A leading researcher on terrorist travellers says returnees to Canada can be rehabilitated, since those who come back to their home countries are often disillusioned or traumatized.
Others feel they have done their duty to defend Muslim lands and want to lead a more normal life, says Lorne Dawson, a sociology professor at the University of Waterloo and project director for the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.
As forces of Daesh scatter, the Liberal government is under pressure to explain what it’s doing to contain any threat from foreign fighters returning to Canada.
The Conservatives have peppered the government with questions in the House of Commons about ensuring the safety of Canadians — accusing the Liberals of welcoming returnees with open arms.
Dawson says simply locking up extremist travellers is not the answer.
“No credible expert in the world thinks you arrest your way out of jihadist radicalization — it’s a social movement,” he said Sunday in an interview. “You can’t possibly arrest all the people who are engaged with this ideology.”
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has said it is aware of 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada who are suspected of terrorist activity abroad. This could involve front-line fighting, training, logistical support, fundraising or studying at extremist-influenced schools.
Half of these individuals are believed to have travelled to Syria or Iraq.
The intelligence service has also noted a further 60 extremist travellers who have returned to Canada.
But there appears to be scant information about who they are — and what threat they might pose.