By Vassy Kapelos, Parliamentary Correspondent, Global News | June 23, 2015
OTTAWA – How real is the possibility of a terrorist attack in Canada?
According to the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre, it depends where you live.
An internal report obtained by Global News classifies the terror threat level in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and the Greater Toronto Area at “medium.”
Medium means an individual or group has the capability and intent to carry out an attack – an act of terrorism “could occur.”
Calgary and Halifax rank “low.”
A “low” threat level means and individual or group has the capability or intent to carry out an act of terrorism – it’s “possible but unlikely.”
Security expert David Hyde says the medium level does not mean the threat is critical – but it is elevated.
“It is cause for scrutiny, it is cause to be on guard, but it’s not cause for concern that there’s anything imminent that’s going to happen around the corner as far as authorities know,” he said.
The report mentions specific threats:
- In British Columbia, “single source intelligence” shows a potential plot originating from an ISIS-linked group in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region may be targeting a Canadian Forces base.
- In Fort McMurray, “radicalized” people may be attempting to get jobs in the oilsands to raise money to fight with ISIS.
- In Montreal, the arrests of allegedly radicalized teens are noted. There is no imminent threat, but the report warns “extremists could develop plots if prevented from travelling.”
- The most likely attack scenarios for all cities “would involve small arms, IEDs, bladed weapons, or other simple attack methods,” carried out by lone-wolves or small groups inspired by ISIS.
The situations laid out in the report are similar to the Ottawa shooting last October, carried out by lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
Global News first reported that the domestic terror threat level quietly rose the day before the October 22attack.
“They know they can get a big bang if you will for a small amount of investment in terms of time and planning, so the authorities’ power really is knowledge. Canadians need to know now more than ever before,” said Hyde.
But that information isn’t easy to get.
“We need to bring the public into the conversation,” Hyde said.
Unlike the United States and Europe, where terror threat levels are public, they aren’t in Canada.
And while Public Safety reports on the overall terror threat, it does so only once a year.
Asked about the threat assessments, a government spokesman told Global News, “the threat is real,” and pointed to the recently-passed anti-terror bill C-51.
“That is why our Government has passed the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, to ensure that our police forces have the tools they need to combat the evolving threat of terrorism,” Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said in an email.
The report also highlights the vulnerability of events like Canada Day, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the upcoming Pan Am games in Toronto.
At this point, the threat level is “low,” although there will be a new assessment each week.