Troubling Ties

Canadian links to the Algerian hostage crisis, albeit unconfirmed, are raising concerns among security experts.
By: /
January 22, 2013

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced Monday that two Canadians were involved in the hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant that ended earlier this week, and that a Canadian citizen may have been responsible for organizing the attack. CBC’s The Current brought together security experts to discuss this development. Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former CSIS senior manager and current CEO of the Northgate Group, commented:

Unfortunately, there is something that we must, as Canadians, recognize – that these sort of activities [go on], there [are] these kinds of cells operating out of Montreal... we have a long list of individuals [who have] operated out of Montreal for a long time, who have been suspected or linked to terrorist activities, terrorist groups.

Canadian involvement in the planning of the attack has not been confirmed by the Canadian government, nor has any other country backed Algeria's statement. Regardless, the possible linkage will almost certainly have an impact on Canadian-American border security cooperation. The Fraser Institute has observed and tracked ‘border thickening’ in recent years, and indicators suggest this trend will continue.  According to The Globe and Mail,

[I]t is beyond dispute that Canada produces its share of violent fanatics. The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service last year told Parliament that between 45 and 60 Canadian citizens had recently “travelled or attempted to travel from Canada to Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to join al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations ... Ottawa officials are scrambling to investigate these claims, amid ongoing worries that any perceptions of Canada being a haven for al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists could lead to added scrutiny – and ultimately might curb the flow of goods and people across the U.S. border.

In June 2012, the US Dept of Homeland Security, the US Dept. of Justice, Public Safety Canada, and Justice Canada announced a joint initiative entitled ‘Statement of Privacy Principles’ that aims to deepen intelligence and information sharing on common security goals. In the wake of the current crisis, the critical importance of this type of initiative is clear.