OTTAWA – The federal government is looking at creating a special web page that underscores the risks of travelling to parts of the world with a high incidence of terrorist activity.
The information portal would be aimed at raising awareness among everyone from prospective tourists to those who might be tempted to join a foreign conflict.
Artur Wilczynski, the Foreign Affairs Department’s director general of international security and intelligence, outlined the proposal to a group of community advisers from various ethnic groups, documents released under the Access to Information Act show.
The idea emerges amid bloody fighting in Gaza and an outpouring of grief over a missile attack in Ukraine that downed a passenger jet and killed all 298 people aboard, including a Canadian.
The presentation to the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security warned that Canadians heading abroad could be hurt or killed in a terrorist attack, kidnapped, or drawn into extremist activities.
They travel to areas where terrorism may be happening to conduct business, visit family, help global causes and, in rare instances, to participate in terrorist activities, says the presentation delivered to a closed-door meeting in Gatineau, Que., in November.
Canadians may wish to take part in relief efforts, support a political cause or report on a conflict, the presentation notes say. “The impulse to help is understandable, but Canadians who decide to travel to a conflict zone should be aware of the risks they are taking.”
Canadians have died or been wounded while participating in foreign conflicts, including the current hostilities in Syria.
“What are the best ways to reach this group?” the presentation asks. “What kinds of messages should we convey?”
The proposed new website would complement existing federal travel advisories found at travel.gc.ca, it adds.
“Information is largely organized by country, but we are considering developing a specific page on risks related to terrorism.”
A Foreign Affairs spokesman said there had been no decision on whether to proceed with the project.
Lawyer Hussein Hamdani, a member of the cross-cultural roundtable, says the idea would be to go beyond the typically staid government website to create something both useful and eye-catching.
“I like to think that Canadians are intelligent people, that people wouldn’t decide to go to Central African Republic for a vacation without doing some homework on it and realizing, oh no, there’s some bloodshed going on there,” he said in an interview.
“But maybe they don’t know … if it’s confined to one part of the country, not to the other part of the country, or what precautions they should take.”
Canadians going abroad to train with a terrorist group or take part in attacks can face legal penalties at home.
During the November meeting, Hamdani told Wilczynski it should be an offence for a Canadian to join any foreign army, whether it is listed as a terrorist entity or not.
“If you’re a Canadian citizen, you should have fidelity to Canada and Canada only. If our issue is with young people learning military training, becoming radicalized, and returning back to Canada it should be universally applied,” he said.
“If you want to be in an army, join the Canadian army.”
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