches to violence reduction. It is a lesson we should well
consider as we move to enact new powers for policing cyberspace and addressing
the issue of violent extremism online.
Finally, in closing, I would make one further observation, which is
specifically relevant for those who have chosen to take up arms outside of the
borders of Canada. The issue of foreign fighters represents a challenge, as
crimes or acts of violence occurring outside of Canada raise the issue of
whether individuals choosing to do so should retain the privilege of being
Canadian citizens. In the global era of instant 24-7 access to information via
the Internet and social media, the temptation, as well as the possibility, for
young Canadians to act on emotion and join global causes carries a very low
Thousands of Canadians serve overseas with NGOs and humanitarian
organizations or in travel and educational opportunities abroad. Several hundred
have chosen to fight in foreign causes and foreign wars, including a young
Canadian Israeli woman currently fighting with Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
For many of these young people, first contact with the realities of war will
bring disillusionment. Many will want to come home. Many will also suffer from
the same stresses and disorders that affect our fighting men and women in the
These people do need our help and consideration. Creating an environment and
policy that allows them to reintegrate back into Canadian society not only will
allow us the opportunity to recover some of this youth but also may serve as a
powerful beacon, a means and a mechanism to engage and possibly deter others
from following the path to violence.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, sir.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you very much. That was very compelling, and
it's difficult to know where to begin because you've covered so much and you've
outlined so many of the issues that need to be addressed.
Maybe I can get down to a more specific level and say that clearly your
organization has received money to look at the influence on radicalization of
people through films, through content that they could receive in any number of
ways. I was just in Latvia talking to Latvian officials who are having the same
problem with Russian television programming being beamed into Latvia — not even
surreptitiously but right on channels — to a Russian minority that is getting a
different world view, maybe or maybe not, but they are concerned that they are.
My first question would be based on your statement that really struck me. You
said there isn't a lot of work being done on the techniques, the impact and the
methodologies of radicalization through the Internet. Could you confirm that my
impression of that is right?
Second, could you tell me what you are doing with the $147,000 you have
received that seems to be addressing that issue?
Mr. Rohozinski: Sure. First of all, let me make it clear: Quite a lot
of work is being done, both funded through the Kanishka program as well as more
broadly among the academic community and in countries like the U.K., where the
issue of radicalization online has risen to the fore around the impact of the
Internet on the process of radicalization.
However, I think what's also clear is that the science there to actually show
the degree to which the Internet plays a role in someone's path in
radicalization is still underdeveloped. We simply don't have enough information
yet to be able to determine exactly what role it plays. We know it plays a role,
but in order to be able to design strategies and approaches for being able to
minimize its effect, work against that, work at the community level, that
requires more evidence than we currently have.
Add to that a very important challenge, which is that social media and
Internet presence, because it is a domain that is described in data, gives an
unprecedented granularity and ability for organizations — forget about whether
it's the state or whether it's commercial entities — to actually identify and
track individuals. If I were to ask you what kind of company is Google, you
would probably be very surprised if I answered that it's an advertising company,
but it is. Ultimately, its ability to give you utility through a search function
is to be able to profile your behaviour online in order to better understand you
as a potential consumer.
A lot of the work we undertook during the first Kanishka program — not the
second Kanishka grant that we operated under — was to look at the bounds to
which policy existed to be able to enable either government or community groups
to apply technology, to understand and study the process of radicalization, as
well as develop techniques for detecting radicalized communities and to
determine which of those could be best applicable within a policy framework for
the use of either government or community groups.
Now, our conclusion to the first tranche of Kanishka work was that, one,
there is an absence of fundamental policy in law that could even provide
guidance on how to begin leveraging social media for either community security
or law enforcement purposes. As senators, you're probably aware that legislation
updating lawful intercept technology has been delayed for years through the
parliamentary system. Even the updated version of those laws doesn't scratch the
surface of some of the issues that need to be covered once you start looking at
things like social media, where you're dealing with public data and not
The second issue is that once the technology is actually created, how do you
channel it in such a way that you can look for the statistical presence of
radicalization or potentially at-risk communities without profiling or
identifying specific individuals? The idea here again is to use the World Health
Organization approach to understanding the prevalence of disease, where it's not
important that you or your sister are sick but that a certain vector of disease
exists within a particular community as a means of being able to identify means
to counter it. So our first program was almost exclusively focused on that
policy and technology piece.
The second Kanishka grant under which we worked shifted gears. We were
partnered with an organization that has worked extensively in the U.K. with
already radicalized communities or communities that are at risk of
radicalization. They have created, through their expertise, a series of films
which target specific communities or, broadly speaking, communities at risk of
radicalization — because I don't want to narrow this down to one community, but
the danger of radicalization.
What we did for them, as part of that and as part of our contribution to the
Kanishka program, was to apply some of our methodology for being able to map
community gatekeepers, essentially create a Yellow Pages of gatekeepers that
exist within a community — by this, I'm talking about a geographic community,
such as London, Ontario, or Windsor or Ottawa — so as to be able to see that
when they message into that community through their films, who is actually
responding to that. Where are the people for whom that sticks the most? It's
almost a different use of the same kind of technology that's used by advertisers
to understand whether their brand resonates, but here the intention is to see
the pathways of how that content can be spread through key gatekeepers that make
the jump from the online world to the physical world, so literally going from a
social media or Facebook page to a YMCA or a medical practitioner's office or
some other community group, teachers, where that content can be discussed and
can create at least a basis for a counter-narrative against that which is being
received through online means.
The Chair: Did you follow that?
Senator Mitchell: Some of it, yes. What it really underlines is just
how complicated this is.
One of the interesting — maybe I'm being a devil's advocate — conundrums here
is on the one hand you're saying we don't really have a scientific methodology
for determining what the impact of the Internet might be. At the same time, you
are saying there are impediments or gaps in privacy law that would allow us to
explore or surveil the Internet to catch people doing things or to find out
whether it is having an impact.
Do we know that the Internet is where the radicalization, or some of it, is
occurring? Do we know that? Can you say that with some certainty? Or is it
happening because there's an influential 22-year-old who has returned from
school in Syria and is talking to a bunch of his buddies wherever in the
Mr. Rohozinski: Let me be clear about this. The methodology is there.
What is lacking is enough data points to say conclusively exactly what role
social media plays in the process of radicalization. We know it is important, we
know it plays a role, but whether it is more important or less important than
the 22-year-old talking to his buddies, that's the question where we simply
don't have enough data.
I would say the Kanishka program was specifically formulated to create the
ability to do this kind of research because doing this kind of research purely
in a university environment is difficult. The ethics of doing first-person
subject research, the policy constraints that exist around it if you were going
to be doing it in government labs, make it an extremely challenging area to work
Senator Mitchell: Isn't this kind of research going on all over the
world? Isn't the EU or the U.S. doing it? Hasn't somebody figured it out, or are
you saying we are at a point where we don't know?
Mr. Rohozinski: I think we're at a point where everybody is actively
experimenting. Everybody recognizes the nature of the problem, but being able to
identify the solutions, that's the challenging part.
What I tried to lay out in my talk is that there are several pillars of
challenge. One pillar of challenge is the fact that we don't have norms, much
less policy or law, that create guidance.
Second, there are lots of risks implicit in the technology, which really sort
of put us in a careful balance of whether or not going towards exploiting the
full benefit of what the technology could bring actually starts rewriting the
social contract between individuals and states. That's a very important point.
Senator Mitchell: In a sense, how do you bring it all together? Where
does this get coordinated? There's so much that needs to be done. Some of it is
being done elsewhere. Your group is one. You are obviously an expert in this,
you know a lot about it, but who is to add up, sort of list all the issues that
need to be confronted and assign them and make sure the research is being done,
the questions are being asked and we get the answers we need? Where in Canada
could that be done and how?
Mr. Rohozinski: So I guess there's a question: Where in Canada or
where it can be done. On a global level, it does occur. There's a network of
global scholars working on this, all of whom are tied in with government
institutions to one extent or another. This is an active area. If you look
across the U.K., France, the U.S., Israel and elsewhere, you will see a very
In Canada, it is my impression that Public Safety Canada, both through the
Kanishka program and its individual grants as well as the network it has now
chosen to put together amongst researchers, is building that kind of community.
From my observation, that community has had the support of both public
institutions for whom this is an operational consideration, as well as made the
outreach into universities where this work needs to happen at a fundamental
On a bridging level, the one thing I would say is only to heap praise on the
Kanishka program and say that it is really good that it exists, because it has
created a locus where this kind of research, which is risky, which has
fundamental challenges to norms of our society and, as you can see, touches both
law, individual rights, as well as the technology part, needs to happen.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, Mr. Rohozinski, for coming and
trying to provide us with some understanding of this complicated issue. I'm
going to try to bring this down to, I will say, my level, the Luddite level.
In your methodology, you review social media sites. What I found very
interesting about your introduction was that you identify hallmarks in those
social media sites that would raise flags with you that perhaps this should be
I understand, from all of what you are talking about, about methodology. What
hallmarks do you find as indicators?
Mr. Rohozinski: These could be specific videos, specific images.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Of what, though? Hive it right down to the
simplest form you can.
Mr. Rohozinski: It is difficult to say, because I'm talking about a
broad community. What will stick with Islamic State is different than what
sticks with White supremacists in London, Ontario, so invariably the images will
By looking at this statistically, looking at content which seems to cluster
the highest concentration of either individuals who are holding radical views or
binds communities together — and these are algorithmically discoverable — that
gives us a starting point to say, ''Aha. This is a hallmark for action.''
Whether it is a beheading video, whether it happens to be the 14 words that are
used by White supremacists, generally speaking, this is a tag that can be used
when looking through public data.
I need to make it clear here. When I look at social media sites, I'm not
looking at individuals or things that individuals have put privacy restrictions
on. I'm looking only at the stuff that is publicly visible, but it is compelling
enough and, certainly in the experimental work that we have done, accurate
enough to really give us a measure of who is at risk from this content both in
terms of demographics, in other words, what age group, as well as specific
Senator Stewart Olsen: Have you identified through your work things
that have raised alarm bells and communicated that to someone?
Mr. Rohozinski: The work that we are doing is as a public research
grant. In other words, I have no authority or permission from the Crown or
elsewhere to support directly the work of community groups or, let's say, of
We have certainly shared our findings in terms of what has worked, what
hasn't worked, what are the sort of policy implications of that with, as I said,
groups as disparate as the security agencies and the Privacy Commissioner. In
fact, we sought their input and support in a lot of the work we were doing.
On the present phase of the Kanishka grant where we are working and teamed
with an organization that has actually created counter-narrative videos, we did
provide them with a template to say, ''Okay. If this is where you are going to
be distributing it, here is the Yellow Pages of all community groups and
What we will be doing in the second phase is actually looking at the impact
as the videos are rolled out to see what impact it is having, not just in
cyberspace, but in the real space where people interact with people.
Senator Stewart Olsen: It is almost like a quality assurance program.
You put out your premise, and then you are going to check afterwards to see if
that premise is correct.
Mr. Rohozinski: Correct. We identify the community, broadly speaking,
at risk, and then we look for the actual impact of counter-narrative work that
is being carried out by a third group to see where it resonates, how it
resonates, whether it has impact.
I will say the group we're working with has had a lot of experience working
with at-risk communities in the U.K., where, as you probably are aware, this
issue is much more severe than it is here in Canada. We are drawing upon their
expertise in the work that we're doing.
Interestingly enough, they knew, through anecdotal evidence, that social
media and the online world was important to their work, but they had no means of
being able to measure it. That's what we're providing in this project, the means
of being able to identify the target audience and also to measure the
effectiveness and impact of this work.
Senator Stewart Olsen: You develop your own algorithms?
Mr. Rohozinski: We develop our own methodology, yes.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Rohozinski. In your presentation, you
spoke about creating a tool kit that would be given to teachers to measure the
impact of the actions that might be taken, and you also said that the kit is
intended to be used as an educational tool for the public.
Do you know who will benefit from this study and this tool kit?
Mr. Rohozinski: If I understand you correctly, the issue is what is
the actual benefit being done for the beneficiaries of the work we're doing
specifically in the educational sector.
Unfortunately, in the way that our grant was structured this time around, we
had proposed and we left in the proposal direct work with educators because we
understand educators to be an extremely important gatekeeper community that in
many ways is less prepared to deal with the issue of radicalization than they
are with the problem of dental care, for example, where Murphy the Molar comes
into the school and distributes toothbrushes. However, when we made the proposal
there weren't enough funds to cover the work to be done directly with the
educators. In the agreement we made with Public Safety Canada, we left it in the
proposal. As we move through the effectiveness measurement of ''can a narrative
work,'' we would package that up as a means of a second phase that we would then
push out to the educators. The intent is very much to put the emphasis there
because to us, as I mentioned in my opening remarks and hopefully have
emphasized in response to questions, we see the gatekeepers as being the most
important component here.
Senator Dagenais: In your opinion, what other country could use this
tool kit? Have you considered that other countries could use it?
Mr. Rohozinski: Yes, I would say here that among the English-speaking
countries, the United Kingdom is far more advanced in terms of recognizing the
importance of an integrated, all-agency response to the problem of
radicalization, which means looking at social services, educational services,
mental health services, as well as the criminal and justice system and others in
responding to the challenge of radicalization.
In the recent past I've seen a lot of work starting to come out of France in
particular, where a similar set of circumstances has appeared.
Senator Dagenais: Have other similar studies been done in Canada or
other countries abroad?
Mr. Rohozinski: Interestingly enough, if you look at the Kanishka
program, it has probably as many international participants as it does Canadian
participants. The same is true for most national efforts.
For example, in a completely other line of work, we are involved in looking
at social media from a national securities perspective for both the U.K. and the
U.S. governments. I would say that the problem is almost the same for everyone.
As a result, the experimentation, although it's being supported through
different means, takes on more or less the same character. There is equivalence
in terms of the range. As I said, there's a pretty good and fundamental
international network. Therefore I don't think Canada misses out in any way or
doesn't benefit from efforts being done elsewhere, nor do others miss out or
lack a benefit from what is done here in Canada.
Senator Beyak: We're told some argue that we can't shut down sites
because they're hosted by foreign servers. What would one do to block sites that
are espousing hatred and radicalization, in your opinion?
Mr. Rohozinski: That's a very tough question. Here I'd go back to
previous work that I did before the Kanishka program. For about 10 years, I've
been principal investigator on a program called the Open Learning Initiative,
which together with the University of Toronto, Harvard and Cambridge has looked
at the emergence of policies and practices aimed at creating, filtering,
blocking national borders in cyberspace.
In our experience over those 14 years, the one thing we can say is that most
states that attempt to block sites fail miserably. The reason being links back
to the story I told at the beginning of my presentation, which is that
individuals invariably find ways around this. If they're determined, they'll
find it. If they don't find it in the open Internet they'll find it in the dark
web. In fact, many of the forums used for the coordination of jihadi groups up
till about three years ago existed in something called the dark web, which means
sites that are actually not visible on the public Internet, where you needed to
have special permission to be able to enter into it.
The technical means for policing cyberspace are tremendously difficult.
You've already pointed to an issue of jurisdiction. If we were, for example, to
go to the government of the Russian Federation and say, ''Please stop making it
possible for site X to be hosted out of a service provider within the terrain of
the Russian Federation,'' they would say, ''Great, we will, as soon as you start
blocking these five Chechen websites that we've asked you to take offline that
have been hosted in the United States for the last five years.'' There's a great
deal of difficulty that way.
At the same time, we've become quite sophisticated in the way we deal with
child pornography online, creating non-governmental organizations requiring
consent before people enter into particular sites, in other words, creating
speed bumps along the way that at least deter those who may be simply casual
viewers from necessarily entering into these particular websites.
To me that kind of lightly, lightly, softly, softly approach for the moment
probably is the best because it takes care of the 75 per cent problem of people
that would casually go into these sites because there is no deterrence. It
wouldn't really deal with the 25 per cent that will, but that is a separate
challenge we need to look at.
Clearly, we need to develop rules for policing cyberspace. As cyberspace has
become a reflection of society at large, it seems almost anomalous the rules we
have in physical space on behaviour aren't applied there. If my child were to go
to school with a T-shirt with a beheading on it, immediately parents, teachers
and others would become involved. If he posts a photograph of that to his
Facebook page, who notices? Who cares? Who intervenes? There is a gap that
exists there. I can't pretend I know the answer to it, but I know that
addressing it is both important and requires a great deal of care and caution.
Senator Beyak: Thank you. That was a very thorough answer.
Senator White: I was going to ask some questions around blocking, but
instead I'll ask you some questions around reporting and setting those norms and
talk about child pornography because that is what we've seen in Canada. There's
a belief that there's a responsibility for reporting, and some would argue we
will actually move to an actual requirement that providers report.
When you talk about articulating the norms, who would you suggest articulate
the norms of acceptance? It's easy in a school with a photograph of a beheading.
Who would set those norms for us in the Internet world? Would you recommend that
we have a requirement that there be reporting from providers? Obviously blocking
from your perspective is almost impossible, if not impossible.
Mr. Rohozinski: Again, I would go back to the way that we've handled
the issue of child pornography. Would reporting work? Reporting has the risk
that identifying radical content isn't quite the same as identifying child
pornography. Child pornography is pretty evident by what it is. Radical content
is open to a lot more interpretation. As a result, it requires a slightly more
Certainly reviewing would be important — in other words not simply letting
these things exist in the wild. We are some time off before we can confidently
say what would be categories of reporting. That would require a broader
discussion in terms of seeing whether or not some forms of what we may consider
radical content fit within the spectrum of acceptable political protest and
agency before we made those kinds of categorical decisions.
I'd state for the record something I've stated to a number of committees
before which I've testified: I'm really surprised, given the importance that
cyberspace now plays in this disjunction between the online and offline worlds,
that we haven't had a royal commission to examine it in its fullness — not just
its impact on radicalization or national security, but how it impacts on
Canadians and their relationship as citizens to the state and other
institutions. In my mind that's almost the starting point before we can get into
the nitty-gritty of issues such as whether or not we can establish norms for
reporting radical content online.
Senator White: Thank you for that.
You brought up the photograph of a beheading on a T-shirt, and whether or not
it would even cross a line into hate crime is questionable in Canada today. Do
we need to actually look at whether or not our hate crime legislation has kept
up with the realities of 2014 and what many of us would construe at least as
hatred toward a specific group often perpetrated by an individual or another
Mr. Rohozinski: Absolutely, and I would go back to the public health
analogy. Over time we have recognized that not washing your hands can lead to
the rise in incidence of some diseases. Interesting studies have been done on
the effects of pornography on young children and what prolonged exposure does to
their emotional development. I'm sure there are also lessons to be learned about
radical content, precipitation of hatred and how that may change norms. But
again, it's a big question to some extent and one that requires focus before we
can start searching for solutions.
Senator White: You talked about blocking not being successful. Most
often when we talk about blocking sites we talk about China, Russia and others,
but more recently we saw Iceland and I think the U.K. talking about blocking
some pornography sites, for example. Have they been unsuccessful as well?
Mr. Rohozinski: The U.K. has taken an interesting approach. You are
required to attest that you are 18 years before you reach these sites. In other
words, it creates impediments for an individual to make a choice — do I lie? Do
I not lie? — before I actually engage in this activity.
Senator White: That's the equivalent of blocking?
Mr. Rohozinski: Yes, but it's one that pushes it not on the technical
level — it's not a machine making a choice for you — but it's you as an
individual who has to make a choice. That's what I talk about when I say we need
to develop rules. The rules are not just those in law; they're also the rules
and norms, if you like, and customs and how we effectively raise people to
become citizens in cyberspace, which is currently absent.
Senator White: Thank you. Again, I apologize for being late.
The Chair: You mentioned two grants that have been made available to
your company for the purpose of this research. Do I take it the first grant
application for the work that was required has been completed?
Mr. Rohozinski: Correct, yes.
The Chair: If it has been completed, is it a public document? If it
is, can you provide us with it?
Mr. Rohozinski: I can do better than that. We held a public workshop
that summated the work that was done and are in the process of launching a
website that not only summarizes our research but also the research and
methodology that has been done by upwards of 60 other groups. It is literally
going to be possible to look and see what others have tried, how it's applicable
and where it's applicable. That was the intent.
Our program was really there to try to take a big picture of policy and
technology. We realized it was a complex problem and that rather than issuing
recommendations, really creating a much more systemic access to the research
that's been done that can inform others was the way forward.
I would be very pleased to let the committee know when that is launched,
hopefully without too much delay; I imagine the middle of December or so.
The Chair: I assume I'll have to sign in that I am 18.
Mr. Rohozinski: You will not be filtered, senator.
Senator Mitchell: Maybe this is tangential to your expertise, but
given the complexity of identifying the impact of the Internet, how you might
counter that message, as the chair just whispered to me, we know that a person
is reading the bad message; why would he bother to read the good message? How do
you get him to read the good message? I will ask that question. How does the
counter-messaging work? You alluded to it earlier. How would that work?
We know that this certain individual is receiving and reading a very, very
corrosive message. How do we get the other message to him?
Mr. Rohozinski: This is a whole science in and of itself. I won't
pretend I'm an expert in all of it. Certainly, from my exposure to how this is
being done by our colleagues in the U.K., there are several approaches, one of
which is using former radicals as a way of being able to approach those who are
just entering into its path, literally acting more as a Sherpa and mentor and
saying this is the future you face.
In some cases it is simply providing literally a counter-narrative, the facts
that stand opposite to the facts that are being presented by radical views.
When you are alone in front of your computer and you can choose what you look
at, you can literally learn only what you want. Sometimes having the ability to
create those facts that in effect stack against the reality that you have been
presented is sufficient. That's just scratching the surface. I would say there
are people much more qualified than I in the area specifically of
counter-narrative work that could speak to that.
Senator Mitchell: It does also emphasize the other side, and that is
the need for people who are in contact with this individual who might
potentially be radicalized — teachers, parents, community workers, police — to
have a science of identification, or they need to have a methodology of
identifying people becoming radicalized as well, because you can't imagine who
might be, but you might be able to identify who is becoming.
Mr. Rohozinski: That is a very dangerous and tricky knife edge,
because it shifts beyond simply identifying that there is something that
requires a response to starting to identify and specifically target individuals.
That's a slippery slope we get on, given what I said earlier, and that's that
ability to create a very granular profile or pattern of life of an individual.
I would say that probably an adequate starting point at the moment is to make
sure that we have the equivalent of Murphy the Molar who at least can work with
our critical gatekeepers to know what kind of messages exist in the radical
space, to be able to address them proactively through facts, engagement and
Senator Stewart Olsen: My question has been answered, essentially. It
was all on blocking. You were very fulsome in your addressing of that issue.
Senator Dagenais: I would like to come back to privacy protection. If
I have understood correctly, you are working with the Privacy Commissioner to
evaluate your work and the impact it may have. Without going into detail, has
the commissioner made recommendations to you with respect to privacy protection?
Mr. Rohozinski: Our work with the Privacy Commissioner was interesting
because, on the one hand, we definitely sought their guidance in order to
understand whether or not what we were proposing was actually consistent with
privacy legislation. But, at the same time, and especially at the workshop that
we held at the culmination of our program, it became clear that there are
certain concepts that exist in the marketing world and intelligence world that
just don't exist at all within the world of privacy legislation.
One example is things like entity resolution, where literally I can take five
or six points of information, none of which is inimical to the privacy of
individuals, but taken together they create an accurate profile of an
individual. It is a concept that we haven't dealt with yet in terms of how it
actually works within the privacy realm where we were trying to identify
specific objects of privacy of information.
It's a tough question. Certainly, we were very pleased that at our workshop
the Privacy Commissioner sent not only someone from their technology shop, if
you like, but also someone from their legal shop, so we had very fulsome
participation from them. Again, I would commend the fact that the Kanishka
program gave us the ability to bring together the Privacy Commissioner, security
services and academics in one place to talk about issues that are tremendously
The Chair: I would like to follow up on a question asked by Senator
Beyak in respect to the possibility of blocking various sites. Your response was
that it becomes very complicated; there are so many players involved. In the
long term, do you think that it would be advantageous, with your knowledge of
technology, if the international community were to work towards an international
agreement to block certain sites that would be described in order to be able to
prevent some of this propaganda and pornography from being distributed? Is it
feasible if we were to get a broad international agreement?
Mr. Rohozinski: Let me answer on two levels, and again drawing from
experience outside of what I'm testifying about here. I have been involved in
the last seven years with a track 1.5 process with both the Chinese and the
Russians on the issue of cybersecurity.
One things that is very interesting, but sometimes it complicates discussions
of cybersecurity, is that when we, meaning Canada, the United States and the
U.K., say ''cybersecurity,'' we mean the security of technical networks. When
the Russians say ''cybersecurity,'' they actually mean informatsionnaya
bezopasnost — information security. So content becomes as much a component
of what they consider to be cybersecurity as network security.
The challenge is that finding agreement on that means that we may well have
to compromise and agree to block sites that are seen as political threats to
regimes that are less democratic and in effect support effectively political
There's a great danger in seeking a global accommodation in the sense that we
may become complicit to the diminishment of legitimate political rights abroad
while doing very little to address the issue of security threats posed by these
The Chair: Colleagues, it's two o'clock. I'd like to thank our witness
for appearing. You've brought a wealth of information. I don't know if everyone
fully understood all of the information, but it's a start for all of us, I'm
sure. I'd like to thank you for taking time to appear before us.
Joining us now to discuss the issue of threats to Canada is Tarek Fatah,
Founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, which was formed in the wake of 9/11 as
a response to give members of the Muslim Canadian community a voice, especially
when it came to issues of human rights and secular values. The Muslim Canadian
Congress has been prominent in speaking out against the mixing of politics and
religion and on issues of gender and equality. Mr. Fatah writes a weekly column
for the Toronto Sun and hosts a program on AM NEWSTALK 1010 in Toronto on
Sunday afternoons with one of the widest listening audiences in the Greater
Toronto Area. In 2008, Mr. Fatah published his first book, entitled Chasing a
Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, which was runner up for the
prestigious Donner Prize. This was followed by his book entitled The Jew is
Not My Enemy in 2010 that won the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book
Award in Politics and History.
Mr. Fatah, welcome to the committee. We're pleased to have you here. I
understand you have an opening statement. We invite you to begin.
Tarek Fatah, Founder, Muslim Canadian Congress: Good afternoon,
senators, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to address an issue
that concerns not only Canada and the rest of the world but, above all, the
community of my faith that seems to be lost in the sands of Sinai with no Moses
to lead us out.
No matter how we couch our words in the language of political correctness or
post-modernism, the fact of the matter is that Western civilization today faces
a transcontinental challenge to its very existence.
It's not as if we haven't faced this challenge before. In the Second World
War, we and our allies defeated the largest armies the world had ever seen and
saved the world from Hitler and Nazis at a cost of over 30 million people.
Subsequently, we won the Cold War, but today, 14 years after Islamism launched
its war on the West, we cannot stall, let alone defeat, the forces of
As a Muslim, it gives me no pleasure in washing my dirty laundry either in
public or in these august chambers, but I believe if we Muslims do not step
forward and speak the truth, we will suffocate in the stench of our own making
while trying to blame others for creating the mess in which we find ourselves
I understand the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
has a mandate to study and report on security threats facing Canada and is
presently focusing on the issue of preventing radicalization. Allow me to answer
some specific areas that may be of help to your committee and offer some
recommendations at the end.
First is the problem in my community or in the Muslim community. The problem
of radicalization in the Muslim community depends on which Muslim community
you're talking about. If you are speaking about Muslim Kurds or Muslim Baloch or
Muslim Darfuris, the problem is non-existent. The same can be said of most
Iranian Muslims. However, within the White and Black converts to Islam, the
Somali, Bangladeshi and Attar Muslim communities, and more specifically, the
Pakistani-Canadian Muslim community, the problem of radicalization is very
widespread, deeply entrenched, embedded and framed in terms of an
Islam-versus-the-infidel scenario leading up to an end-of-time Armageddon.
Second is the support infrastructure for terrorism and radicalization. The
support structure that exists for Islam-based terrorism or radicalization, all
Islamism, which is a starting point to the end part of someone being a jihadist,
is multi-faceted. At its base are the Islamist organizations and mosque-based
groups who lay the seeds of radicalization not necessarily in the recruitment of
terrorists but in the politicization of the sermons that whip up a sense of
victimhood of Muslims while cultivating a hatred of non-Muslims and other groups
such as gays and women who demand equality and who refuse to wear head wraps or
be encased in burkas.
To give you a specific example, which most of you would not know about, most
mosques in Canada and around the world start their Friday congregation with a
prayer that asks Allah to give victory to the Muslims over the Kuffar, or
the infidels — that is, people like you. The glorification and radicalization is
endemic and ubiquitous in the sermons and teachings to very young adults, as can
be verified from incidents in the United Kingdom and even here in Canada.
Every Islamic hero in the last 1,400 years has been a jihadist who is
celebrated for his — there are no her — exploits in defeating Christians, Jews,
Hindus or pagans.
It is with shock that I learned on Saturday that an RCMP de-radicalization
partner, a White convert to Islam by the name of Muhammad Robert Heft, had a
lengthy meeting with the Taliban leadership in the ISIS-backing Emirate of
Qatar. Mr. Heft has been negotiating a pact with the Taliban, and I'm not sure
if either your committee or the RCMP or CSIS knows about it, but he did come
back yesterday and attended an event in Mississauga, where the keynote speaker
was a federal minister, where he expounded his views. His view is that Canada's
foreign policy is at the root cause of all jihadi terrorism. His absurd
suggestion is to ally with the Taliban terrorists and to fight ISIS.
The question has been asked if the RCMP or CSIS have ever had any
communications with that group. In my 25 years of fighting against Islamism and
confronting jihadism within my Muslim community, as an author of two books, as a
radio host and weekly columnist, let met state emphatically: Not a single time
have I ever been approached by any outreach committee of the Toronto police, the
RCMP, CSIS or any other security agency. They simply will not meet with any
Muslim who looks like an integrated Muslim. I can draw only one conclusion,
ladies and gentlemen: In the eyes of the RCMP, a Muslim is a Muslim only if he
or she dresses up in medieval attire, encases his wife in a burka and speaks
with a guttural accent.
The Muslins whom the Mounties certify as moderate Muslims, who we are told
are fighting radicalization, are in fact Islamists who are pro-sharia and have
never, ever once renounced the doctrine of armed jihad. These men and women are
pulling the wool over the RCMP's eyes. As an example, one celebrity promoted by
both CSIS and RCMP, through both Liberal and Conservative governments, is a
Hamilton lawyer, a fine fellow by the name of Hussein Hamdani, who sits on
Canada's Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security. His presence on CCR has been
used to push the Islamist agenda rather than thwart the Islamists.
Then there's the infamous Canadian counter-radicalization handbook United
Against Terrorism, which was produced by two Muslim groups, ostensibly in
collaboration with the RCMP until they backed out later. The Mounties distanced
themselves from this Canadian handbook, but it is instructive in who these
Islamist groups in this booklet recommended as the most reliable of North
America's counter-radicalization religious advisers. They include Ingrid
Mattson, a former president of ISNA, an organization that was an unindicted
co-conspirator in the 2008 Texas terror trial. Ms. Mattson, a White convert to
Islam, once proudly represented the Afghan Mujahideen government at the UN. We
have Jamal Badawi, who sat on the board of another organization listed as an
unindicted co-conspirator in the Texas terror trial; Siraj Wahhaj, labelled as
an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 WTC bombings; and Zaid Shakir, who was
outed for his radical ideology by a retired lieutenant commander in the U.S.
Navy, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
The question is asked whether counter-radicalization programs work. Let me
assure you there's no such thing as de-radicalization. It is one of the biggest
money-making ventures that was ever introduced after 9/11. Experience in Saudi
Arabia shows that every one of the radicals released under the guarantee of the
Saudi government from GTMO turned back and are now fighting on the side of ISIS.
Let me give you an example of what Islamism is. Islamism is like an
agricultural enterprise. Tilling the soil is different from planting and sowing
the seed. Irrigating the soil is not the same as spreading pesticide to keep the
parasites away. When it comes to harvesting the crop, the act is different than
the sale of the crop. Dear senators, some Islamists plant the seed, while others
harvest the crop of jihadists as recruiters. To suggest that those who plant the
seed should eradicate the crop before the harvest is a fool's dream. The RCMP
and other guilt-ridden, mainstream politicians may munch on this marijuana but,
as a Muslim, I'm prohibited any intake of such intoxicants.
I have some specific recommendations to this committee, and I will list them
Lay hate speech charges against any Muslim cleric who hides behind religious
rights to attack and demonize members of another faith or another religion, as
is done every Friday in every mosque of this country.
Every mosque must be monitored for such hate speech where the word Kuffar
is invoked to hide the real target, which is Hindus, Christians and Jews.
Any mosque indulging in active politics must have their charitable status
revoked. We have the law; we simply don't implement it.
Donations of more than $20 at all religious institutions must be made by
cheque or credit card to cut off the possibility of money laundering, which I
Immigration from Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Syria must be suspended
until Canada can be assured that the security documents, identity papers and
university degrees cannot be bought in the black market or from state agencies.
I am aware of how in Pakistan and Somalia, and in Iran, someone named, for
example, Tarek Fatah could overnight become Abdul Khan or Behroze Hamadan, with
documents and degrees to cheat the best of sleuths because the documents would
be genuine, not forged.
Identify Muslim groups who are hostile to Islamists and enable them to fight
Islamism in Canada, from the sowing of the seed to the harvesting of the crop.
Here I mean Canadian Kurds, the Baloch, the African Darfuris and the victims of
Iran's relentless atrocities on its citizens.
As one measure, Canada should re-examine the false designation of the PKK,
the Kurdish Workers' Party, as a terrorist group, which we have done at the
insistence of Turkey, which, by the way, is the main funder and supporter of
ISIS, and PKK is the only group fighting ISIS. Had it not been for the PKK and
its Syrian Kurdish counterpart, the YPG, a human slaughter of immense
proportions would have taken place on the Sinjar Mountain, and Kobane would have
fallen to ISIS.
It is unfathomable to me that we would be allies with Turkey and Qatar, who
funded if not created ISIS, but that we treat PKK as terrorists, when that group
has saved tens of thousands of lives and did not flee like the American-supplied
Iraqi Army did. Senators, in the Second World War, we were allied with Stalin
because we had to destroy Hitler. Today, the people who fight on our behalf have
been designated as terrorists, and the people who wish to destroy us are members
I will suggest my final recommendation, which might seem very trivial but is
extremely significant in what message we send out. We should ban the burka in
public, as the example set by the Republic of France and that has been upheld by
the European Human Rights Commission and the court for two reasons. First, the
robbery that took place of half a million of dollars of jewelry in Toronto last
week could very well have been a terrorist attack by men wearing burkas, which
has happened. Second, by saying that we as Canadians refuse and reject a value
that suggests that women are the source of all sin and therefore should be
restricted in the home, we will send a clear message that if you wish to wear a
burka, you're free to wear it in your home, but on our streets, we would not
want our children to be scared of people who wear clothes that literally
frighten infants. Thank you very much.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for your frankness in your
discussions on this. I wanted to understand from you the support infrastructure
that you believe is here within the country. I'm wondering if you could give me
just briefly what is the support infrastructure here in groups.
Mr. Fatah: The way you look at it, senator, is not how the world works
in the realm of Islamism. We don't need a structure. Many of the things that I
have pointed out are generated in the minds of infants, of five-year-old boys
who are dressed up as medieval invaders of Europe. My name Tarek is a name given
to me because of the general who invaded Spain in the year 711. It doesn't need
the infrastructure that you are looking for.
The ideology of Islamism has escaped attention from everyone, from President
Bush right down to President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron. In the entire
Western world, in the OECD countries, only one popular politician has had the
courage to say in so many words that Islamism is a great threat, and that is our
Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. No one else has had the guts, the ability to say
that we are fighting an enemy that is structured around a death cult of a
fascist ideology, one that considers Earth to be a transit lounge to the final
destination where life will begin after death in paradise. To most people in the
West, it seems like a joke; to every Muslim, it is a fact of life.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you. I would just like you to repeat a
part of your message, which is that it's not all Muslims. I think that's very
important to understand in today's world.
Mr. Fatah: Let me clarify. I have repeated that for 14 years. Not just
me, you and every Western politician has been, in cricketing terms, batting on
the back foot. We have seen the results. We have dead Canadians on our hands,
and we have the Toronto 18, the Digi-bomber, the VIA Rail bombers, and we all
come back to the defensive notion: Of course not all Germans were Nazis. But did
we sit around the conference room during the Second World War saying, ''Oh, what
happens if a German got upset?''
I suggest that 14 years is long enough for not a single mosque imam to say,
''I renounce the doctrine of jihad.'' What would it take for someone to say, in
this day and age, the doctrine of armed jihad is inapplicable, inadmissible and
we live as nation states? We do not have communities based on inherited race or
religion. Our citizenship is based on human-created laws that can be changed by
subsequent generations, not divine text sent by messengers that are immutable
for all times.
Senator White: Thank you very much for being here today, sir, and for
your comments. We had witnesses before us last week from the RCMP who talked
about their community outreach program, in particular with young people, and
their attempt of using some crime prevention methods that we've seen successful
in Canada, particularly among gangs, to assist young people in finding a
different path out. So your suggestion is you have had no involvement with them
as to whether or not their program would help. I think you have obviously heard
of the program, though.
Can you give your opinion, if that doesn't work or if it won't work, what
will work when it comes to young people and trying to keep them from becoming
engaged in some of the hatred and anger you're talking about?
Mr. Fatah: Senator, they're laughing at the RCMP behind your backs,
these young men. These are highly staged events. These are money-making events.
The de-radicalization program is a joint venture between companies, consultants
and academics with a vested interest in this.
You cannot produce one de-radicalized person in the last 14 years. Each
person who is marketing himself as a former radical is doing so for financial
purposes. You show me one person who says that he has been de-radicalized, one
former radical from GTMO who says that jihad is inapplicable. Out of 1,000
Islamists there will be one jihadist. What we're saying is, ''How do we fight
Islamism?'' Is it like a vaccine, the same way we fight chicken pox, by
introducing the same germ so they can destroy the other germ? No. This is
cancer. You're introducing tumours where tumours already exist. This is becoming
a profit-making venture.
For me and many secular liberal colleagues, we know this is a war declared on
us. Unfortunately, for many other civil servants and folks, this is a
money-making venture. You form a committee; you bring a proposal; you get
funded. Millions have been spent, and we cannot defeat men in caves? Trillions.
Imagine the amount, the hundreds of billions the Americans spent in Iraq and the
army ran away, yet not a single American general has been held accountable? It's
because it was a total fraud. Nobody dares say that billions were stolen in this
The Brits and the Canadians have had a very good record in having armed
forces that fight with dignity. The private guards and private mercenaries —
even Snowden is not a CIA employee. Since when did we fight our enemy by
contracting out to private forces? Even the people who vetted Snowden were a
private company. You cannot win a war against people who are dedicated to die
for no money whatsoever and face them with people who go on tours of duty, a
term unheard of in the First and Second World Wars. Don't recruit an army
saying, ''Get a degree in engineering or an American citizenship by serving a
term in Iran.'' Those people don't fight wars. They want to come back and run a
So what's happening with us, and this is a rare opportunity for me because
nobody wishes to speak to the ordinary Muslim. Ninety per cent of us don't go to
a mosque, senator. Ninety per cent of us have no affiliation with any mosque. We
are architects, we are cab drivers, we may even be pole dancers, but none of us
dresses up in that medieval costume that the RCMP and CSIS have, in a racist
way, imposed on us as an identity. Do you think after 25 years I need to dress
like a Saudi to be believed by you that I'm an authentic Muslim? This is
blackface in my face. I am not a joker. I'm a Muslim Canadian. I came here to
escape those tyrants, and the RCMP and CSIS are feeding them.
I've been to the CCR meetings and I've met a member as senior as an assistant
minister who is a Muslim briefing us at the Friday prayers on what story to give
to the RCMP officers, a con job that, if I was anyone in the government, I would
charge that man for being a traitor to this country, to the place that gave our
parents and us a place to be free. I can't speak in Canada, and you're bringing
the people who wanted to kill me and make them RCMP advisers? We would have lost
the Second World War if we had the same leadership in Canada and Britain as we
have today in our intelligentsia.
Senator White: If I may, obviously you don't think the program works.
That's pretty clear. I'm asking you the question: What will work? We have people
in this country who are, if not before, then now, finding themselves in a
position of supporting something that involves killing Canadians.
Mr. Fatah: First thing is suspend immigration from Iran, Pakistan and
Somalia. I can take you to Mississauga Road and the million-dollar mansions of
Pakistani generals of the ISI — it is not ISIS, by the way — who live here
You want to know the foreign students over here, the MSA, the Muslim Students
Association, designated by the Muslim Brotherhood as their front, is hosting an
event in Windsor on November 26 where an RCMP superintendent is sitting down
with two Islamists. Would that RCMP come to an event that we would do?
Impossible. There's nothing to offer. I have no exotic meals to offer during
Ramadan to these hundreds of RCMP and CSIS and Toronto police officers who every
Ramadan have a feast day. It's multiculturalism gone mad, senators, and our
country is being hurt and nobody is watching. The Mounties don't get their man,
I can assure you, not today.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much, Mr. Fatah, for an excellent
presentation. I think all my questions have actually been answered because you
have given your views on radicalization.
For community members who speak out, like you, are you threatened, alienated
or targeted by radicals in any way? Do you feel you are in any danger for
speaking out like this? How do you encourage others who are truly moderate to
speak as well?
Mr. Fatah: You will be surprised. I heard the gentleman before me talk
about Internet security. I am the person banned on Facebook. Seriously. I am a
danger to Facebook.
On a social network that hosts ISIS, prostitution gangs and drug gangs, it is
me, as a Sun columnist, whose profile is banned. When I get a death
threat, the police investigate me in Toronto. Who comes to investigate me? The
head of Toronto police intelligence is one of my co-religionists.
I don't like to wash my dirty linen in public, senator, but I have had it. It
has been 14 years, and Canada and the United States couldn't defeat a bunch of
ragtag, medieval monsters.
I wish Justin Trudeau were here so I could ask him, ''Do you think I deserve
to get jihadis?'' Would he go to a mosque where women are sent to the back of
Senators, you cannot fight radicalization if you believe that women deserve
to sit in the back of the bus. Every mosque I know except for two send their
women to the basements, behind balconies or in the last row. The RCMP, the
Liberals, Conservative and New Democrat politicians go there, look at that, and
never once did they say, ''I'd like to see a sister in the front row.'' They
dare not because they would be accused of being racist.
Senator Dagenais: I have listened to you carefully. One of the things
you spoke about was the RCMP. The RCMP exists in Canada; it will be there
tomorrow and in the future. What do you think would be the best awareness
strategy for the RCMP to maintain or create contact with the Muslim community?
In your opinion, what should the terrorism prevention community awareness
program look like? It is easy to say that the RCMP does not do this or that.
Nonetheless, it will still be there tomorrow.
Mr. Fatah: Senator, I understand the paradigm which says they have to
do outreach. I can't understand why it is the RCMP's job to do outreach. It is
the politician's job to do outreach to the community and engage. The RCMP's job
is not to cater to the whims and fancies of people. They are there to solve
Some of us listen to your hearings live, and I heard either CSIS or the RCMP
say they do not investigate mosques. Nobody asked why. If the RCMP is in
agreement with the mosques that they will give 24-hour notice before they enter,
is this a victory for the RCMP or for those who think that the Friday prayers
should start with a prayer asking for the defeat of infidels and the victory of
We cannot expect our security agencies to do community outreach. They're
neither trained nor responsible for that. Their job is crime prevention. This is
not criminal activity. This is war. This is terror. If we can't call it war and
terror and refer to it as criminal activity, we have already lost the war.
Hitler didn't commit a crime when he invaded Poland. He committed a crime when
he killed the Jews. When he invaded Poland, Austria, Denmark and France, he
We are living in a different age when states are not attacking us but
non-state actors want to kill us, and they're recruiting from within us. These
are not deprived, uneducated kids, but two Quebecois, sons of the soil, came
from us and killed our own soldiers. Nobody has asked who converted them to
Islam. Not a single person has asked these questions: What was that contact
point? Who was the individual?
Not journalists, not politicians, no Liberal, no Conservative, no New
Democrat, nobody dared ask this question because that would be racist, wouldn't
it? If I had to solve a crime, my first point is who recruited you to the mafia?
If it was criminal, wouldn't that be the first question?
This guy killed his own countrymen, and we don't want to know who made him do
The Chair: I'd like to follow up on Senator Dagenais' question. As you
know, with our hearings we are doing our best to have a public conversation with
respect to identifying the problem and being able to assess what supports the
ideology that obviously accompanies this type of activity. What can prevent it?
The question put by Senator Dagenais to you is how can governments, the
federal and maybe the provincial government, help and assist within those
communities, in this case the Muslim community that you referred to, the vast
majority, to be able to counteract this type of extremist ideology that is being
You have just said that the RCMP is in a situation where some might say they
obviously are working with the individuals involved within the community and can
identify the community. At the end of the day, they are responsible for
enforcing the laws.
The question then has to be, within that community, if it's not the RCMP or
other government agencies, who within that organization or within that community
would be best suited to be able to work within the community to move it ahead?
You're not going to change this overnight.
Mr. Fatah: Sure.
The Chair: If you could answer that in a manner that tells us, on the
record, what could be done.
Mr. Fatah: Absolutely. CSIS and the new legislative powers that the
government is introducing will be very helpful in that matter.
Let me give you the example of the Toronto 18. They were busted by good
The Chair: That's right.
Mr. Fatah: Right? Nobody is out doing community outreach or playing
basketball. There was a spy, $300,000 was spent — well invested — he brought the
code and the convictions, but tell me who let the convicted guy out of this
country to go and die in Syria?
I'm not a senator or an MP. I'm just saying we have evidence of what works
and what doesn't. We know there are people being injured in Syria who come back
for health treatment and then go back. We have people who support the Haider
family who work with the RCMP. The RCMP says these are our good guys. That's a
self-confessed murderer, a terrorist.
We need to have our ideas clearer. So the Toronto 18 mechanism works. CSIS
should be empowered. Their job is to develop intelligence, and not by working
with a community group but working within it.
Senator Dagenais: With your permission, I have a clarification.
Mr. Fatah, we are going to talk about community leaders. How could they work
with Canada to prevent radicalization? Let us not think about the RCMP, but
about community leaders. Then, I would ask whether we can establish a
relationship of trust between the government, the local communities and the
I would like to know how the community leaders could prevent radicalization.
Mr. Fatah: That is an excellent question, senator. Community leaders
are leaders of cultural communities, not religious clerics who are paid to show
us the moral compass of how to live as good human beings. If you go to any
Muslim event, it will look different than what your mosque looks like. Go to any
wedding with me, and I will tell you that you won't see the hijabs and burkas
you see at the mosques. The way to reach the community leaders is to reach with
the cultural communities that sing and dance the way Canadians do. Nobody
reaches out to the Nile Foundation, which is an Egyptian group. Nobody has ever
reached out to some symphony in Montreal.
I can give you a number of cultural groups that meet every year and have fun
— dinners, games, children playing. We have focused on Muslims as if the only
thing a Muslim does is preach and pray. That's not what we are. We are just like
you. We don't like going to the mosque. We go there and we have to sit. We are
old; we can't sit on the floor, many of us. We are 65 now. The guy is always
boring. He has the microphone. He is like the 12th century Catholic
priest speaking in Latin, which I can't understand. Eighty per cent of Canada's
Muslims don't understand Arabic, and 100 per cent of the sermons are in Arabic.
For goodness' sake, that's not where our community leaders are.
I'm not a community leader. I'm just a journalist. Senator Ataullahjan is a
community leader. She's a senator. She should be the community leader. The RCMP
should work with her. There was another Muslim senator. There are members of
Parliament. They're community leaders. They get elected, MPs, whether they're
New Democrats, Liberal or Conservative. They are the leaders.
If the imams have to become leaders, let them fight elections and get into
Parliament. Parliamentarians are the leaders. We elect you. We respect you,
whether we oppose you or not. But don't tell me that I need a 12th century monk
from the Sinai to tell me what to do with landing on the comet. This doesn't
work. So stop meeting with people of the 12th century; start meeting with people
of the 21st century.
Senator Dagenais: If it is any consolation, over the course of three
months, I attended Maghrebian, Lebanese and Armenian evenings, and I can tell
you that I had a lot of fun with the people of the different communities.
Mr. Fatah: Precisely.
Senator Dagenais: We danced, and we ate well.
Senator Stewart Olsen: I wonder if in the Muslim community, when there
are people who do speak out, is there support for them within the Muslim
community? Are there support structures that they would dare to come and say
so-and-so — I wonder about the responsibility being taken by the community
itself, and do they need assistance?
Mr. Fatah: There are huge numbers of Muslims who, within their homes,
are desperate to get rid of the image that we have. My daughter works for the
CBC. None of my nieces — well, I shouldn't be saying that. This will be
recorded. But people want to become Canadians. Don't force us to become
something else. Everyone who wants to integrate faces an obstacle. Everyone who
wants to go away is funded. Not a dollar spent by the entire Canadian government
is there to support those Muslims who oppose ISIS — not one.
In 2005, you may be aware of the sharia debate in Quebec and Ontario, the
death threats that the Quebec assembly member Fatima Houda-Pepin faced. What we
endured in that debate, thank God the Ontario government had the wisdom and the
National Assembly of Quebec had a unanimous resolution to reject sharia. Britain
is paying the price for not having Muslims to come out. It wasn't easy for us.
What are the two things that happen when a Muslim stands up against the
mullahs? He doesn't get a plot to bury himself or his parents in the graveyard.
He's never invited to a wedding or birthday party, which, in a marginalized
community, is social ostracization, which destroys the very soul of the
first-generation immigrant because he's not entertained by anyone. The social
pressures are such that they affect you back home. The very people involved in
this moral crime of forcing people not to be Canadian are rewarded by
politicians, police and the intelligentsia.
It is a sad story, which perhaps my daughter will someday write about: the
decades lost, when people came to this country to offer, and because they wanted
to be Tommy Douglas, they wanted to be the Diefenbakers, they even wanted to be
supporters of the PQ, they were told, ''No, you need to go eat a samosa
somewhere and dress up in a bizarre way. The RCMP will come and entertain you.''
I don't want this outreach. Please stay away. Keep away from us. When
somebody issues a death threat and the police come to my house to investigate me
for making a false claim, what does it tell my children? They sent Muslim police
officers to my home. Senators, it is a comedy of errors what is happening, but
very few will tell you this because nobody wants to wash the dirty linen in
Senator Mitchell: Mr. Fatah, my experience with the Muslim community
is so fundamentally different than yours. I know so many wonderful, remarkable,
amazing, beautiful people. Don't say anything till I'm finished, please.
Mr. Fatah: I'm sorry?
Senator Mitchell: Don't interrupt me.
Mr. Fatah: Did I?
Senator Mitchell: Just about. I find that the implication that every
single imam in this country is inciting people to violence, which is in a sense
what you said —
Mr. Fatah: No.
Senator Mitchell: — because the first prayer —
Mr. Fatah: No. Don't put words in my mouth, senator, please.
Senator Mitchell: My first question is have you been to every mosque
in the country? You say preaching on Friday starts with a prayer that talks
about a battle with non-Muslim people?
Mr. Fatah: Senator, I resent the fact that you are teaching me my
religion, number one. You will have to live 65 years of my life — 10 years in
Saudi Arabia and 30 years in Pakistan and 25 years here — to dare to tell me
what is Islam.
Number two, I did not say they incite violence. Those are words that you are
putting in my mouth. You should not do that. You are a senator. You should be
the role model not to change my words.
Number three, I suggested that every Friday prayer is preceded by a prayer
asking for the defeat of the infidel at the hands of the Muslims, and I stand by
it, sir. That prayer has been going on for 1,400 years.
I didn't say that you did not meet Muslims or that Muslims were not
fantastic. I am a Muslim and I am fantastic, and I am the role model for Muslims
in this country. The people that you buy, as a Liberal senator, in creating
multiculturalism and sidetracking us away from the challenges that we face, I
resent the fact that you implicated me as an Islamophobe, and that is exactly
what politicians like you do to silence us.
The Chair: Colleagues, we're getting to the end of our time. I want to
thank Mr. Fatah for coming before us and taking the time and the effort to be
before us and put his opinion forward.
Colleagues, with us in this final panel of the day is Mr. Syed Raza, a
founder and director of Muslims Facing Tomorrow.
According to your website, Mr. Raza, Muslims Facing Tomorrow is an
organization whose mission is to:
. . . reclaim Islam for, as the word itself means, securing Peace for all
people, and to oppose extremism, fanaticism and violence in the name of
religion . . .
In order to succeed we are dedicated to nurturing harmonious coexistence
among people of all faith traditions, to supporting open and free
intellectual discourse about our history beset with problems that need to be
publicly discussed, and to celebrating as Canadians our cultural diversity
in all of its aspects.
Mr. Raza and his wife Ms. Raheel Raza, who could not be with us today because
of travel commitments, have been active members of the Muslim community in
Toronto. They have been educators, mentors and leaders in their community at a
very challenging time.
Mr. Raza, I understand you have an opening statement. Please begin.
Syed Sohail Raza, Director, Muslims Facing Tomorrow: Thank you for the
introduction. May I begin by thanking you for the privilege of appearing before
I am a director with Muslims Facing Tomorrow, a grassroots Muslim
organization with a focus on separating mosque and state and assisting our youth
in engaging and embracing Canadian values while still practising their faith. We
have partnered in a documentary called Honor Diaries, which discusses
challenges faced by women in Muslim majority areas.
We have successfully carried out a pilot project in Bangladesh in declaring a
village radical-free in 2013. In a period of one year, we now have 12 villages
that call themselves ''radical-free,'' and there are signs outside the villages
saying the same. There's a documentary under way that explains how and why we
Now, I must let you know that this was done without any involvement of law
enforcement agencies. It was done by empowering the moderates, by giving them
enough literature, audio and visual, so they could explain to the masses why it
is necessary to lead a peaceful coexistence.
However, our interest today is to stop radicalization in Canada. In order to
do that, we must follow the three E's: expose, educate and eradicate. Expose the
elements, individuals and organizations involved in radicalizing our youth;
educate with or without the help of law enforcement agencies but in partnership
with the government. It is imperative to educate our youth without falling into
the victimhood narrative. Eradicate. This can happen only when the Muslim
community gets out of the denial mode and law enforcement agencies are serious
about eradicating this menace.
I would like to give you the example that has been given before of a cleric,
Robert Heft, who just came back from Qatar after meeting five Taliban leaders
who were let out from GTMO. We have an organization by the name of NCCM, the
National Council of Canadian Muslims, that sued the Prime Minister during his
trip to Israel and that now has this publication about radicalization.
That publication doesn't tell us anything. It amounts to a big zero. Let me
warn you, they are the sister concern — in fact, they were known as CARE Canada
before, of CARE U.S.A., which last week was declared a terrorist organization by
none other than the United Arab Emirates. It is coming from their own sources
that they're not welcome, and what they're doing is completely and utterly
against Canadian values, and, in that case American values.
We have, on page 13 in the same booklet, recommended Islamic scholars, and
the front and centre is Ingrid Mattson. We have heard about her before.
We must realize that we have a problem.
They also allude to MAC. MAC is the Muslim Association of Canada, which toes
the line and the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is an uphill task, but we will get there with your recommendations and
help. Here are some of our suggestions and wish list: One, charges must be laid
if Canadians are going to fight for ISIS or any other enemy of Canada and then
they return back to their country. Charges must be laid.
Two, a more vigilant focus on overseas financing, whether to mosques or
Three, shutting down any religious place of worship which perpetuates hate.
Four, law enforcement agencies have to consult with secular or moderate
Five, political Islam or Islamism needs to be explained to Canadians and
studied in detail by politicians, law enforcement agencies and educational
institutions. Again, avoiding the victimhood narrative and emphasizing
In the end, on behalf of all moderate Muslims, I would like to invite this
committee to Toronto, the hub of activity of Muslims, to take a first-hand look
at the situation there, which will give you an idea what we are faced against
and what challenges there are, whether religious organizations, Islamic
organizations, mosques or secular Muslims going about their nine-to-five jobs.
Thank you once again for this opportunity.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, Mr. Raza. I appreciate it. You hit on
something that directly contradicts the testimony that we just heard before you,
and that was the success of this de-radicalization program that you are talking
about that was done in Bangladesh.
This is a two-part question. Am I wrong to assume that you believe that
de-radicalization can work, and can you tell us how?
Mr. Raza: We can avoid radicalization. A person who is radicalized is
not in our means to bring back. He belongs in a psychiatric ward, and the only
people who can deal with him wear white coats. But we can stop further youth
from being radicalized by empowering the moderates, so that we can, in turn,
give information in schools and pressure especially Islamic schools to teach
secular education as well as Islamic education.
Senator Mitchell: How would we empower you to do that? What's to stop
you from being on the school board of a private school or go to the school? I
don't mean that to sound aggressive. I'm very interested in what you are saying.
How do we empower you to do that? You are obviously articulate, smart,
well-connected in your community. What help do you need just to go to a private
school and say, ''What are you teaching and why are you teaching it?''
Mr. Raza: I'll give you an example. Ms. Raza, our president, did a
project for TDSB on behalf of Canada immigration offices, and this had nothing
to do with religion or with Islam. It was to do with encouraging students to
take part in a competition and a debate and a video filming.
The Chair: What is TDSB?
Mr. Raza: The Toronto District School Board. She had to go to schools
which were far away. On her visit, as soon as the teachers found out that she
was Muslim, they were not interested in the project that she was doing, but
said, ''Can you please help us? We have Muslim students and we have problems.''
Now, the Toronto District School Board, I hope there are changes made on your
recommendation. They have instituted Friday prayers in school whereby the girls
have to be at the back, and the girls who are in that time of the month are
totally disgraced, because they are not allowed to enter that room.
It falls under the jurisdiction of human rights. It is really very sad what
we are seeing.
My point was that this subject to the teachers, how to deal with Muslim
students, was more important than dealing with the project that she was doing.
That is a problem; when you come to Toronto I will show you areas where the
teachers have absolutely no effect because the male students want to dominate.
They have been doing it in their families. These are families where the husband
has left them and gone to the Middle East to earn more money and then the boy
takes over. It is a patriarchal agenda that is being set forth. It doesn't fit
well with Canadian values.
Yes, we can go and do it, but then we come to this obstacle. We tried to
explain to the school board why it's a negative deterrent. Why should Friday
prayers be there as the only prayer? Why should the Muslim prayer be the only
prayer that the TDSB accepts?
We had a big argument about stopping the Lord's Prayer in schools. The whole
thing contradicts for political correctness or for whatever reason; it doesn't
sit well. For us to go and to arm moderate youths just won't happen unless there
is legislation or — I wouldn't say law enforcement, but any support that we
Senator Mitchell: Are you saying that in public schools, not just in a
special or a private or a charter Muslim school, there are organized prayers?
Could you give us an example, the name of a school, and we'll phone?
Mr. Raza: On Fridays?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Mr. Raza: This is in Thorncliffe Park. It's the only school there, in
Senator Mitchell: We need to check that.
Mr. Raza: By all means. Those are our challenges.
Senator Stewart Olsen: We are all learning a lot, actually, but I want
to go back into how you feel more support could be offered to moderate Muslims.
Are you suggesting that radical Muslims get more support? I'm not sure exactly
what you're saying, but I would like to know how you feel moderate Muslims could
Mr. Raza: First, you have to determine who is a moderate Muslim and
who is an extremist. That gets very complicated, and that's a debate all in
What the track record shows is that Canada is a secular country. We need to
determine which group, which faction, which entity, which organization, is
talking about secularism. You are most welcome to practise your religion,
whatever religion you may follow, and then there's the point of reasonable and
unreasonable accommodation that we have just gone through. I as a Muslim
sometimes feel awkward going to a university because there's so much religion
that has been pushed in terms of giving them unfair accommodation.
First, we have to determine that, but that should be determined on merit,
whoever is talking about modernity, secularism, separating church and state,
while still standing and firmly and accepting your religion for what it is.
Those are the people that people should be reaching out to, not the people who
are just curtailed in a mosque. The mosque may not be the wrong idea, but it is
definitely the wrong people to talk to.
Senator Stewart Olsen: You are suggesting we should be reaching out.
How would we know who they are? In Canada, we strongly support freedom of
religion, so that any attempts to thwart a religious institution or anything are
I'm not sure, when we get into this, we bring religion into this debate, that
it is productive, because I don't know what the role of government would be in
that whole debate. I like the argument that radicalization is radicalization,
not taking a particular religion or a sect or anything, because it happens
everywhere. What we're trying to figure out is how you deal with it.
If you have any ideas on that, I would really love to hear them. What did you
do in the village?
Mr. Raza: In the village, we provided them with enough literature,
both audio and visual. We changed the curriculum of the school from totally
religious to a secular cum religious, so this way they felt empowered that
they're doing it themselves. There's no one person telling them what to do.
Second, I fully agree with you. We have freedom of religion. That's what we
want; we want freedom of religion to practise our faith. We don't want then our
faith to come into our public life either. I don't want the imam telling me what
I should be doing at work or here.
We want to keep it separate. That's fine. I'm all for it. But then we must
have some cautionary measures. Who are the people that are leading us? I don't
want to go to a mosque where the imam has just returned from meeting the Taliban
whom we have had a war with. I don't want that imam. I don't want an imam who
teaches that it's okay for nine-year-old girls to get married to 16-year-old
boys. We've had that in Toronto in the Jaffari mosque. I don't want an imam to
tell me that my wife is secondary to me. Before that my wife would do away with
me anyway, but that's a different story.
We have to make them accountable as well. Freedom of religion doesn't mean
that it is freedom of hate, that it is a hate fest. Freedom of religion means
that we have to balance the two.
Senator Stewart Olsen: My point to you is, while I'm really grateful
for hearing this from you, we're not looking at one particular religion or
nationality or anything as being terrorists or radicals. We are looking at the
whole spectrum of radicalization and what happens to mainly our youth, and how
we can combat that and prevent that from happening.
I want to make that point because I know you can't solve everything, but you
have given us some good starting points. I thank you.
Mr. Raza: Yes. There is also women's education and women's liberation
in the sense that they are an entity. In some households, women are not
encouraged to educate themselves. Once we get started, then we can bring up all
these things, which are not against any faith, but the documentary we produced,
Honor Diaries, is exactly that. We have problems in areas which fall into
the Muslim majority area of the world. Those areas can come to Canada and haunt
us or to the United States or to Europe. This is educational for people, and we
have had an excellent response to that.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you.
Senator Dagenais: As an aside, religions are authoritarian, even in
Quebec where, 50 years ago, when you got married, you were required to have
children; if you did not have any, it was a sin and you could not be absolved.
Thank God we got through that, I am pleased to say.
I want to come back to community awareness and the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police. We thought that maintaining effective and ongoing communication with the
Muslim communities through regular contact would make things easier. How do you
think the RCMP awareness strategy could maintain contact with the Muslim
communities? Do you believe in it and, if so, what might these awareness
programs for preventing terrorist acts, for example, look like?
Mr. Raza: First of all, yes, I know about other religions that have
struggled through the same process that Islam is struggling through, and we are
just maybe a hundred years behind, but we will catch up.
As far as the outreach is concerned, I or my organization has had no contact
with any law enforcement agency as far as an outreach program is concerned.
My wife went to two programs immediately after the VIA Rail bombers were
stopped, but it had nothing to do with outreach. It was a reaction for the
Muslim community on that event.
But nobody has contacted us yet. If our organization is contacted we can come
up with material and suggestions that the RCMP may or may not take, or any other
law enforcement organization, or other organization, but unless they do contact
us and are on the same wavelength with us, we have nothing to offer.
Senator Dagenais: I asked our previous witness this question: in your
opinion, what role could the community leaders play in the context of efforts to
prevent radicalization? Is there a role to play and, if so, how do you see it?
Mr. Raza: Absolutely, community leaders have a great role to play, but
it is imperative that we as a larger community determine who the community
leaders are. At the moment, the community leaders that are part of these
outreach programs are rejected by a lot of Muslims, not only my organization,
but a lot of Muslims. I would say if a Muslim is not a mosque-going Muslim,
which is the majority in Canada, then who do they turn to as a leader? He
doesn't go to the imam for any solution.
That's our problem. We have to find viable community leaders that can stand
up. But in the absence of that, we have to deal with the community leaders that
we have at the moment, and they are politicians, secular community leaders who
have had various commercial or inter-trade organizations. They are community
leaders, and they can build up the community because they know where the pulse
of the money is. They know how to guide the youth in careers and other fields,
so we can build them up.
We have never been approached with that idea before. I'm really grateful that
this committee is listening to us. It is somehow assumed that so-and-so is a
community leader because he represents the people who go to that Islamic
organization or that mosque and that he's influential in all of that, which is
not the case.
Maybe we need to work harder in making prominent community leaders. That
could be our part of the homework.
The Chair: I think it is very worthwhile having this public
conversation. It would seem to me that you have a position in the community; you
obviously care and are obviously spending a lot of time and your own money. You
are putting yourself out in front of an issue that sometimes can be difficult,
and there are others in your community that you would know of who would be in a
similar situation. In view of the fact you have not been approached as of today,
would it not be in your interest, in view of the public conversation we're
having now, that a group of people like you approach the authorities and say,
''We're here and we're available to help,'' and stand up for the values that you
talked about earlier so that they know you are there?
Mr. Raza: Yes.
The Chair: That's my first question. The second is I know that the
RCMP and all our law enforcement agencies have good intentions in trying to do
everything they can to prevent something from happening that would be tragic for
Canada in some respects, but at the same time to try to redirect some of these
individuals who are perhaps going to the point where they're radicalized.
From your working knowledge, do you think that the task that the RCMP and
other authorities and provincial departments have taken on is the right thing to
be doing, or is there another way to be doing this?
Mr. Raza: The answer to the first question is yes, we have made
contact with them after every time there's been an incident. We have tried to
approach the RCMP. The community liaison officer is the one we have to approach,
but it has never materialized into anything, not even a return phone call.
The second part of the question was in view of the above, how are we to deal
with this. We are making efforts. We are doing this, and I think what is
happening today is more important than what has happened in the past. Somebody
is listening to us. Somebody is concerned. We have not had that breakthrough
before. We haven't had anybody with a keen sense of concern call us and say,
''Let's talk about this problem. How can we resolve it?''
As a Muslim, I'm more concerned about resolving this than any of us in this
room, but we have to partner with somebody. We're trying on our own. It doesn't
seem to be working. As I said before, we have to have a partnership with
somebody or some backup that we can refer to for action to be taken.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much for an excellent presentation. Our
previous witness described our Prime Minister as courageous for having the
courage to call the problem what it is. We hear so many different definitions.
We hear extreme violence, radical extremism, jihadist. How would you call it, as
a moderate secular Muslim? How should we describe the problem that's facing us
so that we find a solution?
Mr. Raza: I agree that Prime Minister Harper was the only leader in
the Western world that came out and said that we have a problem with Islamism. I
think Islamism is deeply misunderstood in a lot of places. First we have to
define what Islamism is. Islamism is using a religion to further political
goals. In short, that's the definition of Islamism.
Where is it coming from? It's coming from three areas. It coming from Iran
with the Khomeinis; it's coming from Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood; and it's
coming from Saudi Arabia with the Wahhabi jihadi mentality. These are global.
How is it creeping into Canada? Ten years ago, The Washington Post had
an article that said 80 per cent of North America's mosques are, in some form or
another, getting money from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and 20 per cent of the
mosques belong to people who are in minority fringe Muslim groups, like the
Ahmadiyya, the Ismaili community and the Bohra community. They're not mainstream
Muslims. On top of that, the shia mosques are all financed by Iran or have links
to finances from Iran. This is the global structure of Islamism as we see it
How do we fight it? We have to work together to defeat it. All mosques are
not all bad. Agreed. All imams are not bad. Agreed. But I also want everyone in
this room to agree that we do have a very serious problem. If we let this
problem grow, we become another London where there are sharia zones where you
cannot go. Where you could not go, madam. If I'm gay, I cannot go. If I don't
have a beard that conforms to the Islamic tradition, I cannot go. Do we want
this in Canada? No, I don't think anybody does.
This is a good starting point. We have to take this, and we have to make
something happen from it.
Senator Mitchell: Mr. Raza, I'm going to challenge you a little bit,
not because I necessarily disagree with you. I think you've been very reasonable
and sincere and heartfelt, actually, and I want to pursue your thinking.
My first question is, what's the magnitude of it? Thousands of people go to
mosques in Canada. Thousands of young people go to mosques in Canada. They
played with my kids when my kids were of that age. They are friends of my kids.
They work with us. They live like us, thousands upon thousands. Then, on the
other side, we see the two people who killed soldiers, abhorrently, in the last
month or so, and we see the 18, and we've got some numbers that may be 90, maybe
be 170, maybe 370, that are somehow radicalized and in other parts of the world.
How big of a problem is this? You seem to be implying that it's huge.
Mr. Raza: Senator, for me, two soldiers killed are too many. It is a
big problem. There are 1.7 billion Muslims. How many are radicalized? Is it 10
per cent, 15 per cent? That's the figure that's been quoted.
Senator Mitchell: What about here in Canada?
Mr. Raza: So you can figure out the dimension of it.
Here in Canada? I mentioned what The Washington Post article said.
They are financed by them. The magnitude of the problem is only felt when an
incident happens. Why should we let that happen? The magnitude of the problem
happens only when somebody speaks out. The magnitude of the problem is there.
Maybe it's dormant, but it's there. It exists.
I don't mean that we should start raiding mosques and raiding institutions
and hauling people off, but we have to be concerned. Even if it's a thousand
people, that's a lot. One boy could have a great effect on my child. One teacher
can put my child on the wrong track forever. We as a community have to be alert
as well, but we need help. Yes, it is a problem. It does exist. The figures are
there, but we only realize it, God forbid, when something happens.
Look at England. England has been avoiding this showdown for years and
decades and decades until they came to realize that, ''Let's do away with the
jihadis and put Muslim Brotherhood in; at least they don't cut people's throats
off.'' Is that a solution? That situation kept getting worse. We have to avoid
these three blocks of people. We have to start now so that people know that if
something negative is to take place, there's going to be consequences. Right
now, I don't think that message is clear. It's for a crime family. It's for a
drug dealer. It's for anybody that wants to harm Canada. We should not let it
Senator Mitchell: Absolutely. The question of religious freedom is
really a powerful element in Canada. I'm not arguing with you particularly, but
Britain has dealt with its minorities very differently than we have, and
multiculturalism is one of the reasons why we don't have the kind of
ghettoization that has occurred, ironically, in the British case. You can make
that argument, and many do. Our multiculturalism and the recognition of cultures
is really what makes people feel less alienated and not more alienated in
Canada. That's one of our tremendous strengths.
The question of religious freedom is really a difficult one. I'm very
interested in the equality of women. That's an issue that drives me all the
time. I find difficulty with my own religion. Many religions don't allow women
to be priests, if you can imagine, in the 21st century. You talked about
balance. How do you balance that? Is it just that we keep debating the
importance of women being equal and we elevate them in our secular institutions?
One day, does religion change? What would you say? Do you go to a religion and
say, ''You can't treat women that way and you can't separate them in your place
Mr. Raza: What I would say is, ''Let's talk about it.'' Why am I
excluded from my faith if I want to talk about certain things? Even leaving my
faith, I should have the freedom to leave my faith if I want to. Why should I
then be killed?
We need to debate and discuss. That is the missing link — you nailed it —
that is missing from the Islamic diaspora, which is the ability to debate and
discuss. A line was drawn in the sand in the 14th century that said there will
be no discussion on religion. Still today we are scared of crossing that line
and saying, ''I want to discuss how I should treat my woman. What is the problem
with having a drink? What is the problem with being friends with gays and
lesbians? They are equal human beings. What is Islam's role in humanity, let
Absolutely, that is a great thing. I and my organization would want to light
a fire under the feet of the clerics because, after all, I can't change
religion. It's not my place or in my power, but the clerics can. We have to
bring them to the table and discuss why it is like this, and only then will we
develop. As I said, we are about a hundred years behind and we are trying to
The Chair: I'd like to, if I could, go back to education. We touched
on it a little bit earlier in respect to public schools and their
responsibilities versus those of private institution and religious schools. Do
the public officials have the authority and go into these schools if they're
private or religious to ensure that the teachings are consistent with what's
being taught in the public schools?
Mr. Raza: No, sir, it's not. That is why in Toronto we had recently a
whole exposé of the Islamic Jaffari Community Centre. They had a private school
attached to it, and the literature was coming directly from Iran, and that
literature contained hate for the Jewish community, hate for the Christian
community. It was exposed. The person concerned, the imam of that mosque, just
said, ''I don't know about it.'' A case was registered. It is still ongoing.
When they got into trouble, they called Ms. Raza and said, ''What should we
do?'' She said, ''You have to apologize and accept that you have made a mistake.
You have to own up. Why were you getting your literature from Iran? Isn't there
enough good things to teach kids over here?'' It's still ongoing, but there is
no supervision of educational authorities over there.
The Chair: That leads me to my next question. What position would you
take? Would you support an undertaking, by in this case it would have to be the
provincial government, to pass the necessary policies or laws to ensure that the
public officials within the education department are supervising to some degree
these institutions to ensure they're meeting the framework of the general
education system in the province?
Mr. Raza: Definitely. I would also say that maybe somewhere it's
written that they should be doing it, but nobody's doing it. This is one thing
that should be implemented. There should be observers, maybe from within the
community or outside the community, who should regularly monitor these schools.
The Chair: I would like to move over to another area. While we have
such a learned witness here, I'd like to follow up on the question of the
financing of terrorist organizations.
Do you have any specific examples of financing for terrorist groups? You've
mentioned financing coming in to finance some of the mosques from those
organizations outside of the country. What about internally, within the country,
raising money to finance terrorism elsewhere, outside the country?
Mr. Raza: Yes. The Islamic Society of North America, three months ago
they were challenged, and the CRA have solid proof that they were sending money
to some Kashmir group, terrorist group from their mosque. I think the CRA put
the charity status under suspension. So it's happening; it's being caught as
well. We had some charities that were giving money to the wrong people, and they
were also caught, but there are a lot that don't get caught.
With education, I think we have to have some kind of a document that
encourages the youth to be part of the Canadian mosaic. We have had that
recently done for immigrants coming in, that this is Canada, and this and that.
There has to be some way of forming a Canadian identity that is to be circulated
in schools — Islamic schools, Jewish schools, everywhere — that should empower
them to feel more Canadian than their religious identity.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Mr. Raza. I would like to follow up on a few
questions. As you mentioned, what more can we do as a country to support you and
your organization, to support and encourage people like you and your
organization to speak up, to have cooperation and contact with the RCMP? What do
we need to do to accomplish that?
Mr. Raza: I think we have to have a committee or a group that can
focus only on this problem, like we are doing today, but I'm going to fly away
from Ottawa, go to Toronto, play with my cat and grandchildren, and it will be
sometime before I recollect.
However, we have to have a permanent committee to resolve these issues, step
by step, one by one. It's a process that the government knows is happening, the
community knows is happening, that something is being done. The youth will feel
more empowered that there is somebody they can liaise with.
That's my recommendation, that we must have some body, some platform that we
can reach. The RCMP is for crime-related instances. Social organizations are for
problems that we are having as a society, but we first of all need to recognize
we have a problem, and then we can have a broad-based committee that can reach
out and use their expertise and influence to make it better.
Senator Ngo: If that's the case, may I suggest that you have so many
organizations like yours, why don't you try to get together and form a committee
and let yourselves be known to the government or agencies concerned? We don't
know how many organizations you have in Toronto or in Ottawa or in Calgary, and
so on. Why don't you do that? Is it possible, or would it be difficult for you?
Mr. Raza: It's possible. We made an attempt last year, and we got all
the like-minded, progressive organizations under one umbrella. Two days ago,
they had a function and they invited, again, the troubled people, and it's not
going to succeed. Politics comes in, social influences come in.
If it's done by the government or a government body that is at the forefront
of this, I personally think it would have better results. But we've tried it and
we are still trying and we will continue trying.
The Chair: I just want to follow up here. I think we're all struggling
here in respect to seeing what governments and the general public can do to help
your community, the moderates, which is the vast majority of your community, in
being able to withstand this extreme viewpoint that everybody's being branded
with, whether we like it or not.
What I don't quite understand is we've had a number of individuals identified
through our committee hearings, not just today, who for one reason or another
have been identified, indirectly or directly, with terrorist groups.
Nobody has refuted the information that we've been provided with, yet our
governments have, for whatever reasons, given them standing. If I was
knowledgeable and I had known that these individuals had this background, I
would have been the first to phone the authorities to ask why we are dealing
with these individuals.
Has your organization or people you know phoned and notified the authorities
that there are some individuals with backgrounds that we shouldn't be giving
standing to because of their past history? Perhaps you want to comment on that.
Mr. Raza: Yes, we have been involved and we have been alerting people
— not necessarily the authorities — bringing it to the attention of the media.
I'll give you one example. There's a charity, and there was an earthquake in
Pakistan about eight or ten years back. There was an authority in which Mr.
Khadr Sr. worked, and they were very busy getting money for the affected people.
We knew where the money was going: It was not going to the affected people.
We wrote, ''Give, but don't give to people who may misuse it,'' and we were
sued. We work on two pensions and a professor's salary, so we don't have the
means to take care of lawsuits, et cetera. This is the form being used to
intimidate people. That's the latest strategy — to keep people quiet, send them
a lawsuit. That's one challenge. I'm not sure it can be overcome, but that's a
challenge we have.
The second challenge is that the laws are weak. The laws don't stand for
these kinds of problems. They're weak because this is a new phenomenon.
Third, we haven't had the breakthrough with law enforcement agencies to
listen to us. I'll give you a very simple example. My wife was travelling on a
lecture tour and our car glass was broken into on a public street in very
upscale area. Her purse was taken out. It had signed cheques in it, it had cash
in it and it had her passport and all her identification. I went to the police
and I filled out a report. I told them it could be something else. They said
they don't want to hear about the complicated and difficult version. So we came
Those cheques were like cash. Nothing has been cashed. Nothing has been used.
If it was a thief or a drug addict looking for quick change, those cheques would
have been cashed, but nothing like that. This was on our way to the airport.
There could have been some other reasoning, but that is not entertained. It's
too complex. I think people don't want to entertain any kind of complexity.
Yes, we go to law enforcement agencies, we tell them the problem, we alert
them to situations, but the reaction is not what we want to hear. Nothing gets
done in a manner that is fair to us.
The Chair: Colleagues, we're coming to the end of our time. I want to
thank Mr. Raza for appearing. I think you brought forward, from your perspective
and your community, how it is. That's one of the reasons we're having this
public conversation, to allow people such as yourself to come forward. I know it
takes a great deal of strength to do that, and we respect that.
I'd like to now adjourn this meeting and briefly go in camera. Thank you very
(The committee continued in camera.)