The number of people who have traveled overseas from Canada and are suspected of engaging in “terrorism-related activities” has grown, security officials said on Thursday in a report that cited extremist violence as Canada’s main defense threat.
The report was released by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who has overall responsibility for law enforcement, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It comes just two weeks after an Islamic State supporter who was in the final stages of preparing an attack on a Canadian city with a homemade bomb was killed during a police raid at his home in Ontario. So-called “extremist travelers,” who are suspected of traveling abroad for the purpose of militant activity, pose a range of security concerns for Canada, according to an annual report that gave an assessment of the threat landscape in 2015 and early 2016.
At the end of 2015, the government was aware of about 180 individuals with a connection to Canada who were abroad and suspected of “engaging in terrorism-related activities”, the report said. That is up from approximately 130 individuals in 2014. More than half of the 180 are believed to be in Turkey, Iraq or Syria, the report said.
Another 60 extremist travelers had returned to Canada at the end of 2015. “Violent extremist ideologies espoused by terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Qaida continue to appeal to certain individuals in Canada,” the report said, using the Arabic acronym for the militant group Islamic State.
The numbers do not take into account other individuals of concern, including those who aspire to travel or those whose travel has been thwarted, the report said.
It was the first major report on security issued since the new Liberal government came into power last year. The Liberals campaigned on a plan to scale back a 2015 law that gave increased powers to security authorities in the wake of two deadly attacks by homegrown radicals in 2014.
Since the thwarted attack earlier this month, the government has said it will continue with its plans to reform the law and is beginning national security consultations.
A gunman killed a soldier at Ottawa’s national war memorial before launching an attack on the Canadian Parliament in October 2014 while a man ran down two soldiers in Quebec, killing one, around the same time. Canada’s national threat level remains at medium, where it has been since October 2014.