MONTREAL — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says there is “no legitimate reason of any kind” for Canadians to become involved in jihadist or terrorist movements.
Harper was in Montreal on Thursday to announce funds for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency in the fight against terrorism.
The RCMP will receive $150.4 million over five years, beginning in 2015-16, and $46.8 million a year after, with the money going to help the Mounties conduct terrorism-related criminal investigations.
The border-services agency will get $5.4 million over five years and $1.1 million annually in subsequent years, with some of the funds earmarked for identifying high-risk travellers.
While the Prime Minister’s Office described the money as “new” and “additional,” the Finance Department said later the funds had been announced in the recent federal budget but that the specific details outlined on Thursday for the RCMP and the CBSA were new.
Harper was speaking at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, where 10 youths were arrested last weekend after being suspected of wanting to leave Canada to join jihadist groups.
“Obviously we have great sympathy for the families affected but let us be clear: we have a great country here, we have a country that is unparalleled in terms of its freedom, its democracy, its openness and its tolerance,” the prime minister told reporters after making his announcement.
“And there is no legitimate reason of any kind in this country for someone to become a violent jihadist or a terrorist or to join any kind of group that is involved or advocates that kind of activity. It is totally unacceptable to Canada and Canadians and unacceptable to this government.”
Violent jihadism is not a future trend but a current reality in Canada and around the world, Harper said, adding that the funds will be important in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
In recent days, Islamic State militants have been on the advance, seizing the city of Ramadi in Iraq and the central Syrian town of Palmyra.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney has described the fall of Ramadi as a setback for the Iraqi military but added it shouldn’t be seen as a sign the coalition is losing the fight against ISIS.
Harper was asked in general about such advances and what the implications are for coalition forces.
“The reason the international community has intervened in Iraq is the serious threat that ISIS poses,” he replied.
“As we all remember, very quickly last summer, beginning actually in January but certainly over the summer ISIS began to seize territory across Iraq and, in our judgment, was in danger of seizing virtually the entire country. And that’s why the international community intervened.
“We’ve had some successes but at the same time it is no secret this is an ongoing battle, this organization poses a great threat and continues to pose a great threat, obviously to security in Iraq and Syria.
“But as long as it has a substantial territory it is occupying, it will want to use that as a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against this country.”