Chapter 3 – Criminological Perspectives on the Toronto 18
Historically, research in terrorism studies has drawn from a variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, political science, psychology, and security studies. More recently, however, researchers have argued that criminological approaches can and should inform terrorism studies as well. In this chapter, we apply four criminological perspectives to the case of the Toronto 18: the general strain theory of terrorism, social learning theory, situational crime prevention, and situational action theory. Drawing from news media accounts and court documents as well as extensive personal and background details about the offenders, we examine what inspired members of the Toronto 18 to join the cell, as well as the internal dynamics of the cell and why they selected certain targets, all through a criminological lens. The complexities of the Toronto 18 cases clearly demonstrate why it would be unrealistic at best, and foolhardy at worst, to expect any single orientation to “explain” terrorism. But used in concert, criminological theories and perspectives clearly have a role to play in advancing our understanding of the dynamics of terrorism.