A 15-year-old who robbed a Montreal dépanneur to finance his plan to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A Toronto girl of the same age caught at a Middle East airport on her way to Syria. In Winnipeg, a terrorist offense committed by a 16-year-old.

Over the past two to three years, Canadian counter-terrorism police have found themselves investigating minors as young as 13 — members of the online generation engrossed in extremism, some of them turned in by their families.

“This is something that we’ve been seeing for a number of years now,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana said in an interview Tuesday. “And not just in Canada actually. It’s in other countries as well. The same reality is there.”

The latest case emerged Monday, when the Public Prosecution Service of Canada announced a youth had pleaded guilty in Manitoba to counseling the commission of an offense for the benefit of, or at the direction of, a terrorist group.

No further details were released except that the offender was 16 at the time. The offense carries a possible life sentence, although a youth would be unlikely to get the maximum. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 25 in Brandon.

“Oftentimes what we’re seeing is it’s the family that actually approaches us to say, ‘We need help, there’s something going on here that we don’t like and we need your help,’ ” said Cabana, who oversees the RCMP’s national security program.
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