Commentary by Phil Gurski

I have just returned from Oslo where I was thrilled to catch up with one of my favourite terrorist experts, Thomas Hegghammer. Hegghammer and his colleagues at the FFI – Norway's Defence Research Establishment – have published some amazing work over the last decade or so and I have personally learned much from them.

In the course of a discussion about resource allocation to confront terrorism and terrorists, he made an interesting comment. He noted the fact that all over the world law enforcement and security services have redeployed resources away from some files (organized crime, drugs, etc.) to terrorism. 

More importantly, within the terrorism sphere, money and people have been concentrated in one direction – Islamist extremism – thus leaving other kinds of terrorism – right wing extremism, for example – relatively unwatched.  In this light, Hegghammer noted that we should be surprised that there has not been more right-wing terrorism, especially attacks that kill many.

Undetected plots

Think about this.  The fact that we have overloaded men, women and energy on Islamist extremist files has allowed us to stop so many plots.

The more people you have watching something, the more intelligence and evidence you can gather. The more you know, greater the chances of disruption.

The other side of that coin is that fewer resources devoted to right-wing extremism could imply that more plots go undetected and hence are more successful.  And, yet, that is precisely what is NOT happening. A good question at this point would be: why?

Mass casualties

First, we have to, of course, acknowledge that there have been right-wing attacks in the recent past and some mass casualty ones: Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011 and Timothy McVeigh in the U.S. in 1995 are two good examples.  Aside from these, we might want to throw in the attack on a church in South Carolina in the summer of 2015, but truth is there are not very many.

When you compare right-wing and Islamist extremism, you immediately see that the latter has carried out mass casualty attacks (9/11, 7/7, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Nice, Brussels, the list goes on and on) at rates which are very much higher.

There are a few suggestive ways of looking at why.  Maybe, the right-wing world does not embrace mass casualty attacks as much as jihadis do. 

There are all too many e-zines and social media propaganda that cajole and encourage these operations within Islamist extremism, but perhaps not as many in right-wing circles. Maybe, there is an inherent difficulty among right-wing extremists in justifying such attacks. 

Perhaps, the leadership is just not there. To be honest, I simply do not know, in large part because I don't follow these kinds of terrorists so closely. 

Whatever the reason, you cannot escape the fact that we have not seen mass casualty attacks and having our attention tied to the jihadis has not opened the door for the far right.

Of course, things can change and we may see such strategies develop.

There certainly is justifiable concern over the rise of the violent right in parts of Europe (and in President-elect DonaldTrump's America?) and we will have to turn our gaze in that direction (or hire more people to do so). 

Nevertheless, it is important not to use past events as predictors of future ones. We may never see waves of 9/11s carried out by the far right.

Let's hope so.

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 06 October 2016 15:16

Duterte a Grossly Misunderstood Leader

Commentary by Yul Baritugo in Vancouver

On October 7, Digong -- as he is known in shantytowns and barrios in Mindanao Island -- marks his first 100 days in office.

 He is a grossly misunderstood Philippine leader. His critics label his penchant for Filipino cuss words as shock politics.  Still others are at a loss as to whether he is the country’s saviour or simply a madman.

 Court records annulling his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, his first wife, cited Duterte’s mental incapacity based on a psychologist’s report saying that Duterte suffered from “Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. The report claimed that Duterte has an “inability for loyalty and commitment, gross indifference to others’ needs and feelings, heightened by a lack of capacity for remorse and guilt.”

The report also described Duterte as “a highly impulsive individual who has difficulty controlling his urges and emotions. He is unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions.”  Duterte himself has said he is “bipolar”.

A Moro President

His rant against U.S. President Barrack Obama labelling him as a “son of a whore”, according to sources, resulted in the release of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad by the Abu Sayyaf, a self-styled Philippine affiliate of ISIS. The same group beheaded two Canadians earlier after Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to pay ransom money.

According to Southern Philippine sources, Muslims there now believe they have a Moro (Muslim peoples of the southern Philippines) president. The Norwegian release was a gift and no ransom was paid.

Close aides said he personally worked for the release of the hostage since Norway is host to the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Philippine Communist Party, National Democratic Front and New People’s Army to end a bloody 33-year insurgency that has cost over 100,000 lives.

Duterte’s worldview

Duterte is the epitome of a collective desire by a majority of people outside the Philippine capital -- described by outsiders as Imperial Manila -- to end a political dynasty dominated by 10 families that continue to run and dominate Philippine business and politics.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]His worldview is best described as rural, but clearly anchored in the aspirations of the poor and marginalized. His blood lineage with the Maranao tribe made him a leader in the strife-torn Southern Philippines dominated by Muslims, although he is a Catholic.[/quote]

Rodrigo "Rody" Roa Duterte is also a jurist and the first Mindanaoan to hold the office, and the fourth of Visayan descent. He was born in Maasin, Leyte but traces his roots to Danao, Cebu and his mom’s province Agusan.

The family later settled in Davao where his father became governor.  After a short political stint, his father worked with deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the presidential palace Malacanang.

Duterte studied political science at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, graduating in 1968, before obtaining a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. He then worked as a lawyer and was a prosecutor for Davao City, a highly urbanized city, before becoming mayor of Davao following the Philippine revolution in 1986 against the Marcos dictatorship.   

Duterte was among the longest-serving mayor in the Philippines: seven terms over 22 years.

Duterte the Punisher

Filipino Canadians generally support Duterte’s actions because our pet peeve is the endemic corruption in the country.

I covered Duterte’s Ateneo high school classmate, former Congressman Jesus “Jess” Dureza, now negotiating the peace process with rebels as a Congress reporter.   He observed that Duterte is a punisher. He then told the story about a bully who was terrorizing students outside their school. Duterte reportedly hunted down the bully and found him in a café.  He went straight up to the guy and punched him in the face.

I favour the way Duterte is handling the country’s problems.  His pivot to China and Russia has resulted in a halt to the planned Chinese fortified garrison in one of the man-made islands just 150 miles from Palawan.

The country cannot afford to blindly follow a tainted foreign policy influenced mostly by the United States which is currently waging a proxy war against many nations.

(Yul Baritugo is a retired editor with years of experience first as a justice and court reporter, later becoming business reporter and editor.  He also edited a now defunct Filipino Canadian magazine and later a Filipino Canadian newspaper. Yul is spearheading an effort to form a Collective of Immigrant Journalists. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 16 January 2016 20:42

Solheim Calls on Diaspora to Work on Peace

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto
The Sri Lankan civil war holds many a lesson for the island-nation's diaspora community in Canada and the world in general, according to Erik Solheim, former Norwegian Minister for International Development and for the Environment. Solheim's name is synonymous with peacemaking in Sri Lanka. 
“My biggest sorrow was that thousands of Tamils died unnecessarily due to lack of vision from both the Sinhala and Tamil leadership,” he said in Toronto this week, lamenting the futility of the civil war.
The country having gained a measure of calm in recent years, Solheim called on the diaspora community to participate in the South Asian nation's economy and thereby help heal the ethnic fault line. It has long been suspected that the country's Tamil diaspora worldwide, including its largest presence here in Canada, helped fuel the civil war through remittances and arms shipments. 
From 2000 to 2005, Solheim was the main negotiator of the process that led to a ceasefire agreement between the government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in early 2002 and the Oslo Declaration.
“Around that time, I was the most well-known foreigner in Sri Lanka next only to [then U.S. President] George Bush,” he recalled. “Also, I am the sole non-Tamil who has had the most face time with [LTTE chief] Velupillai Prabhakaran.”
Role of diaspora
Solheim was in Canada this week for the launch of To End a Civil War, a book by Mark Salter on Norway’s peace efforts to end the island nation’s bitter fight.
He referred to the formation of an air force by the LTTE, the first by a non-state player that was made possible by diaspora contributions. “While it was an impressive achievement, it made absolutely no impact on the final outcome of the war.”
Currently the Chairperson of the Development Assistance Committee for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Solheim said apart from political initiatives, a lasting solution to the ethnic fault line can be achieved through rapid economic growth. 

Describing the Tamil diaspora as among the most successful in the world, he said it could play a big role in Sri Lanka’s growth.
“You now need to go back to invest and put your expertise to use,” he told a  largely Tamil audience at the Toronto book launch. “More so because diasporas are generally made up of the most industrious of a populace.”
Bipartisan consensus
The peacemaker suggested that a bipartisan consensus between Sri Lanka's major political parties would further help the healing. The lack of such a consensus between the historically-opposed Sinhala political parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), had played a role in prolonging the civil war. He hoped the current bipartisan administration of President Maithripala Sirisena (SLFP) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP) can see through the process of rewriting the country’s constitution and move ahead on transitional justice.
Author Mark Salter said the importance of achieving bipartisan consensus is evident elsewhere. “Peace in Northern Ireland is a prime example of buy-in by all factions involved in a conflict.” 
Salter said the inability of the then Wickremesinghe government to explain the peace dividend in simple terms to the majority Sinhalese Buddhist population was a key factor in the failure of the Sri Lankan peace process. Buddhists account for over 70 per cent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people.
Looking back
Solheim said he wished he had a bigger and broader team to engage more broadly with key groups on the island, including Buddhist leaders. “We should have also insisted on better access to Prabhakaran and spoken to him more often.”
In his opinion, Prabhakaran was a brilliant military leader, but a failed politician. “He thought every issue had a military solution and went on to make many wrong decisions.”
It was exacerbated by the death of LTTE political ideologue Anton Balasingham. “Prabhakaran became very isolated and was pushed to the wall. There was not one meaningful initiative from him in an international context.”
Solheim said straight-talking Balasingham was able to give his Norwegian team a unique insight into the LTTE’s leadership. “He never lied to us.”
He said Prabhakaran’s biggest mistake was his decision to assassinate former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. “It was an astronomical blunder that finally led to the LTTE’s destruction [in May 2009].” Solheim said Sri Lanka’s destiny is tied to India on many counts, with close proximity to its giant South Asian neighbour being one. “If one wanted, you could take a boat to Chennai from Jaffna, watch a movie and return.”
Canada's "We're back"
His Norwegian team had been in constant touch with India and the U.S., the two big international players, throughout the peace process.
“No one nation can lead on all fronts in international affairs today,” Solheim told New Canadian Media when asked for his reaction to the new Canadian government’s global aspirations. “You must define a few areas of interest. But most importantly the desire to help must come from the heart.” 
Expressing delight over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s "We're back" pronouncements, he was planning to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion in Ottawa during his trip to the capital for the launch of Salter’s book.
The Toronto launch was organized by Sri Lankans Without Borders and was moderated by Amaranth Amarasingam of Dalhousie University.
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Published in South Asia
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 01:35

Canada Inspires Scandinavian Policy Rethink

Dr. Trygve Ugland, professor at Bishop's University in Quebec, recently published a paper titled "Canada as an Inspirational Model: Reforming Scandinavian Immigration and Integration Policies," in the Nordic Journal of Migration Research. New Canadian Media interviewed him on his study: the first systematic study of the international relevance of the Canadian immigration system. (Please also read relevant abstracts provided below in support of his responses to our questions). 

Dr. Ugland describes himself as a "European living in North America." He was educated in Oslo and Belfast, obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Oslo in 2002. 

1. How did you arrive at this topic for your research?

I have been interested in issues related to the field of comparative public policy since I was a student. In particular, I am fascinated by the processes of learning across borders. The challenge posed by increasing immigration and ethno-cultural diversity is a major concern for governments across the world, and different immigration and integration policy solutions exist internationally. It is interesting to study to what extent apparently successful national models and solutions are used elsewhere.

2. You found in your study that Canada has managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives with increased immigration and diversity? Could you please explain?

The notion that there is a potential trade-off between a more open and accommodating approach to immigration and the maintenance of a robust welfare state has been increasingly expressed in many European countries.
However, Canada has managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives and principles with increased immigration and diversity.  Although not as comprehensive and generous as the Scandinavian welfare states, the Canadian social security system includes unemployment insurance, child tax credits, universal childcare benefits, medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, old age security, and social assistance. In contrast to many other countries, Canada has not actively sought to fence off the welfare state from newcomers. Further, public attitudes in Canada reveal little tension between ethnic diversity and support for social programs. In fact, the welfare state and multiculturalism are for many Canadians the two most important ingredients in the Canadian identity, i.e. what it means to be Canadian.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Although there is little evidence to support the contention that increasing ethnic diversity as such has adverse effects on established welfare states (Banting & Kymlicka 2006), a growing chorus of commentators has argued that ethnic/racial diversity makes it more difficult to sustain redistributive policies.[/quote]

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In fact, Canada has been described as a “statistical outlier” in that it has managed to combine high levels of diversity with peace, democracy, economic prosperity, and individual freedom (Laczko 1994; Kymlicka 2007a). Further, Canada has also managed to reconcile important welfare state objectives and principles with increased immigration, and public attitudes reveal little tension between ethnic diversity and support for social programs (Banting 2010).[/quote]

[toggle_item title="Trade-offs"]
The universalistic and generous Scandinavian welfare model has been regarded as particularly vulnerable: “immigration to a country that espouses the principle of equal treatment and has an extensive welfare state challenges the population’s generosity in the first instance, and may in the longer term affect the sustainability of the system itself if the bulk of the newcomers are unable to support themselves” (Brochmann 2003: 6).[/toggle_item]


3. What were the main findings in your paper entitled "Canada as an Inspirational Model: Reforming Scandinavian Immigration and Integration Policies"?

My article deals with the international relevance and reputation of the Canadian immigration and integration policy model. A key finding here is that Canada served as an important inspirational model for the Scandinavian countries during the 2000-2012 period. In particular, Canada has a strong reputation in Scandinavia as a country that views immigration and immigrants as a resource. In this respect, the transnational inspiration from Canada contributed significantly to the rediscovery of labour immigration in Denmark, Norway and Sweden during the 2000s.

[toggle_item title="Abstract"]
The Scandinavian countries have often been portrayed as models for the development of policies for other states. However, in the area of immigration and integration policies, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have themselves been searching for inspiration and for new policy solutions abroad. Canada is internationally recognized in the areas of immigration control and immigrant integration, and this article focuses on the role the Canadian immigration and integration policy model has played in the Scandinavian reform process in the period from 2000 to 2012. The overall conclusion is that the Canadian model has significantly shaped the reform debate and process in the three Scandinavian countries. However, the Canadian model has not been copied or emulated to a great extent. Instead, it has served as intellectual stimulus and a model for inspiration. In particular, the Canadian model served as inspiration for the rediscovery of labor immigration in Scandinavia during the 2000s.[/toggle_item]


4. Were you surprised at the level of interest from Scandinavian countries in Canada's immigration policy?

I was not surprised by the level of interest because the Canadian model is widely recognized as a successful international solution when it comes to dealing with the immigration and integration issues. However, the degree of systematic attention devoted to the Canadian model from the Scandinavian countries was more prominent than expected. Information about the Canadian model was systematically collected through everything from expert analyses of policy documents to organized study trips to Canada by Scandinavian actors. For instance, approximately 100 Swedish MPs visited Canada over a 3 year period to learn more about Canadian policies and practices related to immigration control and immigrant integration. Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) interviewed for the study confirmed this overwhelming interest from Sweden, in particular.

5. Given your own Scandinavian heritage, how do you explain this interest? Are there cultural/other factors that make Canada a good model for Denmark, Sweden and Norway?

The Scandinavian countries share a common history of migration, and they can all be described as latecomers in terms of immigration. While Sweden began receiving significant numbers of immigrants during the 1950s, Denmark and Norway did not become net receivers of migrants until the late 1960s. Canadian experiences as a traditional immigration country are of interest for non-traditional immigration countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The idea here is that there may be something to learn from countries that have dealt with these issues for a longer period of time

Further, Canada’s combination of an open and accommodating approach to immigration and increasing ethnic diversity with a comprehensive welfare state system is something that is very interesting for the Scandinavians, which are world renown for their generous welfare state systems. 

6. Do you think Canada's government actively positions itself as a role model for immigration policy?

It is clear that Canada has actively promoted its immigration and integration policy abroad. One of the main goals of Canada’s foreign policy is to promote a greater understanding and appreciation internationally of Canada and “Canadian values”. According to the Canadian government, one of three central objectives of the Multiculturalism Program is to: “Actively engage in discussions on multiculturalism at the international level”. The Canadian government has done this by funding academic research, conferences, and policy workshops that explore the international relevance of Canadian policies and practices.

[toggle_item title="A Policy lender"]
This illustrates that the Canadian model that has been seen as a product of unique and favorable domestic circumstances can still be relevant in countries lacking these underlying conditions. Moreover, the article demonstrates a change in roles, where Canada – often described as a policy borrower – acted as an inspirational model for the Scandinavian countries, which commonly are classified as policy lenders.[/toggle_item]


7. Have you also looked at international models that influence Canada's immigration/citizenship policies? What are they?

As information about policy in other countries has become more readily available, learning from abroad has attracted increasing interests among academics, policy practitioners and politicians. In the policy literature, some countries have generally been regarded as borrowers of policies from other countries, while others have been classified as lenders. While the latter categorization often has been assigned to the Scandinavian countries, Canada has generally been described as a borrower. This article illustrates how a traditional policy borrower (Canada) acted as an inspirational model for countries often classified as policy lenders (the Scandinavian countries). In fact, Canada is both presenting itself and being perceived as an international model in the areas of immigration control and immigrant integration.

8. Do you need to revisit your findings in light of changes in Canada's immigration policy since 2012 (your study covered 2000-2012)?

Immigration and integration policy issues are still high on the political agenda in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the three Scandinavian countries continue to look abroad for inspiration. However, the Canadian immigration and integration policy model is not static nor is its international reputation. The Conservative government that came into power in 2006 has adopted several changes in both policies and practices. Although my study found that the Canadian model still serves as an inspirational model in Scandinavia, future research should pay close attention to how changes and shifts in domestic policy priorities impact its international reputation in Scandinavia and elsewhere. This is exactly what I intend to do.

Read the whole study here (hyperlinked).

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Published in Policy

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