The federal government is playing down a recent British government warning that says an attempted terrorist attack in Canada is “very likely.”
Earlier this month the British government updated its travel advice for citizens visiting Canada, saying that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Canada.”
Britain has the same warning level on its travel advisories for the United States and some Western European countries, including France, Spain and Germany. But the British safety and security advice does not apply to all of North America – its assessment of Mexico only says “terrorist attacks in Mexico cannot be ruled out.”
Canada’s own national terrorist threat level, however, is currently set at medium, meaning a violent act of terrorism “could occur.” If the threat assessment were upgraded to high, it would more closely match the British warning because high means an act of terrorism “is likely.”
Asked by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre if he agrees with the British warning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment and said Canada regularly monitors risks to Canadians.
“I cannot speak to how the U.K. makes its determinations, but I certainly can say that, in Canada, we have top security agencies and officials who work daily to reassess the threat levels to Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said Wednesday.
Tom Walsh, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Canada, declined to comment on the apparent difference in assessments.
“The U.K. updated its travel advice for Canada on 3 November to reflect the threat to British nationals,” the High Commission said in a statement. “We continue to work with Canadian authorities to ensure the safety of all British nationals in Canada and encourage British nationals to remain vigilant and monitor media and advice from local authorities for updates.”
Mr. Walsh said his country’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office “constantly reviews the threat to British nationals from international terrorism using all of the resources and information available” and said “it’s not for the U.K. Government to comment upon the Canadian government’s assessment of the threat from terrorism.”
Eric Balsam, a spokesperson for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said “there is no information suggesting that a credible or imminent terrorist attack is likely, which would warrant increasing the threat level.”
But he said it is hard to predict the long-term impact of the war between Israel and Hamas, which he noted “has raised tensions within our society.”
“Violent rhetoric from extremist actors has increased since the attack by Hamas and, as the conflict continues to unfold, it is possible that these events could impact certain individuals’ intent to mobilize to violence,” Mr. Balsam said in a statement. “CSIS is also attuned to the threat of individuals, not associated with any known group or entity, being independently radicalized through the consumption of media and information, and mobilizing to violence.”
Separately, Canadian authorities say they are investigating possible threats to Air-India recently posted online. A video by Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based secessionist group that advocates splitting Punjab from India to create a state called Khalistan, tells people not to fly Air-India after Nov. 19.
The video features Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who heads Sikhs for Justice.
“Our government takes any threat to aviation extremely seriously. We are investigating recent threats circulating online closely and with our security partners,” said Laura Scaffidi, press secretary to Transport Minster Pablo Rodriguez. “We will do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe.”
The Indian government, however, accuses Mr. Pannun of making threats in the video against Air-India, a carrier that has been targeted before. The 1985 bombing of Air-India Flight 182 – which killed all 329 people aboard, most of whom were Canadians of Indian descent – is the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
India High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma told The Globe that the threats from Mr. Pannun must be taken seriously by the government and charges should be laid.
“Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has issued open threats to Air-India flights globally, including to and from Canada, and their passengers, in a verified video. This violates all norms and provisions of international civil aviation,” the envoy said. “Under international law, his statement is of serious criminal intent, punishable in all legal jurisdictions of the world. We hope that all rule of law countries, including Canada, would take cognizance of the criminal intent.”
Mr. Verma urged the Canadian government to ban Sikhs for Justice as a terrorist organization.
“Considering the danger emanating from SFJ every now and then, it should be declared a terrorist organization and banned by all,” he said.
Mr. Pannun said his video in no way advocates violence against Air-India. He said he used the video to call for a boycott of the carrier by Sikhs and accused the Indian government of running a disinformation campaign against him. “Every dollar that goes to Indian businesses is used to perpetuate existential threats to Sikhs,” he said.