CALGARY — A Calgary woman whose 22-year-old son was killed while fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria says Stephen Harper is looking for a “quick fix” to deal with terrorism instead of addressing the root cause of radicalized youth.
The Conservative leader promised on Sunday that, if re-elected, his government would make it a crime for Canadians to travel to countries or regions where they could fight alongside groups identified by the federal government as terrorist organizations.
He said the government would establish “declared areas” — parts of the world where terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant hold control and use their base to recruit and train followers.
“Anybody can pick up and travel and book a flight to anywhere, and if you really want to go badly enough, you can book your flight to Europe and then from there book yourself into somewhere else,” Chris Boudreau of Calgary said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“It’s window dressing. It’s not realistic.”
Boudreau’s son, Damian Clairmont, converted to Islam as a teen and died in heavy fighting in the city of Aleppo in 2014 as a member of the militant group Islamic State.
Clairmont found religion at 17 and as time passed became more fundamentalist in his beliefs.
Boudreau said she didn’t recognize the warning signs at the time, but looking back, she now sees they were there. She doesn’t believe restricting travel would have made a difference in her son’s case and said Harper’s plan appears to be an attempt to capitalize on public fear about the Islamic State.
“It’s desperation for a political platform to demonstrate that he’s taking a harsh stance, but he’s taking a harsh stance on symptoms rather than dealing with the root problem. It looks like an easy fix on the surface and the root problem takes a lot more work and effort,” Boudreau said.
“He should be looking more towards the intervention, prevention side, and providing the resources on the front end before the kids go down this path.”
Harper said national security agencies would track Canadians who travelled to restricted areas. Those who returned would be required to prove they were in the region for humanitarian reasons or as a journalist covering the conflict.
Similar laws exist in Australia, which has designated parts of Iraq and Syria as no-travel zones.
“I believe Harper is overblowing the sense of fear and it’s causing a lot more fear in the public than there needs to be. You can’t oversee everybody in Canada and watch their travel,” Boudreau said.
However, she is also disappointed that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau or NDP boss Tom Mulcair seem to be afraid to discuss the issue other than reacting to Harper.
“I think they’re just scared to come up with anything and take any stance because … people are so opinionated with regards to it.
“You’re dealing with religion and not only politics … and unless you have a clear understanding it’s a difficult issue to touch. ”