Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Building Resilience Against Terrorism, outlines the first priority of the Government of Canada: to protect Canada and ensure the safety of Canadians at home and abroad.

Canada is not immune to terrorism. A number of international and domestic terrorist groups are present in Canada. Some are engaged in terrorist activity here, while others are active beyond Canada’s borders. In the past few decades, several hundred Canadian civilians have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks, from New York City to Bali to Kenya. The global terrorist threat is becoming more diverse and complex. Canada’s approach to addressing these threats must be adaptable and forward-looking, so that we can react to emerging threats but also identify and understand emerging trends.

Terrorism is a long-term global challenge. It demands a consistent, comprehensive and coordinated international response based on common goals, values and institutions. It also demands a response that is consistent with our international legal obligations, including international human rights and humanitarian law.

Addressing the Threat: Prevent, Detect, Deny and Respond

Counter-terrorism has a military component, but this cannot solely define international efforts. The multi-pronged fight against terrorism must include diplomacy, intelligence, security and law enforcement, customs and immigration, transportation, justice and finance expertise. All the relevant branches of government must work together to:

  • Prevent individuals from engaging in terrorism;
  • Detect the activities of individuals and organizations who may pose a terrorist threat;
  • Deny terrorists the means and opportunity to carry out their activities; and
  • Respond proportionately, rapidly and in an organized manner to terrorist activities and mitigate their effects.

All of our domestic and international efforts must be grounded in the rule of law and support good governance. Our counter-terrorism measures must be consistent with international law, in particular human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

The Department's Role

Global Affairs Canada is responsible for the conduct of Canada’s affairs abroad, including leading Canada’s responses to terrorist incidents abroad and providing consular assistance. It uses its broad international network to enable counter-terrorism cooperation with other states and its role within multilateral organizations to ensure that Canadian interests and values are reflected internationally, and to enhance the security of Canadians and Canadian interests. Within Canada, it ensures that domestic policy is informed by the international context and respects international obligations.

International Cooperation

Counter-terrorism requires effective international cooperation and coordination, therefore Canada works to develop legal instruments, best practices and international standards to combat terrorism in the following international fora:

Since 1963, the international community has elaborated 19 universal legal instruments and additional amendments to prevent terrorist acts. These UN-sponsored terrorism-related international conventions and protocols address such specific terrorist acts as hostage taking, hijacking, terrorist bombings, and terrorist financing.

Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP)

Our security is inextricably linked to that of other states. When they lack resources or expertise to prevent and respond to terrorist activity, the security of Canadians and Canadian interests both at home and abroad is at risk. Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP) assists other states with training, funding, equipment, technical and legal assistance so that they can prevent and respond to terrorist activity, within international counter-terrorism and human rights norms, standards and obligations.

Terrorism Financing

As technology evolves and increasingly integrates trading and financial systems, terrorists' ability to collect and move funds between jurisdictions develops as well, complicating the task of tracing and confiscating their assets. The Criminal Code, the United Nations Afghanistan Regulations (UNAR) and the United Nations Suppression of Terrorism Regulations (UNSTR) provide Canada with strict measures to identify terrorist entities and to freeze their assets.

State Supporters of Terrorism

The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (the “Act”) allows victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators of terrorism and those who support them, including foreign states whose immunity has been lifted under the State Immunity Act, for loss or damage that has occurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world.

The Governor in Council has the authority, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in consultation with the Minister of Public Safety, to list foreign states under the State Immunity Act where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the foreign state supported or supports terrorism.

Since September 2012, Canada has listed Iran and Syria as states that support terrorism.

Counter-Terrorism and Transportation

Canadians expect and deserve to travel without fear of terrorist attack or interference. The 9/11 hijackings - followed by the Madrid and London bombings – have served as a reminder of the vulnerability of mass transit systems worldwide. Global Affairs Canada works closely with its domestic and international partners to enhance transportation security and remains active in elaborating new aviation, land and marine transportation security standards. Canada is also very active in the APEC region working with the Counter-Terrorism Task Force to develop common guidelines for member economies with respect to counter-terrorism and security practices in the marine, air and rail modes of transportation.

Websites of interest

Canadian federal departments and agencies