The RCMP have an overwhelming task monitoring would-be jihadis in Canada and those involved in the jihad abroad. A report last year put the number of Canadians who have gone overseas to participate in terrorist activities at 145, most of them in Iraq and Syria.
Here at home, more than 600 RCMP officers monitor would-be jihadis and still, it’s an uphill job.
Witness Tevis Gonyou-McLean, a 24 year-old Ottawa man arrested last August, placed on a peace bond and arrested twice since, with the latest arrest coming this past weekend.
Gonyou-McLean has been under more than two dozen conditions since he was released in August including wearing a GPS ankle bracelet, living at a special unit of the Salvation Army hospice that deals with mental health and addictions, he is to seek counselling, keep a curfew and not associate with several local Ottawa jihadis already in jail or facing trial on terrorism charges.
Gonyou-McLean keeps breaking his conditions. He was arrested on that front on October 25, released again on Halloween and then picked up again for breaching conditions five days later.
Police are stuck. They know him to be dangerous. Of the hundreds of jihadis they follow, only the most serious get to this point. But barring an actual terrorism act or his attempt to go overseas and join ISIS, there is little they can do.
And even if they have the evidence that Gonyou-McLean is a danger, that doesn’t mean they can keep him under wraps.
The case of Aaron Driver was similar and if you were paying attention back in August, you know it ended when he blew himself up in a cab in Strathroy as police moved in based on a tip from the FBI.
What are the Mounties to do? So many jihadis, and only so many officers to put on the cases before all other police work falls by the wayside.
One idea is to stop targeting individual jihadis and focus on the instigators.
If you look at where Canada’s main jihadis come from, you’ll notice certain hotspots, such as Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and London, Ontario. A disproportionate number of jihadis have come from these communities.
Despite the myth of the lone wolf radicalized online, counter terrorism experts say the initial push almost always happens in person. The reason we see hotspots is these communities have recruiters that groom people for radicalization.
They may push them towards online material eventually but that is after they are already down the jihadi path.
We need to target these recruiters and use whatever legal and available resources we have to end their games, end their recruiting practices, drive them out of business.
That won’t solve this problem completely but it might mean fewer Tevis Gonyou-McLean’s to deal with.