Canadian terrorists by the numbers: an assessment of Canadians joining and supporting terrorist groups

Terrorism Domestic terrorism Radicalism Counter-terrorism Jihad Canada

Canadian involvement with Islamist (or Salafi-Jihadi) militancy did not start with ISIS. Nor will it end with ISIS. Canada’s ISIS recruits, put into a larger historical context, are but a contemporary example of Canadian citizens supporting militancy, both at home and abroad. This report is an exploration of the phenomenon of Canadians joining and supporting terrorist organizations and militant movements associated with ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other similar groups.

Complementing previous research on the composition and motivation of foreign fighters and Canadian terrorists, this report uses open access information to provide a detailed sketch of individuals suspected of having facilitated, sponsored, or participated in terrorism between 2006 and 2017. It establishes a dataset of 95 individuals with a nexus to Canada who have, or are suspected of having, radicalized, mobilized, and/or participated in Islamist terrorist activity between 2006 and 2017. As in all similar studies of contemporary European or US jihadist violence, the individuals captured by our study are remarkably diverse in their ethnic origins, social and economic status, educational and vocational accomplishments, gender, and so on.

The analysis sheds light on several fronts. It provides a snapshot of the particular militant groups Canadians have historically gravitated to, and information on individual characteristics and traits, including on gender, education, upbringing, family, and cultural and religious background. And, when compared to similar research conducted in other countries, including the US, UK, and several other European states, this report adds international context to Canada’s experience, highlighting how Canadian militants compare to their foreign counterparts. To better illustrate the particular backgrounds of Canadian terrorists and suspected militants, this paper showcases short vignettes detailing four individuals: Sabrine Djermane, Awso Peshdary, John Maguire, and Mohammed El Shaer. These vignettes offer a narrative account of how each individual became radicalized, and in some cases, participated in political violence and terrorism.

Put together, this report assesses national trends in the support of domestic and international terrorism, and better informs Canada’s evolving counterterrorism, counter-radicalization, and intelligence-gathering policies and strategies.

Publication Details
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type: