THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL
SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, February 2, 2015
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: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence for Monday, February 2, 2015. Before we welcome
our witnesses, I would like to begin by introducing the people around the table.
My name is Dan Lang, senator for Yukon. The clerk of the committee is Josée
Thérien. I'd like to invite the senators to introduce themselves and state the
region they represent, starting with our deputy chair.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta, and deputy
Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, from the province of Quebec.
Senator Wells: David Wells, senator from Newfoundland and
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New
Senator Kenny: Colin Kenny, Ontario.
Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you. I would like to begin by addressing
committee business in the form of government Bill C-27, which was sent to the
committee on December 11, 2014, by the Senate. The bill pertains to Veterans
Affairs and is seeking to create favourable conditions for the hiring of certain
serving and former members of the Canadian Forces in the public service. May I
have a motion to refer this to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs?
Senator Stewart Olsen: I move that Bill C-27, An Act to
amend the Public Service Employment Act (enhancing hiring opportunities for
certain serving and former members of the Canadian Forces), referred to the
committee by the Senate on Thursday, December 11, 2014, be delegated to the
Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.
Hon. Senators: Agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: So moved.
Colleagues, as we return to our study on terrorism, which was
referred to this committee in June of last year, a lot has happened in the world
and more and more information is coming to light. Canadian law enforcement and
intelligence organizations have identified over 318 Canadians who are involved
directly or indirectly in terrorist activity and supporting ISIS and other
We've also learned that our government agents have identified
over 600 terrorist financing cases since 2009. These imposing numbers contrast
with the relative few terrorist arrests, fewer convictions and limited
prosecutions over the last 10 years in Canada. Yet the contemporary threat
appears to grow week by week.
We are reminded of this by the savage killings of Armed Forces
personnel in October in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. And now
media reports are claiming that a significant Canadian-Islamic educational
authority, the Muslim Association of Canada, an organization that publicly
declared its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, may have
contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to IRFAN Canada, a group that has
had charitable status revoked as a result of alleged contributions to Hamas, an
international terrorist organization.
Beyond our borders we witness with increasing horror the spectre
and reality of terrorist attacks in Australia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and,
of course, France. With news of these come daily reports of basically medieval
barbarism, sex slavery, maiming, torture and beheadings. World leaders
unanimously have condemned these outrages, and Canada has joined its
international partners in reviewing and reinforcing security, conscious that we
may be embarked on a race against time and trends.
Canadians and their parliamentarians strain to understand the
causes, the hows and the whys of the expanding threat of radicalism and its end
product — terrorism. We need to remove threatening persons from the street as
soon as is legally feasible. Canadians look to their government to make
necessary legislative provisions to deal in careful and considerable ways with
the mounting threat.
Our committee began its study with the aim of engaging Canadians
in a public conversation. The objective is to help concerned citizens of all
backgrounds understand the nature and the scope of the extremist and terrorist
threats facing our country. The committee is also seeking to better understand
radicalization, its religious and ideological nature, where it happens, who the
radicalizers are, what is the support infrastructure for terrorism and
radicalization, including financing, and what can be done to prevent
radicalization in the first place. Our committee is also seeking to understand
and explore what role government can play in supporting moderate Muslims in
their attempt to challenge extremism.
Joining us in our first panel are two Muslim imams to discuss
issues that they see in their community as it pertains to radicalization and
terrorism. Imam Delic and Imam Soharwardy, welcome. I understand you both have
an opening statement, and I would like to begin with Imam Soharwardy.
Syed Badiuddin Soharwardy, Imam, as an individual: Thank
you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you, senators, for giving me the opportunity to
share my thoughts with you. Radicalization, terrorism and extremism are very
serious problems for all of us. I'm quite passionate, so I will give you my
views about what is happening. I have been quite vocal about the fact that this
is definitely a serious threat and we should not be just reacting to the
terrorism. We should be going to the source of terrorism, what creates terrorism
and what makes a person become a terrorist. That's what my focus will be, and
I'm hoping that I should be able to share with you what I have seen and what I
I have been in Canada for the last 20 years. I emigrated from
Pakistan, where I was born and raised. I belong to a very religious family. My
whole ancestry through blood goes to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I'm
not just a follower of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, so I'm quite
passionate to talk about it.
My faith has nothing to do with this whole mess. Islam is a
normal, common-sense, natural way of life, just like any other religion. When
people try to include Islam with terrorism, it bothers me. It bothers me because
I know what Islam is. I have been raised in Islam, and my whole ancestry is
Islamic. They have all been imams for centuries.
Let's focus on the source, the root cause of the problem, and
that is what my intention is to share with you.
The Chair: Thank you. Imam Delic.
Zijad Delic, Imam, as an individual: First of all, I want
to thank you for serving our nation so diligently and giving us an opportunity
to share some of our views with you, because we are all together in this.
The security of Canada and my people — and when I say my people,
I mean Canadians — is very much important to me and my community, not only as a
social responsibility but as a religious responsibility too.
Canadian Muslims are part and parcel of this society that we call
our home. We do not want to be marginalized at all, because we have people
living and working, contributing to Canadian society since the beginning of our
coming to Canada before Confederation, when we had only about 13 Muslims in
1871. Today we think we are about 1.1 million Muslims, people who are well
integrated, well accustomed to this great nation of ours. It's a young
community, median age 28.1, well educated, 60 per cent plus with university
In my opinion, they are part of the solution, not part of the
problem when it comes to radicalization. If there is anyone in Canada who can
deconstruct the narrative of terrorist and radicalized people, it is us because
we know their narrative better than themselves; thus, I suggest that we talk
about this narrative openly, as my community intends, and we hope that our
opinions and our views will be taken into consideration, specifically when it
comes to what Muslim leadership does in Canada and what mosques do in Canada in
terms of de-radicalization. That would mean that Canadian mosques are not the
platform for radicalization, rather they are the platform for de-radicalization.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Imam Delic.
I'd like to just give a general observation, if I could. It's
been reported that some leaders within the Muslim community in Canada are, on
one hand, condemning the Islamic jihadist movement, yet at the same time seem to
be supporting various organizations such as the Muslim Association of Canada and
IRFAN, which have been reported as having given money to international terrorist
groups such as Hamas.
This is a question that the Muslim community has to answer, and I
would ask Imam Delic. Last July, for example, you were a guest speaker for this
particular organization, I understand. Does it not trouble you that when you
have organizations such as the Muslim Association of Canada being now charged
with an offence of financing terrorist organizations —
Mr. Delic: Does it mean that —
The Chair: So the question has to be, when you become
aware of something like that, what do you do?
Mr. Delic: My question would be does it mean there is
guilt by association?
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Delic: I don't think that is the Canadian way, simply
because my intent, whenever I deal with any group, is to better that
organization and Canadianize it as much as I can; so any involvement with any
particular group would definitely give me a platform to say my views. Rejecting
them and putting them on the margins could give them more of a platform to do
what they want to do.
So as far as a particular organization goes, I did not know much
about the organization. We community members do not have access to some of these
legal matters. It is government that has to deal with these things. When
information comes to us, definitely we will take another approach in assessing
our situation and relationship with these organizations.
The Chair: That's very important from the point of view of
the Muslim community and the community at large, that individuals and leaders
like yourself publicly renounce and condemn this type of activity because then
it puts us in a position that we're all in this together. Would you agree with
Mr. Delic: Certainly. You could check out my personal blog
that I have with Rabbi Chaim and Father John at faithblender.com. You could also
Google my name, and any terrorist activities from the time I came to Canada in
1995 until today, and you will find out that my message from the very first day
I entered was very consistent, very straightforward, and I have often put myself
and my family in a situation of potential danger. That has not stopped me in
standing against anyone who tries to undermine the people of Canada, as well as
who would work on damaging the image of Islam and Canadian Muslims and their
relations with the larger Canadian society.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, gentlemen. To
Imam Soharwardy, you said you wanted to come here to explain, from your point of
view, what the causes of radicalization are, and I would like to give you the
chance to do that.
Mr. Soharwardy: Thank you, senator. The problem is we have
two faces. When we have interfaith dialogues, when we are sitting in a public
place, we have a very Canadian, Western and tolerant face; when we sit down with
our own people, we preach intolerance. That is a very serious issue.
I'm quite blunt, and forgive my emotions because my faith is
under attack. My faith has been hijacked, and my country, Canada, is facing
threat. Let me give you a statement, and I will ask all the senators who you
think can make this kind of a statement.
I was in a Friday prayer in Toronto, and the imam there, with
almost 300 to 400 people praying, openly said: When you see a non-Muslim coming
on a street from the opposite side, don't give him a way; try to block it so he
or she can just go against the wall.
This is being taught in our mosque in a Friday prayer during a
Friday sermon in B.C.
I'm not saying every mosque is like this; I am an imam, too. I
have 13 mosques that I manage across this country from Montreal to Surrey, B.C.
There are people preaching open intolerance in this country, and the government
is doing nothing; the government isn't going after them. The problem is that the
government has a very close ally, and that is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a
part of the G20. It is a very close ally of the United States and Canada; we
have a very good relationship. But Saudi Arabia is the breeding ground of that
ideology that creates a terrorist.
Let me ask you a simple, very common-sense question: Boko Haram
in Nigeria; al Shabaab in Somalia; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba,
Pakistan; Taliban of Waziristan; al Qaeda, Middle East and around the world. My
brothers and sisters, my dear senators, tell me, these are very diverse
terrorist groups — ISIL and ISIS. African, Asian, Middle Eastern, European,
North African. What unites them? They have different languages, cultures and
foods. There is nothing common among them except they're all human beings and
they all claim to be Muslim.
Muslim does not unite them, because I'm Muslim too. Imam Delic is
Muslim too. Why aren't we with them? The reason is Islam does not unite them.
The ideology unites them. That ideology is not Islam. Please do not blame Islam.
Please do not call it Islamic “terrorism.” It bothers me because there is no
such thing as Islamic terrorism. There is no such thing as Muslim terrorists.
These people are funded, supported, trained by Saudi Arabia, and that ideology
is called Wahhabi Salafi ideology. Among all these diverse terrorist groups,
it's the Wahhabi school of thought, Salafi school of thought. There are Shias,
Sunnis and Sufis in the Muslim community. There are other sub-denominations,
sub-sects within the Shia and Sunni school of thought. Not a single sect is
involved in this terrorism, regardless African terrorist organization,
Middle Eastern, Asian, European or North African.
I'm not saying all Wahhabis and Salafis are terrorists. I don't
paintbrush because I don't want to get paintbrushed. I'm not saying every
Wahhabi or Salafi is a terrorist, but all these terrorists, regardless of their
origin, regardless where they are working, are all followers of the Wahhabi
school of thought. They are all followers of the Salafi school of thought. Why
are we not going after them? Why is the government not looking after that
intolerance ideology that makes a person become a potential recruit for the
terrorist organization? This ideology opens the door for recruitment.
Senator Mitchell: I would like to follow that up because
you're touching on something that Imam Delic also talked about, and you're aware
of it. You work to deconstruct that narrative. You've acknowledged that to some
extent, at least in that one mosque, so my question would be this: What are
leaders like you doing to deconstruct that narrative? Are you working
nationally, locally and regionally to do that? What makes the difference between
your 13 mosques and the one that you've referred to or the imam who was saying
what he said in that intolerant way? What is the solution?
Mr. Soharwardy: There is a solution. I established Muslims
Against Terrorism way before 9/11. Muslims Against Terrorism was not created
after 9/11. In 1997, I did this in Calgary, knowing that there are people who
are hijacking, asking for ransom, kidnapping Americans or Westerners and saying,
“This is Islam.” So I established the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada back in
2000, and that's when we established the mosque. What is the difference with
what we are doing? We are educating our youth.
I lead more than 2,000 members of my congregation in Calgary. It
is a large congregation, and I challenge anyone to show me a single youth from
my congregation — and I have congregations in Montreal, Toronto and the GTA,
Surrey and Edmonton. I lead those congregations. None of them has ever gone or
has expressed their sympathy for a terrorist organization or for the ideology
that breeds terrorism. That's our contribution, and that's what we want, that
the government should recognize the fact that Islam has nothing to do with this.
We are Muslim. I'm proud to be Muslim. I'm very thankful; every moment I thank
my God that he made me Muslim because my Islam teaches tolerance and respect for
all human beings and accepts differences in beliefs.
That is our contribution. I travel across this country every
weekend and give lectures, and I openly say what Islam is and what Islam is not.
ISIL and ISIS are not Islam; al Qaeda, Taliban, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are
absolutely a bunch of Wahhabis and Salafis who have nothing to do with Islam at
all. They are funded and supported by your ally, Saudi Arabia.
Senator Mitchell: Imam Delic, could you comment on that
Mr. Delic: Radicalization is a very complex notion. To
define it is very difficult. It is not defined among the politicians as it
should be. It is not defined among us religious leaders as it should be. It is
also not defined by the academics. It is a very complex notion. When dealing
with it, I would like to focus on maybe not what is going on beyond Canada or
what is going on on another continent. I would rather look at what is going on
As a Muslim leader, the kind of messaging we have is very
important whenever we communicate with the community, with Muslim youth. I can
tell you that in most of the cases I have been engaged with in the Muslim
community, there is a possibility of having to tackle the issue seriously
without creating emotions and bringing emotions to the surface and then getting
into more challenges and difficulties.
Let me give you an example. During the time of Project Samosa in
Ottawa — some of you are aware of it and have been working on the project and
have seen it — I was asked about apprehending these boys during Ramadan and how
it fits with the Muslim community. My response was very clear. When it comes to
security, when it comes to issues of this magnitude, the fastest time is the
best time. The night before that happened, I joined a young group of our kids in
one of the mosques, and they had been talking about issues related to politics
as well as their citizenship.
One of the most eloquent of them suggested that he would never
take citizenship of this kuffar society, and I challenged him there among
the group that he was talking to. I asked him: “Why not? You came here, you
enjoyed the pleasure of studying, you became what you are, and all of a sudden
your discussion suggests to me that you don't want to become a citizen of this
country. Why not? I came all across the ocean to be part of this society, and
you are rejecting it.”
He said, “You know, it doesn't follow the code of Islam,” and I
asked him, “Could you tell me, then, which so-called Muslim country follows the
code of Islam? In my opinion, Canada with its social justice system, human
rights record and other things related to Canada is much more than Islamic than
any of these countries you are talking about.”
I challenged the boy with my narrative from the Quran that he was
using, and I asked him: “Do you know that Quran suggests very clearly that your
being in Canada, even if you are born a person in Canada, if you are an
immigrant, if you are a refuge, you are under the social contract according to
our faith, and ‘social contract’ means that you are to abide by the rules and
you have to respect this country.” And I quoted to him the verse where God
almighty says: All you who believe, uphold your contracts. Rejecting or refusing
these contracts would make you into the category of treacherous people, which is
what it explains.
After five minutes of challenging I left, and tomorrow morning at
about 10:00 — and those boys had been apprehended around 8:00 — he called me and
said he would like to sit down with me. I met with him, and I talked to him, and
he told me that he had reconsidered his views, and since then I am dealing with
this group of young boys. I can tell you that all of them, including him, are
very successful young people. Most of them are working with the Canadian
government, engaged with society and are great volunteers.
So there is a way to deconstruct. If there is an area, a niche
where some of this ideology could come, definitely it would affect these young
“Where does it come from?” you ask — certainly not from the
mosques that I know.
I invite all of you, all of our government officials and all
Canadians to freely, without suggesting to us that they are coming, please be
welcome at one of our mosques. Check it out for yourself, and you will find out
that what I am telling you is a reality. Most of our imams have realized that we
are living in this democratic liberal society, and therefore our interpretations
of Islam have to change to fit the context. It's not just the text but the
context we have to look at when we are talking about Islam.
Therefore, in my opinion, when we talk about radicalization, we
have to look into the socio-political, economic and social media sources when it
comes to radicalization. If I were aware of any mosque or any imam radicalizing
youth, I'd be the first one to come forward and report it. That would not be the
first time that I came forward, when I came to realize that some people are
dangerous; their narrative is dangerous. We have to act and we have to report.
Senator White: Thanks to both of you for being here today.
Imam Delic, I want to thank you for your support on the investigation. You were
very helpful in engaging the community.
You've been a prominent leader and spokesperson for the Muslim
associations in Canada. We've heard a number of people talk to us in relation to
concerns about money coming from the Gulf region, certain countries that may be
contributing to the radicalization that we are seeing in this country. In fact,
I think we just had a reference to that again.
I'm asking your opinion now. How does it happen? When that money
arrives, what strings are attached to that funding from Saudi Arabia, as an
example, Qatar and others? What strings are attached to the leadership in
developing what they expect for that money? I always say nothing is for free.
Mr. Delic: One of the conditions I have suggested to any
organization that I work with is no money should be taken if there is any
attachment to it, be it ideology or any interests, simply because we, as
Canadian Muslims, have to develop our human resources and material resources by
ourselves. If somebody is controlling from outside, that would definitely be
against the law of this country.
In my work with any of the agencies from outside, I have been
very straightforward on the matter. Our mosque, our centre we built in
Barrhaven, just opened on January 4.
Senator White: Congratulations.
Mr. Delic: It's totally built by our own money, 100 per
cent. It is money that has been donated through the Muslim community in
Barrhaven. Those people donated 80 per cent of the money; therefore, I don't
think that any strings should ever be attached. If they are attached, we should
not accept such money.
The Chair: Imam Soharwardy, do you have a comment on that
Mr. Soharwardy: I agree with Imam Delic, but the question
is, Mr. Chairman, if we are going to look at things on the surface, you will
never get to the truth. You have to go deep down. The truth is not here. As I
said, we have two faces. We describe what we apparently see, but we don't share
what we know.
Nobody will disclose the strings attached if they are getting
money, because we need money. So when the money is coming from Saudi Arabia or
Kuwait or UAE or other Gulf regions and I need money, why should I disclose the
strings attached? Saudi Arabia and other countries will never give you money
because they want to propagate Islam. They want to propagate their own
understanding of Islam, which is — I will repeat it again — the Wahhabi Salafi
school of thought.
Now a new trend is emerging in Canada. Do you know what they are
doing? This is with the youth, and that's why it is very concerning. They are
telling youth, “Oh, we're going to take you on a tour to perform a small
pilgrimage.” This is what is happening. The trend is emerging that some of the
Muslim associations — and I can quote. I just came back from Vancouver last
night. Five young boys are going to Saudi Arabia. This is where the problem is.
Yes, it looks like a tourist place, common sense; people go touring Europe and
other places, so they are touring Saudi Arabia.
We have to look at this whole thing with caution: What is the
interest in going there? Why are they taking them free of charge? Who is
Let me give you an example. Two girls from Mississauga left home.
I cannot share the whole story for privacy reasons of the family. They left, and
the parents were very upset. They reported it to the RCMP. It's a long story; I
don't want to waste time. The RCMP finally found out those girls were in Turkey.
They are young girls, Grades 11 and 12. Not old women. They are young Canadian
girls. They were sitting in Turkey. The bottom line is, finally they were not
able to cross the border into Syria and they were brought back. By the grace of
God, those girls were saved.
Their parents found out that $5,000 was transferred to one of the
girl's bank accounts to facilitate their journey, two girls. They are sisters.
They wanted to find out who transferred that $5,000. The RCMP is not
investigating where that money came from. The RCMP has taken their passports and
that's about it.
We need to find out. Financial transactions can be traced. It's
not something that cannot be traced. This is another incident where our law
enforcement agencies, with all due respect — I know the police don't like it
when I say these things, but this is the truth. They are not doing what they are
supposed to be doing. Where did that $5,000 come from? Who gave it to them? The
girls' parents are still waiting.
The money comes in different ways, in secret ways. Money comes
through institutions. There are two organizations in Canada. Basically they are
U.S. organizations that are operating in Canada. One is called AlMaghrib
Institute, the other is called AlKauthar Institute. Both work in universities,
not in mosques. Both give lectures. Both organize seminars. They are the ones
who brainwash these young kids in lectures. Their topic is very normal: We're
going to talk about the life of Prophet Muhammad. We're going to talk about how
to live in a non-Muslim society. When you look on the surface, the topics are
very normal No one has a problem. But when you develop an association with
them — not everybody develops a long-term relationship, only a few — then the
brainwashing begins. The shoe bomber in the United States attended AlMaghrib
These people are given a very free hand in our universities and
colleges. They are organizing lectures and seminars, but nobody will put a sign
up that says “I am recruiting for al Qaeda or ISIL or ISIS.” Nobody will come
because they know they will be caught. It is happening, and I know 150 Canadians
were fighting for ISIL there. Eighty have come back. This is a serious issue.
Three young boys from my city were killed fighting for ISIL. I know one of them;
he lived in my neighbourhood. That boy was raised in front of me.
So, again, it is the ideology of intolerance. My dear brothers
and sisters, they don't have intolerance towards Christians and Jews; they have
intolerance towards Muslims, and that is because of disagreement. The Wahhabi
Salafi ideology does not accept any difference of opinion. I have been called
infidel. I have been called kafir. I have been called innovator. I have
been called deviant imam. The reason is because I disagree with the Wahhabi
Salafi ideology on many levels. I am a proud Canadian. I love this country, so
I'm supporting an infidel government.
This guy, Yahya Maguire from Ottawa, this city, John Maguire, he
sent me a Facebook message on my Facebook page before he was killed. He said:
“Mr. Soharwardy, the Islam you are preaching is not Islam. You are a deviant
imam and you will go to hell.” ISIL/ISIS is a real Muslim organization. This
Canadian converted Muslim boy sent me a message.
This is going on in our country. We cannot deny it. If we just
paintbrush it that everything is okay, then it's a deception and nothing else.
One last important thing I would mention is this: What pushes a
young boy towards this Wahhabi ideology? What pushes this young boy into
isolation? Is it our government, our Prime Minister, our cabinet ministers, our
law enforcement? Please do not use “Islamic terrorism” because it isolates them.
When they are isolated, they are handled by these extremists; the extremists
We want to integrate our youth, and the integration will only
come if they are accepted. They will feel they have been accepted in the society
if you don't blame the religion. I have no problem if they blame the Wahhabi
Salafi ideology, but don't call it Islamic jihad.
Openly, in front of you, I will call all the senators jihadi.
Why? Because you struggle against this evil going on against Canada. Our Prime
Minister is a jihadi. Why? Because he is struggling to establish the economy of
this country, to grow the country. He's struggling every day. His struggle is
jihad; this war or terrorism is not jihad.
Senator White: Just a short follow-up question, if I may,
asking for a succinct response as there are others.
So what are you suggesting we do in relation to masjids or
mosques that are allowing this to occur? Both of you tell us that you're not
allowing it to occur in the mosques that you are in leadership at. What do you
suggest we do as Canadians in relation to those mosques that are allowing it to
continue? I'm asking both of you.
Mr. Soharwardy: I would suggest three things, and I'm very
precise. Do three things, and I guarantee you, if terrorism will not be
eliminated, it will be significantly reduced.
First, control your ally Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Stop
that money which is secretly coming and can be traced. This has to stop. That
money is not just cash money coming through transactions. It is the touring and
the sponsorship scheme coming from the Gulf states. That has to stop.
Second, please do not associate Islam directly or indirectly with
terrorism. Using the words “Islamic” and “Muslim” isolates. Believe me, it
bothers my son. I have a son; I have a daughter. Both were raised here. Both
went to the university. They are in the university. It isolates them. It just
disconnects them with Canadian society. For God's sake, just do not use those
names. I know you don't have the intention to label Islam as a terrorist
religion, but it creates the isolation in the heart, so please don't do that.
Third, go after the ideology of Wahhabi Salafi. That is the
opening door for recruitment. Yes, not every Wahhabi Salafi imam recruits
towards ISIL and ISIS and extremism. I agree with that, but there are a few
imams, and they are the only imams who are the opening door for recruitment.
Do these three things. Go after the recruitment process. It's not
just the recruits. It is the one who brainwashes; it is the one who teaches
intolerance, and that intolerance is towards Muslims too, by the way. Look at
the intolerance. If I celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon
him, in the mosque on Fridays, it is said that you are a deviant imam. This is
not allowed in Islam. When you become intolerant for Muslims, you will be
intolerant towards Jews and Christians for sure.
Mr. Delic: Again, I would not go beyond Canada. I cannot
control what is going on in Saudi Arabia, but I know I can control what is going
The way I think we need to do a little bit better, first, is
recognition of Canadian Muslims by your government or the Prime Minister,
yourself, other agencies, as partners in the fight against terrorism. That is
hugely important. That's number one.
Second, people who are already working with the RCMP and police
services should also be given support with their communities. Currently I'm
engaged with several cases on de-radicalization, and it seems like we are not
talking about preventative measures. That is something we have to focus on. All
we are talking about right now is a consequence. If you want to solve the
problem, then we have to look into how we as Canadians, all stakeholders —
government, leadership, social services, security services, education, media —
can come together and find ways of tackling the issue of radicalization.
As I suggested, I think recognition of Canadian Muslims as
partners, not part of the problem, not talking about mosques from the
perspective of being sources of radicalization, is another area, because you are
talking about thousands of mosques that are present around, and if you are to
level these centres that are producing quite astute and faithful citizens, we
are misleading the Canadian general population and we are misleading young
people who would actually take that narrative to the farthest level and
understand that someone is turning against them.
Another thing that I see as important to be thought about is
this: Why not invite to these discussions people who really carry weight when it
comes to understanding not just textual references but realities of life, who
are well versed in Canadian values and culture and politics, who can deconstruct
the problem and definitely bring some solutions? For example, I will give you
just three names of people who are well known in Canada. One of them is Paul
Bramadat, a professor for religious studies in Victoria, who wrote a book on
religious radicalization and securitization in Canada and beyond. We have to
talk to these experts because they have looked into the issue, not just from a
theoretical perspective. Many of these studies are empirical studies too.
We also have to talk to Peter Beyer who is just across down at
the University of Ottawa, an amazing scholar in the area of sociology of
religion, and David Seljak, who has done great work for Canadian heritage.
Together we have been a team on many of the topics to help integration of
Canadian Muslims as well as their focus on faithful citizenship. I think these
are some of the areas where we can do a lot of work.
I proposed another area five years ago; title of the project was
“Being a good Muslim and good Canadian citizen, no dichotomy between the two.” I
didn't want intentionally to mention radicalization. You'll ask why. Because
when you mention radicalization or de-radicalization you have a stigma attached.
So I will basically work on the educational process, working on personal
development and leadership skills, training of these young Canadian Muslims. I
will work in forums, workshops, focus groups, interviews, as well as, as I did
with many communities across Canada, practical engagement within the larger
Canadian society, being contributing citizens.
The prophet very clearly indicated that the best of people are
those who benefit people. He in both cases did not say who these people are —
Muslims or the others?
Senator Stewart Olsen: I hear what you're saying, and I
really thank you both for coming. It's a very difficult thing when you feel that
your religion may be under attack. I can assure you that subject is not the
focus of this committee, nor do we believe that. We are listening to your ideas
and thank you very much for them.
I think that you've both encountered people who are either being
radicalized or have become radicalized. Can you tell me briefly what happens
when this occurs? I know you're trying to work with them. Do you actually report
them to authorities? What happens then?
Mr. Delic: I don't think when we notice that they have
weird ideas that don't fit into the mainstream that I will report it right away.
I would definitely work with the person. If I would see that a person is having
violent tendencies, violent radicalized thought, that's a time and I will come
forth — as I did — and report.
I would even go further and ask security agencies to remove the
person from the street because he became a liability for others. Of course,
whenever I see the opportunity, as I have done on many occasions, I would take
that job into my own hands and try to deconstruct the way this young person is
thinking. I think that's something that's very useful, what is needed. Why?
Because eventually, even if you put these people behind bars, they will come out
again into society. If you don't deal with the symptom in a way that's
appropriate, I think we are heading towards failure.
Therefore, working with young people in the area of
deconstructing their radicalized ideology is one of the priorities that I have
as a Canadian imam.
Mr. Soharwardy: First of all, in our congregation — and
I'm not talking one city, I'm talking of this country — people know terrorism
and extremism are bad, and violence and hate towards any human being are bad. So
we don't have that problem. That's why I believe in prevention rather than
When a radicalized person comes, and I have come across some
youth in Calgary and B.C., we sat down and I explained to them what Islam is all
about. But again, I'm going to go back.
Across this country, universities have chaplains, Muslim
chaplains. Show me a single university in Canada where you have a non-Wahhabi
chaplain. Is Wahhabi only Muslim? I'm not a Wahhabi. Where are the Shiite, Sufi
and Sunni chaplains? In every university you have 100 per cent Wahhabi
chaplains. In jails, where are the Muslim chaplains?
My problem is that government is, directly or indirectly,
knowingly or unknowingly, supporting one sect of Islam, and that is going to
create more mess than solve it. So let's have diversity. I have not heard of a
Shia chaplain in any university, or of a Sufi chaplain in any university. I have
not heard, but maybe there are some. I do not know the whole thing, but that is
what I know.
Go back to the root cause. Do not support one school of thought
within the Muslim group. Muslims are not monolithic. We have a lot of groups,
sects and denominations. Bring diversity within the Muslim mosaic as well. We
need that in order to counter terrorism, extremism and radicalization.
Mr. Delic: I would disagree with the approach, simply
because we don't want to bring ideological fights to Canada. I'm well aware
there are some, but I think we have to deal with the problem.
Talking about Sunni and Shia, in my mosque or in mosques that I
associate with, I don't want to talk about it. We are all Muslims, and let's
live with it with all our differences. If we cannot understand each other within
the full of Islam, how will we be able to understand people from other faith
groups? That's something I always stress, be it within or outside the Muslim
If I cannot have constructive, effective intra-faith, I will
never be able to have interfaith relations with anybody.
As far as universities are concerned, I think our young people
are amazing Canadians. I work with many of them. Saying that universities are
places where potential danger could come, I'm certain any institution could have
individuals who could be dangerous. But that all of those people who would be
working with government tomorrow, who will be professors or teachers, they are
radicalizing in such a way, I don't think such a thing exists.
I know that there are different student organizations that are
struggling for the space, be they Sunni or Shia, but definitely imams that I've
worked with on both spectrums, Sunni and Shia, we are working very hard to
bridge these gaps. I am well aware that if I cannot constructively work within
my own people, within my own faith group, it will be very difficult for me to be
open to work with anybody else.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Just a brief follow-up. I
understand what you're saying, but in Canada we practice religious freedom so we
don't send police into churches and mosques. Because we don't do that, do you
not agree that there is an onus, a responsibility — and I'm not saying it should
all be a responsibility of imams, but it should be a responsibility of us all —
to report incidents where we believe Canadians may be in danger, or that we're
losing a whole generation of our Canadian youth? That's really going to be a
very sad thing if we lose a lot of these people.
Mr. Delic: One thing that is important to mention is
sometimes when new imported imams come, they need time to settle. In the
process, they could make some foolish mistakes. Of course, we do censure some of
the ideas and challenge them. If they are not fit to stay here, we will
definitely recommend that they go back to where they came from.
If I would, as I said at the very beginning, know of any such
place, any such imam that would not adhere to the principles and values of this
country, I would be the first one to come forward. I would not need to be asked.
I'll come forward and I'll report that person, because it impacts negatively on
the integrity of my faith, on the image of my faith, and potentially could
impact negatively on the general Canadian population and Canadian Muslims as
We know very well, when terrorism happens, terrorists don't pick
and choose. They hit everybody who is around. I know for sure that Canadian
Muslims would or could be hit, just like anybody else. Plus, on top of it, in
the aftermath, Canadian Muslims would be dehumanized in the process of the talk
on radicalization or terrorism in their own country. That is something that I
The Chair: We're going to go a little bit overtime here. I
would ask everybody to be concise in their answers and in their questions,
because we have two more senators with questions.
Mr. Soharwardy: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I agree with Imam Delic. The thing is, I think you are absolutely
right. As a Muslim community, we own certain aspects of problems of our own
community. There is no doubt. Unfortunately, the Muslim community in general —
I'm not talking about at the imam level but the grassroots level — is not as
forthcoming as we should be, absolutely.
I have said it many times in our Friday sermons that we should
all, as ordinary Muslims and Canadians, come forward, and we don't do that. This
is a matter of education that we should do that and should continue. The imams
are doing it, but it has not been happening the way it should have been.
Also, to add to a complex situation is the role of Saudi Arabia.
Mecca and Medina, holy places, are in Saudi Arabia. The majority of Muslims see
them as a very respectable people, knowing they are the followers of the Wahhabi
Salafi sect. Muslims get discouraged when they speak against somebody who is
influenced by Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia is a very holy country for all
We do have a problem in our community, and this needs to be
discussed within our own communities, not here, where we can ask every one of us
to stand up and stop the intolerance towards anybody that is being preached in
some of the places within the Muslim community.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you to our two guests. My question
is for Imam Delic. I would like to welcome you to the committee meeting and
thank you for sharing your opinions with us. In an interview with the Ottawa
Citizen daily newspaper, you said that sharia already applied in Canada, but
informally. Could you provide some specific examples of this application, where
it has been applied and perhaps even the identity of the individuals involved in
Mr. Delic: Women do wear a hijab. That's a part. Muslims
do pray. That's another part. When people do have their family disputes, the
first station is the imam. In 80 per cent of my work, I focus on social issues.
We do work within the constraints or within the framework of what we are allowed
within Canadian society. For example, if a person would come to me and say, “I
want to marry second,” I would tell him this is illegal in our country, so even
if we are managing family arbitration within the mosque, it is all within the
framework of Canadian law.
Just as you have it in Judaism or Christianity, rabbis, priests
and imams do serve Canadian society on that level, and we save a lot of money,
actually, of people not going through the courts simply because we work on
When sharia law was introduced by some individuals in Ontario, I
was the first one who commented and said, “Why are we offering this? Who would
be implementing this sharia law? Who will be standing behind the sharia law, and
who will be bringing these ideas? How would it work within the framework of the
Canadian legal system?”
If we would bring any particular cultural viewpoint, I would not
accept it. Therefore, we are right now engaging ourselves. In my dissertation in
2006, when writing my doctorate, I wrote about Canadian Muslim culture, a
reality that is emerging, something that is real even though we do face some
Why do we face some of these challenges when it comes to
interpretation of Islam or sharia? Simply because we are still new in Canada.
About 90 per cent or 95 per cent of Muslims came here in the last 25 or 30
years, so we are still going through the process of settlement. As you know,
every nation, every group, starting from Scots to Jews to Italians to Greek to
Sikh to Hindu, has faced some of these challenges. Muslims are not an exception.
If Muslims do settle well, and we are working towards the process, we will
integrate well, and if we integrate well, we will contribute well. Thank you.
The Chair: Time is running past us. I have two senators
with questions, Senator Beyak and Senator Wells, and then we will adjourn.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, gentlemen, for coming. I just
have one question following -up from Senator Dagenais. We have been told, as
have Canadians watching, that Muslim or sharia law does not treat women equally,
and other special groups. How do you feel as imams about that? Do Muslim women
have equal rights under your laws?
Mr. Soharwardy: I'm going to answer to both senators.
The Chair: Please try to make it concise.
Mr. Soharwardy: I will make it concise.
First of all, we have to understand that there are different
interpretations even of sharia. When you see the sharia in Saudi Arabia and when
you saw that a woman was sentenced to death by stoning because she was raped,
for us, that is not sharia. You have to understand that sharia is also
different. Within the Suni, there are five sharia, and there are others. Sharia
is not unanimous. Sharia is not monolithic either.
In Sharia, I believe women have equal rights. The way the Quran
describes the rights, the relationship between men and women, the wife is a
garment for the husband, and the husband is a garment for the wife. The wife is
a protection for the husband, beauty for husband, comfort for husband,
absolutely the same thing. There is no discrimination based upon gender. In
Islam, the superiority of any individual is based upon piety and honesty. Better
among you is the one who is more righteous. That can be a woman. There is no
gender-based superiority. There is no stoning to death of a raped person. This
is not sharia for us. We follow the sharia which is a normal, common-sense way
of life. My sharia says follow the laws of the country you live in. That is the
The Chair: Imam Delic, time is passing us by.
Mr. Delic: I think I would just use my example of my own
family. I do have three ladies in the house, my wife and two daughters. I just
say, “Yes, honey, yes, honey and yes, honey.” My wife is a highly educated lady.
She just graduated two years ago from Carleton University in public policy. I'm
not here to talk about what she does, but she is immersed in her teaching right
now at one of the universities in Canada. According to some interpretations, she
would not be allowed to go somewhere here or there. That's not the Islam that we
are promoting. That's not traditional Islam. That's not normative Islam. That is
not intended Islam.
All that we see across the globe are cultural, personal
interpretations and political interpretations for the support of their own
groups or individual benefits. When it comes to Islam, I ask you to come to my
centre, and you would see engagement of our sisters and their impact. The line
that I often suggest in the community is that any Muslim community in Canada
that excludes women from the discourse is actually doing things against Islam
and is doing things against Canadian law, and any community that excludes women
from the process is actually a community that is impacting negatively on the
future of that community and their children.
Senator Wells: Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing in
front of us today. Imam Soharwardy, you mentioned that at a mosque some time ago
in Toronto where you attended, 600 people were in the congregation, and there
were words that I would see as decidedly anti-Canadian to direct them to the
side of the way. First of all, was there any sanction or discussion with the
imam who spoke of that, or do you know of any?
Mr. Soharwardy: No. After the Friday prayer, I went to the
imam and said, “Why did you say these things?” He referenced a certain Islamic
jurisprudence book, and I said, “This is the opinion of a scholar. It is not in
the holy Quran and is not in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be
upon him. That is the opinion of a scholar, and we disagree with that scholar.”
He said, “Well, I quoted him.” So he just brushed off what he said. I said,
“This is not the way you should be preaching Islam. This is not what Islam is
all about. You are spreading your own opinions in the name of Islam, and this is
where the whole confusion starts.”
Certain imams and certain scholars use 13th century or 14th
century books, which is definitely a no-no in this 21st century, but the Holy
Quran and the teachings of my Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, absolutely
fits in this century and the next century, and there is nothing abnormal. It's
the people who misinterpret and people who use those teachings to justify their
own political and economic control on people. It has nothing to do with Islam.
Senator Wells: Thank you. When this was initially spoken
to the congregation — I'm assuming you read the room — how was that received or
what were the comments you heard from the congregation after that? As I said
earlier, it seems a decidedly anti-Canadian sentiment — and perhaps an
Mr. Soharwardy: At that time everybody was quiet because
one of the requirements in our prayer is that when a sermon is delivered you
have to be quiet. You cannot speak. So no one spoke. I'm sure there were other
people but not the whole congregation. Other people were in line when I was
talked to this imam; they were standing behind. I don't know what they said to
him, but I spoke to him and then I moved because we work on Fridays so I have to
go to work after the prayers. I'm sure some of the other people also spoke to
Senator Wells: Imam Delic, an imam who would do that type
of thing I wouldn't necessarily see as radicalized but certainly, as I said
earlier, anti-Canadian. What would you see as a remedy for that type of
Mr. Delic: Thank you. First, I have had such an incident
where an imam has pointed out issues that are not within the line of the way I
understand Islam and, after the prayer, I have helped the community and I have
reprimanded the imam and challenged the imam on the issue. That was very
effective. I know it was very challenging because a guest needs to be respected,
but if a guest does something that would have a negative impact once he leaves,
then it is my obligation to challenge the guest, and I think that the guest
would not use that methodology in the West again.
Second, when I am working with some of the interest groups across
Canada, we have to have some sort of training for imams within the Canadian
context. We do have an amazing institution in our city — St. Paul’s University.
Why not? I have given several proposals, I have done research on the topic, and
I think that's one of the areas where our government, just as in Denmark,
Switzerland and Germany, needs to come forward.
It is not a huge amount of money. Like I said, we will spend more
money on treatment of the problem than on preventative measures. We just need to
come forward with some good ideas, put our minds, hands and hearts together, and
I am quite positive we can do a tremendous job in this area.
The Chair: Colleagues, time has moved on for us,
unfortunately. I know other senators would like to have follow-up questions
here, and perhaps we can do that at another time.
I want to thank you for coming forward with your contributions
and participation in what we've termed a public conversation with Canadians.
I want to apologize to our next panellist for the late start. I
understand you've had a very early morning, shovelling snow at six o’clock to
find your way to the airport and hoping and praying that you would land in
Ottawa, which obviously you have done, and we really appreciate the effort that
Joining us as we continue to look at the issue of terrorism and
radicalization in Canada is Professor Kent Roach, a distinguished academic and
leader in Canadian law, especially on matters of terrorism. Professor Roach has
written numerous books and is a leading expert in this field. We are pleased to
have you here. I understand you have an opening statement.
Kent Roach, Professor, Prichard-Wilson Chair in Law and Public
Policy, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, as an individual: Thank you
very much, Senator Lang, and all senators for this invitation. I'm going to
focus on subsection (d) of your mandate: terrorist operations and prosecutions.
I will speak to it not only with my academic experience, but
having had the privilege of spending two years as a member of the research
advisory committee for the Arar commission and having spent four years as
director of research and legal studies of the Air India commission. Most of my
time with the Air India Commission was devoted to the issue of the relationship
between intelligence and evidence, which was, in fact, one of the five volumes
of the Air India commission report.
I'll start with my bottom line. I have grave concerns that the
Air India commission's reports on intelligence evidence has not been given due
consideration in recent debates and that Bill C-44, and most recently Bill C-51,
may have the unintended effect that will unwittingly make it more difficult to
convert intelligence into evidence and to conduct successful terrorism
Let me just first acknowledge that I know this committee has
heard a lot about the level of the threat, and I have no reason to dispute that.
The UN Security Council, in Security Council Resolution 2178, has recognized
this as something that affects international security. To come back to Air
India, we must remember how even before what has happened over the last year,
very few people motivated by grievances a world away can cause horrific damage.
Of course, 331 people lost their lives in the Air India bombings.
The terrorist threat and the terrible attacks that we've seen in
Canada, Paris, Sydney and elsewhere I think confirm Parliament's wisdom, in
2013, in enacting four new terrorist offences that apply to foreign terrorist
fighters who go abroad. My concern, though, is that with these new bills we may
be sleepwalking into a situation where we're going to make it more difficult to
use those offences in practice.
Now, I accept completely that criminal law should not be the only
strategy to counter terrorism. It is, however, necessary for those who prove
themselves not to be amenable to persuasion and are intent on committing crimes.
The criminal law also has a very powerful symbolic message. It sends a message
of denunciation. It focuses on socially harmful and unacceptable behaviour, as
opposed to the motives, beliefs and grievances that may motivate terrorists or
I actually believe in the old-fashioned idea that no motive
justifies the commission of a crime, especially murder. I think criminal trials
done right play into a counter-narrative that our country is not opposed to
Islam, may not even be opposed to Islamic extremism. It is opposed to violence,
and we will oppose violence in a way that is fair and open, even at the cost of
making our lives more difficult and, yes, perhaps more dangerous.
Now, terrorism investigations and prosecutions are, I think most
would agree, some of the most difficult ones in our criminal justice system. It
was for this reason, in recommendations 3 to 8, in Volume 3, that the Air India
commission recommended the development of a specialized terrorism prosecution
capacity within the Attorney General of Canada.
This committee has heard evidence that as many as 20 prosecutors
work on terrorism prosecutions within the DPP. This is a positive development.
It reflects the hard work that has gone into a number of successful
prosecutions. Nevertheless, in my view, it does not go far enough.
There need to be specialized prosecutors who handle all aspects
of prosecutions, including secrecy claims. You heard that while prosecutors
provide advice to the RCMP, they do not provide advice to CSIS; and you heard
that they see the difficult job of converting intelligence into evidence as one
that the police must deal with.
With respect, this is wrong because secrecy issues, including new
issues that will be produced by Bill C-44's grant of a broad privilege to CSIS
human sources must be anticipated and managed throughout an investigation;
otherwise, they can needlessly delay and even scuttle a terrorism prosecution.
These new developments, Bill C-44 especially, make it even more
important to revisit the Air India commission's recommendations 1 and 2 about
allowing the Prime Minister's National Security Advisor to resolve inevitable
disputes between CSIS and the RCMP. I say this because CSIS and the RCMP will
tell you we work together better and talk, yes, but they have different
mandates. All the goodwill and all the talking is not going to stop the fact
that sometimes intelligence is going to be a priority, and people who collect
intelligence are going to collect intelligence and they're going to promise
confidentiality to sources in order to collect intelligence; and police officers
and prosecutors are going to operate, as they always do, with a view that, yes,
there is crime prevention, but eventually — and these things can turn in an
instant — we have to get evidence in court that can prove guilt beyond a
I'm not here to say prosecutions or intelligence is always the
priority. What I'm here to say is that someone in government must be able to
make those calls on a case-by-case basis in the public interest. My concern is
that it's all well and good to say CSIS’s sources need privilege. My concern is
if you have an investigation and CSIS is the lead, as they are intended to be —
I realize it doesn't happen all the time — then decisions will be made by CSIS
unilaterally that will make it very difficult down the road to conduct a
I would also urge the committee to look at Air India
recommendations 9 to 11 and 15 about the need for CSIS to be more sensitive to
the evidentiary implications of their actions and the consequences of promises
of anonymity that they made to human sources.
Justice Major made those recommendations obviously before
Bill C-44, and he made them partly on the basis of the record of the Air India
investigation, but also on current information at the time of the 2010 report
about how matters were conducted.
I'm not asking, obviously, to revisit the government's decision
to reject the Air India commission's conclusion and recommendation that CSIS's
sources should not have a class-based privilege. I realize that's done; that's
gone. That doesn't mean you throw away the report. Because there is a lot of
information there that, frankly, I don't hear a lot of discussion about, about
how we can make terrorism investigations and prosecutions work.
Now, obviously as an academic I'm fascinated about intelligence
evidence, but this is not an academic issue. Talwinder Singh Parmar, the person
most people think is the mastermind behind Air India, his Hamilton prosecution
collapsed because a witness made perhaps a rational decision that they didn't
want their identity disclosed.
So now we have not only police informer privilege to deal with
but also CSIS human sources privilege to deal with. We have to ask questions
about the RCMP had enough intelligence, in part provided by family and friends,
to stop Couture-Rouleau's foreign terrorist travel but not enough either for
peace bonds or prosecution. Frankly, as an outsider, I don't know enough. But
was the prosecutor in this case trained and experienced in terrorism matters? I
say this not because I'm trying to blame someone. I know — I spent all weekend
trying to understand what Bill C-51 is — that the terrorism provisions in the
Criminal Code are some of the most complex of a very complex and long document.
Bill C-51's proposed lowering of the standard for peace bonds and
preventive arrests — I'll leave aside issues of merit; that's not before us —
is, at most, a temporary solution. Recognizances are not foolproof. One of the
Toronto 18 left Canada and was killed in Syria while he was under one, and
preventive arrests are, at most, only a temporary solution. The ultimate
solution, and I don't pretend it will be easy, is to facilitate prosecutions
Just in conclusion, I'd like to say that, obviously, working on
the intelligence evidence problem, which I think is the central problem
confronting the criminal justice response to terrorism, does not mean that
criminal law is the only or even the best solution to the threats that we face.
We do need to understand how the threat of prosecutions may influence community
and family members who may be understandably reluctant to come forward. This
suggests that there needs to be some safe space where these issues can be
discussed and the resources of Canada's diverse Muslim community, as you just
heard, can be used.
I was struck by the testimony that this committee heard
from Ms. Walrond when she discussed the need to give people honourable ways to
exit from extremism. Obviously, those who are trained and learned in the great
tradition of Islam are our best resource to show those who would use religion as
a justification for violence the errors of their ways.
My final point, motivated by what we are learning about the Paris
attacks and reports that many of Canada's convicted terrorists were at least at
one point in time housed together at the special handling unit at
Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines penitentiary is that the committee must examine the
dangers of prison radicalization. More people may go to prison, and probably
should go to prison with respect to terrorism offences, but they eventually will
get out, and hopefully they will not be more dangerous. Hopefully, they will be
less dangerous when they get out.
Finally, as we move forward with new counterterrorism measures,
we need to look at what the available evidence is, and the Air India commission,
rightly or wrongly, spent four years studying this issue. I think we do that
because this is a very difficult problem. There are no easy solutions, and
there's always the chance that a counterterrorism measure that may look good can
actually have unintended and even counterproductive effects.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Roach. For your
information, we are planning to have a hearing on the Air India report to look
back and see how much of it could be considered going forward. Secondly, we are
also planning to have a hearing in respect to the question of radicalization in
Thank you for your advice.
Mr. Roach: That's great.
Senator Mitchell: Thanks, Dr. Roach. There are so many
questions you've touched on. I want to get to one. You talk about the
relationship between CSIS and the RCMP. It conjures up the issue of oversight
and broader oversight. Depending how you add them up, there may be as many as
10, 12 or 14 different intelligence and police agencies of some sort working in
Do you have an opinion on whether Canada, like the other four of
the Five Eyes, for example, should have a parliamentary oversight with high
security classification of our intelligence community?
Mr. Roach: Yes. I think a parliamentary committee — it
certainly is unusual that our parliamentarians don't have access to secret
information. Having worked on these commissions, it's very difficult to
understand what is going on without at least some secrecy clearance.
I think one of the things that you saw with both the Arar and the
Air India commissions is that commissions of inquiries were necessary because
they, like Parliament, are institutions that are not bound by silos. I certainly
would support a parliamentary committee with access, but the big picture is
we're quite sensibly trying to break down silos and move to a
whole-of-government approach to security and lots of other issues.
Certainly, Justice O'Connor, in the Arar commission's report, did
not say a word against that, but what he was saying is that we do need to then
look on the review and the accountability side and have review and
accountability that are also not in silos. A parliamentary committee may be one
of those devices, but I think, as a general proposition, what is being reviewed
and who is reviewing it, they must be able to follow the trail, whether the
trail requires access to secret information, which is why Parliament would need
access to secret information, but also follow the trail as information goes from
the passport office to CSIS to RCMP, back to CSIS, and so forth.
Senator Mitchell: You made a very good, strong point, I'm
sure we would all agree, about the powerful message that criminal law sends. You
also said that's not the only solution. You talked about the problem of families
and community members coming out. You talked about safe space. In the United
States, apparently, there is a process in some places of a hotline where rather
than phoning the police, if you are concerned with your son having too much
money or too many guns, you can phone and get help. Are you talking about that
kind of thing?
Mr. Roach: I'm talking about that. Listen, I don't pretend
to be an expert on those programs, but I would think that the police and CSIS
would have given some thought to how they can kind of escalate what the
interventions are. As the first step, because people in the community will hear
— and perhaps we don't get accurate information through the media and elsewhere
—- about all of these new offences, and I think it is important that resources
be devoted and thought given to how you can go into the community and say yes,
ultimately there is a criminal offence here, but let's see if we can resolve
this first without resort to criminal prosecution.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for being here. I wanted
to go back a bit to the Air India recommendation for the director of terrorism
prosecution. You touched on that. And forgive me, academics and lawyers probably
have a great understanding of what exactly you're saying, but for the ordinary
person, me included, what do you mean?
Mr. Roach: Terrorism prosecutions are conducted either by
the federal Director of Public Prosecutions or by the provincial attorney
general and sometimes teams who have been put outside of the attorney general's
office partly for reasons of independence.
My concern is you have the line prosecutors working on terrorism
prosecutions, but you also have lawyers from the Attorney General of Canada who
often take instructions through CSIS about secrecy claims. So you could have a
situation where, from a prosecutor's point of view, you want to be able to
disclose as much information to the accused because that's a constitutional
requirement in Canada, and that's not going to change anytime soon. But you
could have someone who is outside of the prosecutorial tent saying, “Oh, we have
to claim national security.” Now, obviously you have to consider the secrecy
issues because, especially in Canada, the secrets can be our own that are very
important to maintain, but they can also be the secrets of our allies.
Basically what the Air India commission said was, you have kind
of this bifurcated process where each person can logically do their job
properly, but the job doesn't get done. This is why it's not about fault. The
person whose job it is to represent CSIS and protect our intelligence gathering
will of course claim secrecy, and they'll think they're doing the right thing.
The line prosecutor might not necessarily think that's the right thing if it’s
going to jeopardize the terrorism prosecution.
Again, in Air India we didn't say that we had one solution to
this. What we said is that you have to break down the silos and not have this
bifurcation. In the end, someone has to be in charge, and that person must make
the difficult call about the competing values of secrecy and intelligence on the
one hand and evidence and disclosure on the other.
So the metaphor that at least was in my mind, and I think in
others' minds, was you needed someone in charge at the prosecutorial level, and
you needed the trial judge in charge in the criminal trial because the same
bifurcation that I talk about happens at the criminal trial. So there's a
criminal terrorist trial, it's going along fine; all of the sudden there's a
secrecy issue, and the lawyer for the Attorney General pops up. That trial judge
cannot make the decision about whether something is disclosed to the accused or
not. You go off to Federal Court.
So again, at the judicial level you can have people of good
faith, integrity, the best judges in the world, but they're given different
tasks. The Supreme Court has said that's constitutional, but once the Federal
Court decides something can't be disclosed, the trial judge has to live with
that. What the Supreme Court of Canada has said is if the trial judge thinks
there can't be a fair trial, then the trial judge should pull the plug on the
What we were suggesting is because of the fact that we don't want
to see a major terrorism trial go kaput three or four years down the road.
Again, I'm not blaming people. I'm just saying when you divide responsibility,
each person can do their job, but the job doesn't get done. The idea was to have
the Director of Public Prosecutions in charge at that level, the trial judge in
charge at that level, and then at the highest level, the proposal was the Prime
Minister's National Security Advisor. There might be others. I'm not here
because I'm going to get royalties if these recommendations are implemented. I'm
here because the public asked all of us to think about this, and I really worry
that we're going to kind of sleepwalk into a situation that frankly wouldn't be
all that different from Air India, where everyone given different jobs will do
their jobs rationally, but something very bad will happen, whether it's the act
of terrorism or a terrorism prosecution that can't go to trial.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Roach.
I would like to come back to a study done on the Islamic State’s
use of Twitter, a study that was commissioned by Google Ideas, through the
Brookings Institute. The study revealed that the more Twitter limits and
suppresses active accounts held by Islamic State users and partisans, the more
it prevents them from regenerating and feeding the network.
In light of those findings, do you not think that government
surveillance — particularly through the proposed anti-glorification bill — would
be useful in an anti-radicalization campaign?
Mr. Roach: Thank you for your question.
I think part of Bill C-51 actually could be quite useful.
Professor Forcese and I did a study that predated Bill C-51, so we obviously
weren't privy to the actual language being used. The study talked about the
prospect of extending the judicial warrant model that was put into the
Anti-terrorism Act that allows a judicial order to block hate propaganda from
That part of Bill C-51, the judicial order, I think is
constructive. I go back to the criminal law having an educative value. I'm not
aware of any reported case where hate propaganda has been taken off the
Internet, but I could see some value of having a neutral, independent person
decide whether this is or is not hate propaganda. I think there would be an
educative force and also legitimacy. I think that is much better than just
having the police or CSIS go to the Internet provider and say, “Well, you really
should take this down” because there are going to be borderline issues.
So the procedure of Bill C-51 with respect to the Internet I
think is basically sound. The issue of the definition of what is terrorist
propaganda I think is a much thornier one. As I said, since Bill C-51 came out,
my family is extremely mad at me because they didn't see me the whole weekend as
I was trying to understand it. I do have some reservations about some of the
language that is used to define terrorist propaganda and some of the language
that is used to define, advocate and promote terrorism offences in general. It's
a very complex provision. I think over the next few weeks, we will try to
provide our analysis of it, and I hope that it will be thoroughly debated.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Professor Roach, for your
insights and observations. They're excellent for us.
Could you give me some thoughts on radicalization in the prisons?
Some people are concerned with what happens when inmates come out. Do you have
some thoughts on whether we should isolate them in the prisons in separate
sections, and when they come out or their sentence is up, if we should keep them
longer for special observation?
Mr. Roach: That's a very difficult issue. It does seem to
me that housing people together who are convicted of terrorism is probably not a
good idea. I also think, though, that saying everyone who is convicted of a
terrorism offence goes into administrative segregation could also be a bad idea
because if mental illness is, at least on the edge, an issue, the evidence is
growing and is quite clear that solitary confinement — we can call it
administrative segregation, but basically it means being in your cell 23 hours a
day — has harmful effects.
So again, I'm not an expert on prison radicalization, so I can't
give you any specific recommendation, but obviously, after Paris, this is an
I think one of the things that you may see with Bill C-51 — and
again, people are not talking about this yet — if there is more use of
recognizances and those are breached — and those may be breached for
relatively — it really depends on what the judge tells the person that they
can't do — then you may have people for short periods going into the provincial
facility. So you also have a federal-provincial issue.
Even if Corrections Canada had a good evidence-based program, I
think there would also be a need to reach out to the provinces where, of course,
many of these people are denied bail and held in pretrial custody for long
periods of time.
The problems, I think, are complex and cannot just be dealt with
at the Corrections Canada level. They also have to be dealt with at the
provincial level, and ideally it seems to me that if we can work with
responsible people within the Muslim community, that is the best way to teach
people that what they think has support in their religion actually doesn't have
support in their religion.
The only other program that I am familiar with — and I'm quite
struck quite by it — is I've taught in and I've done some research in Singapore.
Of course Singapore has something called the Internal Security Act, which allows
indeterminate detention. It's even entrenched in Singapore's constitution. From
a Canadian's perspective, it is not a fair trial. Singapore is, as you may know,
a country with a 15 per cent Muslim minority surrounded by Malaysia to the north
and Indonesia to the south, so Singapore takes terrorism very seriously.
They have apprehended, since 9/11, the last time I checked, about
60 people under the Internal Security Act as suspected terrorists, many
affiliated with a terrorist group that was behind the Bali bombings. Of those,
the last time I checked, 40 of them had already been released after a
rehabilitation program that included not only the prisoners but their families.
Obviously what works in Singapore is not necessarily going to
work in Canada, but I do think that there is something where there is a sense in
Singapore, for all of its faults, that these people are our citizens, it's our
problem, and certainly it's also an issue for the larger Muslim community. But I
am struck, as a lawyer, by the fact that a system that I would immediately brand
as procedurally unfair actually has a degree of commitment to rehabilitation
that is often lacking in Western democracies.
The last thing I'll say is, again, when I looked at the research
on the Singapore program, the recidivism rate — it's not even recidivism,
because if there are dangerous signs, a person can be detained again under the
Internal Security Act. I think it was maybe one person out of 40. No
rehabilitation program is foolproof, but it does seem quite effective. It's the
idea of using resources within the Muslim community but also thinking about
where that person will go once they emerge from prison, what family and
friendship circle will influence them.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much. We can learn from
other jurisdictions sometimes. That's a great observation. Thank you.
The Chair: Colleagues, I'd like to follow up before we go
to second round on an area that the witness referred to, and that was, I
believe, the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is a recommendation, the way I
understand it, in the Air India report as well.
Would that type of structure require a legislative change in
order to be put into place, or could you do it administratively if you chose to
administer this aspect of the criminal law in the manner that you describe?
Mr. Roach: I think it might require an amendment of the
Director of Public Prosecutions Act. Our recommendation was that the director be
housed within the Attorney General's department because the Attorney General's
department is the one that plays the role under section 38, which relates to
national security, confidentiality. So I think that it may require an amendment.
But it would also be, I think, recognition that secrecy claims are part and
parcel of the vast majority of terrorism prosecutions.
Senator White: Thank you for being here today, professor.
I'm going to take you on a sidetrack away from Air India and some
of the discussion you've had there. We've heard witnesses from CSIS and others
in relation to terrorism financing, in particular money leaving Canada to go
overseas to finance terrorism. You have a lot of thoughts about what we should
be doing. What do you think we should be doing about that?
Mr. Roach: The Air India commission has a volume on
terrorism financing, but I'm actually more comfortable speaking of just my own
The worldwide community after 9/11 really grabbed a hold of
terrorism financing, and I think that from the evidence that I've been able to
see, it has probably overinvested in terrorism financing. I think the evidence
that this committee heard is two terrorism financing convictions, forfeiture
orders with respect to the Tamil Tigers. I think that terrorism financing is
probably more of an entree into the intelligence stream, so using it as a means
to figure out who is linked with someone.
Another thing which the Air India Commission doesn't speak about,
but I think after Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu we really do have to think about, is
the so-called Al Capone strategy. Americans really have no compunction about, if
there's a case or if they think they cannot develop a case, as with Al Capone on
the organized crime, they will use the income tax. In some ways, I see terrorism
financing as almost an Al Capone backup strategy, but the reality is we don't
know exactly how much Air India cost, but most of these things can be financed
on someone's credit card with a decent limit.
I do appreciate that we have international obligations; I
appreciate there's FINTRAC; I appreciate that we play an international role. But
I have to say, as an independent scholar looking at this, why we stress
terrorism financing after 9/11, I think it was because of bin Laden; I think it
was because of the 1999 terrorism financing convention. I think when the 9/11
commission looked at how even 9/11 was financed, their conclusion was that
terrorism financing laws wouldn't necessarily have caught that.
So I'm frankly a little bit on the skeptical side. It's there; it
should be used to gather intelligence. It should be there perhaps as an Al
Capone backup, but I wouldn't put all the eggs in that basket.
Senator White: It's interesting you talk about the special
investigations of Revenue Canada, it used to be called. If we're to involve
them, would you not see that we would require legislation to allow information
to flow from our agencies to SI? Today it can flow SI partially to CSIS, but it
can't flow the other way.
Mr. Roach: Yes.
Senator White: So you're suggesting we would have to add
legislation for sharing of intelligence as well?
Mr. Roach: Yes, and obviously that's the step being taken
with Bill C-51.
This isn't the place, and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to
testify about Bill C-51, and we're only beginning to think about it. But the
whole information sharing, there is the accountability piece, but also, frankly,
we're going to have to look at Charter jurisprudence a little more closely.
Some recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions suggest information
sharing may actually trigger some Charter issues. My first glance at that part
of Bill C-51 makes me think there's a lot that needs to be discussed and
But, yes, I do take your point, and again my point has never been
that we should not have a whole-of-government response to security. It is simply
that, if we do that, we also have to make sure that those who review it can look
through the same broad spectrum and that they're not stuck in 20th century silos
when we're doing things quite appropriately in a 21th century,
Senator Mitchell: I'd like to just follow up, actually,
now that you've mentioned it. I had something else, but that's been covered.
The Charter issues that may be related to Bill C-51 are where it
will be attacked, and it already has been in a Globe and Mail editorial
today. I think you alluded to the fact that there may be ways to get around it
or solve that. What might those be?
Mr. Roach: What I was alluding to, Senator Mitchell, and
this goes back to my contributions to the debate around Bill C-36, is that I
agree with you that the issue of the Charter makes things politically salient.
But just like when the Anti-terrorism Act came out after 9/11, I wasn't
convinced that I could responsibly, as a constitutional lawyer, say
investigative hearings were unconstitutional, but I did feel like I should say
that I wasn't sure it was very good policy.
One of the reasons I didn't think it was very good policy was the
broad immunity trail that comes from the use of an investigative hearing.
I think that there is going to be an awful lot of debate in Bill
C-51 about whether advocacy and promotion of a terrorism offence is or is not
constitutional. The government is going to argue that it amounts to threats of
terrorism, and the Supreme Court of Canada in Khawaja held that threats
of terrorism are not protected speech.
Others will argue that the new offence, given what is already
criminalized in terms of speech, right, because the terrorist activity refers to
threats and counsel — it isn't like violence or a threat of violence — that it
violates the freedom of expression and can't be justified under section 1.
I will play my role in that debate, but I think especially the
Senate, the chamber of sober second thought, you go back to what Edmund Burke
said: You don't always do that which a lawyer tells you you can do. In some
ways, I think that's how the United States got into trouble after 9/11. They put
too much faith in what a few lawyers from very good schools told them they could
Again, this isn't the place to argue promotion and advocacy of
terrorism, but I would hope that our political leadership would at least ask the
question: Even if there is a Charter argument to defend it, is it good policy?
What you heard on the panel before me, and what you heard about
this issue of alienating and stigmatizing people, I would hope that that would
at least be considered as a part of this debate.
Senator Stewart Olsen: This is not a little question, but
I hope you can give me a short answer. What can you do if, as our previous
witnesses said, imams are preaching radicalization? What can we do about that?
Mr. Roach: I think it has to kind of be moral suasion and
leadership from within the Islamic community. Also Canadians saying, look,
someone is reported to have said that and this is wrong. I think one of the
reasons Professor Forcese and I wrote what we did about glorification and
apology was a sense that, even as lawyers, we were starting to recognize the
limits of law.
Western democracies cannot chuck pluralism and freedom of
religion because of this real threat. But just because the law can't do it, it
doesn't mean we don't have other social institutions and strengths that can
delegitimize things that are hateful and violent and so forth.
The Chair: I would like to go on to one other area. My
understanding is that in France, for the purpose of the prosecution of
terrorism, they have a separate court. In your consideration of Air India, did
you evaluate that?
Mr. Roach: Yes.
The Chair: In view of what has transpired since and what
we are facing looking forward, what are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Roach: Senator Lang, you're very right that France and
a number of other European countries have special courts. They're really
specialized prosecutors, because the French system is an investigative one. So I
have no problems with specialized prosecutors. I would, frankly, have a problem
with a specialized court. In most terrorism offences the accused is going to
have a right to a jury trial if they face five years or more.
Going back to what I was saying, the criminal law is a powerful,
educational, symbolic tool we have. Creating a terrorist court would send the
wrong messages. I'm not saying we should jump to prosecutions at all times, but
I think that when we do jump to prosecutions, and when you think of Khawaja and
the Toronto 18, there's a powerful message being sent when we say, “We allege
you're a criminal, we're going to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt with
public evidence, and you've got a right to a trial by jury.” Because it seems to
me that once someone has gone through that process, then any right-thinking
people have to accept that there is something terribly wrong here. Again, to
come back to within the Air India commission, it was no secret that I was seen
as a kind of defender of the criminal law approach. Yes, a special court was
considered. It was not recommended. If anything, what was recommended was giving
up the Federal Court special jurisdiction over national security confidentiality
and giving that back to the trial judge, as is the case in the United States, in
Australia and in the United Kingdom.
The Chair: Before we conclude, I have one other question
in a whole different area, if I could, now that we have you before us and you've
taken the time to be here.
In Australia there is a law that prohibits their citizens from
taking up arms to fight for a cause that is not Australia's, apparently under
their foreign enlistment act. Do you see any merit in that type of approach in
view of what we're facing here in Canada?
Mr. Roach: Yes. I think, as Professor Forcese told you,
there is an argument that that might simplify things to say that someone going
to Syria to fight, you don't even have to prove the four new offences.
Having said that, I would think twice before recommending that. I
actually think Canada was ahead of the curve with the new foreign fighter
offences in 2013, and I think that we don't necessarily want to send out the
message I see, frankly.
I have the two Australian legislative
responses on my desk and they are just huge, and the U.K. is moving that way.
There may be a need for some
adjustment, but, with some exceptions, we have 14 terrorism offences already in
the Criminal Code. That's a lot. If we work on the intelligence evidence issue,
we should be able to use those without necessarily creating new offences.
Frankly, an enhanced foreign enlistment law that has a list of countries you can
and can't fight in, I think, could be a problem. Anything that suggests that the
universality of the law does not apply, and that we're picking and choosing
favourites, undermines the legitimacy of the law.
The rule of law is legitimate because
there are universal standards that apply to everybody. I think that is a huge
virtue of the criminal law that we should never sacrifice.
The Chair: Thank you,
Professor Roach. I want it to be said that you obviously have an opinion, and we
appreciate your taking the time and bringing your thoughts forward in our
Joining us for our final panel today is Ms. Homa Arjomand, a
leading civil rights advocate and former refugee from Iran. Ms. Arjomand has had
a harrowing journey to Canada and has worked hard to help prevent radicalization
Ms. Arjomand, we are delighted that you could take the time off
from your busy schedule to be here today. I understand you have an opening
statement, so please proceed.
Homa Arjomand, Coordinator of The Campaign in Defense of
Women's Rights in Iran, as an individual: I would like to thank Senate
committee for giving me this opportunity to address some of the problems I
witness first hand as a transitional support counsellor and survivor of sharia
court in Iran.
The focus of today's meeting is the prevention of radicalization
in Canada. In order to address this matter, I have decided to divide my
discussions into the following parts: First, I will briefly talk about problems
within the so-called Islamic communities. Then I will continue on issues that
members of this community face with society at large. At the end, I will focus
on suggestions that I am sure will prevent radicalization in Canada.
First, the setback within the so-called Islamic communities:
Gender apartheid, segregation of men and women and oppression of women take the
grossest and the most outrageous forms in these so-called Islamic communities —
polygamy, arranged marriages, child brides, child trafficking for the purpose of
marriage, and Islamic rent-a-wife, called seeghehs. Honour killings have
become a practice in these communities. Men are considered to be the head of the
household, sometimes a second God. Men control and run family finances, choice
of residency, inheritance, employment, divorce, custody of children, and
division of property according to their own culture and tradition and religion,
imposing housework or housekeeping duties on young girls and young women,
sometimes as young as six or eight years old, imposing severe penalties,
intimidation, restrictions of freedom and degrading women and girls in family,
imposing head cover on children as young as four or five years old. Believe it
or not, I've seen them at mosque at eight months old. They are preventing
children from attending recreation courses such as sport, dance, music and
swimming; forcing children to attend Islamic school and encouraging them to
follow religious dogma and backward tradition, as a result promoting hate
towards the followers of other religions or nonreligious people or promoting
hate towards gay and lesbians and all Westerners; forcing children to attend and
participate in religious ceremonious that are incompatible with the law and
regulation regarding health, hygiene, environment and Western values; and
imposing cruelty to animals.
The members of these so-called Islamic communities are living in
Canada but are strictly influenced by sharia law and regulation. As just
mentioned, there are various different types of sharia, and they're almost the
same for anyone who is outside these communities.
But let us focus on problems that members of these communities,
especially youth, face in this society: isolation, segregation, discrimination,
insecurity, confusion, undervaluation, no validation from mainstream society, no
hope for a better future, helplessness, passivity, lack of social support, lack
of state support, joblessness and poverty.
Unfortunately, the policy of multiculturalism has created the
above problem. This policy has divided the Canadian society into various
religious and ethnic communities. This policy has promoted tolerance and respect
for so-called minority opinions and beliefs instead of promoting respect of the
rights of those individuals and of those communities. These individuals,
especially women and children, are left with no rights of immunity of body and
mind, with no guarantee of necessity of normal life in present-day society, with
no assurance of individual independence, with no ability to seek the truth about
all areas of social life and without equal status in family.
The policy of multiculturalism and cultural relativism provided
religion with many opportunities to impose their own rules on a specific
community within the greater society. It allowed Islamists, the political Islam,
to grow and penetrate into the Canadian system. It was not long ago when
political Islam tried to establish sharia court in Canada. If it was not for the
voice of International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada and thousands of
activists across Canada and the world, demanding one law for all, and that must
be a secular law, political Islam would now be part of the justice system. It
was the force of secularism that pushed back the establishment of sharia court
In addition to multiculturalism, implementing cultural relativism
caused a huge barrier for women, children and youth to integrate. This policy
left people in these communities at the mercy of religion and backward culture.
Culture and religion have become the primary issue dictating people's lives.
Culture has become more important than equality of men and women, the rights of
the individual and children's rights.
In these communities, Aqsa Parvez and members of the Shafia
family can be sentenced to death by their own family members because of family
beliefs, for not honouring the backward culture and traditions that are promoted
and guarded by the religious movement, in particular, the Islamic movement
Cultural relativism has become another means to increase
religious schools and centres. Under the notion of freedom of religion, the
state has legally funded religious schools and centres and placed the children
under religious dogma and tradition. With money pouring from Saudi Arabia, Iran
and other states, and with moola and imams being imported to Canada, the result
is very obvious. The state has paved the path for more segregation, isolation
and discrimination by denying children the opportunity of associating with
others and preventing the children and their families from progressing in a
modern society such as Canada.
Bear in mind that Canada is not an isolated country away from all
this mess that is happening globally. Canada is directly and indirectly affected
by it. I'm not talking about the military action against ISIS or economic or
political sanction against Islamic State of Iran. I am talking about permitting
the key persons of political Islam, that is, the Islamic regime of Iran, the
ones who are directly involved in executions of political opponents and
oppositions and followers of other faiths, to become citizens of Canada. These
key individuals, sooner or later, with financial support they receive from
Islamists, will push to become active members of the Canadian system. We should
not be surprised if we see these key persons as active members of various
parties in Canada or even MPs. Right now, they are building, organizing and
leading their agenda in Canada and expanding their political movement not only
in Canada but globally.
Dear senators, radicalization in Canada or elsewhere could not
happen if Islamists could not count on their followers. Unfortunately, Canada
with its policy of cultural relativism has created enough division, isolation
and segregation and created an environment of youth who are confused,
brainwashed, lost and hopeless. These vulnerable youth have now become perfect
targets for Islamists. It is enough if Islamists address them as brothers as
sisters, assist them or their families financially. They pay their bills or
provide with them some type of education in their centres or abroad such as
England and Germany.
What are these youth going to lose? If they are not rewarded now,
they will be rewarded after death. That is how they've been raised and educated
with no influence from society at large.
Whom to blame? I start with myself among all other women,
children, and human rights activists for not pushing harder for a secular school
system for all, for integration, for separation of religion and state totally,
for religion to become a private matter for adult individuals.
Next, I blame the system for not protecting these vulnerable,
precious children and youth, for not defending women's rights, for compromising
children's rights and for not enforcing one law for all citizens of Canada.
How can we prevent radicalization? Unfortunately, it's not a
quick fix, but I strongly believe radicalization can be stopped with a
combination of public education and legislation. Our society must accept one set
of progressive laws and regulations for all, irrespective of sex, race,
ethnicity and country of origin. One progressive law for all must be enforced.
It is the government's duty to protect the individual. There must be no state
within a state, only one secular state and secular society that respects human
rights, can ensure women's liberation and the safety of children.
Canada needs to focus on integration rather than cultural
relativism and put more effort toward individual rights rather than minority
rights as a whole, as if all members of one community are homogenous, and you
all know that it is not. Canada must stop cultural relativism right now, make
sure religion and state are totally separate from the justice system and
education, stop funding religious schools and centres, and, instead, pay more
attention to a school's needs, the creation of more sport sports, music and art
centres and make them free and accessible for all children under age of 18.
Excuse my language, but Canada needs to stop flirting with
political Islam. They are not simply jihadists or gangsters. They are not cults
or sects. Political Islam is a political movement and is seeking more power and
validation from the West, and for it, they are willing to do all they can to be
recognized, from harsh inhumane acts, such as kidnapping girls from school and
forcing them into marriage or recruiting youth from these so-called Islamic
communities. They have a thirst for validation and the achievement of heroism.
Focus on public education toward equality of men and women and
against domestic violence. This can be accomplished through comic books,
computer games, TV programs, stand-up comedians and all other children's
programs. Encourage creative writing that focuses on human rather than religious
We need more writers and poets who can substitute Islamic heroism
with heroes who put humanity at the centre of the universe with passion and
In defending unconditional freedom of expression, religion should
never be exceptional.
On the international level, do not have diplomatic relationships
with political Islam. That means closing down their embassies and not
associating with any of their political leaders.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Arjomand. Before we begin, I
understand that you and your family have a story that should be imparted to
Canadians about how your family immigrated to Canada. Perhaps you could take a
couple of minutes and speak to the senators and the general public about a story
of immigration that I think everybody should hear.
Ms. Arjomand: Thank you for allowing me to be here as a
voice of a woman who is fighting for equality between men and women.
I was a fighter — when we say “fighter,” an advocate of women's
rights and children. These days we can't use “fighter” as if you carry gun and
go everywhere, but advocate for equality between men and women.
My life was in danger. One of my students whom I used to teach at
college and university in Tehran, who was working for the Iranian government,
and I didn't know, let me know that my life and safety were in danger. Right
then, the revolutionary guards were occupying my house, and she just wrote a
handwritten note and left it in my pocket.
We had to wear these long dresses and a jacket and cover our
heads. It was wintertime. So at that time, I read the note in the bathroom. I
had no choice but to run away. Of course, as an activist, we always have a plan
in case anything like that happened, where to go, what to do. At that time, I
sent another student of mine to pick up my two children from daycare.
I also had a code. We're talking about a long time ago, 1987-88.
My husband and I had a code between us. If I say I need milk for my daughter
Rona, it means my life is in danger. So I phoned him and I said, “Rona doesn't
have milk. You have to buy milk.” He knew he could not go home. He had to go
somewhere safe, a location we had previously planned. We all went there. I
picked up my children at the safe place I was supposed to meet them, and two
days later we hired a smuggler. We had already been in contact with that
smuggler. We paid the smuggler money, and we had to cross the border.
In Iran, every city was monitored by guards, and according to all
the other activists who send messages out through their family members, my
picture was drawn in prisons and shown to everyone, whether they knew my name
and where I was. No one would be active under their real name.
Anyway, at that point we had to cross the border. It was very
hot. We rode horses through Kurdistan, and it was horrible. The scene at that
time, you can't read about it in any books. I have never seen anything like it.
We had to travel during the night, only three hours a night by
horse, with no use of a bathroom and no food. Women supported us because the
smuggler let the villagers know that I fight for women's rights. Their husbands
didn't know they were hiding us in different places. My children and I were
sleeping with cows, sheep and goats in three or four different villages.
Then we managed to escape and reach Turkey. By the time we
arrived there, a few activists had already mentioned my name as someone who
advocates for women's rights. When I entered the United Nations, they already
knew about me, and they immediately accepted my case and I immediately started
working for the United Nations. Through the United Nations, I started working
for the Canadian embassy, the Australian embassy, the Swedish embassy and the
British embassy as an interpreter.
Luckily enough, all the officers at the different embassies
suggested that I could be guaranteed admission into their countries as a landed
immigrant or permanent resident. I chose Canada, and believe me I chose Canada
because of multiculturalism. I heard so often that in Sweden they discriminated
against people of different colour.
I arrived in Canada. It didn't take me long. Within four or five
months, I realized that multiculturalism and cultural relativism are something
harsh, an invisible barrier against women's and children's rights. To me, it's
like the Great Wall of China. It's so hard to penetrate these walls. This
cultural relativism and multiculturalism divided the society into different
sections. You can ask any new immigrant or anyone who has been here a hundred
years — for example, the Amish. Ask them how many years they've been here.
They've never integrated. They don't have to. They have their own mechanics,
their own doctors and their own centres. Why should they integrate? And society
So it's cheaper for the Canadian government, I believe, because
family disputes are resolved within their own communities, by their own leaders.
So it's harsh when it comes to so-called Islamic communities, when it comes to
back world culture.
If somebody said to me that people coming from Russia don't have
any complaints, they don't have complaints because they don't need to emphasize
integration. They live next to each other, but they use Canadian law.
The reality is, when immigrants come from so-called Islamic
countries, such as Iran, Bangladesh and Pakistan, they already have this
invisible wall around them, and they have their own laws and regulations that
existed 1,400 years ago. It's impossible for these women and children to
penetrate. You know what? They allow these Islamic schools to grow like
mushrooms, and these children are already there. They're being brainwashed.
I talked to one of my clients. I work with abused women, the ones
that the police and victim services are already involved with. They refer them
to us. They have broken arms and hips, you name it. So an assault has happened,
and they need to attend court.
After two or three days, these women — and I work with them —
because of pressure they receive from members of their family and the community,
even though police have charged the husband, they come and they cry and they
want the charges dropped.
I work with the children as well. The Let's Talk program is one
where we work with children. The children disclose to me that at the age of 10
or 11, they cry to God when they pray. They want God to take their parents to
heaven because they're not a good practitioner, because the imam, the leader,
the teacher, whoever teaches them told them their parents are not real Muslims.
The way we teach you is real Muslim. For every prayer they do, they cry and ask
God to take their parents to heaven because they're not practising Islam. We're
talking about brainwashing. That's what this is.
Also, because of what happens to them, they're isolated. Look at
youth between the ages of 14 and 15. The drop-out rate in these communities is
so high. What happens to these youth? There is no trade. The parents kick them
out. Where do they go? To mosques, to centres, and all these centres are,
unfortunately, funded by whom? The Canadian government is well aware of where
the monies come from, but that doesn't stop it. So these centres are run, and
they're brainwashing our children.
The previous panellists were talking about imams imported from
different countries, and I strongly believe it's true. But when they come to
this country, they don't have to talk; their presence is enough for the audience
to know which side he is on. I don't need to challenge him. The fact that he
arrived in Canada shows that the Canadian government is bending for political
Islam. I'm not worried about Muslims —
The Chair: Ms. Arjomand, I appreciate your passion and
what you have to say, but I believe some senators have questions, and perhaps we
can discuss from that point of view.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, Ms. Arjomand. You've had a
sweeping presentation, and it seems to me there are two themes. One would be
your concern with multiculturalism. I would, for the record, disagree quite a
bit with that. I think our multiculturalism has actually allowed people to
integrate in a way that doesn't occur in Britain, for example, where you have
compounded problems of isolation and that over time, generation after
generation, integration occurs in a very acceptable way.
The other broad theme is the relationship between religion and
state. It seems to me that you're actually saying, for example, that the state,
the government should say to the Muslim religion and to other religions, “Women
must be imams and women must be allowed to be priests.” It seems to me the
implication of what you're saying is that government would tell religions that
they must marry gays.
We need to be very, very careful about the relationship between
church and state. Are you saying that you think government should actually right
the purported wrongs that you see in various religions and just draft a law and
say, “Sorry, your religious tenet is contrary to the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms and women should be priests and women should be ministers and women
should be imams” — I'm very concerned about these equality issues myself — “and
gays should be married; you must marry them”? Is that what you're saying?
Ms. Arjomand: No, I'm not saying any of the above, not at
all. When I go against multiculturalism in Britain and France, everywhere is
cultural relativism. I should emphasize cultural relativism rather than
multiculturalism. I know it's our constitutions, and it takes such a long time
for us to make any changes, not that I believe in it. But cultural relativism is
sensitivity that police, nurses and doctors, all social workers, all teachers,
everyone, even you as senators, are educated to be sensitive towards culture,
And to put it in practice, I give you one simple example. If
police are called because of domestic violence, the daughter picked up the phone
because the father is hitting the mother and throwing her younger brother
towards the wall, police would arrive. But as soon as the door is open and they
realize that they come from a different country, let's say Pakistan, Iran,
Bangladesh, Afghanistan, police would take the guy away and say, “Here is
Canada. Don't punish your wife. I want you to respect your wife.” No arrest
happens; no restraining order is put in place; no children are going for
counselling; no father is going for counselling; no restraining order from the
court that says within 500 metres you have no right to contact this family until
he receives help.
But unfortunately, cultural relativism, sensitivity towards the
culture, it dictates or enforces culture on police. Even though the crime has
happened, they are taught to be sensitive towards a different culture. What
happens is there is not one law for all. The father will go and stay at a
friend's house for an hour, two hours, a night, and then returns back home
because he's not charged, because he's not sent for any kind of counselling.
So this is what I meant when I said one law for all, and that
should be a secular law for all. I want enforcement of law. It doesn't matter
where the background of these families are. It doesn't matter what colour they
are, what religion they are. I don't want culture to become more important than
children's rights and women's rights.
I don't want government to say, “You become a priest or not
become a priest.” That's their own private matters. But I want the government to
say, “You have no right to abuse your children and your spouse, and if you do
so, you are arrested and you are put in jail and you have to go for power
program and you have to go for long-term counselling before you return back
Senator Mitchell: But our laws say that. They say that.
They say that. That's one of the things about Canada; we're treated equally
under the law. I believe that.
Do you have documented cases, studies that indicate that police
actually treat multicultural family violence differently than they treat
Ms. Arjomand: Yes. The Shafia family is a good example.
I'm just giving you the actual case that has reached the media. Shafia family is
the best example I can give you, and through my own casework, I have at least 60
per cent of them. But the Shafia family, because the media picked it up,
everyone is aware. It's is a good example of that.
Police were involved not once but several times in their house
because of abuse. The father never was arrested, never. If he was Canadian,
White Canadian, he would be arrested; he would be put in jail; he would go for
power program, and the children would go for counselling, as well as the father.
But that's a good example that I can give you.
But if you want more case studies, believe me, I'm not lying;
this is the reality that I am facing as a counsellor. I have attended cultural
sensitivity, which we call it, cultural relativism. I have attended several
workshops. I have to respect culture instead of respecting individuals within
that culture. This is what it hurts.
But I don't want the Canadian government to dictate women to be a
priest or not be a priest. I want the Canadian government to protect vulnerable
people, and among them are children and women.
Senator Mitchell: It would be helpful if you could give us
some of these case studies or give us some evidence that you've got that's not
just anecdotal but that comes from a scientific base, because what you're saying
We don't know, but not only that, I think you'll find people say
it's extremely difficult in all walks of life to prosecute family violence, and
it's not just something that's occurring in a “multicultural” community.
Violence against women and children is a much broader issue, and its sole reason
is not multicultural phenomena or different interpretations by police forces.
Ms. Arjomand: You want me to give examples through all my
case studies and the cases I'm working. If you go to any shelter and count the
women who come from Pakistan or Iran or Afghanistan, it's hardly ever. If you
see among all these people who go to shelters or outreach programs, 90 per cent
of them are Canadians who know about their rights, not because Canadians are
more abused but because they know more about their rights. It's not because
police would not go to any other so-called different ethnicity for domestic
violence. It's just because they have become more sensitive towards culture and
not many of them are arrested.
As I said, women will come to us if the husband or abuser is
arrested. If the husband or abuser is not arrested, then there is no need for us
to get involved unless the woman knows about her rights. As I said, this
invisible wall would not allow these women to know about their rights. As a
result, if you study — as a Senate, I'm respecting that it's easy to have access
to case studies — how many domestic violence abusers — it doesn't matter whether
it's a woman or man — have been arrested who come from Pakistan, Iran,
Afghanistan, Syria? Just look at those cases.
Does that mean that the Pakistani women are less abused, that
Iranian women are never abused by their husband and their father? That's not the
reality. The reality is the enforcement, the police, are more sensitive. They
taught them to be sensitive. They're so afraid to be questioned at court because
of discrimination. They are taught to be more sensitive towards culture and
towards their ethnicity than to enforcing the Canadian law, unfortunately.
That's easy access to the public record.
Senator Dagenais: First, I listened to your presentation,
and I understand quite well when you talk about male domination in Iranian
Obviously, I do not really agree with you when you say, however,
that when the police are called, they are more tolerant toward people of other
ethnic backgrounds. When spousal violence is involved, the police arrest the
husband if the wife has laid charges. I must admit that, often, a wife will not
dare to lay charges because she is afraid of her husband, which is why the
police cannot arrest the husband.
I am in a good position to tell you this because I was a police
officer for 39 years. I responded to complaints of spousal violence many times,
once in the case of an Iranian couple. I can tell you that the husband dominated
the wife and, unfortunately, the wife never dared lay charges. We referred her
to a women’s shelter, but we could not arrest the husband because no charges had
been laid. As for the children, we notified the youth protection branch.
I agree with you that the man is often domineering. Perhaps it is
different among Canadians because women lay charges, but it is difficult when
there are no charges.
Police forces are overseen by oversight organizations, including
discipline and ethics committees, and by the Privacy Commissioner. So you will
understand that, when we arrest someone, we need to have a charge and evidence.
Unfortunately, women are often scared and do not lay charges. That was not the
topic of my question, but I wanted to mention it to you anyway.
Having said that, we talked about sharia, and there was a case in
Montreal where, unfortunately, three or four people were killed. The car was
found in a canal, and everyone thinks it was an honour killing.
Do you think that having sharia in Canada is a danger for
You recommended that the government adopt tougher laws. There is
the multiculturalism aspect, as well. How do you think the government could make
provisions to limit the practice of sharia in Canada?
Ms. Arjomand: I'm not going to expand on that, because I
think the public record will show and give a good example and insight on the law
and regulations in here. There is also the amount of money that the Canadian
government spends for sensitivity, to be more sensitive towards culture while,
in my opinion, we should be more sensitive towards individuals.
But there are other things that I'd like to emphasize, like that
one law for all. Polygamy is illegal in Canada, but the reality is there is no
enforcement. So if somebody is a polygamist in this country, which I have seen
recently, no one is going to arrest him for committing polygamy.
With respect to if Canada is in danger because of sharia law, the
reality is that if I run as a coordinator of an international campaign against
sharia code in Canada, if I run an international campaign for one law in
Ontario, that shows how much I believe that it's dangerous to Canadian values.
Why does something that is considered to be an issue in Ontario need an
international campaign? Because of the cultural sensitivity. I knew if other
activists across the world would not come out against political Islam — not
Muslim, political Islam — who are seeking validation, who want to run their own
state — ISIS is political Islam.
If I knew that it's not dangerous to the population in Ontario, I
would never put my life in danger. I've already escaped danger once or twice to
run an international campaign against it. I involve all the activists in France,
Germany, Sweden, Denmark — you name it — to go in front of the Canadian embassy
and say “one law for all.”
Obviously it is not only me personally who is so afraid of
sharia. Because sharia has different interpretations, and all of them belong to
1,400 years ago, never being criticized, anyone who wants to criticize it would
die. Look at what happened in Paris. So how could we have moderate sharia? It
would never happen.
The only way we can really protect the rights of individuals in
Ontario, in Canada, across the world, is to have one law for all and enforce it,
and that law has to be secular law. Only a voice of secularism can push back
political Islam. You can never push back political Islam with moderate Muslims.
That's another movement.
Moderate Islam is another movement that wants to protect Islam
from falling. Let them be. Let them practise their own religion. We don't want
that. We don't want to interfere with them if they want to practise their own
religion as a private matter. Where we would like to interfere is if it comes to
the rights of children and the rights of society. Then we want the Canadian
government to interfere.
So what I really would love to see is children from birth to 18
be protected by sharia law. How? We have a system in place. We have the
Children's Aid Society. We have a system in place, so make it enforceable. If no
one has the right to send their children to their own religious schools and
brainwash the children, of course there is less radicalization happening in
Canada. Because the children never contact any other members of society, they
only contact their own members of society, and they are all followers of
Wahhabis or Sunnis or others. So they follow their friends. Whatever their
friends do, they do it.
Of course a great target for Islam is to target the society. But
if we work towards integration, that means to not be so sensitive towards
culture that the culture becomes more important than the children.
If we really take care of individual rights and really enforce
it, I am 100 per cent sure integration would happen. If integration happens,
none of these children would prefer to leave their comfortable homes here,
comfortable way of making speech or talking to their friends or going out to the
mall and having enjoyable sports or dancing or picking up any musical
instruments and playing. None of them would give up all that for a thing they
don't even know.
But when you don't provide them with all those facilities, then
of course these children are isolated. They don't see much at home. None of them
are even called by their own name, “Hey, guy,” and constantly insulted at home.
Of course they're vulnerable. Anyone who appreciates them, who calls them
sisters and brothers, anyone who tells them, “Don't worry, come to us. I'm going
to send you to school and you'll be finishing your high school.” Of course they
will be the followers of them.
Even if they're not directly supporting the Islamists, indirectly
they would support them. Even if they don't carry a bomb to blow themselves up,
being present in that Islamic centre gives the message that this person who was
thrown out of school, now he's doing a diploma through this centre, encourages
thousands of people to go there. Do you want that? This is what I strongly
Canadian education should be totally secular, and no religion
should be imposed on children. Does it mean that the parents have no right to
teach them about their own religion? Of course they have the right. But that
gives them an open concept so they can have friends from different communities.
It gives them the right to have a Canadian teacher, a Canadian way of learning.
The Chair: I think we're coming to a conclusion here
fairly soon. I just want to follow up on one other area, and that's the question
you spoke of, the question of religious schools. I just would like to have an
understanding in respect to the private and, in this case, religious schools, no
matter which religion it is, say in the province of Ontario. Are they inspected
by the public school system to ensure that they're following the public
curriculum for the purposes of education?
Ms. Arjomand: As far as I know, none of them are, unless
they are past elementary school. As far as I know. Don't forget that they even
have the centres that they go from early morning to 4:30 p.m., and after that
they can stay behind and learn their own language from whatever, the Quran or
whatever. The reality is even if they are, they're bending for them. This is my
concern. Even if there is law and regulations that they have to follow, they're
bending for them.
I tried to register my daughter in order to have more access to
these centres so I could have some case studies. In Alberta, they're funded by
the government. In Ontario, thanks to one secular school for all, they couldn't
do that. But the reality is I tried to register one of my children in an Islamic
school. I wanted to know what's happening inside. But no. They realized who I am
and they didn't register me. If it was not something suspicious happening, they
should have allowed me.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much for a very powerful
presentation. Your courage is remarkable, and there's nothing like experience
I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit about the policing
in Canada. From the viewpoint of the United Kingdom and France, we read
newspaper articles internationally every day that police cannot go into what
they call ghettos of culture. Do you know very much about that from your work?
Ms. Arjomand: When I went for a tour in Europe with
respect to no sharia court, just to say thank you to activists, they took me to
what they call a ghetto, which means only people who follow the same ethnicity
and have the same religious background live in that area. When I went there, it
was shocking. It's not as harsh as what I've seen in Paris, but it's very harsh
here too. I'm not comparing Canada with what I've seen in Paris. There were two
girls, young ones, 13 and 14 years old. They have never, ever been out of their
apartment inside the hallway. It's not as harsh as that, but, thanks to
activism, thanks to you and thanks to the law, and thanks to — what do you call
them? — the watchdogs, thanks to all these whistle-blowers or whatever is in
place, we have not reached that extreme. But why should we wait until we reach
that extreme? Why do we have to wait to reach that extreme?
I had a case that the daughter from age 14 was chained in the
basement because she was not going to marry the gentleman the father chose for
her, at the age of 14, in Canada. It's sharia marriage. I can pick up the phone
and call 911 and mention that. The Children's Aid Society will come and
hopefully will pick up the girl. But what did I do? What did I do? I'm sure the
father will be arrested and released on bail conditions. Two months later, the
uncle will come from Bangladesh, take the child five oceans away and force her
to marry. I haven't done anything. I want the law to be enforced, not for one
person that I saw but for everyone. I want the fathers to shiver and say, “No,
I'm not going to take my child five oceans away.” Child trafficking. But to
them, if you ask them, it's not child trafficking. To them, it is an obligation
of religion. I want the law to stop these kinds of activities.
The Chair: Ms. Arjomand, thank you very much for your
presentation. It was very powerful. We appreciate the time and effort that
you've taken to be here. I know that you're involved in a very difficult area of
social work, and we appreciate what you do.
I would like to recess for five minutes and then we will go in
camera to discussing a number of issues. Thank you.
(The committee continued in camera.)