Does Canada take the threat of far-right extremism seriously?

Worth noting the contrasting assessments:

Yet the outburst of deadly racist violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend is not without parallels in Canada. Recent estimates suggest there are dozens of active white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups across the country.

They advocate everything from biological racism to anti-Semitism to radical libertarianism. Members of groups such as the Heritage Front, Freemen of the Land and Blood and Honour have been charged with dozens of crimes, including murder, attempted murder and assault.

Roughly 30 homicides in Canada since 1980 have been linked to individuals espousing some form of extreme right-wing ideology.​ 

But the pattern of right-wing extremist violence in Canada is too inconsistent to merit being prioritized over the threat posed by Islamic extremists, according to two former members of the security establishment.

“I do think right-wing extremism is a national security problem, but we’re not devoting the resources to it because we don’t need to,” said Phil Gurski, a former CSIS analyst who now runs a security consulting business.

“I have seen nothing to suggest that they pose an equally dangerous threat as that posed by Islamist extremism, which in and of itself is still a fairly minor threat in Canada.”

The limited national security resources devoted to right-wing extremism is also based on a belief that such groups are fractious, ideologically incoherent and engage mainly in lower-level crime such as robbery or graffiti, said Stephanie Carvin, a former national security adviser for the Canadian government.

“The violence that results [from right-wing extremist groups] tends to be dealt with more at the police level than the national security level,” said Carvin, who teaches courses about security and terrorism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“If you just look at the sheer number of cases of individuals who are foreign [jihadist] fighters, or potential foreign fighters or returnees, it still outweighs the potential actors on the far right.”

A dangerous oversimplification?

As recently as January, just days before the deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque, a threat assessment based on input from Canada’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies determined there was “no indication that right-wing extremists pose a threat to migrants.”

CSIS’s own website says the threat posed by the extreme right has “not been a significant a problem in Canada in recent years. Those who hold such extremist views have tended to be isolated and ineffective figures.”

But the Quebec City shooting, which police believe was carried out by an individual holding anti-immigrant views, raised questions about the accuracy of the security establishment’s estimation of right-wing extremism.

James Ellis, a Vancouver-based terrorism scholar affiliated with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS), said it’s a dangerous oversimplification to portray the majority of far-right groups in Canada as too disorganized to pose a serious threat to national security.

“You’re essentially taking your eye off the ball,” said Ellis, who until recently maintained the Canadian Incident Database, which tracks acts of terrorism between 1960 and 2015.

“The data suggests that right-wing extremism is certainly on par if not exceeding the threat from Islamic terrorism cropping up within Canada itself.”

Source: Does Canada take the threat of far-right extremism seriously? – Montreal – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: