Canal plan, 6 years later…

Johan Leman, 17 January 2022

Since foreign journalists have already contacted me more than once to find out what of the famous Canal Plan of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Belga, 4.2.2016), a good 6 years later “really exists” or “still has real effects today”, I contacted both the cabinet of Minister Jambon (although he is no longer Federal Minister of Home Affairs) and that of the current Federal Minister of Home Affairs. After all,… I want to pass on accurate information if people ask me for it… and I don’t think I’m asking for any big State secrets here.

As you all know, one can carry out certain actions once via a flashpoint policy (such as checking more than 1000 non-profit organisations, or visiting a large number of houses to see who actually lives there, or… more importantly, seeing that the framework of a police force is actually filled in as it should be), but is any of all this still valid in policy terms 6 years later, and if not, why? For predictable reasons? Other reasons?

Similarly, because this is another question I am often asked, I try to find out how many of the jihadists who once left Molenbeek/Canal area have returned to Belgium and how many of them are in prison or have already left prison.

Well, is it just me… or what is it? I can’t seem to find the information I need.

Does anyone know how I can get the right information? Both cases are not State secrets, are they? I thought that this is the info that a citizen is entitled to and that this actually belongs to a correct evaluation of what today is very often in first place announcement politics.

Let me remind you of the main points of this federal Canal Plan:

Via Belga (4.2.2016), the policy announced what it would be about. There were four parts: a police, a judicial, an administrative and a preventive part.

We limit ourselves to the police and judicial component that would consist of 6 pillars:

1. Exchange and flow of information,

2. Multidisciplinary approach to the FTF (foreign terrorist fighters),

3. The fight against supporting criminal phenomena (drugs, weapons, false documents),

4. The fight against illegal economy,

5. The approach to radicalisation in the broad sense,

6. The cooperation and support between police forces.

A few questions for evaluation, which concern some of the biggest challenges in that plan:

1. The theoretical framework of the police zone Brussels-West, determined by the Police Council, consisted of 1010 staff members. In reality, there were only 812 active staff members, paid by the police zone.

Question: how many active police inspectors are there today? Has the number of 1010 staff been reached after 6 years?

2. The fight against drugs and illegal possession of weapons.

Question: What is the situation in this regard? I hear that drug use has increased sharply, even outside the Canal Zone. What is the situation? And what is the plan of approach?

3. Dealing with radicalisation in the broad sense.

Question: should we place the expulsion of Mohamed Toujgani and the problems made around the former vice-president of the Executive of Muslims under this heading? By the way, in this context, would a parliamentary debate on what one accepts or does not accept from ministers of cult not be appropriate? Because talking about “acute danger to security” now seems very unclear to me.

4. The fight against the illegal economy.

Question: What about it? How is it defined? Is there any profiling? What are the results?

I think it would be appropriate to have a proper discussion and evaluation in Parliament of what has become of this canal plan and what one should think of it today. What can be done differently? What can be improved?