MONTREAL – A Montreal-area teen was found guilty of two terrorism-related charges on Thursday, becoming the first Canadian convicted of attempting to leave the country to participate in terrorism-related activities.
The 16-year-old, who cannot be named, was impassive as Youth court Judge Dominique Wilhelmy found him guilty of the offences.
He was facing two charges: committing a robbery in association with a terrorist organization and planning to leave Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group abroad — namely the so-called Islamic State.
“It is a first, it is a new infraction and it is the first conviction,” federal prosecutor Marie-Eve Moore told reporters.
The new charge was introduced in 2013.
The case stems from a convenience store robbery in October 2014 the Crown said was linked to ISIL and committed to help finance the boy’s trip to take part in the conflict in Syria.
The defence argued that the boy, 15 at the time of the offence, was confused and only wanted to go to Syria to help fellow Muslims. The Crown argued the teen, who also engaged in Twitter conversations with jihadist sympathizer Martin Couture-Rouleau, was determined to get to Syria.
Just days after the teen’s arrest, Couture-Rouleau fatally rammed Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and was eventually killed by police.
The boy referred to the spoils of the convenience store robbery as “war booty” to police investigators.
Wilhelmy said the evidence in the case established beyond a reasonable doubt that the teen wanted to join up with Islamic State. She praised the boy’s parents for their intervention.
“This sad story is that of a young boy overwhelmed by the messages of violence, vengeance and war made by the Islamic State,” Wilhelmy said. “By alerting authorities, his parents probably saved his life.”
The judge also wondered how many other teens are being affected by Islamic State’s profound social media propaganda presence.
“How many are lone wolves like Martin Couture-Rouleau and how many dream of leaving Canada for the Islamic State like the accused?” the judge asked.
The court has asked for a psychological evaluation and a pre-sentencing report before discussing a punishment and Moore said that information will help evaluate the kind of sentence it will seek.
In the past, the Crown has suggested an adult sentence was possible.
The maximum adult sentence for committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization is life imprisonment, while the maximum on the travel charge is 10 years.
“Considering it was a youth convicted today, we have to promote his rehabilitation, his reintegration into society while protecting the public from such terrorist acts,” Moore said.
The case returns to court on Jan. 5.