04/23/2015 02:45 EDT | Updated 07/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Racism fuels terrorism recruiting, says visiting French justice minister

OTTAWA - The marginalization caused by racism has an alienating effect that makes people more vulnerable to terrorist recruiters, says France's visiting justice minister.

Christiane Taubira knows of what she speaks: as France's most prominent black politician, she has faced repeated public racist slurs in her country.

Taubira made it clear that she doesn't see being discriminated against as an explanation or excuse for terrorism.

"I'm not sure I want to understand the causes of terrorism," she said in an exclusive interview Thursday at the French Embassy in Ottawa. "Terror is terror, just absolute."

But Taubira said there is a link between a young person being pushed to the margins of society and "how easy" that makes it for a terrorist to recruit them, especially using the Internet.

"Because it's so easy for (terrorists) to say, 'You will be very important because you will be very powerful, you will be able to kill, and afterwards you will be happy,'" she said.

"The link is there. It's easy to convince young people that there is a better life in terrorism than in hoping in the society."

Taubira said being on the receiving end of some vicious racist slurs has only made her stronger.

"It keeps me vigilant because I realize how violent a society is against so many people who are not as strong as I am. I'm strong because I've been fighting for a long time."

She said this week's appointment of Toronto's first black police chief, Mark Saunders, carries the sort of symbolism that can give some young people a sense of hope. But she was quick to add: "I don't want just one person on TV, one person in the government ... I want equality for all."

Taubira was on a visit to meet her federal counterparts in Ottawa, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, and will travel to Montreal on Friday.

France and Canada, she said, are forging deep co-operative links in the fight against terrorism following January's deadly terror attacks in Paris and the October killings of two Canadian soldiers in separate incidents in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

France, like Canada, has proposed anti-terrorism legislation. While Taubira did not comment specifically on Canada's bill, she did emphasize the need to preserve the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties and democratic principles.

That's been in sore spot in Canada, with the NDP, the Liberals and a variety of other critics saying that there is a lack of oversight in the anti-terrorism bill.

"We do believe that what terror aims at is to show that democracy is a weak system, and we have to demonstrate that it's a strong system," Taubira said.

"It's not easy, because the first temptation is to surveil everyone, everywhere, every time . . . So we have to demonstrate to ourselves first, and others that we want to maintain our individual liberties."

She said the proposed French law has a built-in mechanism that protects the rights of citizens before, during and after they have been subjected to surveillance. At the same time, it also provides room for authorities to shut down websites and respond swiftly to imminent threats.

Taubira said the French bill gives law enforcement "the means to work, but at the same time, make sure they are under control."