Questions and Answers on Canada's National Terrorism Threat Levels

If Canadians aren't being given specific advice or instructions, what is the benefit of publicizing the terrorism threat level?
Sharing national threat levels with the general public keeps everyone informed and helps ensure a common understanding of the general terrorist threat to Canada. It also helps create awareness of the environment we are in, and the threat we face.

Sharing the national terrorism threat level is consistent with the Government's commitment to being open and transparent.

Should any threat or incident warrant specific actions from Canadians, the Government will communicate this information through public statements.

Given that Canada's National Terrorism Threat Level (NTTL) is a general assessment for all of Canada, how is that information useful for individual departments, agencies and organizations?
Canada's Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) provides detailed information on the nature of the threat to government officials, law enforcement partners, and stakeholders as part of its overall assessment on the threat level.

The nature of the threat will dictate which Government department, agency and other key stakeholders are involved in an operational response.

The Government of Canada monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them.

What information is used in determining the NTTL?
Canada's Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) assesses terrorism threats based on a wide range of intelligence from the Canadian security and intelligence community and many of Canada's allies and like-minded partners.

When making its assessment on the National Terrorism Threat Level, ITAC considers several factors, including past trends and current intelligence on the known intentions, capabilities and opportunities for terrorism entities to conduct attacks.

Who approves the NTTL?
Responsibility for approving the NTTL rests with the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

In approving the NTTL, CSIS' Director takes into account a number of factors, including but not limited to ITAC advice and consultations with the National Security Advisor.

Why does ITAC caution that “information may be incomplete” in assessing the terrorism threat level?
As the nature of potential threats is always evolving, the information held by security agencies is considered incomplete and, as such, a violent act of terrorism may occur with little or no warning.

What is the definition of “violent act of terrorism” in the NTTL descriptions?
In Canada, the definition of terrorist activity includes an act or omission undertaken, inside or outside Canada, for a political, religious or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government or organization (whether inside or outside Canada) from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm.

Violent acts of terrorism are a subset of all illegal terrorist activities that are defined in the Criminal Code of Canada. These may include, but are not limited to, acts such as causing death and bodily harm with the use of violence; endangering a person's life; risks posed to the health and safety of the public; significant property damage; and interference or disruption of essential services, facilities or systems.

What would trigger a change in the threat level?
Determining the terrorism threat level involves a comprehensive analysis of several factors including past trends and current intelligence on the known intentions, capabilities and opportunities for terrorism entities to conduct attacks.

A single event, such as a terrorist attack overseas, would not necessarily precipitate a change in level, but it would be taken into consideration as part of the comprehensive analysis.

A change to high or critical would denote that intelligence indicates an individual or group within Canada or abroad has increased either their intent or their capability to commit an act of terrorism in Canada.  

What specific security measures are taken at medium, high and critical levels?
Security measures increase in proportion to the threat level and are responsive to the circumstances.

Measures could include things Canadians wouldn't see, such as increased internal information-sharing, as well as some visible measures, such as an increase in physical security at public venues.

At the critical level, robust security measures will be visible. In many cases specific security measures would not be announced publicly, as this could compromise efforts.

How is Canada's threat level system different than other countries?
All of Canada's allies in the Five Eyes have some form of a threat level system and each one is distinct in terms of its operations and threat level definitions.

Canada's terrorism threat levels should not be confused with a public advisory system adopted in other countries such as the United States.

While Canada is sharing the threat level with Canadians for their general awareness, it is primarily an operational tool for government officials, law enforcement partners, and stakeholders so they can identify risks and vulnerabilities from threats and determine what measures to put in place to prevent or respond to a violent act of terrorism.

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