Canada Launches National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence

The Government of Canada has released the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, and launched Canada’s National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence.

2018’s Public Report provides an up-to-date analysis of Canada’s terrorist threat environment, pulling together information from all Government agencies and departments that work on national security. Canada’s terrorism threat level is assessed regularly, and was last updated in November 2018, when it was confirmed at medium. This level remains unchanged since early October 2014. Canadian security, intelligence, and police agencies work in close collaboration with domestic and international partners, and continuously assess their operations in response to all threats to Canada.

According to the 2018 Public Report, the main terrorist threat to Canada continues to come from violent extremists inspired by terrorist groups, such as Daesh and al-Qaida.

Though Daesh territorial holdings in the Syria-Iraq conflict zone continue to decline, Canada has not seen a related influx in the number of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs) who have returned to Canada, nor does it expect to. Owing to several factors (such as a lack of valid travel documents, denying boarding to aircraft destined for Canada, potential fear of arrest upon return, their continued commitment to Daesh or other groups, having been captured while in Syria and Iraq, or because they have died), CET numbers abroad remain stable at approximately 190 individuals with a nexus to Canada, and close to 60 who have returned.

In an effort to project strength and influence to counter its decreasing support and size, Daesh is resorting more frequently to false claims of responsibility for acts of violence, including in Canada. In June 2018, after Faisal Hussain fired on the busy Toronto neighbourhood of Danforth, Daesh quickly claimed responsibility, despite the total absence of any link between the attack and that group or any other terrorist group.

Canada also remains concerned with the threats posed by those who harbour right-wing extremist views. The April 2018 van attack in Toronto is a reminder that violent acts driven by extremists’ views are not exclusively-linked to any particular religious, political or cultural ideology.

The launch of the National Strategy  marks an important milestone in Canada’s work to prevent wherever possible the kind of radicalization that leads to violence in the first place. The National Strategy outlines the Government of Canada’s approach to countering radicalization to violence by preventing and disengaging individuals from violent ideologies. Three priorities have been identified: building, sharing and using knowledge; addressing radicalization to violence in the on-line space; and supporting interventions.

The National Strategy was developed by the Canada Centre on Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (Canada Centre). It was informed by what the Canada Centre heard from communities, experts, and other stakeholders, as well as key federal, provincial, and territorial partners through consultation and engagement.

The Canada Centre was launched in 2017 and provides national leadership on Canada’s work to counter radicalization to violence, builds partnerships, and coordinates efforts among governments and community actors. The center provides funding to organizations that work to counter radicalization to violence in Canada. To date, it has funded twenty-four projects worth a total of over $16 million.

The strategy reports that Canada is making connections across diverse domains to better prevent radicalization to violence in Canada. These include multiple levels of government and a range of societal actors in Canada. For example, there are many existing efforts to address factors that can push an individual on a pathway to radicalization to violence such as engaging in or experiencing hate speech, community based conflicts and mental health issues. At the same time, within the Government of Canada, and within provincial and territorial governments, many departments, such as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, deliver social programming that contributes to building resilient communities and individuals and fostering social cohesion which indirectly supports the approach to preventing radicalization to violence.

Canada also works internationally on various counter-terrorism efforts. At the August 2018 Five Country Ministerial meeting, Canada agreed with its Five-Eyes partners (United States, United Kindgom, Australia and New Zealand) to expand information sharing about known or suspected terrorists.

Canada has agreed with its G7 and Five-Eyes allies to counter the illicit use of online spaces by, among other things, working with digital industry on issues related to violent extremism and terrorist material. This includes engagement with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, which is led by Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to remove and prevent the uploading of violent extremist and terrorist exploitation from online platforms.

Kylie Bull has 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. She is an editor and contributor for Jane's by IHS Markit, a columnist for security and counter-terror publications, and a former managing editor for Homeland Security Today.

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