THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL
SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, May 11, 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 on Monday, May 11, 2015. Before we begin, I would
like to go around the table and introduce everyone. My name is Daniel Lang, a
senator from the Yukon, and on my immediate left is the clerk of the committee,
Adam Thompson. I would like to invite each senator to introduce themselves and
the region they represent.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell from Alberta.
Senator Dagenais: I am Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais from
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen from New
Senator Ngo: Thanh Hai Ngo from Ontario.
Senator Beyak: Lynn Beyak from Ontario.
The Chair: Colleagues, on June 19, 2014, the Senate agreed
that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be
authorized to study and report on security threats facing Canada, including but
not limited to cyberespionage, threats to critical infrastructure, terrorist
recruitment and financing, and terrorist operations and prosecutions, and that
the committee report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2015.
During the course of our hearings, we have been learning more and
more about radicalization and threats to Canada. We learned about foreign
funding coming into Canada to promote a radical religious ideology. We've heard
about religious leaders who interpret the religious doctrine in extreme ways,
and of course we have heard about the significant number of Canadians who have
provided material support to ISIS, some 80 Canadians who were abroad and have
returned, over 145 Canadians presently abroad, and over 90 who are seeking to
join the Islamist group. Most of these individuals have not been charged,
prosecuted or convicted. In fact, when it comes to prosecutions, some claim that
Canada is lagging behind.
Today we'll be exploring radicalization and terrorist financing
in greater depth. We have heard that in the last five years FINTRAC has
identified over 683 terrorist financing cases, yet we have not had any charges,
prosecutions or convictions, after spending $250 million during that period for
the federal agency collecting this information.
Joining us today to discuss terrorist financing and prosecution
is Christine Duhaime. Ms. Duhaime practises law in Toronto and Vancouver. She
has a specialized counterterrorist financing and anti-money laundering law
practice and is a certified financial crime and anti-money laundering
specialist, which is a U.S. certification.
She is one of the only lawyers in the world with a combined
practice in gambling law and anti-money laundering law and advises casinos,
gaming companies operating on mobile and online platforms, and social media
entities on compliance with gaming, sports betting, wagering, anti-money
laundering and privacy laws.
Ms. Duhaime, in her spare time, is writing a global legal
textbook for Thomson Reuters in 2015 on financial crime, counterterrorist
financing, anti-money laundering law and financial institutional compliance.
Ms. Duhaime, we are pleased to have you join us today. I
understand you have an opening statement along with some recommendations. I
would invite you to begin
Christine Duhaime, Barrister and Solicitor, Duhaime Law, as an
individual: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I
thank you for the invitation to appear before you today to testify on this very
important topic. I have some brief remarks.
If I were in your seat today, the most pressing questions I would
have would be: Are counterterrorist financing efforts effective in Canada? If
not, why not? If not, what can we do to have a more effective counterterrorist
financing regime in place? I propose to answer those questions for you.
With respect to the first question about whether counterterrorist
financing efforts are effective, the answer is a resounding no. If
counterterrorist financing efforts were effective, I would not be here today.
You wouldn't be asking me questions and there would be no need for this hearing.
Moreover, there would not be an Islamic State in place if our counterterrorist
financing efforts worked, because they were designed to prevent this scenario
At the moment in Syria and Iraq and areas controlled by ISIS,
there are many banks, in the neighbourhood of 50 in Syria and 121 in Iraq, that
continue to operate and be connected to our financial system in which our ATMs
work and in which they will exchange Canadian dollars and which defectors from
Canada can use when they defect to places like Syria. Despite the fact that ISIS
has been around for a number of years and we were aware of the situation,
nothing has been done, it appears, to significantly stop the banking system from
being connected to the finances of ISIS.
In the modern world terrorists need three things to take root and
grow. One is financing, the second is access to our financial system, and the
third is access to social media. Without much resistance, we unfortunately give
them all three.
The goal of counterterrorist financing is essentially to identify
and prevent terrorist financing. The regime we set up in Canada and around the
world is premised on a few things. The first is that if we create an
organization, as we have with the FATF, the Financial Action Task Force, and
empower it to create recommendations for the private sector guardians of our
financial system that allow for the identification and prevention of terrorist
financing, and if all countries adopted those same procedures, then there would
be no safe haven for terrorist financing anywhere around the world. It's a great
concept, but it hasn't worked because there are safe havens for terrorist
financing around the world.
It has not worked because the FATF procedures have a number of
issues. The first is that they conduct mutual evaluations of countries on a
rotating basis. Those mutual evaluations appear to be glowing no matter what
country you're from, Macao being an example. It has serious financial crime
issues, yet it has a glowing mutual evaluation report.
The FATF recommendations are not balanced. They weigh in favour
of anti-money laundering law, which is important but nowhere as important as
terrorist financing. That needs to be revised.
Separate and apart from the FATF, there are countries with
beautiful anti-money laundering laws on the books and banks with beautiful
compliance plans, but they're meaningless if there's no enforcement. Although we
have great recommendations from the FATF that need a bit of tweaking and we have
amazing laws all over the place, including in Syria, surprisingly, it's
meaningless if we don't do anything in terms of enforcing those laws, which is
one of our big issues.
That brings me to Canada. We have adequate, not perfect, laws on
the books, but we have very little enforcement when it comes to counterterrorist
financing. We are a jurisdiction that has focused all of our enforcement and
compliance efforts on anti-money laundering law, almost nothing on sanctions and
very little on counterterrorist financing.
In Canada, we have quite a number of problems when it comes to
financial crime. To be brief, the first one is that our regulators have devoted
insufficient resources to ensuring that the private sector is compliant with the
terrorist financing component of what we call “financial crime compliance” and
Our regulators and prosecutors have failed to make the private
sector accountable for counterterrorist financing lapses and sanctions lapses.
What I mean by that is we almost never hear of officers or directors or the
financial institutions or any reporting entities being prosecuted for those
types of offences. They may have regulatory infractions from FINTRAC, but that's
as far as it goes, and it's not overwhelming even in that respect.
There are no prosecutions or very few of terrorist organizations
and terrorists in Canada, either. There are next to no prosecutions for
sanctions law offences, other than, I think, one.
Finally, we let banks task accounting personnel to advise them on
matters of terrorist financing and sanctions law, and that would be akin to me
as a lawyer deciding I'm going to sign off on a public company audit. It's
completely inappropriate. Accountants have a role to play, and lawyers have a
role to play when it comes to the law, and we should not be asking accountants
and accounting firms to be providing anti-money-laundering or counterterrorist
financing advice on matters of law.
That brings me to digital financial terrorism. With ISIS, we have
new and serious emerging threats taking place on social media 24/7, targeting
Canadians and Americans non-stop. I provided you with a white paper — I don't
know if you've seen it — that deals with concept that I call the “Twitter
Terrorist.” It deals with the propaganda and some examples of how they have
targeted Canadians for their propaganda to get defectors to defect Syria. The
problem with the Twitter Terrorist is it's not just them trying to obtain
Canadians to defect; it's that they're using that social media for terrorist
financing. While we are behind in Canada in terms of terrorist financing
generally in our reporting regime and structure, we have this new and emerging
threat of digital terrorist financing, and we're not even on the same page in
terms of trying to address those threats and how to come to grips with them.
In the white paper that I believe will be made available to you,
there are two examples I've provided out of hundreds in which Canadians are on
social media seeking to raise funds for ISIS. One is a rather unfortunate
incident that you may be aware of already in which a Canadian Kuwaiti — page 9
of the report — is soliciting to purchase a Yazidi slave girl on Twitter and
have her shipped to Kuwait. I have no idea if that transaction took place, but
that's an example of an unfortunate and abhorrent form of terrorist financing.
The next one on the same page is an example of somebody from
Alberta who did, in fact, defect to Syria and is now there with ISIS. He is on
Tumblr, trying to raise funds for ISIS, explaining how you can go to his kik.fm
account and find out how to send money to them anonymously. He goes so far as to
say that when you communicate with him, your terrorist financing activities will
be safe and secure; i.e., FINTRAC or whoever you're trying to avoid will not
detect you. Some of this is premised on the fact that they go to Tor and the
deep web to undertake these transactions and find out how to fund.
I leave that aside for you to review, but those are two examples
of how Canadians are on social media trying to engage in terrorist financing
Counterterrorist financing in the digital world and emerging
digital threats are varied, international and cross-sectoral in nature.
Coordinated responses are needed to ensure these threats are mitigated and dealt
with. The key point here is this is not something, in my view, that the
government can deal with itself. When it comes to social media, we need to have
a coordinated effort with the public and private sector together to take down
the Twitter accounts and stop the terrorist propaganda.
I'll give you another quick example: Garland, Texas, page 5 in
the report I submitted to you. On May 1, hundreds if not thousands of tweets
went out that there should be an attack in Garland, Texas. Obviously it's a bit
of a crystal ball in which ISIS is telling us what they're going to do and
advocating for lone wolves to undertake these attacks. Lo and behold, four days
later, there was an attack in Garland, and apparently law enforcement in the
United States was not aware of these tweets, from what I understand, if that's
to be believed. If that is a true story, that's really frightening because we
have a group like ISIS that is supremely transparent, very predictable, telling
us on Twitter and other social media what they're about to do, calling for lone
wolves to act against us, and we see it on Twitter — I certainly did on May 1 —
and yet nothing seems to have been done to prevent it. That's an area I think we
need to get a grip on.
In order to ensure that Canada has a robust and resilient
counterterrorist financing response, my eight recommendations are as follows:
First, go back to FATF with qualified people from Canada with expertise in
terrorist financing and with the cooperation of Canada, obviously, come up with
effective and long-lasting recommendations that will deal with terrorist
financing in the same way and with the same emphasis that we deal with
anti-money laundering law around the world.
The second recommendation is to insist that regulators conduct
adequate and thorough look-back compliance reviews. A look-back is when we go
back in time and look at whether a bank and other reporting entities have
complied with anti-money laundering laws. If there are no adequate solutions
when we do those look-backs, I think the obvious answer would be to think about
prosecutions and fines.
The third one is to provide the political support for our
regulators to fine or prosecute non-compliant reporting entities and their
officers and directors, and that we make a statement and begin that prosecution.
Fourth, implement a solid criminal justice response to terrorism,
covering investigation and prosecution of those who plan terrorist acts or are
suspected of recruitment, training and financing of terrorism, as well as
incitement to commit terrorist acts in Canada. I would suggest we have a
specialized and trained group of prosecutors that understand terrorism and are
committed to undertaking those types of prosecutions.
Fifth, create a specialized group of terrorist trained judges or
a special court for terrorism cases and that they have exclusive jurisdiction
when it comes to terrorism. I'm sure you're aware of the case out of British
Columbia where a terrorist financier a number of years ago got a six-month
sentence, and the judge made the remark that it was appropriate in the
circumstances because, lo and behold, we wouldn't want to interfere with him
travelling in the future — a completely inappropriate response for terrorist
Six, create a digital counterterrorism offensive with a mandate
to address counterterrorism, not only the Twitter Terrorist but the terrorist
financing that comes along with it so we can identify those threats and shut
them down when they occur. Not only that, but when we do see examples of that,
we should be able to obtain that material, preserve that evidence and use it for
Seven, invest in the research and innovation necessary to stay up
to date with emerging threats from anonymous and new payment methods. I'll give
you an example. There's a website that allows you to send anonymous types of
emails and communications on Tor. Recently, they've come up with a method where
you can email an anonymous payment to the email address of anyone in the world.
They will do the transaction for you using PayPal, and all you need to do is
enter your email address, give them your financial information, and they will
fund whomever you want funded as long as you have their email address. That is a
really frightening prospect in terms of terrorist financing. It is completely
anonymous, and I think we need to get a grip on it.
Finally, I am a strong advocate that we should support the
creation of a financial crime centre in Toronto that would be a bridge to the
gap between the private and the public sector, and that we work together to deal
with terrorist financing and hopefully become leaders in Canada in this area
rather than what I think is followers at the moment.
I thank you for your time and will be happy to take your
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Duhaime. Your
observations on the question of terrorist financing and how they go about it
were very enlightening. I think it's very much of a learning curve for all of
us. We appreciate your expertise.
I'm going to start with Senator Mitchell and then go to Senator
Senator Mitchell: Thanks very much, Ms. Duhaime. It's been
One of the questions that your presentation and others like it
begs is how much of this terrorist financing is going on related to Canada? Do
we have any evidence? I'm not being critical of it, but this presentation is
premised upon this idea that there's tons of it happening, yet we have no
evidence of it happening because we don't have the resources to find out. On the
one hand you say it's happening, and on the other hand you're saying we don't
have the resources to find it. How do we know it's happening and to what extent?
Ms. Duhaime: I think it's a circular question to answer
because we don't review the reporting entities as we should to find out whether
or not they're complying and what examples they have. We're missing that
knowledge gap, for example, to know if they're dealing with terrorist financing.
Because it's criminal activity, we really don't know. It's like money
laundering. We don't know it all. These guys are smart. They're on Tor, using
PayPal and Western Union, but we would be naive to think it's not happening from
Canada and doesn't involve our financial institutions. I mean, why would it not?
Senator Mitchell: What's FINTRAC doing? Would you say that
they're incompetent, focused in the wrong way or underfinanced?
Ms. Duhaime: I don't know any of those, except that having
seen quite a number of reviews, I think they are not as tough as they should be
on their compliance reviews. For example, for quite a number of years when they
have undertaken compliance reviews, they have completely omitted the terrorist
financing aspect that is part of anti-money laundering law and financial crime
When a bank or, let's say, a money services business submits a
compliance plan to FINTRAC during part of its review, one of the questions that
should be asked of a reporting entity — what they're supposed to do is a risk
assessment of their particular location. How do they know whether or not there
are terrorist financing risks happening at a bank at Yonge and Bloor, for
example? I've never seen FINTRAC ask, “Where's your review to ensure you've done
a risk assessment for your branch at Yonge and Bloor? Where are the risks?
Where's your research?”
We're not asking the banks to prove that their risk assessments
are actually tailored to their branches and to their bank. We're not looking at
that and making sure it makes sense, and our compliance reviews are based on
anti-money laundering law.
Senator Mitchell: When you say there are banks in Syria
linked into the Canadian banking system where somebody can stick their card in
and get Canadian money or U.S. money or whatever money comes out of that
machine, are you saying that if you wrote to the minister of national security
about that very fact, nothing would happen? This tough-on-crime government
somehow doesn't know that's happening and you do? How can that be?
Ms. Duhaime: I don't know why they don't know, but it is
true that ATM cards do work in Syria. Canadian ATM cards work. Defectors have
used their ATM cards. ISIS tweets about how interesting it is that we haven't
shut them down. We have not shut them down.
Part of the reason the U.S. government says we have not shut them
out of the banking system is because they don't want to totally eliminate all of
Syria from having banking resources because they don't want to harm the innocent
people any more than they're already being harmed. So part of the strategy is
that we don't want to shut the whole country down economically. There are
legitimate businesses running, including in ISIS-controlled areas.
Senator Mitchell: That's reasonable.
Ms. Duhaime: Is it? I don't know.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thanks again for coming. This is
very interesting. We're trying to get a better understanding of the nature and
scope of the financing, and you've already been very clear on a lot of it, but I
have a few questions.
Do you think we have money coming in for financing terrorist
activities within Canada, or is it more likely that it's going out to finance
other parts of the world? Do you have any information on who might be behind the
financing? You mentioned Syria or ISIS. To try to have people grasp what's going
on is difficult, but I think it's important that we know more about this, as
much as we can.
Ms. Duhaime: I don't think the threat is money coming into
Canada. That's not where the need is. They are asking for money to leave places
like Canada and go to Syria.
In terms of the lone wolves, it takes very little to launch an
attack in Canada, so they're not searching for money from ISIS to do that. The
threat is going to be money coming from here to there.
In terms of who the actors are and how it's happening, I don't
know, but a lot of it has moved digital. That's part of the problem, with the
examples I gave you where they're raising money off of Tumblr. Unless we're
following the Tumblr accounts and tracking that down, we don't know.
I suspect without any actual evidence that Canada is not in the
digital game as much as we should be. We're not catching these types of requests
for terrorist financing. The examples I gave you are examples of just two of
many, and there are surely many that I have not come across.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Do you have any idea how much money
might be involved, a guesstimate?
Ms. Duhaime: No.
Senator Stewart Olsen: So we're at the tip of the iceberg
here, is what you're really saying.
Ms. Duhaime: I think with a group like ISIS, what we see
on social media is the tip of the iceberg in the sense of what they're doing
that we don't see. Obviously they won't be that transparent to us, so I think
that's the concern. What we see is worse enough. What we don't see would be
frightening, I would think.
Senator Dagenais: Ms. Duhaime, you alluded to funding and
payment methods — I believe you spoke about credit cards — but I would like to
hear your opinion on online payments, more specifically. Various companies,
including PayPal Canada, provide online payment services. I think these entities
are required to report electronic funds transfers to FINTRAC. The money can move
through these payment methods. If no one closes these gaps, what kind of risks
might we be exposed to at this point?
Ms. Duhaime: I think that the online payment methods are a
risk for us because they tend to be anonymous. Obviously they're rapid, and they
don't flow through our normal banking system. That's the issue as well.
I'll use bitcoin as an example, although there's no evidence that
it has ever been used for terrorist financing, except one dollar transaction in
the United States. Those payment methods are anonymous, so it's difficult to
know what amount of money is going through there. We're not looking at
regulating — I don't know why — these types of payments. I think one of the
strategies would be determining the emerging payment methods of concern to us.
Mobile banking is not really banking but a different way of moving tokens back
and forth. I think that's a big concern for us, and we're not looking at that
issue as much as we could.
Senator Dagenais: What would you recommend as a
declaration threshold? FINTRAC requires any amount over $10,000 to be declared.
Should that threshold be changed in order to trace the funding? The issue is not
simple, but I am listening.
Ms. Duhaime: It's a difficult issue for this reason:
Because we have anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws around the
world, we have removed significant amounts of people from the banking system
that can't get bank accounts. We call them financially excluded. They happen to
be poorer people. The more we unload financial regulation on banks and other
remittance agencies, for example, the more we prevent people from getting access
to banking. So we're creating a problem on the financial inclusion side that
we're not addressing.
If we lower the threshold to $5,000, more banks will want ID and
more of these anonymous, prepaid debit cards will be subject to anti-money
laundering reporting. We will have more of a financial inclusion problem. It's
not an easy answer, and I think the FATF struggles with that as well. Do we want
to kick people out of the banking system or not?
Separate and apart from the financial inclusion problem, one of
the issues when we remove people from the banking system is they go underground
and do shadow banking. If they're underground doing prepaid cards such as in
France, for example, that's how they funded those attacks. So if we move more
people to the anonymous methods of payment, we're not capturing the data we need
to stop terrorist financing and we're not identifying the terrorists. It's a
weighing act. If you go below, you're going to throw people out of the banking
system and you won't be able to monitor and control for terrorist financing.
The U.S. response is let's bring as many people in as we can that
are reporting entities and as many transactions as we can so that we have as
many people as possible, and let's deal with financial inclusion in another way.
There's no easy answer. Lowering the threshold would certainly
help in terms of capturing terrorist financing because the amounts are lower,
but I don't know if there's an easy answer without a bit more study.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Ms. Duhaime. That was very
knowledgeable and thorough. I concur with your remarks about the B.C. judge in
the case you outlined. It was completely inappropriate for a judge to say that.
We heard from former Supreme Court Justice John Major that our
committee might need to look at a special terrorism prosecution branch. Do you
have thoughts on that?
Ms. Duhaime: I do support that and I think it's a great
idea. I'm not sure what happens on the legal side when it comes to prosecutions
and why that breaks down. But it seems like there's testimony over and over
again that lawyers in the federal public service seem to find money laundering
cases and terrorist financing cases complicated. The reality is it's their job,
and we're lawyers. Nothing should be complicated.
So I don't know what the strategy is other than to find lawyers
that don't find this intellectually challenging and task them with that in a
separate body of prosecutors for terrorism. That would be my suggestion.
Senator Beyak: Do you think the French system would be
workable here in Canada, where they have a special bench, a terrorism bench?
Ms. Duhaime: Yes. I think we should never be in the
position again where we have judges that don't understand terrorism, terrorism
financing and the threat and are more sympathetic to the terrorist financier
than the damage that causes. Yes, I would totally support having a specialized
court of knowledge to deal with terrorist financing.
Senator Beyak: Thank you. I think you're on the side of
most Canadians, too.
Senator Ngo: To your knowledge, why are other
jurisdictions effective in pursuing investigations and convictions of terrorism
financing offences? Why in Canada do we have the weaknesses in money laundering
or countering terrorist financing in Canada?
Ms. Duhaime: From what I've heard in testimony for a
number of years now and certain witnesses that appeared before the Senate, for
example, it seems to come down to lawyers in charge of the files who appear to
think this is a complicated area of the law and appear to be afraid of it. It's
not a big, scary monster. It is just the law, like all lawyers deal with, and I
think that there is some sort of a mental block.
That's why I think if we had lawyers who undertook these cases,
were confident that they could win or lose — it's irrelevant at this point. I
think we're looking for deterrence. If we start to prosecute, we'll be sending a
message that we're not a safe haven for terrorism or for money laundering, and I
think things will begin to shift and we will become more compliant.
I think it has to start from the prosecution perspective. They
need to be willing to take on all of these 683 cases. That's a large number of
cases. Let's take them all on. Who cares if we lose 50 per cent. Let's make a
statement that Canada is not a safe haven for criminals. I think that's really
Senator Ngo: I agree with you 100 per cent, but FINTRAC is
not allowed to prosecute.
Ms. Duhaime: They're not a prosecution agency.
Senator Ngo: Exactly. They just provide information to
other agencies, like the RCMP. That's the organization that can prosecute, not
FINTRAC. So basically you say FINTRAC is not effective.
Ms. Duhaime: No. We have 683 cases that FINTRAC
identified. I think that's amazing. So FINTRAC is passing this information on to
the RCMP. I don't know if the RCMP is sufficiently funded to undertake its
investigations, but one thing I do hear from the RCMP is that they're lacking
financial crime expertise across the board to investigate these cases and find
out where the money went, and they're also lacking resources. If we cure that
problem and they present a case to the prosecution, I think our prosecutors
should be willing to take on these cases, bite the bullet, have the guts to do
it and make a statement. Because right now our statement to the outside world is
that Canada is a safe haven for criminal activities, which I think is an
Senator Ngo: So you think that Canada should take the risk
in prosecuting those 683 files?
Ms. Duhaime: It's not a risk at all. My goodness, we have
$1 million fines for each offence. If we were to prosecute and impose the
maximum fine on directors and officers who are not compliant, on banks, money
services businesses, we would make more money than this would cost. It is a
profitable enterprise to prosecute for anti-money laundering and
counterterrorism financing. Why we don't do it escapes me.
Senator Ngo: Thank you for your recommendations.
Senator Day: Thank you for your comments. I'm taking away
from our session here today that you think the laws are sufficient; it's just
that the system hasn't really caught up with the laws that are in existence. Can
you agree with me that from the private law firm point of view, firms have a way
of adjusting and developing specialization in different areas, but the
prosecution side of our legal system hasn't had the same incentive to do so?
There are lots of other things to do, I suppose. To develop a specialty takes
time and effort, and that's just not being done. So we need some incentive to
see that that happens.
Ms. Duhaime: Yes, absolutely. I would think that 20
lawyers assigned to do terrorist financing cases would be a pretty appealing
portfolio in the world of public service lawyers. Sorry, I'm not in that world
and am using all the wrong words. It seems to me that that would be an amazing
portfolio. You would probably get a lot of people signed up. They would acquire
the expertise quickly and would not be afraid to go to court and wouldn't be
testifying that this is too complicated to handle.
Senator Day: I'm not in the same world either, so you
could use the wrong word and I wouldn't know it.
Could you help me with the acronym FATF? Tell me what stands for.
Ms. Duhaime: Financial Action Task Force. It's the
policy-making body based in Paris that I'm pretty sure Canada contributes a
significant amount of money to. We sit on it, and it comes out with
recommendations and issues reports periodically on the state of affairs for
money laundering and counterterrorism financing.
Senator Day: Thank you. I think it’s helpful just to have
that on the record.
We have talked about prosecutors and judges and private sector
lawyers. You're not, I hope — maybe you are — advocating for a new section of
the judiciary. Are you suggesting that the same thing could happen as what
happened with prosecutors and as happens now in private law firms of certain
individuals in that realm becoming experts through doing this kind of thing and
taking extra study and extra understanding, but they're still justices like
everybody else? Or are you suggesting an entirely different court system?
Ms. Duhaime: What I think would work is to have a little
section of the Federal Court where there are judges who are trained, understand
terrorist financing, understand the risks and understand Canada's reputation in
the whole scheme of things. I think we would see more balanced results if we had
judges that are trained.
In fact, the last FATF mutual evaluation of Canada did in fact
recommend that we educate judges on anti-money laundering and counterterrorism
financing, and I don't think that's been done yet. So I think there is a
knowledge gap. They need to understand what's at stake and how important this
is, and right now they don't.
I'll give you an example. Once I was in court in British Columbia
and I literally lost a case because a judge said the word “must” actually means
“may.” We have an interpretation act where the word “must” is actually defined
so you don't get judges misinterpreting it.
If you're going to have a terrorism prosecution, you do not want
a judge deciding that the word “must” means “may.” Those are the types of things
where I think you take it out of the hands of the regular judicial body and you
train, educate and assist a group of people to make these decisions.
Senator Day: They would be the Federal Court. We're
not talking about creating —
Ms. Duhaime: I think the Federal Court is fine, yes.
Senator Day: — some specialists within the federal —
Ms. Duhaime: That would never happen. That's the issue
with that recommendation.
Senator Day: Exactly. I think that's the clarification I
was trying to make on Senator Beyak's question. I think agree with you that the
specialization could happen. Creating another court system is less likely to
In some of your writings you made reference to a private civil
lawsuit. Is there only one of those? If somebody is injured by virtue of a
terrorist activity, that individual sues the bank for having forwarded money to
that terrorist group.
Ms. Duhaime: Yes, an unidentified terrorist group. That's
the Arab Bank case. Yes, there is huge liability out there for all banks,
including Canadian ones. We have similar legislation. I think what plaintiffs
are waiting for is the first American to be hurt by ISIS. As soon as that
happens, the lawsuits will start to come for whatever banks, wittingly or not,
The difficulty with that case is banks rely on the fact that
there is a listed terrorism regime and a listed sanctions regime. As long as
they're checking the names, they think they're fine and no liability will flow,
Arab Bank case was different. There were terrorists that were not
identified, that were not on a list. So you can be an unidentified terrorist but
still be one, or you could be funding ISIS.
For example, with this Canadian who is trying to raise money off
Tumblr, let's say he uses PayPal. He's not a listed person on any list. A bank
could be exposed on the basis of the Arab Bank case — any bank around the
world, in Canada or in the United States. So when I talk about the banks not
being compliant, not taking this seriously and having non-lawyers do their
anti-money laundering and terrorist financing work, it's a huge danger for them.
They may be prosecuted and the standard of care is going to be who looked at
your compliance plan, what did you do and how are you compliant? I really think
there's dangerous exposure there that may bankrupt our banks.
Senator Day: Without the necessity of any changes in the
Ms. Duhaime: Yes. They just need to up their compliance
Senator Day: Exactly. Thank you very much.
The Chair: I'd like to pursue the question of prosecution.
In in your writings, you've been fairly critical of the fact that there have
been so few prosecutions. You restated that over the course of this panel today.
My understanding is that in a murder case or in cases such as
that, which are serious, the RCMP do their investigation and due diligence, lay
charges and then the Crown prosecutor will decided how the case proceeds from
there; is that correct?
Ms. Duhaime: Yes.
The Chair: When it comes to terrorism, my understanding is
that the Crown prosecutor and the RCMP are together and then they will
determine, with the approval of the Attorney General, whether or not charges
will be laid; is that not correct?
Ms. Duhaime: I believe so.
The Chair: If we follow that through, have you given any
thought to the fact that this process is in place strictly for the area of
terrorism but for other serious crimes it's not? Would you comment? Maybe this
process has to be altered and go the other route in respect to the RCMP doing
their due diligence and proceeding with charges and then working with the Crown
prosecutor as opposed to the way it is today.
Ms. Duhaime: I think there should be no distinction. A
financial crime offence is a financial crime offence, whether it's money
laundering, terrorist financing, sanction avoidance, or whatever it may be. To
make a distinction in how those cases proceed is just adding layers of policy
and a lot of bureaucracy that don't actually need to be there. I think there
should be a streamlined approach. One is the same as the other. Why we have a
distinction doesn't make any sense to me.
The Chair: That's what I'm trying to figure out. One of
the areas that has come up over the course of our hearings is the question of
the process. As much as I don't want to discuss process, the reality is that
that's how you have to proceed when it's established. The question, then, to
people such as yourself, with the knowledge you have, is should the government
look at the process to see whether or not it's stymying or stopping the
prosecutions because of the way it's been put into place?
Ms. Duhaime: Absolutely. I think adding that process will
result in fewer prosecutions, more thinking about it and more reflection and
more “Let’s not do this because it's a difficult case and we may not win”;
whatever the case may be. Why do we have something as important as terrorist
financing, for example, subject to extra processes and extra decision makers
that might impede prosecutions? It should all be the same; it's not any
different. It's a financial crime like any other.
Senator Mitchell: One of the issues that the RCMP and
others have raised with respect to prosecution on terrorist financing is
actually getting the evidence. If the money is sent abroad, it goes somewhere.
The allegation is that maybe to an organization that looks reasonable, but then
we can't track where it goes from there. How do you deal with that?
Ms. Duhaime: You can track it. It is interesting that you
ask that question. A senior law enforcement person told me the other day that
they do not get evidence from overseas because when they're asked by prosecutors
or by law enforcement over there whether Canadians will protect the source,
protect where it comes from, make sure they're safe, law enforcement has to say,
“No, sorry, not in Canada.” So they may get the information, but they won't
share it with the prosecution division here because they're afraid it will be
shared in the process of discovery. That seems to be a huge impediment where we
have some information and we could prosecute, but we are not willing to take it
because we can't assure them that the information or the person who provided it
will be safe.
Senator Mitchell: Yet in Bill C-51, we are apparently
setting up all kinds of impediments to the sharing of information. Are you
saying that that regime now simply isn't adequate?
Ms. Duhaime: I think that may change. I'm just telling you
what I heard last week from law enforcement as a big issue for them taking cases
Senator Beyak: Canadians watch this committee at home.
They're very concerned and your answers are direct, forthright and clarifying.
Thank you for that and for your exceptional work.
Could you elaborate on the comments you've made in the past
relating to money laundering and terrorism financing in Canada, Hong Kong and
China? It's a different subject but very fascinating.
Ms. Duhaime: According to law enforcement and according to
the U.S. government, Canada is a major money laundering country, particularly
out of British Columbia because we have a serious drug situation there.
We are the largest manufacturer of a number of drugs. We are the
largest exporter of a number of different other drugs. Some people say that the
only business activity in Vancouver is drug crime. I could be; I don't know.
There are law firms there. There isn't big business like we have in Toronto,
that's for sure. What sustains Vancouver's economy is interesting. It could be
To answer your question more specifically, in addition to a money
laundering problem particularly out of Vancouver, Vancouver is becoming a
serious hub for transnational criminal organizations. That, again, is from law
enforcement that deals with it.
One of the issues in Canada is we haven't escalated that as a
situation because the federal government looks at crime on a national rather
than a transnational basis. If they were to shift the focus in terms of ranking
transnational criminal organizations, Vancouver is up there in the top 10
internationally as an unfortunate place where transnational criminal
organizations thrive in terms of financing. It is not like it's not unknown to
law enforcement, but they feel they're not getting the support to tackle it as
With respect to China and Hong Kong, that is an interesting case
where we have immigration programs that have solicited 100,000 or so wealthy
Chinese immigrants to come to Canada under the wealthy immigration programs. All
of them are what we call “politically exposed people” in anti-money laundering
law. You are all politically exposed people, meaning that you have more power to
commit financial crimes. I'm sorry to have to say that, but that's what the
studies show. When we have politically exposed people that are foreign coming
into Canada, we are supposed to, as banks, treat them differently. If they have
over $100,000, we're supposed to ascertain the source of their funds and make
sure there are no proceeds of corruption, especially out of China.
What has happened is that the billion or so dollars that have
moved into Canada — all through Vancouver — has been done without the banks
treating these people as politically exposed people and without our immigration
officials treating them as politically exposed people, which means that none of
that money has been vetted as to whether or not it is related to the proceeds of
corruption. Since they're all ex-government officials with significant amounts
of money, on salaries that usually do not match the amount of money they're
coming in with, the problem is China is now chasing that in asset recovery
maneuvers and it's going to want that money back. We're faced with the prospect
that 25 per cent of the most wanted list out of China happen to be living in
Vancouver. It's an unfortunate, embarrassing situation.
Senator Beyak: Thank you.
Senator Mitchell: I'd like to follow up on your point
about resources, namely, that a lot of this could be related to the fact that
the RCMP doesn't have people who are particularly expert in financial crime.
They don't have adequate resources to develop that expertise, nor do they have
adequate resources to simply investigate terrorist non-financial crime. In fact,
they've moved 600 people from other crimes, amongst them financial crimes, to
terrorism-related investigations. That was a point you made, that they just
don't have enough money.
Ms. Duhaime: Yes. I actually called people I know high up
in the RCMP and asked that question before I came here: Is there still a problem
with resources? The answer is yes. And with respect to expertise, the answer is
Senator Mitchell: So the answer is yes, they don't have
Ms. Duhaime: Yes.
Senator Mitchell: Chair, the answer is yes, they don't
have enough money.
The Chair: There's never enough money, no matter where you
Ms. Duhaime: True.
Senator Day: Speaking about enough money, we hear rumours
that ISIS is very well funded and has lots of money. Are you able to confirm
that and do you have any feeling as to where they're getting their money?
Ms. Duhaime: I provided you with another report that deals
with that quite significantly in all the ways they are funded. The biggest
source of revenue for them is not oil, like people like to say it is. It is that
they have, for a number of years now, before they were ISIS when they were in
Iraq, they're really good at this extortion business.
They're like a gang, in essence. Anyone who is in their territory
that crosses the territory and that they deal with has to pay taxes to them, and
they will come around at gunpoint and collect taxes.
They have insidious ways with special groups that they dislike
such as Christians. There's a Christian tax you've probably heard about. If
you're Christian, in order to be kept alive, you pay a tax to them. It expires
after a certain number of months and you pay again or you're shot.
They sell people; sick ways of terrorist financing and some
regular gangster style ways of extortion. For example, before they moved into
Aleppo, I think it was, they went to all the land title offices — this is how
sophisticated they are — before they assumed power, got rid of a number of
people by killing them if they didn't get the records they wanted. They
identified who was Christian and who was not, went to take over their properties
at gunpoint and then resold them or had their defectors live in them.
In every town it's the same thing: They take over the banks, take
all the money, take over all the properties, resell them or re-lease them or
give them for free to people they like. It's a racket — the old-fashioned way of
a racket. It's very lucrative and that's what sustains them.
Senator Day: Thank you.
The Chair: I'd like to pursue some of your comments in
respect to social media. You talked about Twitter and Tumblr, and there is, of
course, PayPal. There are all these various Internet platforms that one can have
access to if one has the knowledge.
The Western world has really woken up in the last number of years
in respect to the threat that is out there, whether it is to Britain, Australia
or Canada. One of the steps taken is to allow the various governments to at
least halt if not in some cases totally mitigate the Internet utilization by
some of these groups.
It seems to me that Canada by itself couldn't decide that there
isn’t going to be anymore Twitter in respect to this particular part of the
world or this part of the platform. It has to be a united front, I would think.
Do you have any thoughts on that?
Ms. Duhaime: I have strong views on that. I think each
country should appoint a digital terrorist person, and they all talk and they
all deal with this issue.
We're losing the word on digital terrorism. There is no question
we're losing it. They are able to get lone wolves to attack in Garland and will
attack in Canada if we're not careful and we're not looking at what they're
putting out on Twitter. We need to be watching their Twitter accounts so that we
know the next attack is coming to Vancouver or Ottawa. They're quite
transparent, so we need to be watching this and protecting ourselves against it.
With respect to shutting down Twitter accounts, most countries
take the position that because these companies are American, it's a problem for
the United States; but it's not. There is a Twitter Canada. They publish stuff
that targets Canadians on Canadian websites with Canadian ISP addresses. To the
extent that it is terrorism in Canada, that it's a hate crime, that it is
calling for the overthrow of our government, that it might be seditious or
whatever it happens to be, we should be shutting them down.
We have Anonymous — a group of people who are anonymous who
really are vigilantes shutting down Twitter accounts and reporting accounts to
Twitter. That should not be the response we rely on. It should be the federal
government that is in charge of digital terrorism and has a digital terrorist
financing initiative, not a group like Anonymous. They're doing good work in
this area, but that's not what we should be relying upon.
I think each country should be taking charge and shutting down
Twitter accounts and have a counterterrorist response. When they spew out their
offensive material, we should have a response to that so that when our teenagers
are watching it, they have something else to counterbalance it. We don't have
that in Canada.
We have no way to report. There is no way for me to anonymously
report the Garland tweet I saw on May 1 in Canada, and there should be. There
should be a place where someone goes online right away and shuts that account
down if they're asking for a terrorist attack in Garland.
If there is one in Ottawa what would we do? How would someone
like me report it? Where would I report it anonymously? I wouldn't necessarily
want to be involved in the investigation. Why don't we get that stuff taken off
the Internet right away? We should and we don't.
The Chair: I want to pursue this further because there are
other countries involved here. Is any other country doing what you're advocating
Canada should do?
Ms. Duhaime: The EU is setting up a reporting agency where
the member countries will have an online reporting place. If you see Twitter
Terrorists saying “attack Paris,” for example, a couple of days before you will
They're also setting up, not a digital terrorist office like I'm
advocating, but an office like that where there will be people who are part
private sector and part public sector, and they will look at social media and
take it down, prosecute and gather the evidence. They are really moving forward
on this in a really positive way that I think we should emulate.
The Chair: Do you know if the United States is emulating
that kind of platform?
Ms. Duhaime: They have a counterterrorism Twitter
The Chair: But it's not going very well.
Ms. Duhaime: It's because the tweets are, if I may be so
bold, condescending. They will find an ISIS tweet that is offensive and they
will re-tweet it. It's called “think again, look away,” or something. Those
tweets are not persuasive for young people. They're a “we're holier than thou”
What I think we need are regular people. The messages from ISIS
are horrific enough. We don't need to be condescending in re-tweeting it or
commenting on it. There was one about kids wearing jeans get whipped. I tweeted
about that as well. It's a shocking thing that if you wear jeans in Syria you're
going to get whipped — I don't know to death or not.
There was a tweet that was a bit condescending about that, but
what's more effective is I don't know what it means to be whipped. Does that
mean you're incapacitated, hospitalized and can't walk, or you can get up and
walk? In context, a teenager wearing jeans is whipped and, look, “he's in the
hospital for four months” is an effective message that will halt a teenager
getting on a plane to Syria.
Those are the types of offensive counterterrorism messages we
should get out there. You will no longer be able to go to McDonald's, drive a
car, go on dates, and you can't listen to iTunes. Those are simple but effective
things that matter to all of us. We all want to watch TV, watch movies, have our
democracy, and we need to have a counterterrorism message that's based on
democracy. We're selling democracy and they're selling the opposite, and ours is
better because you can do all these great things.
The Chair: Thank you. I think we should put you in charge
Ms. Duhaime: Happy to oblige.
The Chair: Colleagues, we have come to the end of our
hour. I would like to thank Ms. Duhaime for coming before us. I know you have a
busy schedule. We appreciate the information you brought to us.
Joining us now is Dr. Lorenzo Vidino. A native of Milan, Italy,
Dr. Vidino holds a law degree from the University of Milan Law School and a
Doctorate in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and
Dr. Vidino is an academic and security expert who specializes in
Islamism and political violence in Europe and North America. Since April 2015,
he is the Director of the Program on Extremism at the Center for Cyber and
Homeland Security, George Washington University. He has held positions at the
Centre for Security Studies, the Rand Corporation, the Kennedy School of
Government, Harvard University and the U.S. Institute of Peace.
He is also the author of several books, including a recent work
on the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and writes frequently for several
prominent newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune, The
Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
Mr. Vidino has testified before the U.S. Congress and consults with governments,
law firms, think tanks and media in several countries.
Dr. Vidino, welcome to the committee. I understand you have an
opening statement. Please proceed.
Lorenzo Vidino, Director, Program on Extremism, Center for
Cyber and Homeland Security, George Washington University, as an individual:
Thank you very much. It's a real pleasure to be here today speaking before you.
I really appreciate it. It's a big honour.
I was asked today to speak about two subjects, which are, of
course, somewhat overlapping. One is counter-radicalization, particularly the
European experience when it comes to counter-radicalization, or CVE, countering
violent extremism. The second part is about the Muslim Brotherhood in the West
and what it means, what the Muslim Brotherhood in the West is and what the
implications are from a counter-radicalization perspective. Briefly, I'll divide
my few initial minutes on these two topics.
As for CVE, counter-radicalization, Canada has been moving over
the last couple of years in the direction of understanding that soft measures,
for lack of a better term, are an important part or an important complement to
hard measures in a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. I think CSIS, the
RCMP, Public Safety Canada — I was a recipient of the Kanishka grant. I know
that Kanishka has been very much looking into this stuff years for years and
moving and developing these kinds of initiatives in Canada. Obviously, some
European countries have been working on these issues for 10 years now, so the
experience is longer there.
What we see in the European countries like the U.K., which is
basically the pioneer of these kinds of initiatives, is that we have three kinds
of initiatives under the umbrella of CVE. The big general preventive initiatives
aim at integrating people, promoting integration, doing interfaith dialogue and
so on. We have engagement, trust building measures, all of those initiatives
that aim at building bridges and trust between authority and communities. Then
we have targeted, individualized intervention, so one-on-one mentoring schemes
for the most part.
What we have seen in Europe is there's significantly less faith
or at least significantly fewer resources devoted to the large, general
preventative measures for a variety of reasons that have to do with budget cuts
but also with the difficulty of proving the effectiveness of these measures. You
have to prove that these sorts of initiatives, as good as they might be, have an
impact on diminishing or preventing radicalization, and that's obviously very
difficult. Integrating people is obviously a great thing, but are we sure that
that's part of a counter-radicalization strategy?
What has been, on the other hand, embraced with more enthusiasm
are the one-on-one targeted interventions, which are more cost-effective, and it
is generally easier to prove their effectiveness. This is the way a lot of
European countries have been moving, particularly with the foreign fighters
issue, with the difficulty — and this is also a Canadian problem — of
prosecuting, charging individuals before they go and even after they have that
experience of fighting in Syria and Iraq and come back. The lack of evidence is
a big difficulty that all authorities and prosecutions face. Obviously there's
monitoring, but one cannot monitor hundreds if not thousands of individuals
24/7. So CVE initiatives are seen as a necessary tool, even when people are not
enthusiastic supporters of these initiatives, to try to at least diminish the
number of individuals that embrace a certain ideology and can be potentially
The challenges in doing CVE initiatives are many. We have seen
the diversity of profiles of individuals that embrace a certain extremist
ideology. They range from 13 to 50 years old, men and women, all sorts of
socio-economic backgrounds. Obviously the motivations of these individuals
change from case to case, and one needs certain flexibility in order to have
approaches to sway individuals with such diverse backgrounds.
Another significant challenge we have seen throughout Europe is
measuring effectiveness. It really boils down to the money being spent in a good
way, that what you're doing is effective or at least not counterproductive,
because some bad CVE initiatives could be counterproductive. Obviously it's
difficult in some cases. You have to prove a negative. You have to prove that
people did not radicalize because of what you did. One-on-one intervention is
relatively easier, which is one of the reasons why authorities tend to embrace
One other problem that authorities in Europe have been facing —
and I understand it is somewhat of a Canadian problem — leading to the second
part of what I would like to discuss, is the choice of partners. Any
counter-radicalization initiative can be successful only if it can count on
partnership with Muslim communities. The question has always been, given the
fragmentation of Muslim communities in all Western countries along ethnic,
sectarian and political lines, who speaks for the Muslim community? With which
organizations are you supposed to engage? Particularly when it comes to
counter-radicalization and to all security-related matters, the question has
always been, with groups, with organizations that trace at least their
ideological and historical roots to non-violent Islamist organizations like the
Brotherhood, are they part of the problem or the solution? Should governments
work with them to counter violent extremism? That's a very tricky dynamic, and
in a lot of European countries, particularly the U.K., the debate has been going
on for at least 10 years and is not completely solved.
Let me clarify what I'm talking about by mentioning the
Brotherhood in the West. We do have individuals that have come to the West over
the last 40, 50 years, and some of them more recently, from a variety of Muslim
majority countries and have established a life for themselves and organizations
in North America and in Europe. These individuals that come from the Muslim
Brotherhood background have created many organizations in the West, which is on
some level, from a formal point of view, improper to call them Muslim
Brotherhood. They do not answer to orders coming from Cairo or any other Arab
capital. They are independent in the way they operate in Canada, the United
States or any European country, but nonetheless are part of an informal network
where you have strong links based on personal and financial connections and at
the end of the day what matters the most — ideology. They all embrace a certain
Basically it's a pattern that you see with minor differences in
every Western country. We're talking about a very small number of people, but
they are very sophisticated, politically savvy, well funded, and they have
created organizations that represent a very small part of any Muslim community
in any Western country but nonetheless exert a disproportionate influence.
They're extremely vocal and visible. They basically aim to be the gatekeepers to
Muslim communities, so that whenever politicians, governments or the media try
to get the Muslim voice, if there were such a thing, they would go through them.
They are sort of the self-appointed leaders of Muslim communities.
Are these organizations problematic or not, particularly from a
security perspective? I would argue that there's no direct link of terrorism. I
think it would be an analytical mistake to lump them, as some do, with al Qaeda
or ISIS. These are not organizations that plan attacks in the West, and actually
in many cases they do condemn them.
The problem is more indirect. First of all, these organizations
have not, from an ideological point of view, completely condemned violence. I'm
talking about heterogeneous transnational movements, so I'm simplifying things.
Generally speaking, the movement has not abandoned violence as a tool to advance
its agenda. It's abandoned its tactics, but it's not heartfelt.
Secondly, in some cases, they do directly support violence. I
think we have many cases of Brotherhood organizations, including here in Canada,
funding terrorist-designated organizations: Hamas and what we see in Libya now,
for example, with the Brotherhood being actively involved in violence, together
with jihadist groups. That's a very interesting dynamic.
Third, the other reason the Brotherhood in the West is concerning
is it embraces a certain narrative that is very conducive to violent
radicalization. In certain parts of Muslim communities, it mainstreams a
narrative of support of violence and “victimism” that are extremely dangerous
The Brotherhood narrative basically says that the West is at war
against Islam, that Western governments and Western societies hate Islam. They
have this narrative where they lump together foreign policy issues with issues
like cartoons as part of a big narrative that proves this point that the West
hates Muslims and Islam.
Add to that the condemnation of terrorism — but it is often with
a lot of ”ifs” and “buts” — and the justification of acts of violence in places
like Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places.
Now, the Brotherhood in the West does not reach the conclusion
that Muslims in the West should engage in violence in the West. It's not a
black-and-white issue; there are a lot of grey areas.
This has to be said: They do actively engage in activities that
prevent violent radicalization. It's somewhat of a paradox, but it happens in
many cases, and we can get into examples later.
Nonetheless, that kind of narrative in the mind a 16- or
18-year-old is extremely dangerous, because violence is justified when Muslims
are under attack: “If it's okay in Gaza and Afghanistan, why is it not okay in
the West, where you're also telling me that Islam is under attack?” So the
mainstreaming of this narrative is very much the staircase to violent
radicalization, and the Brotherhood does mainstream that. It provides somewhat
of a fertile environment.
The Brits, who have been looking into this dynamic, argue that
what the Brotherhood does is provide the mood music to a suicide bomber’s dance.
It's a fanciful expression, but it's very telling. There's been a shift in the
way the British government has looked at the issue of the Brotherhood and
Ten years ago, the main line was that the Brotherhood was the
solution, in a way: We have to work with soft Islamists against the hard ones;
it takes a radical to defeat a radical; we work with them. Yes, they have
positions on certain issues like gay rights, women's rights, freedom of
religion, which are controversial to say the least, but nonetheless they get the
job done when it comes to preventing violence. That was the main line 10 years
If you pitch that line in London today, most people will look at
you as though you're completely out of touch with reality. Things have changed a
lot, and the British government has completely changed. It's not a matter of
Tories or Labour. It's very much an issue that brings most of the political
classes together in the U.K. Brotherhood organizations no longer get funded, and
they are seen as part of the problem.
The latest incarnation of Prevent argued that:
Terrorist groups can take up and exploit ideas which have been
developed and sometimes popularised by extremist organizations which operate
legally in this country.
Again, what they do is not illegal, but it's part of the problem.
It's a common assessment that most countries have, I would argue.
There has been at least talk in the U.K. of banning the Brotherhood. I think
there's been a review, as I'm sure you're aware, of the activities of the
Brotherhood in the U.K. The results have not been made public for a variety of
reasons. I think it is clear that the British government is now going to move to
ban the Brotherhood for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with legal
reasons. The idea is to adopt a no-platform approach where the Brotherhood is
seen as part of problem, where the government takes a strategic approach seeking
to undermine what the Brotherhood does. It does not give them legitimacy. It
does not give them support. Legal tolerance doesn't mean civil tolerance. It
tries to basically undermine what it does. It's considered problematic.
We talked about the violent radicalization side of things, but
the other problem that comes with the Brotherhood is the impact on social
cohesion and integration. I'm the first one to concede the point that the
majority of people who in one way or the other get exposed to the Brotherhood
world view will not necessarily graduate to becoming terrorists. The majority do
not. I think what you have is a fringe, a small part that does make that
additional leap into terrorism, but most will not. Nonetheless, there is the
impact on social cohesion of a narrative, a very politicized, literal
interpretation of Islam that sees the West as an antagonistic society into which
Muslims should not be integrated, or integrated only in relation to what serves
to advance the Islamic agenda.
Just to touch some of the core issues, for example, women's
rights, gay rights and freedom of religion, the views the Brotherhood adopts are
extremely problematic there. As I said, the numbers are very small. We're
talking about a few hundred Brotherhood activists in each Western country, but
they do rely on substantial resources. They have disproportionate control over
mosques, schools and a lot of spaces where Muslims come together. For example,
in all the European countries, there are annual gatherings for Muslims. The
biggest ones, where 40,000 or 50,000 people go, are organized by Brotherhood
organizations. Are all the 40,000 or 50,000 people who go there Brotherhood
members or sympathizers? Absolutely not. But it's only the Brotherhood that has
the financial resources, the activism, the mindset and the capabilities of
organizing these sorts of events. Their goal is to spread their interpretation,
which I would argue is still very much on the fringe in certain communities.
Some ideas of the Brotherhood have percolated to parts of communities, but
generally speaking, the vast majority of Muslims do not adopt the Brotherhood
line of thinking.
Obviously, if that access to resources is combined with support
from governments, which I think in some cases has happened, it becomes extremely
problematic. That was the case in the U.K. 10 years ago where the government was
actively partnering with Brotherhood organizations, giving them support. It
gives proportionate influence to a very small and disproportionate organized
I'll leave it there.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Vidino.
We will start with Senator Mitchell and then go to Senator
Senator Mitchell: Thanks, Mr. Vidino. That was a very
knowledgeable presentation. I read some of your publications, and they are very
interesting. Clearly, you've thought this through.
I detect perhaps a change from your article written in 2011 about
dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, where you say that authorities should talk
to Western Brotherhood organizations, but only with three conditions. One of
those conditions was make sure that you engage other organizations. You're
aware, of course, of these conditions. The second is you have to be fully aware
of where they're coming from, and the third is that you don't transcend into an
undue and counterproductive support of the brothers. A fear is that if
authorities acknowledge them, they gain.
It’s also a broader issue, and that's something that throughout
my political career has been referred to as “ghetto politics,” where we often
are inclined, as politicians, to deal with leaders of groups, and we need to get
past that. Why should we give any group that authority over a community or
people? They're Canadians, just like the rest of us.
Have you changed your orientation regarding how one should deal
with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood? If you're not dealing with them, who
are you dealing with and how do you get to the community?
Mr. Vidino: It's flattering to know as an academic that
your papers are being read. I appreciate that.
I haven't changed my stance. You summed it up very well. The
conclusion I draw is that the approach should be engage but don't empower.
Engage with knowledge. Know that it's not a uniquely Brotherhood tactic, but
they are not always truthful and sincere when they engage. So know exactly who
you're dealing with. I think that's rule number one in any setting.
Know that they have an agenda. Occasionally there are moments
where that agenda is even compatible with the agenda of any government.
But the second part is to be proactive, to make that effort of
not being lazy and just dealing with the most visible and most vocal voices, the
ones that will be proactive and try to reach out to you. I use the plural
“communities” throughout my presentation. They're as diverse as Muslim
communities in any Western country. If you think you get the full picture just
by talking to four or five individuals, self-appointed representatives, I think
that's very mistaken. You have to do a lot of hard work in terms of finding
voices that are probably less organized but not necessarily less representative.
I've seen that in Boston for example. I got my PhD in Boston. I
looked at how the government was engaging. It was 2006-07 and the U.S.
government was starting to reach out to Muslim communities there. It basically
went to Brotherhood-leaning organizations mostly because those are the ones who
themselves do outreach to government. For example, I saw shock on the faces of
some U.S. government officials on knowing that the largest Muslim community in
Boston is the Bosnian one that they had never met with, and it had very
different customs from most of the communities they were engaging with. For some
of them, the celebration for the end of Ramadan was getting shots of rakia —
liquor — not exactly the conservative image they had by talking to certain
people. Who is to define what Islam is? It's different communities of different
It takes effort, knowledge and an understanding that you're
getting a partial view with a spin that is problematic because, as I said, I
think these groups are problematic.
I position myself somewhere in between. There are a lot of
critics of the Brotherhood that argue you shouldn't talk to them. Shut them
down; don't talk to them. I have problems with that approach because I think
it's not realistic or feasible and potentially very counterproductive. At the
same time, you have to be smart when you talk to them.
Senator Mitchell: If alienation is at the root of some of
the radicalization problem, if it is not a sufficient condition, it’s certainly
a necessary condition. You talked about the soft side and the importance of
alienation becoming a critical central feature of how you deal with groups. It's
true that we need to prevent that occurring as well.
Mr. Vidino: Yes, and they are occasionally inevitable
partners in this. They're undeniably a part of the community. They're undeniably
representative of a cross-section of a community. If you alienate them
completely, if you go to war with them, they could make your life difficult when
you're trying to reach certain parts of the community. At the same time, if you
consider them partners, embrace them, give them legitimacy and you think they
will solve your problems when it comes to radicalization, I think that's a
delusional approach. That “in between” is extremely delicate and complex, but it
requires a tailored, nuanced solution.
I think the mistake the British government made at the beginning
was to give them legitimacy because they saw them as partners in all of this. I
think what's happening now is that they engage with them more behind closed
doors. They see there are situations in which working with them is somewhat
inevitable, but tactical partnerships are different from the press releases with
hugs and kisses that took place 10 years ago.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you.
Senator Stewart Olsen: If you would, please explain to the
people watching this and those interested, what exactly does the Muslim
Brotherhood believe in? What is their ideology?
Mr. Vidino: First of all, we should make a distinction
between the Brotherhood in Muslim-majority countries and in the West. There is a
core, of course, with different goals, obviously.
I think the general idea is they do see Islam as a comprehensive
system of life that shapes all aspects of private and public life so that every
aspect of both should be shaped by Islam, the way they interpret it, which is
quite conservative and literal, less literal than Salafists or more extreme
groups. But that is the general view.
Hassan al-Banna was the founder of the Brotherhood in Egypt in
the 1920s. There were different degrees. Gradualism is a big part of the
Brotherhood's belief. The first thing is to create the perfect Muslim
individual, then Muslim family, then Muslim society, then Muslim state and so
on. It’s the idea that Islamic law, sharia, governs all aspects of life. So in
Muslim-majority countries, that entails creating an Islamic society and an
Islamic form of government, which wouldn't necessarily be what we're seeing with
ISIS. The way they interpret the sharia is not as extreme as ISIS, but
nonetheless, the sharia shapes all way of life.
In the West it's different. It’s a group that is extremely
pragmatic and flexible, so they're fully aware that they're not going to create
Islamic societies in the West. It may be a dream centuries down the road. If you
have a certain mindset, you may think that eventually the whole world will
embrace your views, but they're very pragmatic at heart.
Their goals in the West are different, and I would sum them up in
basically three ways. One is to spread their interpretation of Islam. As I said,
it's more about politics than religion. I find Islamism is a political ideology
based on the interpretation of religion, their world view rather than their
interpretation of Islam, spreading their world view to Muslim communities.
The second goal is to become gatekeepers to Muslim communities
for all Western interlocutors, and that second goal reinforces the first. If you
are the gatekeeper, the self-appointed representative, you might at some point
actually become the representative. If the government sees you as a reliable
partner, and, for example, it's a big thing in a lot of European countries to
teach Islam in schools, then the government will appoint you to teach Islam in
public schools. Then you have the ability to shape the education system. So
becoming a gatekeeper is a very important thing for them.
The third goal is to do like any other lobbying group, which is
to influence policy on anything that has to do with Islam and Islamism, both
domestically and internationally, lobby for Brotherhood branches in the
Middle East and North Africa on all issues that are of interest, and to be the
Muslim voice when politicians reach out and want to know what Muslims think.
They want to be the ones telling you that's what Muslims think. I would say
those are the three goals.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Some countries have actually
designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Do you agree with
that? Do you think that's the way Canada should go?
Mr. Vidino: Yes, a few countries have. Saudi Arabia, Egypt
and the United Arab Emirates have such designations. Syria has for a long time
It's complicated. I think it has to do a lot with legal systems.
I'm no expert on the requirements for designation under Canadian law. I think
it's fair to say that for some branches of the Brotherhood — again, it's not a
monolithic entity. The way it works is you have different branches in each
country. Obviously, the Egyptian one is the most important, but if you cross the
border and go to Libya, the Libyan branch of the Brotherhood is 99 per cent
independent from the Egyptian one. So who do you designate? Do you designate the
Brotherhood in Egypt or in every Arab country? We are talking about an
organization that has branches in, give or take, 60 or 70 countries. It is an
international organization, although it's questionable how effective and how
much control that international organization has over the different branches. A
lot of people argue that it's simply an incarnation of the Egyptian Brotherhood
trying to control the other branches. Then you have in the Western Brotherhood
2.0, those kinds of organizations. The U.A.E. has designated some of the Western
spin-offs of the Brotherhood as well.
It's difficult to say whether I would recommend that or not.
First of all, who do you designate? I think for some of the branches
internationally you have a case. I go back to Libya. That's a clear example of
the Brotherhood being involved in terrorist activities.
You could argue that Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, the leader of
Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Brotherhood, particularly in the past, has been
designated as an al Qaeda supporter for more than 10 years in the U.S. So for
some branches the case is pretty clear. For the spinoffs in the West, I think
it's on a case-by-case basis.
The British approach is interesting. They came to the conclusion
that it cannot be done legally and could actually be quite problematic. From a
PR point of view, it would probably be very problematic. It would definitely
trigger a battle in court. They weighed the pros and cons, and I think they said
the cons outweighed the pros. Nonetheless, they opted — and I can't predict the
future, but with the Tories in power now, they're going to be even more
aggressive — to make their lives very difficult and have a clear understanding
throughout government that they are part of the problem, not part of the
solution. So no support, but also using what I would argue is the Al Capone law
enforcement approach: “You're not an illegal organization, so we cannot
designate you or prosecute you for terrorism-related matters, but I bet you that
you have problems when you pay your taxes.” A lot of their financial activities
are not exactly aboveboard, and you do see a number of investigations taking
place with a lot of charities in the U.K.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, that's very informative.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Vidino. You are
recognized as an expert in the fight against radicalization. You gave a
brilliant presentation on your main experiences with the European lessons in the
fight against radicalization. I would like to hear what you think about the
effectiveness of the European initiatives in the fight against radicalization so
Correct me if I am wrong, but the debate now seems to be moving
toward prevention. I would like to hear your opinion on that.
Mr. Vidino: First of all, it's difficult to assess the
European level, because at the end of the day all counter-radicalization
initiatives are done at the country level, so each country should be analyzed
individually. The European Union only does some coordination work, but at the
end of the day all activities are at the individual country level.
The effectiveness is, as I said, a very difficult thing to
assess, to measure. The general idea is that the big programs which were funded
at the beginning in 2005, 2006, almost look like social engineering programs,
with big integration and interfaith initiatives. There's less enthusiasm, as I
said in my presentation. They're very expensive. They are built on the idea that
lack of integration produces radicalization, and I think that idea is challenged
by a lot of people.
Obviously there is no consensus on the issues of radicalization,
but the idea is that we do not know for sure if lack of integration causes
radicalization. A lot of people disagree.
Second, even if it's true, should pro-integration initiatives, as
good as they are — of course they should be there — be part of a
counter-radicalization strategy? Should law enforcement and intelligence
agencies be running integration and interfaith dialogues? It doesn't necessarily
make a lot of sense.
As I said, the focus has shifted on programs that are cheaper,
smaller, which are the one-on-one interventions. There is enthusiasm about that
because the results are relatively good. There are a lot of problems in getting
hard data because of privacy laws, so you have to rely on what governments tell
you. It's difficult to get a second opinion.
But we are investing a lot of resources in them, particularly
over the last two years because of the foreign fighters issue and, as I said,
the issues in prosecuting individuals. CVE programs are the only alternative to
doing nothing about it because of a lack of legal recourse.
The head of the British police in charge of Channel, a British
counter-radicalization intervention program, talked about a 95 to 100 per cent
success rate, which is obviously very high. Some would question that. Probably
what is arguable is that their programs would intervene with people at the very
beginning of the radicalization trajectory. Nonetheless, that's still a good
thing. They are numbers that are weeded out from what is already a very large
number of radicalized individuals.
The engagement part, which is the third family of
counter-radicalization initiatives, is also a very intangible aspect. At lot of
it involves meetings with Muslim communities. Sometimes people make fun of them;
there are all these tea-drinking sessions. What comes out of it? Of course it's
difficult to measure in hard data, but there are ways that show that those kinds
of initiatives are useful.
Ten years ago we had another foreign fighters’ mobilization for
Iraq with much smaller numbers, but we have a few hundred Europeans who went to
fight in Iraq for al Qaeda. I'm hard pressed to think of even one case of a
relative or a friend who went to the police or intelligence agencies to report
the case of a relative, a brother or a friend who was going to Iraq to fight.
Now that's a common dynamic. I know it's the same in Canada where you have many
cases in which families, relatives, go to the police.
It's difficult to say and to prove, but arguably it is the
by-product of this engagement, of these trust-building measures, breaking into
communities which traditionally and historically, for understandable reasons,
have always seen law enforcement as the enemy rather than a friend. Years and
years of engagement, I think, have helped.
I empathize with some of our colleagues who sit in front of
panels like this and try to justify the effectiveness of CVE measures with hard
data. Sometimes it's very difficult, but sometimes the result is varied. It's
maybe not immediately visible, but you might see it 10 years later.
Senator Dagenais: You said that it is difficult to obtain
data, which are held by governments. But do you think prevention is working? Has
there been an improvement in the prevention system?
Mr. Vidino: Absolutely, I think it does. And it's not just
my opinion; it's the opinion of, I would argue, every single government in the
Western world that it's part of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy.
The people that agreed the most with this are really the people
who deal with the hard stuff. Some of the firmest believers in the softer part
of prevention are the people on the ground in law enforcement and intelligence
who understand that some of these initiatives are crucially important.
They're not going to be successful all the time, but in the case
of the 16-year-old — that's how the British started the Channel program. It was
after they discovered the case of Hasib Hussain, who was one of the four 7/7
London bombers. He was the guy who blew himself up on the bus. He was the only
one not known to authorities. The other three were already known to MI5 and he
was not known. When they started investigating after the attacks, the only thing
that they knew was that he had been scribbling “I love al Qaeda” and so forth on
his books at school. The teacher picked up on that and went to the principal,
talked about it and nothing was done because there was no system in place to do
anything about it. The Brits, after that, and because of other cases of course,
Other European countries have systems where that teacher, that
principal, has a place to report that case and then to a certain entity. It
changes from European country to country. In some cases it's the police, in some
cases the municipality and in some other cases civil society organizations.
Generally I'm a fan of a light police footprint in this,
obviously for trust reasons within the community. That structure then sets up
some kind of intervention.
Will it work all the time? Obviously not. Will it work 50 per
cent of the time? If it does, that's great. The idea in European countries is
that it does work in many cases, and that's good because it relieves the
police and the intelligence of a lot of work. They are already overwhelmed with
cases. If it's 50 per cent fewer cases, that's great. Also, it's in the best
interests of the young person radicalizing. The language that the British use is
the language of safeguarding. This kind of intervention is done in the best
interests of the young person radicalizing.
The way teachers were approached was to say, “If you see that
your student is involved in gangs, is targeted by pedophiles, would you report
the case?” Radicalization is the same thing. It's another social ill. That's the
language being used in Europe. It's a social ill that targets young people, so
teachers, community leaders and social workers should see it as such and report
It does absolutely work in some cases.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Professor Vidino. I share
Senator Mitchell's admiration for your work.
I credit the U.K. Conservative landslide to Home Secretary
Theresa May who has been working on this problem for years. They believed in
integration in the beginning and in outreach but have now decided to take the
My question is in a different vein. I wondered, given your
experience in the U.K., if you might advise Canada on better managing alleged
radical spiritual leaders who are coming here. There are self-proclaimed
spiritual leaders, people like Tariq Ramadan, who have some good work but also
have mixed documented messages that they say in other countries. Do you see a
problem for that here in Canada, and how would you advise us to address it?
Mr. Vidino: I think that is a problem common to all
countries, with the influx of more or less radical individuals who come here and
promote certain views without knowing the legal framework in Canada in terms of
who is and is not allowed. In a lot of countries, I think the approach has been
that certain individuals that clearly espouse radical views should not be
allowed in the country. That's a pretty standard MO in the vast majority of
The Chair: Do they have a no-visit list?
Mr. Vidino: Yes, or it's done on a case-by-case basis.
When they know a certain individual is coming from outside of the Schengen area,
for example, and requires a visa, the government takes a decision not to let
them in. It's quite a few people. Actually, certain groups know which countries
are tougher. You enter the Schengen area and you ask for a visa in a certain
European country so that you can tour the other countries on that visa. Few
people ask for a visa for France because everyone knows the French are tough on
this. However, other countries are a bit softer and you can enter Europe that
way. A lot of that is done.
If you have issues of freedom of speech and expression, one must
tread carefully when limiting that even from known citizens — people who come
from outside, obviously. I think certain communities would feel targeted if
certain individuals are being denied access to the country just because they're
controversial. Obviously, it's on a case-by-case basis. It's difficult to
advocate the determining factor that says yes or no. Advocating for violence
should probably be one of those factors, but it's a delicate choice to be made
on a case-by-case basis.
Even among those individuals who would be allowed, I think we go
back to no platform, no tolerance. Legal tolerance does not equal civil
tolerance. If a certain individual comes into the country and goes to a
university to speak, maybe there is something to putting pressure on that
university and telling them that as much as we understand that universities
should be bastions of free speech, they should also be places where a certain
kind of hatred should not be tolerated. Sometimes naming and shaming works,
making it clear that providing a platform to certain individuals with certain
views should not be tolerated. If they decide to go ahead anyway, so be it.
Framing it in the right way is important. In many cases, it's not
about what some of those individuals say when it comes to criticizing Canada or
any other Western foreign policy. Going back to issues that should be dear to
everybody — women's rights, gay rights, freedom of religion — these are core
issues. When you see you hardcore views on foreign policy, those views are going
to be matched by their radical views on those issues. I think there should be
little tolerance for that.
Senator Ngo: Have you conducted any research on the
foreign funding community in North America who support the spread of the radical
ideology in Canada? That’s my first question.
Secondly, can you elaborate more on your comments about the
victimization narrative? Who are the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Canada,
if you know?
Mr. Vidino: When it comes to foreign funding, as I said,
it's what sets the Brotherhood apart from other organizations. It's their access
to funds and their ability to receive compensation from small numbers with very
These sources of funding are not always clear. Some of them are
good businessmen. The background of a lot of these individuals is that they're
successful businessmen. They're raised in their own community. They have their
Arguably, though, the majority of funds in the past came from
supporters in the Arab Gulf region. It's one of the things that everyone knows
but is sometimes a bit difficult to prove, a smoking gun. A lot of it is a
cash-only business, and therefore it becomes difficult.
Obviously, some of those sources of funding have dried up over
the last few years. A lot of Gulf countries have changed their policies on the
Brotherhood — some dramatically. When looking at banning the Brotherhood or
positions that the government should take, that's something to be taken into
consideration. Few countries in the Arab world — in fact, I can only think of
one — would be opposed to that. A lot of countries would take that in a positive
light. I'm not saying that should be done to appease countries in the Arab Gulf,
but that's a position that most countries would have.
The Government of Qatar has traditionally been, over the last
four or five years, the largest sponsor of Brotherhood organizations in North
America and Europe. I think you have private individuals in other Gulf countries
that support them. They’re not supported at the government level but by wealthy
individuals in those countries. In Saudi and U.A.E. it is now illegal to do so.
It is complicated to understand the dynamics of foreign funding.
The dynamic of victimization is the narrative. It's common to any
kind of extremist ideology. The first part of any ideology is to tell its
followers that they are under attack or being victimized by a conspiracy against
them. Ideology gives you a vision of a better tomorrow and tells you how you can
be part of that solution. Think of any extremist ideology or right-wing
ideology, or a giant Zionist conspiracy, or any ideology.
In the Brotherhood narrative, it's a big conspiracy of the West
and secular governments in the Arab world, not against Islamists but against
Islam and Muslims. That's how they put it. They put together all kinds of
issues, whether they are big geopolitical issues or local dynamics. Issues of
Islamophobia do exist, undeniably. As with any narrative, it has to have at
least some grounding in reality. Obviously, the ability of the Brotherhood is to
exploit and magnify issues that exist and weave them into a conspiratorial and
What are the organizations in Canada that trace their roots to
the Brotherhood? As I said, in the West you will not have an organization called
Muslim Brotherhood in Holland, Muslim Brotherhood in Canada, and so on. In some
cases they vehemently deny any link to the Brotherhood. If we keep the analysis
on a formal level, they have a point. They don't have a membership card in their
passport, although some of them are part of the Brotherhood in their country of
origin. It's somewhat more informal. You have organizations created by
individuals who have personal ties to different branches of the Brotherhood back
in the Middle East and who have personal, financial, organizational and
ideological ties to the movement.
The Muslim Association of Canada would be the first name that
comes to mind. There are clear links there where you have prominent individuals
that for 20 or 30 years have been involved in Brotherhood groups both in Canada
and in the United States. What used to be called CARE Canada, it’s the same
thing. There are charities like Islamic Relief. Irfan is gone but it was part of
If you look at these eight to ten organizations, you basically
see that it's always kind of the same people that are involved in them. That's
kind of the milieu.
The title of my book is The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West.
In a way, it is the Brotherhood 2.0. They are not part of a pyramid with Cairo
on top, but they have the same world view and the same MO as the Brotherhood.
Senator Ngo: You answered part of my question.
The next question I would like to ask is this: Besides the U.K.
action taken against the Muslim Brotherhood, so-called, are other countries in
Europe taking similar actions? What are they doing?
Mr. Vidino: I'm turning on my computer because I want to
read a couple of things I prepared.
Let me put it like this: Traditionally — and I think things have
changed a little bit over the past couple of years — there’s been a divide in
the Western world between continental Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world, where
continental Europe has taken a much more negative and pessimistic view of the
Brotherhood and the Anglo-Saxon world was somewhat more favourable to the
Brotherhood. I think things have changed. I talked about the shift in the U.K.,
but the approach in continental Europe has been that of seeing the Brotherhood
in a very negative way.
Assessing one group in a certain way doesn't necessarily mean the
way you deal with them and engage with them follows that assessment. A lot of
factors come into play, such as politics.
Generally speaking, European intelligence agencies have a very
negative view of the Brotherhood. Let me read to you a couple of quotes. This is
from the Dutch. I have German and Belgian quotes, too, and they all pretty much
say the same. This is from the AIVD, which is the Dutch equivalent of CSIS; the
Dutch intelligence agency.
. . . not all Muslim brothers or their sympathizers are
recognizable as such. They do not always reveal their religious loyalties and
ultra-orthodox agenda to outsiders. Apparently cooperative and moderate in their
attitude to Western society, they certainly have no violent intent. But they are
trying to pave the way for ultra-orthodox Islam to play a greater role in the
Western world by exercising religious influence over Muslim immigrant
communities and by forging good relations with relevant opinion leaders:
politicians, civil servants, mainstream social organizations . . . and so on.
This policy of engagement has been more noticeable in recent years, and might
possibly herald a certain liberalization of the movement's ideas. It presents
itself as a widely supported advocate and legitimate representative of the
Islamic community. But the ultimate aim — although never stated openly — is to
create, then implant and expand, an ultra-orthodox Muslim bloc inside Western
Europe . . . .
It's a very negative assessment. It sounds like something you
could read in a right-wing blog. It's from the Dutch intelligence agency; one of
the most liberal and tolerant countries in Europe. I could read you quotes from
the Belgians, the Germans, the French, the Danish and the Italians; it would be
basically the same analysis. That's the assessment from intelligence agencies.
One of the reasons there's a difference between the Anglo-Saxon
and continental European countries is that intelligence agencies in continental
European have a broader mandate than MI6, the FBI and CSIS. They look not only
at violent extremism but at all threats to the democratic order. They look at
subversion. They look at the Brotherhood more than Anglo-Saxon countries do.
That's the opinion they get at the end of that process.
The Chair: I will follow up with one further question.
This leads me to one question and perhaps you have some knowledge of this.
My understanding is that in some cases the Muslim Brotherhood,
depending where it is, actually is in charge of schools or education. Should
that be a cause for concern? If it is, what should countries such as Canada or
England or France be doing about that in respect to ensuring that these young
people are getting the education they should be getting?
Mr. Vidino: The dynamics change from country to country.
In Germany, the big problem is in public schools. The German constitution states
that each state in the federal system has to teach any religion in partnership
with religious communities. What you get is the usual dynamic where you have 20
organizations applying to be partners with the government in teaching Islam in
schools. From a purely formal point of view, the best application comes from
Brotherhood organizations. All the other organizations do not have the
sophistication to put together a good application. They cannot be part of it
from a strictly bureaucratic point of view.
The vast majority of German states nonetheless take an approach
where they look beyond just the formal aspect of the application, and they do
not work with Brotherhood organizations because the Brotherhood and its Turkish
equivalent, Millî Görüş , which is basically the sister organization in the
Turkish language, are on the list of extremist organizations in Germany.
The Germans have two lists. One is the terrorist organizations
and one is the extremist organizations. Extremist organizations are monitored.
There are some limitations that come with being on that list, such as visas. One
of them is that the intelligence agencies work with the department of education
in identifying organizations that are on the list and are problematic and that
the government should not work with. That then triggers lawsuits and very
complex litigation, but that's the dynamic.
In other countries you have private schools run by Brotherhood
organizations. That's become more problematic, obviously, with regard to what
the government can do there. I talked about the world view and the impact on
social cohesion that the Brotherhood has. When it runs its own school system,
one can speculate as to what the results of that are.
I think what we have seen in the U.K., with some of the
controversies over the last few months, is something that is of concern to the
British government. It's one of the reasons why they have created a specific
unit inside the Home Office, which is called the Extremism Analysis Unit, to
look specifically at issues of known violent extremism or what they call
“entryism” — situations in which Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami Islamic
organizations, which is the South Asian equivalent of the Brotherhood, work
within the system and basically infiltrate it and spread their agenda through
legal means, but obviously in a way that is problematic.
The Chair: Colleagues, I want to thank Mr. Vidino. It's
been very informative and we very much appreciate you coming.
Joining us on our third panel of the day is Mr. Don Head,
Commissioner, Correctional Services Canada.
Mr. Head, welcome to the committee. It's a pleasure to have you
with us today. I understand you have an opening statement, and I would invite
you to begin.
Don Head, Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada: Thank
you, Mr. Chair and members. Good afternoon.
I'm pleased to have been provided with the opportunity to speak
on behalf of Correctional Service Canada on this committee's important study
regarding the security threats facing Canada.
Mr. Chair, Correctional Service Canada administers the sentences
of approximately 23,000 federal offenders on any given day in federal
penitentiaries and under supervision in the community. Many of the offenders
have a history of violence and may pose a risk to the safety of Canadians if not
properly managed. Our organization is acutely aware of the threat that such
offenders pose to public safety. However, the individuals who pose the security
threats which have been the principal focus of this study are not typical in the
federal correctional system.
What we refer to as “radicalized offenders,” defined as “an
ideologically motivated offender, who commits, aspires or conspires to commit,
or promotes violent acts in order to achieve ideological objectives,” represent
only a small number of the offenders under federal jurisdiction as of today.
Despite this number, Correctional Service Canada takes the issue
of radicalized offenders and violent extremism very seriously. It should be
noted that the correctional system has had these types of offenders in our care
at various times over the last 150 years. While our Public Safety colleagues
work tirelessly to detect, prevent and prosecute those who commit acts of
terrorism and violent extremism, Correctional Service Canada is chiefly mandated
with a wholly different responsibility: the management, supervision and
rehabilitation of those convicted of such crimes.
In federal institutions and parole offices across the country, my
staff works hard every day to ensure public safety. Through careful assessment
and targeted correctional interventions and programming, our case management and
psychology professionals address the needs and risks of all federal offenders;
they assist offenders in their rehabilitation so that the latter may return to
Canadian communities as law-abiding citizens.
Like all federal offenders who enter our system, our organization
manages radicalized offenders through individualized correctional plans.
Following a thorough assessment and examination of case-specific factors, a
correctional plan is created to outline the appropriate interventions for an
offender's rehabilitation and establish clear objectives against which their
progress will be evaluated. As directed by these plans, we deliver nationally
recognized correctional programs, psychological services, chaplaincy services
and interventions, and education and employment programs to address the unique
needs of each offender in our custody.
Mr. Chair, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to this committee
that radicalized offenders do represent a unique challenge in this regard. Our
observations suggest that these offenders are often different than the vast
majority of our population, with different motivations and different needs, and
we intend to be proactive in exploring new approaches and best practices for
better managing these offenders in the interest of public safety and effective
Indeed, radicalization poses a challenge not only for my
organization but for correctional systems around the world. Our ongoing dialogue
with our international counterparts has led us to conclude that while the
challenges posed by these offenders are unique within the offender population,
they are not unique to Canada.
However, these common challenges have presented us with an
opportunity to work together and to benefit from our collective knowledge. As an
organization, we are working with our international partners to evaluate how we
manage radicalized offenders within the correctional system and to determine the
most effective approaches to this problem. As is the case in many areas of
public policy, there is a great deal we can learn from our partners around the
world, and I am very pleased with how productive our dialogue has been. I can
think of no better example of this cooperation than when we hosted a three-day
roundtable and mini symposium in December of last year on radicalization. This
event brought together international experts with significant knowledge and
experience in the management of extremist offenders in a correctional setting.
Although very productive, this meeting represents a singular
component of a comprehensive three-year research initiative undertaken by
Correctional Service Canada. This initiative, entitled “Mitigating the
Threat Posed by Violent Extremist Offenders in Correctional Institutions and
Communities” and funded by Defence Research and Development Canada's Centre for
Security Science, is being managed by Correctional Service Canada's research
Through this initiative, including international consultation and
the extensive internal research completed by my staff, we are now coming to
better understand the issues of radicalization in Canadian penitentiaries.
Through empirical evidence, we are learning what the profile of this population
looks like, about their unique needs and motivations, and about the correctional
interventions and programs that could be most appropriate for them.
Although we continue to examine and build upon our research, some
interest findings are beginning to emerge. Most notably, it was found that
compared to other offenders, radicalized offenders tended to be younger, better
educated and had stronger employment histories. Further, they tended to be less
likely to have had previous contact with the criminal justice system, tended to
have fewer problems with the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and displayed better
adjustment in terms of mental health and institutional behaviour.
In a related finding with respect to interventions, it was found
that several of the more common treatment targets for correctional programs,
such as those aimed at substance abuse, education and employment, appeared to be
less significant needs areas for radicalized offenders. However, needs such as
beliefs or attitudes may necessitate greater attention for radicalized
In addition to effective correctional interventions, the
management and safe accommodation of radicalized offenders is also an area of
focus for our organization. Radicalized offenders may represent a risk to the
safety and security of federal institutions, both in terms of their personal
safety and the possibility that they may attempt to recruit other inmates to
their cause. Our research has attempted to determine useful indicators to assist
us in identifying offenders who may be most susceptible to becoming radicalized
while incarcerated. However, I would point out that our organization has
significant experience in managing the complexities of our inmate population.
The threat posed by security threat groups and incompatibilities
is an ongoing concern and one which extends far beyond the issue of radicalized
offenders. Through research projects and ongoing consultations with
international partners, it is our goal to produce comprehensive findings and
recommendations on this subject and, ultimately, to pursue whatever changes may
be necessary to address any concerns which have been identified. Although
radicalized offenders only represent a small fraction of the inmate population
at this time, we want to be proactive and to ensure that the most effective
policies, interventions and training are in place.
Mr. Chair, I have spent my entire career working in the field of
corrections. Since first being hired as a correctional officer in 1978, I have
seen our organization evolve and adapt to change; I have seen tremendous
innovation in how we carry out our mandate. When I began, we did not have a
single nationally recognized correctional program. Today our correctional
programs are internationally renowned. This accomplishment would not have been
possible without considerable research and ongoing refinement of our policies.
Radicalization represents a new challenge, but it is a challenge that I have
full confidence that the work we are doing today will allow us to meet that in
Although we look forward to enhancing our approach, this
committee can rest assured that my staff will continue to manage all offenders,
including radicalized offenders, with the critical objective of contributing to
the public safety of Canadians.
I would like to thank you once again for the opportunity to
appear before you today, and I look forward to answering any of your questions.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Mitchell: Mr. Head, thank you very much. You've
been at this for 37 years. That's a long time. The depth of your knowledge is
clear from your presentation.
You probably heard of or actually heard the testimony last week
from a prison psychologist who mentioned the case of the man who killed his
daughters and his former or other wife, and that he has been allowed to present
his situation in prison, and at whatever size he is, he's intimidating
nonetheless. We just need to hear from you your side of that story, whether it's
true, and how could it be that that would happen and what exactly is going on.
Mr. Head: Thank you very much, senator. I anticipated this
being one of the first questions that you would ask. As you appreciate, I can't
talk about any specific offender, but I can talk about our overall management
strategy, which I think will address your question or any concerns that you may
We monitor very closely any offender that comes into our system.
If we have any concerns about their safety or any risk they pose to the safety
of others, we have a variety of options of how we can deal with those
individuals. I can assure you that that has been the case with anyone who has
been identified as potentially radicalized or involved in any kind of
We're aware of only one case in one institution which involved a
totally different offender, where somebody was involved in potentially holding
unofficial prayer sessions. Once that was brought to our attention, our staff
and the imam who comes into the institution immediately intervened and that was
brought to an end.
I know the testimony you heard last week was quite concerning. It
was quite concerning for me, and obviously I did a lot of checking with the
warden and with the staff. I think probably the statement that I would reflect
back to you and the committee that the witness made is that this was all
anecdotal information and not verified. So based on my own review of the
situation and going back and checking what it was at the time, I have no
concerns in terms of what was happening.
Senator Mitchell: So certainly not policy by any means or
any stretch of the imagination?
Mr. Head: No, senator. As a matter of fact, any of the
things in that testimony that were suggested were happening, staff would have
been aware of. I have full confidence in my staff that they will intervene, not
only the front-line correctional officers but the parole officers who manage
individual cases and our own intelligence officers. We have a strong preventive
security intelligence network that would give us any information that would
suggest any of those alleged activities were occurring, and we have strategies
for intervening immediately if that were the case.
Senator Mitchell: You referred to the important role of an
imam. The psychologist also referred to that, and yet there are precious few
imams now in the chaplaincy program, as well as precious few chaplains.
Do you feel the cutbacks in that area have been a detriment to
the rehabilitation of the general population but also those who might be seen to
Mr. Head: Again, a great question and an opportunity for
me to set some facts straight.
We have not cut back in terms of our chaplaincy services at all.
Actually, what changed was just the vehicle by which we acquire faith service
providers. We went to a single contract across the country that then provides
access to the various faith services that we need to meet the needs of
One of the largest growing faiths within the offender population
right now happens to be Islam, so we actually have a relatively good network of
imams that we're able to tap into.
Now, there's no question that in some of our more isolated
institutions it's sometimes more difficult to find an imam to go to Grande Cache
up in the mountaintops of Alberta, for example. What will happen is they'll look
at other ways to arrange for somebody to come at different times, and in some
cases we've actually used technology to have faith service providers interact
I have an outside advisory group called the interfaith committee,
which is made up of a large number of various faith service denomination
provider groups. We meet a couple of times per year to go over how the services
are being delivered, where there are gaps and where there are opportunities for
improvement. We actually have individuals on the interfaith committee who have
been named by their various churches, associations and organizations to —
actually, I've invited them to go into the institutions to engage staff and
offenders to make sure that the right level of faith services are being made
The Chair: Just to clarify for the record in respect to
the testimony of last week, do I take it that someone like the individual in
question wouldn't be allowed to lead a prayer service in any institution? Is
Mr. Head: Absolutely. It's absolutely against our policy
for that to happen.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for this. From your
testimony today, I'm very encouraged to hear the way forward. You said that a
lot of this is new for us. How are you making sure that all employees, the
correctional officers and the people working within the facilities, are trained
to identify and deal with this issue?
Mr. Head: Thanks, senator. That is, again, a very good
We are in the process right now of revamping our training
programs for our correctional officers. At the time of their induction training,
before they take up the job, we're looking at building a module around the
findings that are coming out of the research. We're also looking at including
this into our parole officers' continuous development training, which occurs
every year. So we're building in these modules of training for the various
groups of staff.
We'll also be looking at how we make that training available to
other staff — for example, nurses and shop instructors, teachers — so that
everybody is aware of the behaviours and interactions they should be watching
for so we can stay on top of this issue.
One of the things we found in our discussions with the various
countries we brought together for the mini symposium and in my engagement with
counterparts of heads of national correctional jurisdictions is that we have all
identified the need for this training. I'll actually be speaking to the Council
of Europe heads of corrections in a few weeks and talking about how we can
collectively work together to build identical training modules so that all our
staff around the world are made aware of the kinds of things they should be
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you.
Once you've identified, what's the process then? What you do?
Where do you go with it?
Mr. Head: In terms of radicalized offenders?
Senator Stewart Olsen: Yes, if you identify a threat.
Mr. Head: There are a couple of options available to us.
Again, without sharing specific names, if at the time of sentencing we identify
that an individual poses a significant risk, one that at least in the short term
we're not sure how we can manage, we have the ability to place them in what we
call our Special Handling Unit. We have a very special unit located in the
region of Quebec where we house those individuals that we consider most
dangerous in the system. We'll use that as an opportunity to monitor them,
assess them and develop plans forward in a much more controlled environment than
one of our normal general population penitentiaries.
With every offender, including the ones that we would send to the
Special Handling Unit, we develop what I mentioned earlier in the opening
comments as a correctional plan, a plan that will identify the kinds of
interventions, programming and engagements that we're expecting the offender to
be involved in while they're in our care and custody, and we will monitor their
progress against that.
But as I mentioned as well, one of the challenges with
individuals who are deemed to be radicalized is that they do not fit the normal
profile of a criminal offender, for lack of a better phrase. We know that we
have to spend more time dealing with their cognitive issues, their beliefs and
attitude systems, than trying to deal with mental health problems, substance
abuse problems or family cohesion problems.
Actually, this is one of the interesting pieces coming out of our
research. As we go forward in terms of dealing with these individuals, we need
to make sure we have the right intellectual clarity. What I mean by that is we
need to be able to distinguish between those who are more prone to or exercising
more cognitive extremism versus violent extremism. Individuals can have extreme
thinking and attitudes, but if they're not acting out on those in a violent way,
then that's a different approach. But for those that have the ability and have
shown they have the ability to act violently, we take a much tighter containment
approach until we can control that.
Senator Stewart Olsen: I'm hoping that doesn't happen in a
silo, that when you identify these people who have been radicalized, that
information would be passed on to CSIS or RCMP or someone.
Mr. Head: Yes. Just to give you a sense of how we work
with some of the individuals who are currently before the courts and those we
have received over the last couple of years, we've been in constant dialogue
with the RCMP, CSIS, local police forces and with provincial corrections who
hold them during the remand time to get an appreciation for what their attitudes
and behaviours have been during that period of lock-up, who they're engaging
inside the institution and who they're engaging in terms of their visitors. So
it's very much a partnership approach to managing these individuals.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you very much for your testimony,
Mr. Head. I have two questions. I would like to come back to the case of
Mohammad Shafia, who was holding religious meetings in secret and who was also
intimidating other inmates. Do you think that when he was holding his religious
meetings and intimidating other inmates, he might have been taking advantage of
it to pass on messages unbeknownst to anyone? We know that religious meetings
are fairly small. Do you think he might have been using these opportunities to
pass on certain radical messages?
Mr. Head: Senator, as I mentioned earlier, I'm not at
liberty to talk about any specific offenders or their cases. I can assure you,
because I did follow up in relation to the testimony that was presented to this
committee last week, that the situations being described were not the case in
Senator Dagenais: You talked about training measures taken
by your organization to prevent radicalization. How long have these measures,
and this training program, in particular, been in place? Have you had the
opportunity to evaluate the success of these measures that have been put in
Mr. Head: Yes. As I mentioned, we are just in the stages
of pulling that research together to put the training in place.
What we've done up until this point in time is engage our staff
in local discussions, particularly where the radicalized offenders we have now
are being held, and talk to them about the kinds of things that we're looking
at. But the actual formalized training modules are in the final stages of being
developed and will be implemented a little later this year.
Senator Dagenais: You mentioned that you had set up
measures to manage the most radicalized because they pose a radicalization risk.
Has it been difficult to manage these individuals or has it been done naturally?
Does the situation pose problems that might be more significant for some of your
Mr. Head: No. For the most part, senator, the cases have
not posed any significant problems. In a couple of cases where we used the
Special Handling Unit as the first level of engagement to assess risk, there
were some normal behavioural issues, but nothing that I would consider would be
associated with radicalized thinking.
With the others who have been placed in general population
penitentiaries, we haven't seen anything that causes us any concern.
Our goal at this point in terms of working with these offenders
is to make sure we are making some headway in relation to their thinking around
their attitudes and their belief systems so that at whatever point they are
released back in the community they do not pose any risk to Canadians or a
We're watching this group of individuals very closely in terms of
their engagements, their interactions, their program involvement, their
visiting, just to make sure there are no threats that we're not aware of or not
Senator Day: Mr. Head, thank you for being here. One of
the comments you made during your presentation was that there is an increase in
the number of Muslims in the prison population. Are all Muslims considered by
you to be radicalized, and are all radicals Muslims?
Mr. Head: No. That's a very good question.
I would make two points, senator. Some of those that we see in
relation to the increase in Muslims among the offender population are what I
would call converts. Some of those offenders convert for really practical
reasons, such as a different diet, a different meal. Others convert because they
believe in the religion. Some others convert because they truly are followers
and can be manipulated, and some of those are the individuals that we're worried
about, susceptible individuals, because they are the ones that others will get
to do things that pose an issue or concern.
Clearly, from our perspective, we separate Islamism from violent
extremist Islam. Those are two different things. Muslims, those followers of
Islamism, are no different than any other offenders that we have in terms of
their belief systems. The ones that we consider to be radicalized are those that
meet the definition that I shared with you earlier. That's why at this point in
time the numbers that we're using, which include some of those individuals, are
just a dozen or so within our system.
Senator Day: You would have people with radical ideas such
that they wish to achieve a different kind of state, but it wouldn't necessarily
be an Islamic state, presumably.
Mr. Head: That's right, exactly.
Senator Day: You would be watching from a radicalized
point of view that part of the community within the prison community.
Mr. Head: Exactly. One of the groups we would be worried
about is cognitive extremists who are being encouraged to become violent
Senator Day: You talked about those individuals who come
into the prison community not necessarily radicalized but potentially become
radicalized. You recognize that as a problem. There's been a lot of writing
about that, and in fact there have been movies made that have shown that
potential. You say in your presentation:
Our research has attempted to determine useful indicators to
assist us in identifying offenders who may be most susceptible to becoming
radicalized while incarcerated.
These are the ones we're talking about. On the next page you say
that you want to be proactive.
Neither of those sound to me like you're there yet. Do you have
the resources to reach those goals and develop a program? Would that include a
psychiatrist, a psychologist, a sociologist, as well as the typical person in
Mr. Head: Yes. What we do know now, based on the research
that's been done so far, on our own observations and in discussions with our
counterparts around the world, is that there seem to be two types of offenders
that present as being susceptible to becoming radicalized within the
One group is the individuals who have cognitive problems. They
have low levels of education. They are individuals that are looking to belong,
similar to individuals that join gangs. These are the individuals that we know
will more than likely be those who do the dirty work inside the institution,
such as assaulting others, moving contraband inside the institutions and
The other group, which is as troubling and is one that we're
monitoring, are those individuals who come into the system and are well educated
and do not have significant cognitive problems or substance abuse problems.
These are individuals that we're concerned will be radicalized because they
bring a specific skill set that a radicalized group would be looking for.
Whether that's individuals that bring specific knowledge, are good at
communicating or good at recruiting others, this is a group that we're looking
In discussions with our international counterparts, we know that
everybody is struggling with that process of identification. However, through
our security intelligence processes and networks, we're starting to become more
refined as to what we look at.
In terms of funding to advance the agenda overall, the funding we
have right now for doing the research comes from DRDC, as I mentioned. I have no
additional resources that have been provided to me, so we continue to look at
how we manage that within our existing budget.
Senator Day: Thank you.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Commissioner Head. That was an
I agree with you that the educated group seems to be problematic
because when they're radicalized. Their ideology is such that they don't care
about life on this earth. They could easily be planted with that kind of
education and with those skills to recruit others. I'm glad you're monitoring
that. I appreciate it.
Do you have a way to quantify the individuals after they leave?
If they come in and are not particularly religious when they arrive but they are
when they leave, do you have a way to monitor that?
Mr. Head: We have had a history of dealing with violent
extremist behaviour for a number of years. If we go back in our history, the
first violent extremist activities in this country started with the Fenian
Brotherhood, which resulted in the assassination of Thomas McGee. Moving through
history, we've seen issues related to Sikh terrorism, Croatian terrorism,
Armenian terrorism, the attack on the Turkish embassy in Ottawa in 1985, Cuban
extremists and anti-Castro extremism and the bombings in the 1960s in the
A couple of things we know historically on those kinds of
individuals and some of the individuals involved in some of the more recent
incidents that I've talked about are still under sentence and in our care. We
found a couple of things. As they get older, their radical beliefs seem to fade
away. We found that they ultimately want to return to society. They want to get
on with their lives and have basically put aside their radicalized thinking and
We also know, particularly with those that end up taking up a
religious or theological perspective inside, that by the time they get outside,
a year or two later, they've lost interest and no longer follow that. This is
one of the things that we look at when weighing how we deal with some
individuals as well. We do have some historical information that we're factoring
into the new approach.
It's kind of interesting. When we dealt with those historical
cases, we never talked about them as radicalized individuals. The word
“radicalization” is relatively new and one that was coined to try to distinguish
people from those that joined gangs and those that go down the path we're
talking about here.
Senator Beyak: Do you also have a way to look at the
problem of radicalized individuals and those who are sympathetic to Islamic
ideology in prison, or is that part of the new initiatives you're taking?
Mr. Head: Yes, it's part of the new initiatives that we're
One of the things that we're trying to be careful of as we go
forward is to make sure we don't get caught up in what many of the other
countries have warned us about, namely focusing on a purely theological
distinction or characterization of individuals. The suggestion is that if we do
that, we'll lose sight of the other types or groups involved in violent
extremism, and we could then potentially be creating problems without even
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Mr. Head. I have a few questions
How do you manage offenders who have already become radicalized?
To what extent do you use isolation to prevent the radicalized prisoner from
influencing other inmates?
Mr. Head: That’s a very good question. Our research has
shown there is no magic pill. There is no silver bullet. There is no one
approach to deal with individuals. A lot of what we're doing truly comes back to
the individualized correctional plan that we develop for offenders.
In our discussions with various countries, even in terms of our
own approach, we know that, for example, taking a separation approach versus an
integration approach within the institutions is not going to be the best way. We
have to assess each individual, assess the risk they pose and assess their
ability to change.
Some individuals we'll separate until we see some change. For
example, when I talked about the initial placement of some individuals in the
Special Handling Unit, this was part of the separation approach. With some other
individuals, we've been successful in integrating them into general population.
What it means for us on those cases is we have to be even more
diligent in terms of monitoring their engagement with other offenders and
whether they're actively involved in recruiting or trying to radicalize.
Depending on each individual case, we will look at whether
there's a need for direct involvement of a psychiatrist, a psychologist or
social workers and, if individuals are involved in extremist Islam, whether we
involve imams in the process. In some cases, we will look at whether it's
appropriate to involve family in terms of disengagement strategies.
One of the things that we're focusing on right now is how we use,
for lack of a better phrase, our cognitive behavioural programs to address those
cognitive gaps that we see with these individuals in terms of their beliefs and
their attitudes towards the system and towards people.
Senator Ngo: What do you do to evaluate religious sermons
to ensure that radical ideas are not being promoted, and how do you ensure that
these ideas are not spread in prisons?
Mr. Head: Again, that's a very good question. One of the
things that we've done through going to a single-based contract for the
provision of faith service providers is to ensure that the individuals who are
being contracted to come in go through a vetting process and that they also are
made aware of the issues and concerns we have around potential radicalized
offenders. Through the contract provider, this is a discussion we have, but we
also use the interfaith committee that I talked about, by them coming into the
institution, visiting and monitoring. We see that as well.
One of the largest pieces of the approach we take is the use of
our security intelligence network in the institution. It's kind of interesting.
In our environment, in my world, there's always some inmate that wants to share
information about some other inmate. If those kinds of things are happening, we
usually end up hearing it first from other inmates who will give us a signal
that there's something going on or discussions are going on that are
inappropriate. Most inmates know that if something is going to get out of hand,
we'll potentially lock down the institution, and they don't want to have their
programs or visits disrupted. Other inmates actually become a source of
information for us in terms of monitoring this.
Senator Ngo: If that's the case, do you keep a record of
the individuals showing sympathy to the radical religious ideology?
Mr. Head: If there's a security issue or a security
concern, yes. We have our security intelligence files. Yes, we do.
Senator Ngo: The staff report to you, and what do you do
Mr. Head: What will happen is staff will write observation
reports. They'll go to the supervisors. The supervisors will vet those reports
and ask additional questions. Those reports will go in to the institutional
security intelligence officers in each of the penitentiaries. They will assess
it. They'll look at correlating that with any other information or intelligence
they've gathered at that institution. That information in turn is shared with
our security intelligence analysts at the regional and national level, and
they'll look for trends.
The security intelligence network is a national system that
allows us, for example, to identify when an offender is engaging what may seem
like a nondescript visitor at one institution. That security intelligence
network will be able to tell us if this visitor is visiting an inmate at some
other institution, even in some other part of the country, or whether they're
involved in phone calls and those kinds of things so that we can chart these
things out and continue to determine whether any given offender is a risk or
whether they're posing any concerns that we need to be aware of. We have a very
strong security intelligence network in our institution.
Senator Ngo: Do you share this information with CSIS and
the RCMP in order to make sure that these individuals can be monitored upon
Mr. Head: Very much so. This is part of the engagement
that we have. We have a very strong and direct relationship with CSIS and RCMP
and, as well, in certain cases, the provincial police forces and local,
municipal police forces as well.
The Chair: I want to follow up on that to make it clear on
the record. With your responsibilities for the purpose of vetting anybody, for
example, the interfaith committee, and anyone that's going into the institution,
you contact CSIS to let them know who they are and if they have any observations
to make; is that correct?
Mr. Head: We'll go through the RCMP and do the security
checks. If there's anything that presents from there, then we may be engaged
with CSIS. But it's been very rare that we've had to do that.
The Chair: Wouldn't it be automatic to go to the RCMP and
CSIS both? They don't necessarily have the same database.
Mr. Head: I'm not sure how they share information back and
forth, but I know when we do have somebody flagged that our conversations will
be with either of those agencies in a more direct way than just the normal,
routine vetting of individuals coming in.
The Chair: Just for the record, I want to get this
clarified. From what you've told us here, you certainly appear to have a handle
on the situation looking ahead, in view of the fact that you called this
conference together I believe a year ago. Moving forward and looking at the
prison population, you have stated that the fastest-growing conversion by the
prison population is to Islam. When you say “fastest-growing population,” what
numbers are we talking about? Is it 100, or 5 or 10 per cent of the population?
Mr. Head: I should have brought the exact number for you,
but we're talking close to a thousand offenders that proclaim Islam as their
faith of choice, faith of following.
The Chair: So we're talking roughly 5 per cent of the
Mr. Head: Yes. Even then, when the individuals are
proclaiming that, we'll use the imams and the faith service providers to confirm
that. Again, we do have situations where offenders will proclaim a certain faith
to get some kind of advantage. As I say, one of the biggest advantages people
look for is the different kinds of diets or meals that are provided.
The Chair: I just want to get it clarified for the record
here. We did have the witness here last week. Quite frankly, he appeared to be
very sincere and knowledgeable about what he spoke of, 40 years of experience,
and he made it very clear that in that particular case, at least at that window
of time, Mr. Shafia was organizing these prayer meetings when the imam wasn't
there. Are you saying that never happened?
Mr. Head: What I'm saying is that the witness, as
indicated to this committee, had no first-hand observation and that his
information was anecdotal.
The Chair: So it never happened?
Mr. Head: What I said earlier is that in terms of my own
checking on the situation, there was nothing that causes me any concern.
The Chair: I just asked you, sir —
Mr. Head: I'm trying to be careful, senator, that I don't
talk very specifically about that individual. I'm not trying to be funny or
dance with the committee at all. I guess I'll put it out there. I have no
information to suggest that that happened at all.
The Chair: We'll leave it at that for now.
Senator Mitchell: You've indicated, which is really
encouraging, that you're developing an understanding of radicalization and
you're researching. Are you aware of the Kanishka project, and have you been
able to utilize it to help you in that process?
Mr. Head: Yes, very much so. Our staff and our researchers
are very aware of that, and it forms a basis for a lot of our thinking forward.
Senator Mitchell: Are you concerned that they may
discontinue funding that?
Mr. Head: I'm concerned any time that I see
discontinuation of funding for significant activities, but decisions are what
decisions are, and we'll continue to find other ways, if that happens, to inform
us and look at other opportunities going forward.
Senator Mitchell: When you mentioned the percentage or the
size of the Muslim population, you identified certain categories, one of which
was people who do it for some convenient reason, such as food. Others are really
looking for something and they find it in that. You're really talking about
people in the corrections system who are converting. Is it true also that there
are gang members who happen to have come from those communities but that seem to
be prominent? I know that's an issue in my city, and the community is very
engaged with that themselves. They're very concerned about their sons, in
particular, and some of their daughters. That's been more prominent, and that
may just reflect the demographics of immigration.
Mr. Head: I think that's exactly the case. The discussion
about radicalization gets blurred at times when you talk about traditional
gangs, but we have seen individuals who are followers of Islam who are what we
would call traditional gang members. In some cases their levels of violence are
just as troubling or concerning as what we're talking about here in terms of
radicalized violent extremism.
The Chair: It's been a very worthwhile hour here, and we
appreciate your taking time out of your schedule. Once again, thank you for
Joining us for our final panel of the day via video conference is
Mr. Matthew Levitt, Director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on
Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
From 2005 to early 2007, Dr. Levitt served as Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
In that capacity, he served both as a senior official within the department's
Terrorism and Financial Intelligence branch and Deputy Chief of the Office of
Intelligence and Analysis, one of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies coordinated
under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In 2008-09 he served
as a State Department counterterrorism adviser to the Special Envoy for Middle
East Regional Security, General James L. Jones.
Dr. Levitt holds a doctorate from Tufts University, Fletcher
School of Law and Diplomacy and is a graduate research fellow at Harvard Law
School's Program on Negotiation.
Dr. Levitt has written extensively on terrorism, countering
violent extremism, illicit finance and sanctions, the Middle East and
Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. He is a frequent guest on the national and
international media and the author of several books and monographs including
Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad,
Negotiating Under Fire: Preserving Peace Talks in the Face of Terror Attacks;
and another book entitled Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party
Dr. Levitt, welcome to the committee. I understand you have an
Matthew Levitt, Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism
and Intelligence, The Washington Institute, as an individual: Thank you very
much. It's an honour to be able to testify before the Standing Senate Committee
on National Security and Defence, and I appreciate your flexibility in allowing
me to do this via video teleconference. I've been travelling the world a lot and
so my being home for Mother's Day was important for my wife. I appreciate that
Today the wars in Syria and Iraq, which are an increasingly
interconnected conflict, have given rise to new terrorist networks, including
both al Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front and the Khorasan group and of course ISIS, ISIL
or the Islamic State.
The conflict has become a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe
which threatens to tear apart the region along sectarian lines. It has injected
new oxygen into groups and movements driven by violent Islamist ideologists,
including but by no means limited to groups formally associated with al Qaeda.
The more horrific the actions of the Assad regime against the
primarily Sunni Syrian civilians from chemical weapons and barrel bombings to
use of starvation as a tactic of war, the greater the regime's magnetic appeal,
drawing fellow Sunnis from around the world to defend their co-religionists and
engage in an increasingly sectarian battle against the Alawite regime and its
Shiite allies Iran and Hezbollah.
As these events in Syria and Iraq convulse the region, the
humanitarian disaster and the security nightmare that now defines the Middle
East have contributed to a reshaping of the terror finance environment. As a
general rule, this is something that never stays static. We take an action; they
respond. But this has seen rather dramatic changes. Some things have remained
the same, such as the destabilizing role played by Iran in providing state
sponsorship — cash, arms, material support — to terrorist groups and radical
militias and to totalitarian regimes like that of Bashar al-Assad.
In other areas, like terrorist abuse of the charitable sector,
issues that had petered out since 9/11 have now become prominent once again, and
so other new means of raising, moving and storing funds for illicit purposes
have been developed to adapt to the needs of today's terrorist groups and
operatives. Indeed, one of these is the financing trends of homegrown violent
extremists who may not officially belong to any established group as such, and
the financing trends of different groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State,
for example, can vary significantly.
For the purposes of being brief, I'll focus on just three of
these trends and of course be happy to answer questions on these or anything
else the committee would like to discuss.
I'd like to focus on self-financing by homegrown violent
extremists. I'd like to focus on the rise once again in abuse of the charitable
sector. And I'd like to focus, in particular in the case of the Islamic State,
on some of our successes in denying it access to the international financial
system and yet its ability through backdoor banking channels to continue to
access our international financial system.
In terms of self-finance, terrorism is relatively inexpensive,
but the terrorism we're seeing today, whether it's terrorism at home or the
desire to travel to Syria and Iraq to join groups like ISIS or Jabhat Al-Nusra,
is extremely expensive. Consider, for example, the Paris attacks. Amedy
Coulibaly, one of the three extremists in the Paris attacks in January, funded
his mission by taking out a 6,000-year loan. The two Kouachi brothers reportedly
received $20,000 from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, although that is
doubted by some. In any event, the rocket-propelled grenade launcher and the
Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles used by the Kouachis cost less than $6,000
Similarly, travel to and from Syria is relatively cheap and easy,
unlike terrorist travel in the past to places like Chechnya or Afghanistan.
According to reports in the Canadian press, just to make this local for you,
some would-be foreign fighters sought to raise money through part-time seasonal
work in Alberta's oilfields. Even better for those individuals, “If you're
someone that wants to be left alone or works well in isolation, there certainly
is the opportunity to do that” is a quote from the Edmonton Police Chief, adding
that they can “make a whole bunch of money in a very short period of time . . .
The individual who murdered a Canadian soldier before attacking
the Parliament Buildings in October 2014 worked at one Alberta oilfield and
raised money for his attempted travel to Syria.
Meanwhile, petty crime has also the potential to bring in
significant funds, or at least sufficient funds, for a homegrown attack or
transportation to a combat zone as well. Consider the 15-year-old boy in
Montreal who held up a convenience store with a knife, stealing some $2,200 to
pay for his plane ticket out of Canada. The teen's father turned him into police
after finding the money in his son's bag.
Meanwhile, four men who were recently arrested in Brooklyn, New
York, for attempting to join the Islamic State received funds from one of their
co-conspirators Abror Habibov who operated mall kiosks for kitchenware and
cellphones. According to the U.S. indictment, a round-trip ticket to Istanbul
cost them a mere $598. One of the defendants expected he would not need to bring
more than $400 with him to travel to Syria because he would not have any
concerns in the land of the Islamic State, as he put it, so a sum total of $998
was needed to get there and as starter funds for his visit to fight for the
Islamic State. The biggest obstacle for a third defendant was the fact that his
mother had confiscated his passport.
As shown in the cases of the two Canadians in October who turned
to deadly attacks when their intended travel to Syria was thwarted, such
individuals may readily redirect transportation funds towards homegrown violent
extremism. A report of the Financial Action Task Force identified several
potential revenue streams for would-be foreign terrorist fighters, including
robbery and drug trafficking, various social service payments and unpaid loans.
I travel the world a lot and recently travelled to Copenhagen and met
with counterterrorism officials there, who in particular focused on these petty
crimes and the abuse of social welfare programs for people who want to become
foreign terrorist fighters or potentially do things at home.
Another area of concern right now is the return of “abuse of
charity.” We had gone a long way in the international community — Canada, the
United States and others — in helping the charitable sector improve its due
diligence, working with them and making the charitable sector less amenable to
abuse and less attractive for terrorists in particular. But now a recent report
by the Financial Action Task Force released in February warns that “the
possibility of abusing charities by ISIL or its affiliates directly or
indirectly for fundraising or funding activities needs to be recognized.”
Indeed, in the past half year, Western European countries have
taken action against several outfits. The U.K. stripped the Muslim Charities
Forum of state funding in January following an investigation into links to a
group alleged to fund Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. French authorities shut
down Pearl of Hope, a charity that claimed to promote the health and education
of sick Palestinian toddlers in November 2014. Two senior leaders were also
arrested on charges of financing terrorism. According to investigators, while
Pearl of Hope did deliver food and medical supplies, “the group was also using
such deliveries as a front to funnel covert funds to jihadist groups and had
links to the Nusra Front . . . .” About a dozen other charities were under
surveillance at the same time.
Even more concerning, innovations in social media and other
communication technologies had made it easier than ever for individuals to
donate money to their cause of choice. As the recent FATF report noted, “ISIL
has manipulated social media, physical and virtual social networks, encouraged
donations and conducted a marketing campaign in a manner that is consistent with
industry standards established by major crowdfunding companies.”
A case study offered to the FATF from Saudi Arabia highlights a
group of individuals associated with ISIL who solicited donations via Twitter
and asked donors to contact them via Skype. Once contact was made, the donors
were asked to purchase an international prepaid card and to send a number to the
financiers via Skype — just the number, not the card. The card number would then
be sold for cash at a lower price by ISIL members in close proximity to Syria so
that the cash could be given to ISIL.
The extent of complicity in terror financing by any given
non-profit organization varies. In some cases, the organization may simply not
realize that the recipient of their aid is in fact linked to or involved in
terrorism. For others, a few bad apples within the outfit may be redirecting
funds, while in the most extreme examples, the group itself is set up as a front
for extremist fundraising efforts from the outset.
Again, FATF says, “In some cases, public appeals for donations
have not correlated with the organisation's stated purpose.” They cite one
charity set up in Italy, for example, which received donations from individuals
in Europe. While most donations went to legitimate uses — mainly adoptions —
investigations turned up a donor who was a member of an extremist group located
in Italy. Financial analysis eventually showed that this individual, who
subsequently died fighting in Syria, used the organization as an unwitting
conduit for fund transfers possibly connected to terrorist activity.
Another case study described an individual who established a
charitable foundation under the pretext of collecting donations for Syrian
refugees, people in need of medical and financial aid and for the construction
of mosques, schools and kindergartens. However, the entire scheme had been set
up to raise funds that were sent as an aid to terrorists and their families and
meant to be used as financial support for terrorist activities.
It is early going as yet for ISIS and illicit fundraising through
charities. The Financial Action Task Force report assessed that “the overall
quantitative value of external donations to ISIL is minimal relative to its
other revenue sources . . . .” But as those other revenue sources are
increasingly squeezed, ISIL begins looking to alternatives. Charities are a
tried and tested method of terror finance, and governments will need to be alert
to the possibility of a rise in the level of abuse, similar to our concern about
a rise potentially in the level of major donor financing for ISIL, major donors
in the Gulf in particular. That's not something that is a major source of
revenue for ISIL today, but it's one that could become one in the event that
their massive fundraising through criminal enterprises directly and domestically
within Iraq and the massive amount of money they still make through oil revenue
— despite the fact we've cut back that revenue by about two thirds. ISIL is no
longer making somewhere between $3 million and $3.3 million a day through
illicit oil; it is only making between $750,000 and $1.3 million a day, but
that, of course, is still a hefty paycheque. Even if we were to make further
progress in denying them access to those funds, they would likely reach out to
other means of financing, including through formal charities and major donors.
The last point I'd like to highlight as something that has
changed is ISIL's backdoor banking. While relatively little action can be taken
against ISIS through the formal financial system due to the nature of its
fundraising — for example, it's reliance on crime and “taxing” local population
within Iraq, which means it doesn't have to access the international financial
system for those funds — the Iraqi government and the international community
have done what they can to try to keep ISIL from being able to access the
international financial system.
Banks on the lookout for ISIS financing have filed suspicious
activity reports, which have provided what officials describe as valuable
insight into financial activities in areas where ISIS operates. For its part,
the Central Bank of Iraq constructed financial institutions to prevent wire
transfers to and from banks located in ISIS-held areas, and international banks
with regional branches in this area have relocated their staff. The one Iraqi
bank headquartered in Mosul has since relocated its headquarters to Baghdad so
it would no longer be under the influence of the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, ISIS continues to find workarounds even in the
financial system. The Assad regime in Syria has not placed any restrictions on
the banks in ISIS-held areas. Indeed, on March 7 the European Union sanctioned a
Syrian businessman with close ties to Damascus for serving as a middleman in
regime deals to purchase oil from ISIS.
Additionally, according to the recent FATF report on ISIS
financing, some of the bank branches in ISIS areas within Syria may maintain
links to the international financial system. Although many international
institutions likely cut their ties to these banks already because of
pre-existing sanctions on Syria at large, the latter are still able to liaise
with certain unnamed jurisdictions.
Even when access to local banking services is blocked, the
wartime conditions and the underdeveloped state of Syria's banking sector are
forcing funds into financial institutions in the immediate surrounding regions.
A parallel situation in Iraq, where the central government has not ceased paying
salaries to civil servants, including civil servants living in areas under ISIS
control, means that it is only a short drive out of the ISIS-held city of Mosul
to Kirkuk. Employees can go there and pick up their earnings and take them back
to Mosul where ISIS takes a cut off the top. In that city alone, Baghdad may be
paying up to $130 million every month to government workers, meaning ISIS could
potentially be profiting hundreds of millions of dollars annually from taxing
these salary payments.
Other individuals can also bring back money from outside ISIS
territory. The FATF report, for example, made note of instances when excessive
cash deposits were placed into U.S. bank accounts here in North America and then
sent via bank wire transfers to recipients near areas where ISIS operates, but
not in banks located just outside areas they control. Then unknown persons made
foreign cash withdrawals via ATMs in such areas, obtaining money from U.S.-based
bank accounts using cheque cards. In some cases these transactions were closely
coordinated with large deposits to the accounts in the United States followed by
immediate withdrawals from ATMs near ISIS territory.
The Netherlands reportedly found similar indications that foreign
terrorist fighters were using debit cards linked to their national bank accounts
and withdrawing money from ATMs alongside those areas where ISIS operates.
Beyond the formal banking system, ISIS can also send and receive
funds through nearby foreign money remitters. Finnish authorities reported that
a common method of getting money to foreign fighters is to send it via money
remitters who have agents operating in border areas close to ISIS-held
territory. This is to finance them once they are in Syria and Iraq.
Dutch authorities have noted similar activities and regard it
highly likely that intermediaries transport cash to areas near territory
occupied by ISIS.
ISIS operatives have come up with other schemes as well. For
example, the Saudis have reported that individuals associated with the group
have solicited donors via Twitter and told them to establish contact via Skype.
As the above examples illustrate, terrorists, both individual
operatives and organized groups, continue to adapt to efforts to disrupt their
financing plans, and with some success. It is always important to periodically
review policies and procedures to make sure these are appropriately aligned
against the ever-changing nature of the terrorist threat at any given time. It
is especially important to do so now, given the tectonic changes that are
convulsing the Middle East and their very real, very immediate effects and
aftershocks in the Western world, including the United States and Canada.
It is therefore an honour to provide this testimony before the
standing committee, and I look forward to any questions you may have. Thank you
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Levitt.
Senator Mitchell and then Senator Dagenais.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, Dr. Levitt. It was very
interesting, powerful and provocative in a good way about bad things.
We had earlier testimony today about the function of the
Financial Action Task Force. That testimony indicated, suggested, that it wasn't
up to the task. You've reinforced that, inadvertently perhaps, because of the
way you've drawn the complexity of the financing in that region, to and from
Could you give us an assessment of where the Financial Action
Task Force fits into this and what its capability is and what its potential to
stop this is? Or is that the way we have to go?
Mr. Levitt: Thank you, senator.
I think the most important thing is to understand what the
financial task force is and, more importantly, what it's not. The Financial
Action Task Force is not an operational body. It is a technocratic body to
establish best practices. It's also a multilateral organization that works by
For example, while it took some time, the Financial Action Task
Force, in the years after 9/11, established not only best practices, 40
recommendations to deal with anti-money laundering, but also 9 special
recommendations to deal with terror financing, what we frequently refer to as
the 40 plus 9.
There was an effort several years later. I visited FATF in Paris
and spent time with officials in Canada and many other places to try and push
FATF to set similar special recommendations, best practices for the private
sector, for the banking sector, et cetera, on trying to protect ourselves from
abuse from proliferation-related illicit finance. That never went anywhere, even
though the professional staff thought it would be very important and thought
there were specific types of methodologies that applied to proliferation finance
different from terror finance. It didn't go anywhere because at the end of the
day this is a multilateral body that works by consensus and not every country
was willing to participate. In this instance terrorism was regarded as something
that affects all states, but since proliferation is something done by states,
some countries involved thought we were just targeting certain states — you're
targeting North Korea or Iran; you're not really targeting a thematic issue.
What we need to anticipate here is that FATF is going to be
effective, when it is effective, by issuing reports. This last report was one of
the best I've seen it do in a long time. I'll be honest with you, the reason it
was so good is that I know that some of my former colleagues at the U.S.
Treasury Department spent a lot of time with FATF not only declassifying some of
their reporting for use in the report but pushing allies to do the same. So one
of the impressive things about this report is that you have case studies from
the Saudis, the Dutch and the Finns. I'm sure there is Canadian information in
there too, but Canada of course doesn't need to be pushed to do this.
This is where FATF will be effective, in trying to get some of
this information out there and maybe, if we're lucky, set more standards. There
are specific things to ISIS, as I've hinted at, that would be useful here, but
FATF is not going to be the body that is going to solve any of our problems.
We're going to be looking more at our regulators, at our oversight and at our
law enforcement and intelligence. I have to say, I'm very impressed with
FINTRAC. Cards on the table, I've spent a lot of time with FINTRAC, both during
my time at Treasury. I've come out and consulted with them several times.
Recently I did a full day of training for them. I met, I believe, with some of
your staff members. It was while you were on break, but I met with some of your
staff members as well, and they do some very impressive work.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, they certainly do. In fact,
it was my staff member, Kyle Johnston, who extolled one of your virtues in that
you shifted the focus of the organization that was, I think, FINTRAC's
counterpart, when you were head of it in the U.S., from counting the number of
prosecutions, which was a metric that seemed to prevail, to trying to give some
emphasis to the impact of your work. Not necessarily valued or evaluated by
prosecutions, but evaluated by the size of the networks that might be broken
down or how you contributed to police and intelligence activities that broke
down those networks. Could you describe that and that juxtaposition of
Mr. Levitt: With pleasure — and note to self to thank
I was brought in as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office
of Intelligence and Analysis. In the U.S. system, that made me both senior
executive of service within the Treasury Department, but also the deputy chief
of one of our smaller intelligence agencies focused on these issues. When I got
there, we weren't primarily focused on the number of prosecutions because they
were still so small at the time. We were primarily being judged by two different
but equally flawed metrics. We were being judged by them not because they were
particularly good but because they were the only ones available; that is to say,
the number of entities designated by the Treasury Department under Executive
Order 13224, the terrorism designation authority, or others, or how much money
was seized. Those were both interesting metrics, but I thought they were
completely useless for two reasons.
First, they inherently assumed that if you came across a terror
financier, you would designate them and seize as much money as possible — and
that's not the case. You might work with the FBI, or in your case RCMP, to put
together a prosecution. You may work with the intelligence community to do
something on the intelligence side. There are many different ways to try and use
that information and, of course, not in every instance will you be able to have
the kind of underlying information to declassify and to do that kind of action,
even if under the strictly classified intelligence you meet the threshold five
I also felt trying to figure out how much money we seized was
being that hamster in the cage, running around and around and never getting
anywhere. At the end of the day, the international economy, even during bad
times, was big enough so that if a person wanted to raise money through licit or
illicit means, they'd be able to do it.
We wanted to refocus on how much impact there was. We wanted to
disrupt our adversaries' financing process, which is not only the raising of
money but the storing of money, the accessing of money and the moving of money.
We were looking for places that were key nodes, where multiple people, groups
and front companies were involved. If I can either designate or prosecute some
type of action to take this out of circulation, I will really have a big impact
on what they do. On top of that, if I can work with the intelligence community
in advance of that public action so they can allay their collection platforms to
look around the corner and see how they respond, then we can really do some
Of course, it's not to say that if I can freeze terrorist money
that's a great thing. If I can designate terrorists, it's a good thing. If I can
contribute to a prosecution, that’s a great thing. Those are not the only
metrics out there. The problem, of course, both for you as parliamentarians and
once upon a time for me as a guy who used to testify before parliamentarians, is
that you have a need and right to know some way to measure the money you're
giving and its impact. At the end of the day, that becomes difficult.
To be perfectly honest, since I'm no longer in government and can
speak freely, what we would therefore end up doing is declassifying anecdotes.
We'd say here is a case and here is a case, but maybe it was or wasn't,
depending particularly on the soundness of the methodology. There's nothing more
you can do because if it works well, most of your biggest successes you'll never
know about. You will have done something and the money would never have flowed
and will therefore not have set off any tripwires.
I remember a time — and this was a case that was declassified for
use in congressional testimony by my boss, then Under Secretary Stewart Levy —
in which we had taken an action against the Abu Sayyaf group. It turns out that
they got on the phone to one another. They had money in point B but they
couldn't access it in point A. They were — and we didn't know this until we
heard it — about to do a series of bus bombings in Manila. Taking this action
not only prevented them from getting the money but had shaken the tree. They got
on the horn saying these things and the Filipinos were able to arrest them and
good things were able to happen, but we wouldn't have known otherwise. So it’s
very hard to measure.
I've been out of government since 2007. I don't spend all my time
on these issues but a decent amount of time. I have talked to people in all
kinds of line of work such as the private sector and the academic and public
sectors, trying to come up with other meaty metrics, something you can sink your
teeth into, and I failed. Maybe someone smarter than me will succeed. Until
then, we need to be able to look at our contribution to a variety of different
types of outcomes. Then we have to recognize that since those are only some of
the potential outcomes, we can't judge the entire concept or program simply by
how many prosecutions, designations or chunks of money were designated or
Senator Dagenais: Thank you very much, Mr. Levitt, for
your presentation. As you must know, our committee is trying to understand the
nature and scope of terrorism financing. Terrorism can be financed in various
ways in Canada, such as funds from abroad, amounts that are sent out of the
country to fund terrorist activities abroad, or quite simply self-funding, which
promotes terrorist activities within Canada.
I know that this may not be an easy question to answer, but do
you have an idea of how much legal or illegal funding might be moving through
the Canadian financial system?
Mr. Levitt: The simple answer to that question is no,
unfortunately. I'm not sure people in a better position to know would have a
hard number either. It's very difficult to track these things down, as I
intimated in my statement, because often it's being done under the cover of some
other kind of activity. In fact, sometimes it's cover under cover, which is to
say it's not the case of an institution created as a front but sometimes it is
actually a legitimate institution being abused.
Parsing this out can be difficult and is an uphill battle,
especially since — let's be honest — we are dealing with a massive humanitarian
catastrophe or multiple humanitarian catastrophes. For us, as Western cultures
that promote charitable giving, this is part of the culture of who we are. We
want to encourage people to give money to help people who are in dire
circumstances. That is why this has become something that is attractive to
terrorists or other illicit actors, because the charitable economy has blossomed
to try to address catastrophes and therefore that provides opportunity. It's
very difficult to know.
Senator Dagenais: I understand from your answer that it is
difficult to evaluate. However, if we wanted to analyze the volume of legal or
illegal funds that might be moving through the Canadian financial system, would
you be able to suggest a method to do that?
Mr. Levitt: There are several things that can be done, and
this is where the FinCEN, FINTRAC, AUSTRAC type of regulators, which are three
of the best, play a particularly important role.
You can come at it from the anti-money laundering perspective and
from the countering terror financing perspective, and of course we need to come
at it from both.
First, we need to have a fairly good assessment about the size of
our economy and what a natural or normal burden of transfers looks like to be
able to assess if there are upticks at any point. If trends can be discerned, we
can study those transfer trends over time. In Australia, for many years, they've
had 100 per cent visibility to all transfers coming in and out of the country,
and therefore they can do very impressive studies.
In the United States, we're trying to get that point. First, we
had to overcome some technical issues simply because the number of transfers
going in and out of the United States a day is very high — the number of
transfers going in and out of New York in one month is much larger than the
number going in and out of Australia in a year — and also because, of course, we
have to overcome legal and very legitimate privacy concerns as well.
We can look at this from an anti-money laundering perspective. We
can do trends analysis. We can see if certain types of peaks appear at different
particular periods. If an event happens abroad, do we see particular peaks in
different types of activities, maybe to a particular location? Then we can do a
deeper dive and see maybe that's all perfectly legitimate. Maybe if a bad thing
happens in Lebanon, it makes sense that there is a peak in people of Lebanese
descent in America and Canada sending more money back home to their family
members. But maybe also part of that peak is that some illicit group there
suddenly needs more money. Of course the reality is almost certainly to be both.
From the counterterrorism finance side there is lots to be done
in terms of what I call relative open source analysis, that is to say, not
Google, not completely information that is available to everybody, but not
necessarily classified information; so bank reporting and this type of thing
that comes to government. Here in the United States, there is the Bank Secrecy
Act, et cetera. But there is also intelligence.
At the end of the day, we are talking about people who recognize
now, if they didn't before, that we take a very close look at not only the
financing but the resourcing of terrorism. By the way, that is a distinction
that was first made and first made well by FINTRAC. I used to teach a graduate
course on combatting the financing of illicit finance, and there was required
reading by a senior FINTRAC analyst on the resourcing, not just the financing,
not just money. Consider, for example, trade-based money laundering, where what
crosses the world is not money at all but goods ultimately of value.
Frequently, the only way to get behind that cloud or to peel away
the layers of that onion is to have access to more classified sources and
methods of information, and so what we need to be able to do in government is
leverage both sides of that equation and find a way to merge them together.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, sir. Your presentation
is very interesting.
We have some loopholes in our laws in Canada that exempt modern,
Internet-based payment methods from our counterterrorism laws because they allow
value and funds to be sent from Canada to organizations without detection,
reporting or supervision. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can close
Mr. Levitt: Well, I suggest that we do close the gap. How
we do it is blessedly outside of my domain now. Since 2007, I have not been that
far into the weeds. But I have had conversations with officials in Canada about
this. It is not just a Canadian problem, to be sure. We are all trying to catch
up with a technological universe that has surpassed us. I won't speak for you,
but I will say that I'm the father of four boys, including two teenagers who can
navigate the Internet far better than I can.
There are things that are happening online that make borders
completely irrelevant. I tried to give one flavour of that in one of the
anecdotes I gave in my remarks where funds are solicited on Twitter, and then
the conversation continues to Skype, and then what is provided is the number of
a prepaid card, not even the actual prepaid card itself, criss-crossing the
world, very quickly. You don't have to go to a bank. It's really amazing. We're
talking about not small amounts of money that can be moved if we are talking
about a dozen or two dozen prepaid cards at a time.
How you do this in such a way that still keeps the free flow of
information and commerce on line, which is pretty important to our economies
today, is something we need to give a lot of attention to, but I'll be one of
the last people in the think tank world in Washington who will admit to you
where his expertise has ended, and you're beyond mine now.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you.
Currently we have a $10,000 threshold for reporting transactions.
Do you think that should be lower?
Mr. Levitt: Absolutely.
Senator Stewart Olsen: What would you suggest?
Mr. Levitt: How low can you go? Look, without trying to be
pithy or funny, obviously there are privacy concerns. You need the public to
feel comfortable and to buy into these things, but at the end of the day a
$10,000 reporting requirement is completely yesterday. We're dealing with the
same thing here in the United States, by the way.
I haven't been to Australia in about a year or a year and a half,
but every time I go and meet with AUSTRAC, they finger me a little bit over the
fact that they have a 100 per cent reporting requirement. If you want to send
money out of this country, it gets reported to AUSTRAC. Beyond the issue of
actual illicit transactions, the kind of trend analysis they can do is far
beyond what we can do.
The $10,000 is way too high nowadays, especially when we're
talking about much smaller amounts of money. To the extent we can get to the
$1,000 to $2,000 range, we would be able to do a lot more. Even the $5,000 range
would be better, but it would still be a problem.
I fully recognize all the issues on the other side of this
debate. I don't pretend they're not there or they're not simple, believe you me,
but from a combatting illicit finance perspective, there is not a whole lot of
utility in the $10,000 limit at this point.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you very much.
Senator Beyak: I'd like to echo Senator Stewart Olsen.
Thanks for your expertise, Dr. Levitt. The details of your presentation were
fascinating, the facts and the figures.
Given your background regarding Hezbollah, I wonder if you can
tell me how prevalent it still is here in Canada 12 years after our previous
government named it as a terror organization?
Mr. Levitt: Thank you for your kind works. Thank you also
for asking me to talk about the subject of my last book.
Yes, I convinced my editors to let me get away with two chapters
on only two regions. All the others had to be combined. One was the Gulf, and
the other was North America. Most of that is focused on the United States, but
several sections are specifically about Canada.
Again, cards out on the table, I travelled the world and met with
lots of people, not for attribution, and spent a lot of time with the people in
Canada who know a lot about these cases. I was also an expert witness here in
the United States in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the cigarette smuggling case
that ended up having a separate half of it in Canada, mostly in Vancouver. There
was a Hezbollah case in Montreal that ended up not going to trial. Had that gone
to trial last year, I would have been the expert witness for the Government of
Canada in that case, and there are some others that may come down the pike.
Hezbollah is not 20 feet tall. I don't like using terms like
“sleeper cells.” That's more like movies and television. But there are Hezbollah
supporters, certainly sympathizers, in North America on both sides of the
U.S.-Canada border. In fact, there have been several of the most serious cases
where these people have criss-crossed and spent some time on the American side
and some time on the Canadian side of the border. One of the most senior
Hezbollah operatives to have been killed in the war in Syria to date is someone
who got Canadian citizenship, at one point had an address in Michigan and was a
very dangerous individual. We have a whole bunch of cases like that.
I can go on for a long time and offer a lot of detail on this.
I'm happy to do it offline if you like, but I want to make sure not to dive too
deep on this.
I will just say that Hezbollah has longstanding fundraising
schemes beyond the significant state sponsorship that it gets from Iran. That
has increased significantly over the past few years, since the Green Revolution,
since sanctions first starting taking a bite in Iran, since the fall in the
price of oil. Hezbollah does not want there ever to be a day after when, for
whatever reason — political, economic, or both — Iran can or will no longer
provide the support, financial and otherwise, that Hezbollah has become
We have seen not only criminal enterprise increase significantly
but much more organized criminal enterprise. If I can give you an example that's
not in Canada but that has us all really concerned, that is Hezbollah
narcoterrorism, not Hezbollah producing drugs in South America but Hezbollah
moving those narcotics and laundering the proceeds. You will remember the
tremendous amount of information along those lines that came out with the case
of the Lebanese Canadian Bank. I spent last week in Argentina and a few weeks
ago in Colombia on this issue, and there's still a lot going on.
Senator Beyak: Would you be able to tell us how and where
Hezbollah is still operating in Canada?
Mr. Levitt: As we've seen here in the United States,
Hezbollah doesn't only operate in the big cities. There have been and are sure
to be nodes in major places like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, and I know of
a few cases in some suburban areas around there.
I want to be very clear that we're not talking about, in any way,
shape or form, tarring and feathering or speaking ill of an entire community.
This is not a commentary on Canadians of Lebanese descent or anything like that.
In Canada, as within the United States and elsewhere, there are some individuals
who have affinity for — a much smaller number even — and who are operatives of
Hezbollah. That is something we need to continue to work on. It's something that
requires, for lack of a better term, public diplomacy.
Let's call a spade a spade. Hezbollah is not a banned entity back
home in Lebanon. If you are a Lebanese Canadian or Lebanese American, your
family is back home in Lebanon. Even if you don't want to give money to
Hezbollah because you don’t love their terrorism and their fighting of Israel
and you don’t love what they're doing in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, you often want to
give money because it creates a better place for your family. If they are people
who give to Hezbollah, you see Hezbollah as the only ones who stand up for and
protect the Shia community. We need to explain to people in the West why we are
concerned about this: That this is not a stance against Shia; this is a stance
against a group that while doing good works and engaging in politics back home,
it is also doing a lot of bad works and violence back home and elsewhere. That
has been something we've not been particularly successful at, I think mostly
because we haven't done much of it, this public diplomacy in the communities.
It's hard and uncomfortable, but we need to do it.
Senator Ngo: I will follow up on my colleague Senator
Stewart Olsen. She's talking about the funds being sent from Canada to various
organizations outside of Canada. Now, to your knowledge, what can be done to
stop foreign funding coming into Canada to promote radical religious ideology?
Mr. Levitt: This is a critically important question and
one that is much more complicated to answer than what we've been talking about
so far. Everybody agrees terrorism is bad; it's a violation of the law. When you
start getting into funding ideological and religious activity, obviously it
becomes much more sensitive. The task that we have is demonstrating that the
financing is funding things that are beyond acceptable ideological behaviour,
whether it's because it's financing hate and potentially hate crimes, or things
that are not compliant with democratic norms. But this gets into a whole host of
other legal issues, to be perfectly blunt. It starts to get us into the realm of
another area that I spend a lot of time working on, which is countering violent
extremism or counter-radicalization.
I'll be honest; here in the United States the government has a
tremendous discomfort with getting involved in counter-radicalization or
countering violent extremism at all insofar as it is involved with countering
ideology. Because again to call a spade a spade, much of the ideology that
terrorists are hiding behind is an extremist variation of religion. I would say
it's not the true religion, but that doesn't make a difference. They claim it to
be, and that makes it much less comfortable for us.
So we do need to have an effort to focus on these types of
activities. Who does it and under what laws? I can't speak for Canada as it's
beyond my expertise, but here in the United States, this is an issue we grapple
After I left the Treasury Department, I got a call from the State
Department, but not an office I had ever had dealings with before, asking if
could I come in and speak with the special representative to combat
anti-Semitism about my work at treasury. Sure, I was happy to come in, but I
couldn't imagine what they wanted to talk about.
What the special representative for combatting anti-Semitism
wanted to talk about was as they started to dig into organizations that were
producing expressly anti-Semitic literature, really horrible stuff, they were
finding that often it was the same groups or funded by the same groups who were
also funding, more explicitly, terrorist activity. So I tried to put them in
touch with the people who were looking at this also from a terrorist perspective
to see if they were looking at some of the same people from different
I don't know what the laws are in Canada. Of course, you do have
very good laws in terms of protecting from abuse of the charitable exempt
status. The most recent prominent case was the Hamas front Irfan, which may find
itself at the end of a prosecution as well. This is something we need to look at
and appreciate, but appreciate at the same time just how difficult a problem it
is to tackle. You need to demonstrate what the criminal violation is. Otherwise,
in societies that embrace free speech, it can be complicated.
The Chair: Doctor, I'd like to follow up on the Irfan
issue that Canada faced. It was a long period of time from when it was
identified until it was actually disbanded, the way I recall it. Perhaps you can
give us a further description from your perspective, in view of the fact you're
fairly knowledgeable on it.
Mr. Levitt: I wrote about Irfan in my book on Hamas, which
came out in 2006. Irfan didn't like it. Their lawyer sent a threatening letter
to Yale University Press, which published my book. I was asked by the press to
substantiate in still greater detail the basis for what I had said, which I was
more than happy to do, and that was the end of that because I was careful to
write in “fact.”
Irfan was established around the same time and by some of the
same people who established the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development,
or HLF, here in the United States. HLF was originally founded as the Occupied
Land Fund, OLF, and later changed its name to HLF and moved from California to
HLF, of course, was ultimately designated as a terrorist entity
and shut down by the Treasury Department and then was prosecuted. The first case
was a hung jury, and in the second trial they were convicted on all counts.
Cards on the table: I served as an expert witness in that case, explaining what
Hamas is and how they finance and the role Hamas played in that.
Irfan came up in that case under the list of unindicted
co-conspirators. If you look deeper into the evidence in the case, which is
available online now, Irfan comes up among the conversations. Irfan
representatives attended this key Hamas meeting at a hotel on the grounds of the
Philadelphia airport shortly after the Oslo accords were signed, where Hamas
leaders in North America were getting together to figure out how they should
react to this tragedy of a potential peace deal between Israelis and
Palestinians. Because if there's peace, it will be very difficult to get people
animated to continue to fight Israel.
At one point, one of the organizers at this meeting, which Irfan
attended under its previous name, The Jerusalem Fund, said that we shouldn't say
the word “Hamas” anymore because President Clinton had put Hamas on his first
banned list. So they decided to use a very highly developed and complicated code
name, which was “Samah,” that is to say, “Hamas” backwards. That was too
complicated for them to remember. Several of them kept saying, “Hamas. No,
Samah.” In any event, Irfan comes up in that and other cases many times.
I'll leave it there because it's my understanding there are still
legal proceedings potentially ongoing. I think the good news here is that
authorities, both in terms of the people who look at things from the abuse of
charitable tax exempt status and the people at the RCMP who look at further
violations of the law, however much time it took — and it takes time for these
things — are acting on it.
Senator Day: Dr. Levitt, I was hoping to get a chance to
talk to you and get your reaction. You're very knowledgeable on a lot of
different countries that have organizations like FINTRAC gathering information.
Are you satisfied that the other institutions in those countries have the laws
and the expertise in prosecution and the judiciary to deal with this and to make
Mr. Levitt: That is an excellent question. The answer is
that it varies tremendously. There is tremendous variation. There are lots of
countries that had nothing and now have a lot. There are lots of countries that
are still getting up to speed and there are countries that just lack the
capacity. This is an area where there's a tremendous amount of capacity-building
going on — U.S. Treasury, State, the United Nations, think tanks — a tremendous
amount of work. That, too, varies in terms of its quality. Sometimes it has to
do with the recipient.
I remember being in one country where I think the United States,
but it could have been an international, was providing training, but the members
of this country just didn't want to have to do the full training anymore. I
think it was month-long. We had to curtail it back to half a day for two weeks.
We wanted there to be something; better something than nothing, but obviously we
weren't getting the full thing going on.
Throughout the world, the quality of the financial intelligence
units, the FIUs, vary greatly. Of course, the vast majority of them don't
actually deal with what we would call classified intelligence. Almost none of
them are like the U.S. Treasury, FINTRAC or AUSTRAC model, which are unique, and
some were always tremendously problematic.
I remember when the Egmont Group, the umbrella company for the
international group of financial intelligence units, admitted the Syrian FIU
several years ago, well after Syria had been designated as a state sponsor of
terrorism and all kinds of unacceptable actions were happening there. The United
States was very concerned about allowing the Syrian FIU to have access to
everybody else's information for fear that they would do the exact opposite of
what they were supposed to with it.
I was on a boondoggle at a conference in the Bahamas for another
think tank on Iran, and I was so perturbed by this that I checked into my hotel,
ran up to my room, took out my laptop and quickly cranked out a piece — which is
still up on our website, actually — on just how ridiculous it was or would be,
because the talks were going on that day and the next, to admit the Syrian FIU,
which they did.
So there are all kinds of variation. There's variation in terms
of the umbrella groups, yet it's critically important to help build these. The
reaction should not be frustration and therefore forget it. To the extent we
continue to build up this relationship of competent and maybe, dare we hope,
even really capable organizations like these, we'll be able to do more and more.
Particularly in Western Europe now, there are several more entities like this
that, while maybe not like FINTRAC or FinCEN, are much better than they ever
were, and that means we have partners who can understand and speak our language
I was doing research on this type of issue for a monograph I
wrote. I was traipsing the world and my co-author and I were joking. As you go
around the world, you can see who speaks FATF. Who knows what the 40 plus 9
special recommendations are and is versed enough to talk about the complications
in special recommendation IX? There's a growing body of people around the world
who speak FATF and FinCEN, et cetera, and that's great because we can have that
conversation drill down into particulars, the details, because that's where it's
at. We can actually share information, even if it's not these multi-lateral
organizations, but bilaterally, and do more good.
We are constantly making progress in this domain. Some are
frustrated that so many years after 9/11 we're still not quite where we want to
be. I think you could also look at it from the other side of the coin and say
it's pretty amazing collectively how far we've come since then. I think there's
responsibility on the part of Canada, America, Australia and others who have
invested in this and are doing impressive work to contribute to the training of
others, if not for the sake of those others, then out of selfish interests in
being able to build up the number of partners with whom we can really
communicate with on these constantly evolving issues.
Senator Day: Thank you very much. We'll leave it on that
Mr. Levitt: Thank you, sir.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Levitt. Your testimony
has been very informative. We certainly appreciate you taking time out of that
busy schedule of yours and away from those four boys.
(The committee adjourned.)