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Counter-radicalization

Canada says new centre will focus on "all kinds" of radicalization, including right-wing extremism

Canada’s anti-radicalization centre will also focus on right-wing extremism

Previously accused of downplaying the threat of right-wing extremism in Canada, the federal government now says a new centre it hopes to open this spring will work to fight radicalization of all kinds.

Asked specifically about the threat of right-wing extremism, Public Safety Minister Ralph told Global News the centre will focus on “radicalization to violence of all kinds,” and operate with the goal of finding a way to “identify the right ways, with the right people at the right time, to intervene in that behaviour before it leads to tragedy.” Last week, a gunman opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people and wounding 19.

In August, the Liberal government released a report saying the Islamic State was the main terrorist threat to Canada. It also revealed that a Conservative initiative, known as the Kanishka project, that funded academic research on on terrorism, had not been renewed. The government vowed to take a more direct approach and hire an advisor on deradicalization. But the opening of the Office of Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator has been delayed for months.

The government is now in the process of hiring a “lead officer” and will provide $35 million in funding over the next five years.

The government is now in the process of hiring a “lead officer” and will provide $35 million in funding over the next five years. Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary have already launched their own counter-radicalization projects.  

“The most effective means of countering radicalization to violence begins in the community and involves working with leaders to develop intervention programs,” Goodale’s office said in a statement to VICE News. “The Office will provide leadership on Canada’s response to radicalization to violence, coordinate federal/provincial/territorial and international initiatives, and support community outreach and research.”

Goodale said copycats and lone wolves are the hardest to predict and detect, explaining that multiple people plotting an attack often leave tracks.

“If it’s an individual that’s maybe being drawn down a dark path toward radical behaviour by following internet or dealing with a close cabal of friends, very often there’s little evidence to go on until they actually do what they’re going to do,” Goodale told Global.

Pressed by VICE News after the Quebec City shooting whether his government is doing enough to fund investigations into right-wing extremism, not just Islamic extremism, Goodale insisted they were.

“The Government of Canada is vigilant all of the time, through CSIS, through the RCMP, through our other agencies and services, to maintain the right kind of surveillance and investigative powers, to track the risks and the threats and the dangers,” he said in Ottawa.

Alexandre Bissonnette, the suspect in the Quebec City attack, has been charged with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder in the shooting last Sunday at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec, which has been the target of Islamophobic attacks in the past. Security was stepped up after a severed pig’s head was found on the doorstep of the mosque last June, along with a note that said “Bon appétit.”

While police haven’t released any information on Bissonnette’s alleged motive, people who knew the 27-year-old’s friends have described him as an online troll, said he was openly supportive of Donald Trump and that he was inspired by French nationalist Marine Le Pen.

In the three days following the attack, Montreal police had received 29 reports of hate incidents.

Last year, a study tracking the right-wing wing extremism in Canada identified more than 100 such groups across the country, including Soldiers of Odin, the KKK, Blood and Honour, Combat 18, and the Hammerskins. While some of the identified groups are made up of just one person, others have up to 40 members, the study found.

In the three days following the attack, Montreal police had received 29 reports of hate incidents.

One man was arrested, and charged with uttering threats online and inciting hatred, although VICE later found his tweets may have been sarcastic and directed at a xenophobic Twitter account being run by a Quebec police officer.

The head of Montreal’s anti-radicalization unit told the Globe and Mail that in 72 hours, they’d received 15 calls about Islamophobia and six about the extreme right.

In general, hate crimes against Muslims seem to be on the rise in Canada, jumping from 64 in 2013 to 99 in 2014, according to the latest figures available from Statistics Canada. About one third of those incidents took place in Quebec.

Cover: Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

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