U.K. says terror attack ‘very likely’ to strike Canada as Ottawa labels threat ‘medium’

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The U.K. and Canadian governments are currently showing very different levels of terror threat assessments for Canada.

On the British government’s travel advisory page for Canada, an update  from Nov. 3 reads: “There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting U.K. interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the U.K. and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.”

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This is followed by a boldface warning: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Canada.”

It adds: “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should remain aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.” It then lists recent attacks, including a stabbing this year in Surrey, B.C., and the 2021 van attack that killed four members of the same family in London, Ont.

The website includes a link to the government of Canada’s web page for national terrorism threat levels. But that page indicates that the current level is medium, defined as “a violent act of terrorism could occur.”

“Medium” is the middle of five levels. The next highest, “high,” says that a violent act of terrorism “is likely,” while the highest level, “critical,” warns that an act “is highly likely and could occur imminently.” The British warning of “very likely” attacks would seem to fall between these two highest levels.

The Canadian website notes that the terror threat has been at “medium” continuously for almost 10 years, since October of 2014.

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The issue was raised Wednesday during Question Period in the House of Commons, when opposition leader Pierre Poilievre asked the Prime Minister if he agreed with the U.K. foreign office’s assessment.

“We are continuing to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to keep Canadians safe,” Justin Trudeau answered. “We understand that these are trying times around the world right now, but the best thing we can do as Canadians is stay true to our values, be respectful of one another, feel each other’s pain, and be there to support others through these very difficult times of a rise in hatred, including Islamophobia and antisemitism.”

Poilievre then pushed the point, noting that “terrorists are not interested in feeling other people’s pain; they are interested in causing other people pain,” and asking Trudeau to explain the difference in threat level assessments.

“I cannot speak to how other countries make their determinations on travel advisories,” the Prime Minister answered, “but I can say that the work is done daily in Canada to assess the threat level to Canadians and what can be communicated to keep them safe. We elevated the threat level to medium in 2014, and it has remained at that level since. Every single day, we re-evaluate and ensure that we are doing everything we can, privately and publicly, to keep Canadians safe.”

He added: “We have top security agencies and officials who work daily to reassess the threat levels to Canadians. They are working every single day to keep Canadians safe, and they will continue to keep Canadians informed on the best ways to keep safe.”

In a statement obtained by the Globe and Mail, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Canada declined to comment on the difference in assessments, merely noting: “We continue to work with Canadian authorities to ensure the safety of all British nationals in Canada and encourage British nationals to remain vigilant and monitor media and advice from local authorities for updates.”

He added: “It’s not for the U.K. government to comment upon the Canadian government’s assessment of the threat from terrorism.”

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