Stewart Bell, National Post, Jan 3, 2013
Canadian domestic extremists are capable of orchestrating “serious acts” of political violence, according to a newly released federal intelligence report that blames such groups for nine bombings since 2004.
The incidents catalogued in the “secret” report include attacks on Alberta oil pipelines and three bombings by a Quebec group called the Initiative de Résistance Internationaliste (IRI) that espouses a broad leftist agenda.
While Islamist extremists have consistently ranked as the country’s top terrorist threat since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the report shows that most of Canada’s recent politically motivated attacks were the work of domestic extremists.
The Intelligence Assessment, 2012 Domestic Threat Environment in Canada: Left-Wing/Right-Wing Extremism, was written by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in March. A declassified version was released under the Access to Information Act.
It describes the activities of Canadian fringe groups that use or advocate violence, ranging from “eco-extremists” and “pro-insurrection anarchists” to “revolutionary communists” and the anti-government Freemen on the Land.
The report said 2010 had seen an “unusually high” level of left-wing extremist activity, which it attributed to the G20 summit in Toronto and the Winter Olympics in British Columbia. Attacks that year included the firebombing of a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa and the IRI bombing of a Canadian Forces recruiting centre in Trois-Rivières, Que.
“In contrast, the level of activity in 2011 was low,” the report said. “The relative quiet of 2011, however, should not be viewed as permanent. Canadian left-wing extremists can exploit the negative consequences of the current economic downturn in order to bring attention to perceived policy failures or negative effects of capitalism.”
According to the report, left-wing groups have begun targeting companies linked to the correctional system. For example, a Kingston architectural firm that designed a provincial prison was repeatedly vandalized in 2011 and “wanted posters” featuring photos of architects appeared downtown.
“Since 2010, left-wing extremist publications in Canada have called for the ‘end of the prison industrial complex’ and ‘solidarity with political prisoners.’ In a post-G20 context, left-wing extremists considered comrades sentenced to jail as ‘political prisoners’ and the prison system as ‘oppressive,’” the report said.
The study also examined the threat posed by the Freemen on the Land, who claim they can opt out of Canadian laws by destroying their government-issued identification. An Alberta judge has called the concept “pseudo-legal nonsense” and a “scam” promoted by profiteering con men.
Nonetheless, the report said published estimates put the number of Freemen in Canada at 30,000, a concern because in addition to asserting they are not bound by the law, some also claim the right to defend themselves with deadly force.
The report dismissed the current neo-Nazi and white supremacist threat to Canada, saying such groups were so marginalized they did little but organize poster campaigns and harass minorities and “do not overly propose serious acts of violence.”
But since the report was issued, racist attacks have occurred in cities such as Edmonton. Two alleged members of the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honor Canada were arrested in B.C. last December following alleged attacks on minorities. In one case, a Filipino man was set on fire.
In Ontario, a man with a swastika tattooed on his chest has drawn complaints for recruiting for the White National Front on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. His group does not appear to be active outside the Internet but has encouraged attacks.
“Attack non-whites whenever and however you can, we will pick dates to go on a blitzkrieg, get as many as we can,” read one post on his Twitter page that used the Nazi-era term for a military assault. “We have to show non-white immigrants that its dangerous to come here, and anyone who supports them cops or whatever burn their houses down.” These posts have since been taken down and Durham Region police said they were investigating.
Daryl Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security analyst and the author of Right Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terrorist Threat is Being Ignored, said the post-9/11 focus on Islamist terrorism has left the extreme right wing neglected by investigators.
“I mean, I was just amazed when I worked at Homeland Security how much emphasis was put on the homegrown Muslim radicalization,” he said in an interview. “I just think that threat was over-hyped. And it’s become quite apparent as the far right has kind of reemerged that we’ve had too few resources, particularly in Homeland Security, and lack of interest on Capitol Hill.”