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Question 4: Security

In promoting the security of Canadians, where should our priorities lie? Should Canada give a higher priority to military combat operations? To sectors such as intelligence gathering and analysis? Or should we focus on broader security measures, such as combatting environmental degradation and the spread of infectious disease? What should be our distinctive role in promoting global security?



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Date: 2003-05-01 19:37:03
Canada was one of the first countries to pledge its support to the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. However, the integrity of Canada’s commitment to the struggle against international terrorists, and the countries that sponsor them, is compromised when senior Canadian officials speak about a “clash of civilizations” or the need for wealthy, developed countries to address the “root causes” of the frustration and animosity of less developed countries. To be credible and effective, Canadian foreign policy must unambiguously declare that terrorism – the taking of civilian life for political purposes – is never justifiable, and reinforce this declaration with tangible action. By the same token, while the inclusion of Hamas, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to Canada’s “List of Terrorist Entities” was important, Canada’s hesitancy in adding Hezbollah to the List, based on a skewed understanding of the Lebanese-based group’s predominant hatred toward Israel, betrayed a glaring deficiency in Canada’s commitment to the war on terrorism. Nevertheless, the Canadian government is to be commended for resisting domestic and international political and economic pressure to reverse the decision to add Hezbollah to the Solicitor General's list of outlawed terrorist organizations, once that decision was finally taken.

There is still a second level of the struggle against international terrorism that Canada must address more aggressively. Indeed, the key to countering if not ending completely the threat posed by terrorist groups is to cut off the financial and logistical support for these groups provided by rogue regimes who continue to view the sponsorship of international terrorism as a legitimate tool of foreign policy.

To be sure, Canada is to be commended for its leadership in promoting UN resolutions generally designed to isolate terror-sponsoring countries. However, Canada has failed to reinforce such steps with specific substantive action. For example, Canada has consistently refused to modify its commercial trade relations with Iran, even though Tehran is widely recognized as the single most flagrant sponsor of anti-Israeli terrorist groups including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is important to recall that it was many tons of Iranian heavy weapons destined for Palestinian terrorist groups that were captured by Israeli soldiers aboard the "Karine A" cargo ship owned and operated by officials of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Recall also that Iranian agents have been implicated in terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish community institutions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the 1990s, as well as terrorist atrocities against US and other Western nationals in Lebanon in the early- to mid-1980s. By failing to cut its profitable commercial relations with Tehran, or at least restricting trade with Iran to humanitarian goods, Canada is inadvertently signalling to Iran's extremist regime that it can continue sponsoring international terrorism with impunity.

While it does not have the same type of potential economic leverage with other Middle Eastern terror-sponsoring states including Syria, Libya and Sudan, there are steps that Canada can and should take on its own and in coordination with other right-minded countries, to isolate these regimes and punish them for their reckless behaviour. At a minimum, Canada should continue to use every opportunity in international institutions to condemn Syria's ongoing active support for Hezbollah and a dozen Palestinian terrorist groups based in Damascus or in the Syrian-controlled Bekka Valley in eastern Lebanon.

Finally, Canada should consider using its substantial economic, cultural and political contacts with Lebanon to encourage the Lebanese to use whatever resources they have at their disposal independent of their Syrian masters to rein-in Hezbollah. At a minimum, Canada should tie its generous development assistance to Lebanon to substantive efforts by Beirut to crack down on Hezbollah and other terror groups using Lebanese sovereign territory to attack Israel.


A. Canada must reaffirm its absolute intolerance of international terrorism and of the rogue regimes that sponsor terrorists and supply them with conventional (and possibly, non-conventional) weapons.

B. Canada must immediately formulate a more comprehensive list of terrorist organizations and add additional groups to it, including those directly responsible for terror attacks against Israeli citizens.

C. Canada must take substantive measures (e.g., diplomatic and trade) to signal its disapproval of states that sponsor terrorism. It should carry out these measures both at the bi-lateral level and through international fora and institutions.


The need for cooperation among the intelligence agencies of democratic countries has grown proportionate to the dramatic increase in the terrorist threat since 9/11. There has been an appropriate increase in the level and scope of intelligence sharing involving CSIS and other Canadian security agencies on the one hand, and their counterparts primarily in the United States and Western Europe, on the other hand. Israel, a democratic country with unprecedented experience in the gathering and analyzing of intelligence about Middle East terrorist groups and the regimes that sponsor them, should be brought fully into Canada’s consultative process.


A. Canada should establish a comprehensive bilateral security protocol with Israel that will institutionalize the process of sharing intelligence, expertise and technology directed at countering international terrorism and other threats to regional and global stability.
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