Montreal police and other authorities are offering little information about the reports — which first appeared in Montreal La Presse Thursday — that four men and two women from the Montreal area fled Canada to fight with jihadists in Syria.
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney would not discuss the case specifically, adding only that the reports highlight the need for the Conservatives' controversial anti-terror legislation to be passed.
Blaney says the bill would provide police more tools to stop radicalization and help tackle the issue of high-risk travellers.
A well-placed source confirmed that six young men and women between 18 and 20 years old from the Montreal area all left around mid-January and landed in Turkey, which is a well-known gateway to the battlefield of Syria and Iraq where jihadist groups are involved in a civil war.
Montreal Police would only confirm the force is investigating several cases of missing adults.
The source added that four of the missing people lived in Montreal and that the parents or relatives of all four individuals contacted police independently to alert them about the disappearances.
The source said it is still unclear if the six missing knew each other and all left together.
Two of the missing lived in Laval, just north of Montreal. Laval police confirmed they received a report for one of the missing people, but the case has been handed off to the RCMP.
Brigitte Desjardins, spokeswoman for College Maisonneuve, a junior college in the city's east end, said three of the six went to the school.
She said she cannot know for sure if the students are in Syria, but confirmed after learning their names that they were enrolled for the fall semester.
Desjardins also said the school has suspended its contract with a Muslim organization run by Adil Charkaoui, a man well-known to police and the country's security establishment. Later Thursday, a second junior college, College de Rosemont, also suspended its ties with the group.
Charkaoui's association rented space from the school for weekend courses.
Charkaoui was arrested under Canada's security certificate system in 2003. Canada's police and security departments alleged he was a terrorist and had trained at a militant camp in Afghanistan.
For nine years Charkaoui's movements were monitored by the state but he was never charged.
A court lifted the restrictions on Charkaoui in 2009.
Desjardins said that her research on Charkaoui had revealed information "that gives us doubt to the compatibility of the activities of this organization with our college's values."
Desjardins did not elaborate and calls to Charkaoui and to the Islamic Centre to which he has ties were not returned.
The source confirmed that one of the six missing young people attended those weekend courses for a period of time.
In Quebec City, Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said she's not surprised by the reports, making a link between the case and radicalized individuals involved in terror attacks on Parliament Hill and in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu last year.
Theriault says the only response to suspected radicalization is to contact police.
Blaney said measures in the bill would help tackle the issue of high-risk travellers
"Our studies clearly demonstrate in 80 per cent of the case when an individual is willing to travel for terrorist purposes, the people around are aware or informed of that situation," Blaney told reporters.
"So it is important to report it to the authorities for the well-being of that individual for not being further radicalized and also for saving human lives."Suggest a correction