An effective response to terrorist threats and acts requires strong investigative and prosecutorial abilities. National security criminal investigations, including those related to terrorism offences, are conducted by INSETs, operating in major cities across the country. The INSETs are specialized, multi-agency investigative units which are co-located at the field level to enhance the RCMP’s ability to investigate suspected terrorist activity and to respond to terrorism activities or incidents.
There have been a number of terrorism investigations, prosecutions and convictions in Canada since 2001. Some terrorism prosecutions are still ongoing, but there were no new proceedings in 2018. This is reflective of the fact that there were no terrorist attacks in Canada in 2018, that fewer individuals are attempting to travel abroad for terrorism purposes, and that the number of returning extremist travellers has remained stable since last year.
Overall, since 2001 a total of 55 individuals have been charged with terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. The RCMP has also charged five (5) additional individuals for a terrorist hoax using terrorism provisions available under the Criminal Code. These five (5) charges are counted separately as they did not require the Attorney General’s consent.
In 2013, offences specifically related to leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purposes of committing certain terrorism offences were enacted in the Criminal Code. Since then, a total of 12 individuals have been charged with specific terrorism travel offences:
Three (3) have been convicted;
Two (2) have had terrorism peace bonds imposed;
Four (4) have outstanding warrants;
Two (2) are awaiting trial; and
One (1) has had the charges withdrawn.
The 12 individuals identified above are specific to those who have attempted to or have travelled, and does not include other terrorism charges brought against other Canadians that were not travel-related in that period.
In Canada, the ultimate decision on what charges should be used in response to a criminal act is taken by the police service and the independent prosecution service. The decision is taken by looking at the law, available evidence, the likelihood of conviction and the public interest. In addition, no proceedings in respect of a terrorism offence can commence without the consent of the Attorney General.
The Criminal Code sets out various specific terrorism offences and their punishments. Many of them were created to prevent terrorist activity from happening. The possible offences include different types of criminality, including participation, contributing, financing, and instructing.
One of the terrorism offences in the Criminal Code is committing an indictable offence that constitutes a terrorist act. An example of this could be first degree murder. If the situation surrounding the murder falls within the general definition of “terrorist activity” in the Criminal Code, a prosecutor can decide to charge and prosecute the individual for the murder and for the terrorism offence of committing an indictable offence (first degree murder) that constitutes a terrorist act. If the prosecutor decides to prosecute the terrorism offence, he or she will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was committed for a political, religious, or ideological cause. While an offence may appear to be ideologically driven and motivated, concrete evidence is required to prove this. It is sometimes difficult to collect the necessary evidence, especially when evidence is collected outside of Canada. In fact, the complexity, disclosure issues and delays inherent to terrorism charges sometimes risks jeopardizing otherwise viable prosecutions given the need to try an accused within a reasonable time as dictated by the R. vs. Jordan decision. In addition, there are often challenges associated with the use of intelligence and sensitive information as courtroom evidence, especially when the alleged criminal offences took place abroad. Depending on these and various other factors, a prosecutor may choose to prosecute for first degree murder.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) and the RCMP work together to determine which charges have the best chance of successful prosecution, in order to most effectively address the threat.
SOURCE : Minister of Public Safety’s statement on the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada [April 12, 2019 Update]