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Canada’s terrorism offenders are coming out of prison still radicalized – Global News



At Suliman Mohamed’s 2016 sentencing for trying to join ISIS, the Ottawa judge presiding over his case did not hold back, scolding those aligned with the terrorist group for “embracing the devil.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The parole board also raised the alarm about Kevin Omar Mohamed, whom the RCMP linked to both al-Qaeda and ISIS and who had written online that attacking the West was “beautiful.”

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.”

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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.

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“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

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.”

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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.

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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.

Alleged ISIS supporter released after Federal Court rejects government’s appeal

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.”

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“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.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada Premiers to hold virtual news conference on struggling children’s hospitals



Canada’s premiers plan to hold a news conference in Winnipeg today as children’s hospitals struggle to deal with a wave of child illnesses.

Hospitals across the country have been cancelling some surgeries and appointments as they redirect staff amid an increase in pediatric patients.

Admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19 at a time when the health-care system is grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

In Ottawa, two teams of Canadian Red Cross personnel are working rotating overnight shifts at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in support of its clinical-care team, while some patients have been redirected to adult health-care facilities.

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A pediatric hospice in Calgary has been temporarily closed as staff are diverted to a children’s hospital.

Members of the Alberta Medical Association have sent a letter to the province’s acting chief medical officer of health calling for stronger public health measures to prevent the spread of the illnesses, including increasing public messaging about the safety of vaccines, encouraging flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and temporarily requiring masks in schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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As nature talks unfold, here’s what ’30 by 30′ conservation could mean in Canada



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unequivocal Wednesday when asked if Canada was going to meet its goal to protect one-quarter of all Canadian land and oceans by 2025.

“I am happy to say that we are going to meet our ’25 by 25′ target,” Trudeau said during a small roundtable interview with journalists on the sidelines of the nature talks taking place in Montreal.

That goal, which would already mean protecting 1.2 million more square kilometres of land, is just the interim stop on the way to conserving 30 per cent by 2030 — the marquee target Canada is pushing for during the COP15 biodiversity conference.

But what does the conservation of land or waterways actually mean?

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“When we talk about protecting land and water, we’re talking about looking at a whole package of actions across broader landscapes,” said Carole Saint-Laurent, head of forest and lands at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The group’s definition of “protected area,” which is used by the UN convention on biodiversity, refers to a “clearly defined geographical space” that is managed by laws or regulations with the goal of the long-term protection of nature.

“It can range from areas with very strict protections to areas that are being protected or conserved,” said Saint-Laurent.

“We have to look at that entire suite of protective and restorative action in order to not only save nature, but to do so in a way that is going to help our societies. There is not one magical formula, and context is everything.”

The organization, which keeps its own global “green list” of conserved areas, lists 17 criteria for how areas can fit the definition.

Most of the criteria are centred on how the sites are managed and protected. One allows for resource extraction, hunting, recreation and tourism as long as these are both compatible with and supportive of the conservation goals outlined for the area.

In many cases, industrial activities and resource extraction are not allowed in protected areas. But that’s not always true in Canada, particularly when it involves the rights of Indigenous Peoples on their traditional territory.

In some provincial parks, mining and logging are allowed. In Ontario’s Algonquin Park, for example, logging is permitted in about two-thirds of the park area.

Canada has nearly 10 million square kilometres of terrestrial land, including inland freshwater lakes and rivers, and about 5.8 million square kilometres of marine territory.

As of December 2021, Canada had conserved 13.5 per cent of land and almost 14 per cent of marine territory. The government did it through a combination of national and provincial parks and reserves, wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, national marine conservation areas, marine protected areas and what are referred to as “other effective areas-based conservation measures.”

These can include private lands that have a management plan to protect and conserve habitats, or public or private lands where conservation isn’t the primary focus but still ends up happening.

Canadian Forces Base Shilo, in Manitoba, includes about 211 square kilometres of natural habitats maintained under an environmental protection plan run by the Department of National Defence.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a non-profit organization that raises funds to buy plots of land from private owners with a view to long-term conservation.

Mike Hendren, its Ontario regional vice-president, said that on such lands, management plans can include everything from nature trails to hunting — but always with conservation as the priority.

To hit “25 by 25,” Canada must further protect more than 1.2 million square kilometres of land, or approximately the size of Manitoba and Saskatchewan added together. To get to 30 per cent is to add, on top of that, land almost equivalent in size to Alberta.

The federal government would need to protect another 638,000 square kilometres of marine territory and coastlines by 2025, or an area almost three times the size of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. By 2030, another area the size of the gulf would need to be added.

Trudeau said that in a country as big and diverse as Canada, hard and fast rules about what can and can’t happen in protected areas don’t make sense.

He said there should be distinctions between areas that can’t have any activity and places where you can mine, log or hunt, as long as it is done with conservation in mind.

“There’s ability to have sort of management plans that are informed by everyone, informed by science, informed by various communities, that say, ‘yes, we’re going to protect this area and that means, no, there’s not going to be unlimited irresponsible mining going to happen,'” he said.

“But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain projects in certain places that could be the right kind of thing, or the right thing to move forward on.”

The draft text of the biodiversity framework being negotiated at COP15 is not yet clear on what kind of land and marine areas would qualify or what conservation of them would specifically mean.

It currently proposes that a substantial portion of the conserved land would need to be “strictly protected” but some areas could respect the right to economic development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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UN Mideast refugee chief says Western funding shortfall may abandon hosting countries



The United Nations refugee chief for the Middle East says countries hosting asylum seekers need more funding, or they’ll feel abandoned by the global community.

Ayman Gharaibeh (ay-MAHN guh-RYE-bah) says countries are pulling back their funding to help places like Lebanon and Jordan host refugees from Syria, and the lack of funds could prevent kids from being educated.

Gharaibeh says Canada is one of the few countries that isn’t pulling back funding, and he hopes Ottawa will encourage its allies to stop lowering their support.

He says the U-N is already struggling to support refugees due to inflation, a drop in donors and new conflicts that have displaced people from Ukraine and Ethiopia.

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Meanwhile, his region has only received eight per cent of the funding it has requested for winter gear, such as fuel and children’s clothing — compared to fifty-eight per cent by this time last year.

Gharaibeh says countries that are left to fend with these costs might stop co-operating in international agreements, which could cause more chaos in refugee flows.

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