Address by Minister Baird at Plenary Session of Review of UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

June 28, 2012 - New York City, New York

Check Against Delivery

As we gather to renew our multilateral commitment to fighting terrorism, we are mindful of a powerful monument, just five kilometres from this hall.

I am referring to Ground Zero, site of the single deadliest terrorist attack in world history.

As I said in my address to the General Assembly last fall, 9/11 was a stark reminder that evil exists, that life is fragile, that freedom has enemies and that the poison of radical terrorism is real.

While fascism and communism were the great challenges of previous generations, terrorism is the great challenge of ours.

No country is immune from this threat, nor can any country ignore this challenge. From the truck bombings in Al-Qataniyah and Al-Adnaniyah, Iraq, to the Cinema Rex arson in Abadan, Iran, to the Beslan school massacre in Russia to the mid-air destruction of Air India Flight 182 to the synchronized Mumbai bombings of 1993, the most deadly attacks in our history demonstrate that terrorism observes no boundaries, respects no civilians and favours no regions.

With sadness and with no sense of pride, I convey Canada’s first-hand experience with the brutality of terrorism.

  • The 1985 Air India bombing, to which I referred, was planned and executed on our soil and killed 280 Canadians.
  • On 9/11, 24 Canadians lost their lives.
  • And because Canada is a nation enriched by the contributions of immigrants from other lands, no matter where in the world a terror attack occurs, the pain is felt and shared by Canadian families and friends.

Canada defines terrorism as an act aimed at intentionally causing serious harm to intimidate the public with respect to its security or to pressure a person, government or organization for a political, religious or ideological purpose.

Political, religious or ideological causes are not terrorism. But using violence in support of politics, religion or ideology is.

I make this point to underscore the fact that terrorist acts are never justified. Regardless of the cause. No matter how legitimate the grievance.

In this regard, it is telling that the united nations of the world have come together to condemn terrorism in clear and unambiguous terms.

The 2006 UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Resolution 60/288, is categorical and absolute about states members resolve

to consistently, unequivocally and strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

It is said that pragmatic vagueness is the language of diplomacy. Solutions to the issues before this General Assembly are often sketched, not in black and white, but in shades of grey.

The same cannot be said of our resolve against terrorism. It is not fuzzy or ambiguous.

The words are clear as crystal: “…in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes…”

Far too often, international news media refuse to use the word terrorist, in the naive and mistaken belief that to report violence as a terrorist act is to cast judgement on the perpetrators’ cause.

By pretending that everything is relative, these news media deny the very existence of terrorism.

Terrorism is not a political or religious cause. Terrorism is using violence against civilian, police and military targets to pursue a cause.

In the same vein, the teachings of the great Mohandas Gandhi remind us that we must not confuse the righteousness of a cause with the use of terrorist violence to advance that cause.

Gandhi wrote, “truth can never be propagated by doing violence.”

Canada welcomed the adoption of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in September 2006. I am pleased to renew our commitment to it today.

Canada embraces the four pillars of the United Nations Strategy, specifically by:

  • addressing the conditions that spread terrorism;
  • preventing and combating terrorism;
  • capacity building; and
  • respecting human rights and the rule of law.

Member states are primarily responsible for implementing the Strategy. Canada has made significant progress in doing so, both at home and around the globe.

This year, in February, the Government of Canada released our formal counter-terrorism strategy.

Canada’s strategy is based on four reinforcing elements: prevention, detection, denial and response

Addressing the conditions that spread terrorism

The first pillar of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy corresponds to the first element of the Canadian strategy, which is to prevent individuals from engaging in terrorism.

We are working to make Canadian communities more resilient against violent extremism and radicalization. We will not hesitate to challenge and counter violent extremist ideology. We intend to reduce the risk that individuals will succumb to violent extremism and radicalization.

Our government is also investing significantly in research on terrorism and counter-terrorism, such as how to prevent and to counter violent extremism.

Preventing and combatting terrorism

Regarding the second pillar of the UN Strategy, preventing and combatting terrorism, Canada is taking many concrete steps. These include:

  • adoption of domestic laws to implement and to give effect to the 12 UN conventions and protocols on terrorism to which Canada is a party;
  • an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on individuals or organizations identified as supporting or being associated with terrorism;
  • a new law that allows victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including state supporters;
  • criminal law amendments to give law enforcement officers the tools they need to respond effectively to terrorism, and to  address nuclear terrorism better;
  • a cyber-security strategy for Canada; and
  • investment in enhanced security for air travel and air cargo.

Currently, our parliament is reviewing the Nuclear Terrorism Act. Once enacted, this will put Canada in a position to ratify both the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

Capacity building

Terrorism is a global phenomenon—it knows no borders. An effective response to terrorism must both be global and leave no gaps for terrorists to exploit.

This is why the third pillar of the UN Strategy—developing state capacity to prevent and combat terrorism—is vital.

Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program provides other countries with training, equipment and technical, legal and other security assistance and expertise to help them prevent and respond to terrorist activities.

We give other countries the training and equipment they need to enable law enforcement agencies to share information and launch investigations, to enhance border security and to stop terrorist groups from using funds to finance attacks around the world.

To that end, I am pleased to confirm that Canada, through the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, will be contributing up to an additional $8 million in support for capacity building projects that aim to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation globally.

We attach great value to the recent creation of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF is an action-oriented coordination forum mobilizing commitment and capacity to combat terrorism and strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation.

Canada is pleased to act as co-chair, along with Algeria, of the Sahel Working Group within the GCTF.

Working group members are bringing together experts to build networks across borders, share best practices, and enhance skill sets to detect and combat terrorism.

We have also renewed Canada’s Global Partnership Program, which helps combat the threat of nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical terrorism.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he announced its renewal at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul:

Canada’s Global Partnership Program is essential to the international effort to combat nuclear terrorism and to prevent weapons of mass destruction and related materials from falling into the wrong hands.

All of our partnerships allow us to strengthen our counter-terrorism efforts and share best practices.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law

The final pillar of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy—respect for human rights and the rule of law—echoes Canada’s own principles.

Canadian society is built on the rule of law as a cornerstone of peace, order and good government. It follows that all counter-terrorism activities must adhere to the rule of law. Government institutions must act within legal mandates while countering terrorism.

Upholding the rule of law includes adherence to international and domestic legal obligations to protect human rights. Respecting and promoting human rights are core Canadian values.

Security is also a human right. Terrorism is an attack against those very rights that are fundamental to our society, such as freedom of thought, expression and association, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

The belief in human rights is fundamental. It governs policy choices and decision making, and it governs standards in investigations.

While our capacity to counter threats on all fronts has increased significantly over the past decade, the threat of terrorism persists and evolves.

So the fight against terrorism continues and must also evolve. 

In this ongoing struggle, it is important for the nations and the citizens of the world to keep faith. We must maintain hope. We will prevail.

No matter how dark the storm clouds of terror and violence, let us remember the confidence with which John F. Kennedy approached this challenge.

Speaking to the General Assembly in 1961, President Kennedy shared the certain knowledge that terrorism will not succeed:

Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response.

I thank the President of the General Assembly for the opportunity to address today’s session.

And I reaffirm Canada’s commitment to working with other member states, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and relevant UN agencies toward full and timely implementation of the UN Strategy.

Thank you.