OTTAWA (CP) - Canada has its own crop of homegrown terrorists capable of acts like the deadly attacks on London's transit system last summer, says Canada's spy agency.
"I can tell you that all of the circumstances that led to the London transit bombings . . . are resident here and now in Canada," Jack Hooper, operations director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a Senate committee Monday.
The threat from Canadian-bred terrorists is considered by CSIS to be on a par with external terror threats, Hooper said during an appearance with RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.
He did not, however, say how many homegrown terror suspects there are in Canada, where they live, or which groups they are connected with.
The Senate's national security and defence committee was supposed to be examining Canada's role in Afghanistan. But the hearing sprawled across the security waterfront to include everything from CSIS interrogation techniques to the RCMP's ability to use spy service intelligence in criminal prosecutions.
Conservative Senator Michael Meighen asked Hooper and Zaccardelli to connect the dots between the Afghan mission and Canadian domestic security.
"The ordinary Canadian at Tim Hortons doesn't get it, in the sense that they don't seem to perceive the threat to themselves and their families and to their communities the same way you two gentlemen do," said Meighen.
Zaccardelli said failed states are breeding grounds for terrorists and organized crime.
"When we can help these countries help themselves, we are actually helping Canada," he said. "I strongly believe it is a good investment."
Hooper pointed to several examples of people who had lived in Canada, and later took part in terrorist attacks. He said a common thread was time spent training at terror camps in Afghanistan.
"When we talk about the homegrown terrorist phenomenon, these are people. . . in most instances who are Canadian citizens," said the CSIS deputy. "You can't remove them anywhere.
"Most of them are very young. A lot of them were born here. A lot of them who were not born here emigrated to Canada with their parents at a very young age."
Hooper did not provide any specifics on numbers or their whereabouts - "we know who some of them are," he said cryptically - and did not respond to questions from reporters after the hearing.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the chairman of the committee, said Britain's experience last summer should provide a wake-up call for the problems Canada could encounter with homegrown terrorists.
"They'd been born in country," Kenny said of the group that detonated a series of bombs, killing 52 civilians and four terrorists last July 7.
"They had all of the slang and comfort with the culture that you and I have, and yet, boom, here they are committing terrorist acts," Kenny said during a break in the hearings.
"It's a huge challenge to the police and the security forces to find them, to have a broad enough net to catch them. And so far I haven't heard anyone give us a good handle on how they can deal with it."
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