Overview: Canada experienced minimal terrorist activity in 2017. The main external terrorist threats to Canada are from terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qa'ida and their sympathizers, while the main internal threat is from lone actors inspired by these groups and ideologies. By the end of 2017, approximately 180 Canadian citizens or permanent residents had traveled abroad to engage in terrorist activity in Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS and approximately 60 have since returned to Canada. The government has policies and legislation to counter these threats and worked to address the radicalization of its citizens to violence.

The United States worked closely throughout the year with Canada to identify and develop new capabilities that meet a wide variety of requirements for countering terrorist threats. Through a cost-sharing bilateral relationship, both countries advanced their technical ability to defeat or mitigate the evolving capabilities of terrorists and criminal organizations. Canada is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

2017 Terrorist Incidents: Canada experienced three terrorist incidents in 2017:

  • On January 29, Alexandre Bissonnette entered and opened fire on an Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, killing six people and injuring 19 others. The assailant was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five of attempted murder. Canada's prime minister classified the mass shooting as a terrorist attack.

  • On June 3, Rehab Dughmosh, a Toronto-area Syrian-born Canadian woman, allegedly attacked several people with a golf club at a Canadian Tire store in Scarborough, Ontario and brandished a large knife from her clothes. Police laid terrorist-related charges against Dughmosh (32) in July, including attempted murder for the benefit of or in association with a terrorist group.

  • On September 30, Abdulahi Sharif allegedly stabbed one police constable outside a local football game in Edmonton, Alberta and then hit four pedestrians with a truck, in which an ISIS flag was found. A Somalian national and refugee, Sharif (30) was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California in 2011 and subsequently released with an "order of supervision." He crossed into Canada in January 2012, where he claimed asylum and was later granted refugee status.

Also, on June 21, Amor Ftouhi, a Tunisian-born Canadian resident of Montreal, Quebec, stabbed a U.S. police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. During the attack, Ftouhi made reference to killings in Syria and Afghanistan. He was awaiting trial in Detroit, Michigan at the end of 2017.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, the following legislative activity impacting the investigation or prosecution of terrorism offenses occurred:

  • C-6 ("An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act") was enacted by the Parliament and received Royal Assent (the final legislative stage) in June. The law repealed conviction for a national security offense as grounds to revoke the citizenship of Canadians with dual nationality.

  • C-22 ("An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians") was enacted by the Parliament and received Royal Assent in June. The law authorized a new parliamentary oversight body to oversee the activity of federal national security and intelligence agencies across government. The Act also allowed the Parliament to review the legislative, regulatory, policy, administrative, and financial framework for national security and intelligence.

  • C-23 ("Preclearance Act, 2016") was passed by the Parliament and received Royal Assent in December. It will not go into force immediately, but at a date to be determined by the cabinet.

Canada conducted numerous law enforcement actions against terrorists and terrorist groups over the past year, the most significant of which were:

  • In January, Tevis Gonyou-McLean agreed to the terms of a peace bond, including that he wear a GPS ankle bracelet for 12 months. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had arrested Gonyou-McLean in August 2016, following a tip-off that he had threatened to "avenge the death" of ISIS supporter Aaron Driver two days earlier. Gonyou-McLean was subsequently re-arrested in November for breaching the bond's conditions.

  • In September, Ismail Habib received a nine-year prison sentence after being found guilty in June of attempting to travel to Syria to participate in terrorist activity. Habib was the first adult in Canada convicted of attempting to leave Canada to join ISIS.

  • In October, Kevin Omar Mohamed was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of terrorist activity in June. Mohamed was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace on March 26, 2016; on March 29, 2016 he was charged with participating in the activity of a terrorist group over a two-year period.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Canada is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Canada's financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) is a member of the Egmont Group. In June 2017, amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act came into force that strengthened Canada's anti-money laundering/counterterrorist finance regime and improved compliance. These amendments expanded FINTRAC's ability to disclose information to police, the Canada Border Services Agency, and provincial securities regulators. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): On June 26, Public Safety Canada officially launched the Center for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence with a budget of C$35 million (US $26.7 million) over five years and C$10 million (US $8 million) annually thereafter to counter radicalization to violence. In addition, the city of Montreal is a founding member of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: Canada prioritizes collaboration with international partners to counter terrorism and regularly seeks opportunities to lead. Canada makes major contributions to the Global Counterterrorism Forum (in which it co-chairs the Capacity-Building in the West Africa Region), the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism, and the G-7 Roma-Lyon Group. Global Affairs Canada maintains a Counterterrorism Capacity Building program, which provides training, funding, equipment, and technical and legal assistance to nations, enabling them to prevent and respond to a broad spectrum of terrorist activity.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.