What to do with the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will be top of mind for some 300 security experts from 60 countries that gathered today in Nova Scotia for the Halifax International Security Forum.

The annual international gathering of government, military and academic experts, authors and entrepreneurs held by an independent, non-profit group based in Wash. D.C. has often been referred to as the “Davos of international security.”

Canadian Defence Minister Harjitt Sajjan (left) and Peter Van Praagh, president of the Halifax International Security Forum
Canadian Defence Minister Harjitt Sajjan (left) and Peter Van Praagh, president of the Halifax International Security Forum

What makes the conference extra interesting this year is that:

    • This year’s forum comes just one week after operatives of the terror group ISIS staged a series of armed attacks in Paris which resulted in the deaths of 130 people
    • The forum is the first major public event that Canada’s new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is attending

The conference typically has a list of topics around international conflicts and developments concerning security that have been scheduled for discussion months ahead, however, ISIS’s horrific attack has shown the spotlight on terrorism.

Peter Van Praagh, president of the Halifax International Security Forum, said this year’s agenda was prepared back in summer.

“But last week, tragically, the events in Paris have focused us on the challenges posed by what’s called the Islamic State,” he said in an interview with the CBC. “That really will be a priority conversation in the room.”

Security leaders and experts are able to meet and discuss defence strategies during the conference but definite action plans are rarely announced after the event.

At the forum, Sajjan also said the terrorist attack in Mali on Thursday that resulted in the deaths of 27 people.

It is important to look into preventing such attacks, the minister said and that he had “a lot of questions” for fellow forum participants about it, according to a tweet posted by journalist Marie-Danielle Smith.

Sajjan said he spoke with French Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis, who thanked him for Canada’s help in the fight against ISIS.



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In the case of bombings against ISIS, the defence minister said the military’s “mandate has been clear.” By providing training to local forces battling the group instead, Canada is “hitting ISIS in a different way,” he said.


The conference began with a panel discussion about Canada’s new foreign policy objectives, according to the EmbassyNews.ca. The Panel included Sajjan, Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, NORAD commander Admiral Bill Girtney, former American lead to the anti-ISIS coalition Gen. John Allen and Janice Stein of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The Canadian government’s plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year will also be discussed in a session titled “Responsibility to Welcome.”