OTTAWA -- Canada has relatively few terrorists behind bars, but an expert on prison radicalization says the problem of Islamist ideology spreading among inmates is a real one.
"This isn't to say that all inmates will become radicals, or even that many will," said Dr. Alexandre Wilner, a Research Fellow with the Mandonald-Laurier Institute and a terrorism expert. "But it is to suggest that prison represents a potentially good window of opportunity for spreading radical views and recruiting others to a violent cause."
Wilner's comments follow the release of a highly censored CSIS threat assessment that confirmed that Sunni Islamist radicalization is taking place in Canadian prisons, within families and through jihadi websites.
The parts of the assessment that the public has been allowed to see don't indicate how large a problem Islamist radicalization is within Canada or offer specific examples of cases.
Wilner says Canada is fortunate not to have as many terrorists or other Islamist inmates as the U.S., Britain, France and Spain because it allows authorities here to intervene early in preventing radicalization.
"By gauging other countries' policies for minimizing the risk of prison radicalization, we might be able to construct the sorts of things we need now in Canada to limit our susceptibility to the threat," he said.
Among recommendations Wilner made to a special Senate anti-terror committee is a call for the RCMP, CSIS, and the Correctional Service of Canada to take a more coordinated approach to understanding Islamist radicalization since the problem is still in its early stages.