TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make it a criminal offence for Canadians to travel to areas controlled by groups designated as terrorist entities, such as Islamic State, if he is re-elected, he said on Sunday.
Citing a need to stop a flow of fighters to and from Canada, Harper said his Conservative government would create a new category of banned foreign travel zones known as “declared areas”.
These would include regions within foreign countries where entities such as Islamic State are engaged in hostile activities and recruiting and training followers.
"Eventually, some will try to return home, bringing with them whatever terrorist training they received to become a direct threat to the security of this country," Harper said at an appearance in Ottawa.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory it controls in Syria and Iraq. Canada is part of a U.S.-led coalition conducting air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq since last year.
Harper said exceptions to the new law would be made for aid workers, diplomats and journalists.
Most recent polls have shown the ruling Conservatives slightly trailing the official opposition New Democrats ahead of the Oct. 19 election.
The Conservatives have taken a tough line on security following the killings of two soldiers by Muslim converts in separate attacks in Canada last October.
The party has already passed legislation that gives police and security agencies more power to stop people going abroad to link up with Islamic State and similar movements.
Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Peter Graff