January 3, 2014 | Policy Brief

Canada Bans Boko Haram

January 3, 2014 | Policy Brief

Canada Bans Boko Haram

As 2013 drew to a close, the Government of Canada announced on December 30 its designation of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code. The designation of Boko Haram means that its members and supporters are rendered vulnerable to criminal prosecution and civil litigation. The group’s assets in Canada can also be seized and forfeited.

It is not technically a crime to be designated in Canada, but it is prohibited for Canadian individuals and organizations to deal in the property of a listed entity. It is also a crime to knowingly participate in or contribute to any activity of a listed entity for the purpose of enhancing the group’s ability to carry out a terrorist activity.

While the Criminal Code sets out the criminal prohibitions and penalties surrounding terrorism, the 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA) covers the civil side. The JVTA grants terror victims the ability to sue the perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism. Canada’s commitment to keeping its list of terrorist entities current is especially important in this context.  

While the group does not threaten Canada directly, Boko Haram’s role as an affiliate group of al Qaeda makes it a threat that extends well beyond Nigeria’s borders. For example, the group receives weapons, safe haven, and training from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Somali-based al Shabaab. Both of these organizations are already listed in Canada.

Boko Haram’s connection to the wider al Qaeda network was also confirmed when one Boko Haram representative participated in the “Legion of Doom conference call” in August 2013, which involved the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates from different locations around the world.

In other words, Boko Haram’s trajectory is similar to that of other affiliate groups. It was created as a local group with local aims, with the goal of overthrowing the Nigerian government and implementing its interpretation of Islamic law throughout the country. But it has grown to embrace the worldview of al Qaeda, which has facilitated its intersection with other regional and global terrorist groups.

Canada joins Nigeria (June 2013), the United Kingdom (July 2013), and the United States (November 2013) in designating the group.

Sheryl Saperia is the Director of Policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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