Classification and Collection of Terrorism Incident Data in Canada

Patrick McCaffery, Lindsy Richardson, Jocelyn J. Bélanger


Canada is far from immune from the pressing global terrorism threat. Despite low base rates for documented attacks, it would be inaccurate to measure terrorism simply by the number of incidents investigated by authorities. This caution exists for two reasons. First, there is good reason to question current statistics as the majority of incidents either go unreported or are categorized under other labels. Second, every act carries a disproportionate harm. Even foiled attacks increase the level of fear, heighten tension between different groups, and can fragment communities. Social harm can be greater than the crime because it can affect individuals, groups and even nations. For these broad reasons a vigorous response is warranted. Specialized units have been created in many law enforcement organizations, new legislation has emerged and the collection of terrorism-related information is well at hand. Or is it? This paper presents compelling arguments that acts of terrorism are far more prolific than Canadian statistics suggest. Furthermore, this situation will continue to exist because the true nature of terrorism is concealed by systemic failures strikingly similar to those which historically masked the problem of both partner abuse and hate crime.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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