Mohamed got seven years.
But three years later, he was already out of prison on statutory release, although his parole report said he had not abandoned extremist ideology and remained a “significant” risk.
He was one of five terrorism offenders released from Canadian prisons in 2019, despite concerns raised by parole boards that four of them still posed a risk to public safety.
At least three more could be released this year.
Mohamed Hersi, sentenced to 10 years in 2014 for participating in the activities of the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab, is scheduled for statutory release on December 23.
Meanwhile, Rehab Dughmosh became eligible for day parole on Feb. 7, and Ismael Habib will be eligible on May 22. Both are eligible for full parole later this year.
None of those released last year are known to have committed violence since leaving prison, but parole board reports obtained by Global News suggest Canadian terrorism offenders are coming out still radicalized.
“There is no evidence to indicate that you are committed to changing your extremist ideological beliefs,” the Parole Board of Canada wrote two weeks before Kevin Omar Mohamed’s statutory release on March 2019.
The dangers that poses have become evident in the United Kingdom.
Attacks in London on Feb. 2, 2020 and Nov. 29, 2019 were carried out by terrorism offenders recently let out of prison after serving half their sentences, a policy the British government is now scrambling to undo.
Emergency legislation introduced in the U.K. on Feb. 11 would end automatic early release for those convicted of terrorism crimes, who would have to serve at least two-thirds of their sentences and face restrictions upon their release.
A Feb. 21 hammer attack that killed a 64-year-old woman on a Toronto street, and the subsequent police allegation that it was an act of terrorism, is a reminder that Canada has its own problems with extremist violence.
In Canada, most terrorism sentences since 2016 have been seven years or less, a review of Public Prosecution Service of Canada records shows. With time-and-a-half credit for pre-trial custody, and statutory release at the two-thirds mark, they are in fact substantially shorter.
Even Dughmosh, sentenced to seven years on Feb. 14, 2019 for trying to join ISIS and a 2017 attack at a Toronto Canadian Tire she justified on the grounds her religion instructed her to “kill every non-Muslim,” is already eligible for day parole.
She will be eligible for full parole in August.
Whether such sentences are long enough for meaningful de-radicalization to occur undoubtedly depends on the individual, but documents obtained by Global News show the parole system has been struggling with terrorism offenders.
In their reports, parole boards have been raising concerns about the continued radicalization of those convicted of terrorism-related crimes who are about to be released, prompting them to make use of their authority to impose added restrictions on offenders.
Among those flagged by the parole board was Carlos Larmond.
Arrested in January 2015 while trying to fly out of Montreal to join ISIS, the Ottawa twin pleaded guilty to a terrorism offence in 2016 and was sentenced to seven years.
Although the Parole Board said he had been rated a high risk to public safety, he was statutorily released on Dec. 26, 2019. To mitigate the dangers, parole officials imposed 11 conditions on him.
He must live at a halfway house, return there nightly and undergo treatment for radicalization. In addition, he cannot delete his internet history or operate more than one account on any social media site.
In its report, the board said it was concerned he “may continue to commit terrorist related offences” and ordered him to undergo religious counselling and abide by four other conditions upon his March 1, 2019 statutory release date.
Seven conditions were placed on Suliman Mohamed upon his Aug. 13, 2019 statutory release, notably that he participate in counselling “to deal with religious extremism.”
The Parole Board of Canada can “impose any special conditions that it considers reasonable and necessary to further manage an offender’s risk in the community,” said spokesperson Holly Knowles.
“An offender can be returned to prison at any time if they violate their parole conditions, commit a new offence, or there is any indication that the offender poses an increased risk to the community.”
However, experts pointed to the lack of de-radicalization programming in Canadian prisons as a problem.
Volunteer prison chaplains are trying to help, and some offenders seek counselling after their release, said professor Amarnath Amarasingam, a Queen’s University terrorism expert.
After getting out of prison, one convicted member of the Toronto 18 terrorist group made his way to Syria, where he joined an armed extremist faction and was killed.
The success of several other former Toronto 18 members shows that “people can be coached to rebuild their lives,” Amarasingam said, but “for the most part, none of the radicalized offenders in prison are really getting the help they need.”
According to his parole report, Suliman Mohamed met an “instigator” at a prayer room after he “began practicing Islam more intensely.” He watched propaganda videos and ultimately pledged allegiance to ISIS.
“You elaborated a plan, with the help of accomplices, to travel to Syria in order to join the Islamic State. Moreover, you attempted to facilitate others to do the same and declared to an accomplice that you wanted to be part of a domestic terrorist attack,” his parole report reads.
Arrested in January 2015, Mohamed could have received 10 years after he pleaded guilty in August 2016. He got seven, and once he was credited for one-and-a-half days for each day he was held awaiting trial, that became four-and-a-half years.
Prior to his release six months ago, the parole board reviewed his progress and found concerns, alleging he would “present an undue risk to society” unless additional steps were taken.
Woman guilty of terror charges in Canadian Tire attack sentenced to 7 years in prison
“Your thinking is still described as rigid and narrow and you had advised your CMT [case management team] that you did not feel your actions were criminal. This is concerning to the board,” the report reads.
“The Board feels that although you have made some gains we are not completely satisfied that you have completely changed your pattern of thinking in relation to extremist ideology.”
Mohamed had renounced his allegiance to ISIS and attended seven sessions (although the details were blacked out of the report before it was released to Global News).
“In the Board’s opinion, this is not sufficient to address your extremist ideology.”
As a result, the parole board imposed “special conditions” on him: He must live at a halfway house and show his parole supervisor his cell phone billing statements listing all his incoming and outgoing calls.
He was also forbidden from using a computer that can access the internet, unless for work or school, must show his parole officer his financial statements, and can’t associate with anyone involved in criminal activity.
The Conservative opposition doesn’t believe such measures are good enough and is proposing to eliminate automatic statutory release when offenders have served two-thirds of their sentences.
The killing of a woman at a Quebec hotel on Jan. 22, and the subsequent arrest of an offender who had been recently paroled, has “brought to light a number of troubling issues,” said MP Pierre Paul-Hus.
“We feel that it is irresponsible to release a violent criminal, whether a terrorist or other, knowing that he/she is still a threat to Canadian safety,” said Paul-Hus, the Conservative public safety critic.
The problem is partly the result of a young terrorism offender population and a government decision not to offer de-radicalization programming to inmates, said University of Calgary law professor Michael Nesbitt.
“So it is not surprising to see parole boards acknowledging that terrorism offenders remain radicalized on release,” said the national security law expert, who has studied terrorism sentencing.
He said current terrorism sentences separated offenders from society for a period of time, in the hope they will “emerge having changed their own minds given time in prison.”
“That is literally wishful thinking.”
Only one terrorism offender released last year satisfied the parole board he was no longer a threat: Misbahuddin Ahmed, who had been recruited by an al-Qaeda-linked extremist plotting bombings in Canada.
Ahmed was arrested in Ottawa in 2010, found guilty of two terrorism offences and sentenced to 12 years in 2014. He was granted day parole in 2017 and full parole on April 30, 2019.
The parole board imposed four conditions on him, including religious counselling. But it was largely satisfied he had undergone “introspection and reflection” and abandoned terrorism.
“It is the Board’s opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society if released and that your release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen,” his last parole report read.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Alberta Justice spokespeople deliver duelling statements on prosecutor email review
An email probe into whether Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office interfered with Crown prosecutors took a confusing turn Friday after two government spokespeople delivered duelling statements that raised questions over how far back the search went.
The review was ordered by Smith a week ago to respond to allegations in a CBC story that reported a staffer in the premier’s office emailed prosecutors last fall to question decisions and direction on cases stemming from a blockade at the Canada-U. S. border crossing at Coutts, Alta.
The Justice Department said Monday it had done a four-month search of ingoing, outgoing and deleted emails and found no evidence of contact.
Two days later, Alberta Justice communications director Charles Mainville said in a statement that deleted emails are wiped from the system after 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails may not have covered the entire time period in question.
On Thursday night, Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, a spokesman for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, responded to questions about Mainville’s statement. He said while emails are deleted after 30 days, they live on in the system for another 30 and could have been checked that far back by investigators.
“For example, if an email was deleted on Oct. 17, 2022, the email would no longer be accessible to the user as of Nov. 16, 2022, but would continue to be available to our investigation team until Dec. 16, 2022,” said Lecavalier-Kidney in his statement.
A 60-day search would have stretched back to late November, capturing all but the first six weeks of Smith’s United Conservative Party government. Smith was sworn in as premier on Oct. 11.
But while Lecavalier-Kidney’s statement said investigators could go back 60 days, it did not state that they did so, leaving confusion on how far back they went.
When asked Friday to clarify whether investigators went back 30 or 60 days on the deleted emails, Lecavalier-Kidney did not respond to questions while Mainville reissued the original statements in an email.
The government has also delivered conflicting messages on who was investigated in the review.
Smith promised that emails from all Crown prosecutors and the 34 staffers in her office would be checked.
However, the Justice Department later said emails between “relevant” prosecutors and Smith staffers were checked. It did not say how it determined who was relevant.
The Coutts blockade and COVID-19 protest at the border crossing last year saw RCMP lay charges against several people, ranging from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.
Smith has said she did not direct prosecutors in the Coutts cases and the email review exonerated her office from what she called “baseless” allegations in the CBC story.
The CBC has said that it has not seen the emails in question but stands by its reporting.
The Opposition NDP said questions stemming from the CBC story, coupled with multiple conflicting statements from the premier on what she has said to Justice Department officials about the COVID-19 cases, can only be resolved through an independent investigation.
Smith has given six versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.
Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times reminded them to consider factors unique to COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.
She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.
Smith has long been openly critical of COVID-19 masking, gathering and vaccine mandate rules, questioning if they were needed to fight the pandemic and labelling them intolerable violations of personal freedoms.
She has also called those unvaccinated against COVID-19 the most discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime.
Last fall, Smith said charges in the cases were grounded in politics and should be open to political solutions. But she recently said it’s important to let the court process play out independently.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
Trudeau government dropped the ball on fighting abuse in sport, former minister says
A Liberal MP and former sport minister is again calling for a public inquiry into abuse in sport — and is accusing her own government of not doing enough to tackle the problem.
Kirsty Duncan said the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to build momentum behind her efforts to prevent harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport in the years after she left cabinet — despite knowing a lot about the problem well before Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations exploded in the news last year.
Duncan said she even faced “pushback” from people within her own government when she made tackling abuse a top priority of her time as sport minister.
Duncan said she would not identify the individuals who resisted her efforts, or state whether they were in her own office or other government departments.
“It should not be a fight. I’m asking for the protection of athletes and children. There should never have been pushback,” Duncan told CBC News in an exclusive interview.
“I will not stand idly by while there are athletes, children and young people hurting in this country. And I do not accept the status quo. And if I do not push for an inquiry, it means accepting the status quo. And I will not be complicit.”
On Thursday, Duncan announced she’s taking medical leave effective immediately on the advice of doctors to deal with a physical health challenge.
Duncan was not re-appointed to cabinet by Trudeau after the 2019 election. She was instead appointed deputy House leader for the government.
Trudeau dropped the position of sport minister from cabinet at the time and folded Duncan’s responsibilities into the portfolio of the heritage minister, Steven Guilbeault.
Guilbeault’s ministerial mandate letter — which outlined his key policy objectives — charged him with fostering a culture of safe sport.
In response to questions from CBC about the progress Guilbeault made on that mandate, his office pointed to a Sport Canada timeline of safe sport initiatives in the country.
The department launched a call for proposals to implement a new independent safe sport mechanism in 2020. In July 2021, Guilbeault announced that the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) would receive up to $2.1 million to set up a new mechanism to oversee implementation of a new universal code of conduct in sport.
A senior government source with knowledge of Guilbeault’s portfolio concedes “other priorities required more attention” when he was heritage minister. Guilbeault’s legislative priorities at the time including confronting online abuse, digital streaming regulation and copyright reform.
The source, who spoke to CBC News on the condition of confidentiality, said the department’s priorities shifted when the pandemic hit in March 2020, just four months after Guilbeault was appointed minister. The source said they “totally understand” Duncan’s claim that more could have been done on safe sport.
“Since 2016, our government has worked with the sport community to advance a respectful sport culture and respond to calls for action,” Guilbeault’s office wrote in an email to CBC News.
Duncan said she felt her safe sport initiatives were not given the attention they deserved after she left the office.
“There was nothing in place. There was literally nothing. There didn’t even seem to be policies. Some had policies, some didn’t,” she said. “Where was the oversight? Where was the accountability?
“I think what we’ve seen over the last four years, and we’ve certainly seen this summer, is that there remains a hugely disappointing resistance to change.”
Current Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge was asked about Duncan’s claim that the government isn’t doing enough to protect athletes in the country.
“I can tell you that we’re taking it extremely seriously,” she told CBC News.
“That’s why we’ve invested $16 million in the last budget just to create the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, because we felt it was so important to have that independent mechanism. I’m also making it mandatory for all nationally funded organizations to sign up with those before the next funding cycle.
“So any organization that hasn’t protected their athletes by signing up with OSIC will no longer receive the whole funding. That’s the strongest tool that I have. So yes, we are taking this extremely, extremely seriously.”
Just weeks after Duncan was named sport minister in January 2018, an investigation by CBC News revealed that at least 222 coaches involved in amateur sports over 20 years had been convicted of sex offences involving over 600 victims under age 18.
Duncan — a former gymnast who said she experienced emotional and psychological abuse herself as an athlete — said she was shaken by that report.
She introduced a number of measures — “broad strokes,” she calls them now — such as a third-party investigation unit and a national toll-free confidential helpline for victims and witnesses of abuse in sport. She also brought territorial and provincial sport ministers together in February 2019 to sign a declaration aimed at tackling and preventing harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport.
“I knew I had to address the grassroots. That’s where most athletes will spend their life,” Duncan said.
“Safe sport needs to be on every federal, provincial, territorial meeting year after year after year, with real goals and deliverables. I talked a lot about numbers. How can we address a problem if we don’t know what that problem looks like?”
Reluctance in government
In the 2019 federal budget, the government committed $30 million over five years “to enable Canadian sports organizations to promote accessible, ethical, equitable and safe sports.”
But Duncan says there was a climate of resistance to policies she was introducing, both within and outside the government.
“I don’t think people understood the problem. There wasn’t a lot of interest in Parliament. I asked what we were doing and I was told that we had to stop this safe sport stuff and get back to what sport was really about,” she said, referring to celebrating sporting achievements.
“My answer was, ‘So not protecting children?'”
CBC News reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office but they declined to comment.
Duncan said a three-page letter sent by Hockey Canada to one of her senior policy advisers reflects the tone of the opposition she faced.
The letter, first reported by the Canadian Press, was written by Glen McCurdie, then Hockey Canada’s vice-president of insurance and risk management. In it, McCurdie expressed concern about some of the policies Duncan was pursuing, including the third-party investigation unit.
Duncan said she never saw the letter four years ago and only read it for the first time this past summer, when the Hockey Canada controversy was playing out.
“Hockey Canada does not wish to be encumbered by a system or process that ties our hands and does not allow us to manage a situation as we deem necessary. We are simply asking that you keep this in mind as you continue to lead us in a collective Safe Sport strategy,” McCurdie wrote in the letter, which was also obtained by CBC News.
Duncan said she was frustrated in 2019 by Hockey Canada’s reluctance and remains just as frustrated today.
“Hockey Canada pushed back against a third party investigator and a safe sport helpline. Who would do that?” she said. “Who wouldn’t want a child to be able to pick up a phone and say, ‘I’ve had a problem’?
“I think people want to sweep this under the rug. I think people want to move on. And we can’t.”
In an email to CBC, Hockey Canada said the 2019 letter does not reflect the organization’s current thinking or direction.
“Hockey Canada recognizes that we need to do more to foster a safe and positive environment for all participants on and off the ice,” the organization wrote.
Hockey Canada said the organization participated in the government’s safe sport helpline and hired third-party investigators to look into the claims it received. Hockey Canada became a full signatory in October 2022 to the Office of the Sport Integrity Commission, which is now responsible for overseeing and investigating allegations of abuse in sport.
Canadian police chiefs speak out on death of Tyre Nichols beaten by Memphis, Tennofficers
Canadian police chiefs condemned on Friday the death of Tyre Nichols who was savagely beaten by Memphis, Tenn police during a traffic stop in the United States, saying the officers involved must be held accountable.
The condemnation of the actions that led to Tyre Nichols’ death came as authorities in Memphis, Tenn., released a video of what happened.
The footage shows officers holding Nichols down and striking him repeatedly as he screamed for his mother.
After the beating, officers milled about for several minutes while Nichols lay propped up against a car, then slumped onto the street.
Nichols died three days after the Jan. 7 confrontation. The officers, all of whom are Black, were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes.
Chief Myron Demkiw of the Toronto Police Service offered sincere condolences to Nichols’ family and friends. He said the actions of the officers in Memphis will have long-standing impacts on communities in Toronto and would have a disproportionate effect on some members of the Black community.
“I am profoundly saddened by the murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee,” Demkiw said in a post on Twitter. “On behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I condemn the violent actions of the officers involved.”
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police called the circumstances of Nichols’ death “horrific and highly disturbing,” and offered condolences to his loved ones.
“(Officers’) duties must always be done in a manner that is transparent, professional, and upholds the high standards of policing as a profession,” the association said in a statement. “Every officer understands that they are accountable for their actions.”
The Ottawa Police Service said Nichols’ death and similar tragedies destabilize communities and undermine trust in police across North America.
“Nichols’ death, like so many before him, is tragic,” Ottawa police said. “We join in the calls for justice, and we support the steps being taken to fully investigate the incident and hold the individuals accountable.”
The chiefs of Peel police, Windsor police and Regina police also issued statements to condemn the actions of the officers charged in Nichols’ death.
Peel police chief Nishan Duraiappah said the death of Nichols was “deeply disturbing,” and that his thoughts were with the man’s family and community.
Windsor police chief Jason Bellaire said Nichols’ death and similar events affect “police credibility” globally, and it will take the police a long time to rebuild relationships and restore trust with the community.
He said his force will work with any community groups that want to plan peaceful protests in response to Nichols’ death.
Regina police chief Evan Bray called the death of Nichols “tragic and unnecessary” in a video posted on Twitter.
Bray said he reached out to leaders from his city’s Black community to express his sympathy and noted that Nichols’ death brings up “all kinds of heartache and trauma.”
The Edmonton Police Service called the death of Nichols a tragedy and said what happened in Memphis does not reflect police work in any form.
“There is no avoiding that the five officers, now charged with second-degree murder and other charges, were on duty when they committed this act,” the service said in an email.
“EPS (Edmonton Police Service) supports the swift and decisive action taken by the Memphis police in seeking justice for Mr. Nichols and his family.”
Given the likelihood of protests, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later in the day, after schools were dismissed and people were home from work.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peaceful protests.
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
The officers each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Four of the five officers had posted bond and been released from custody by Friday morning, according to court and jail records.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
As a precaution, Memphis-area schools cancelled all after-class activities and postponed an event scheduled for Saturday morning. Other early closures included the city power company’s community offices and the University of Memphis.
Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.
Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over Nichols’ arrest.
— With files from The Associated Press.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
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