Liberals replacing Harper Tories’ anti-terror project with new program

Looks like the Kanishka Project, one of the previous government’s rare and good “committing sociology” initiatives, will continue albeit in different form:

As the Liberals prepare to launch their signature anti-terrorism initiative, they have closed the door on a previous one by the Conservative government.

On Thursday, Liberal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released a report on the terrorist threat to Canada that said the Islamic State is the main concern. The report also said that a five-year initiative by the Tories that had delivered $10-million, mostly to academics researching terrorism in hopes of finding ways to understand and fight it, had ceased operations in March.

The initiative, known as the Kanishka Project, began in 2011, and the Conservatives promised last year to renew it if they were re-elected. The Liberals pledged a more hands-on approach. Last week, Mr. Goodale said that by the end of the summer, he will appoint an official to advise the government on de-radicalization.

The office of the adviser is expected to cost $7-million to $10-million a year, and the government says it is intended to get civil servants, academics, religious and ethnic communities to work together to find ways to deal with extremists.

The Liberals are calling this a wholly new approach for Canada, but experts say this office may absorb the function of the Kanishka Project.

“In a sense, the new office will be the successor of Kanishka. … There is more continuity than discontinuity,” said Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo professor who studies terrorism. The one big difference, he said, is “that there is now a stress on actually doing something in terms of [countering violent extremism].”

In 2012, Dr. Dawson co-founded the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, which got hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Kanishka. Saying the old program blazed a trail for serious study of terrorism, he anticipates the new government office will also finance such work.

The terrorism report said Kanishka was not renewed when its five-year funding ran out in the spring. “Public Safety and its partners continue to publish results and build on the program’s research,” it said, adding that the new counterradicalization office will “foster research on radicalization to violence” among other functions.

Source: Liberals replacing Harper Tories’ anti-terror project with new program – The Globe and Mail

Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have ‘little national coherence,’ Public safety minister says

Apart from the Kanishka Project which funded some needed research, the previous government relatively under-invested in counter-radicalization given their reluctance to “commit sociology” and focus on hard security measures:

Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have “little national coherence,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Sunday in a statement reflecting on the killing last week of an ISIL supporter allegedly about to conduct an attack.

Saying the police response had “prevented a much more terrible outcome,” Goodale called for an improved response to the threat of extremism. While some work is underway in cities such as Montreal and Calgary, Canada has no national strategy.

“Our goal is to begin fixing that this year,” he said. “We need to get really good at this — ;to preserve our diversity and pluralism as unique national strengths. …We need to access the best global research.  We need to develop more of our own.

“We need to generate and co-ordinate talent and expertise. We need to mobilize and support community-based outreach agencies. We need to know how to identify those who could be vulnerable to insidious influences that draw certain people — especially young people — toward extremism leading to violence.

“We need to understand what positive messages can counteract that poison. We need to know how to intervene with the right tools at the right time in the right way — all to head off tragedies before they happen, as much as humanly possible.”

A fast-paced RCMP investigation into a martyrdom video recorded by a masked man who vowed to attack Canada led police Wednesday to the Strathroy, Ont., home of Aaron Driver, a radicalized Muslim convert and ardent supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

….Goodale said the his top concerns were “lone wolves who get sucked into perverse and extreme ideologies that promote violence.” The Liberals were “committed to meaningful national security consultations” that would intensify in the fall, he said.

Source: Canada’s counter-radicalization efforts have ‘little national coherence,’ Public safety minister says | National Post

Where should we put Canada’s counter-radicalisation programme? Gurski

Phil Gurski is right on this one. Better to have this outside of Public Safety. Canadian Heritage, now that the Multiculturalism Program is back, is likely the better home (Economic and Social Development, while another alternative, is simply too large a department to provide effective oversight).

However, that being said, given that it is in Minister Goodale’s mandate letter rather than Mme. Joly’s, I don’t see this happening.

And Public Safety has funded a number of good research projects under the Kanishka Project (named after the Air India coming of 1985):

This move represents a significant shift in Canada’s CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) approach from the purely hardline emphasis of the Harper government to a more inclusive and more comprehensive one under the new regime (note that the previous government did have a soft CVE aspect, and one in which I worked, but did not fund it adequately and actually undermined it with stupid comments by public officials).  As I have said before, we will always need the hardline tool, but we need to do more in early intervention and counter radicalisation.

One question remains: where should this new office reside?  When I still worked for the federal government it was housed within Public Safety Canada, split between the National Security Policy branch and Citizen Engagement.  In some ways, it should stay there if for no other reason that that department has experienced and capable staff who were part of the amazing success of the shortened efforts under Harper.

But in other, more important ways, it should be moved to another department.  Let me try to explain why.

Aside from getting a brand new start and being able to put the unfortunate mistakes of the previous government behind us, the biggest drawback to leaving Canada’s CVE strategy with Public Safety lies with the very nature of that ministry.  Public Safety Canada is the umbrella department for CSIS, the RCMP, Correctional Services Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency.  All of these are staffed by dedicated and professional people but they have one underlying commonality: they are all enforcement/punitive agencies.  CVE needs to be seen as an opportunity to occur before people engage in activities that are the remit of CSIS and the RCMP in order to work.

We have seen in other places like the UK with its PREVENT programme that communities associate CVE with intelligence gathering and enforcement, whether or not that is what is happening.  Having a ministry responsible for the national spy and law enforcement agencies run CVE creates a stigma that can hamper even the best efforts.  If communities do not feel comfortable and have issues of trust with certain partners, they will not want to participate.

What if the government put the new office under the Heritage portfolio?  CVE is all about providing communities with the tools to foster Canadian citizenship and reject the empty and violent promises of groups like Islamic State. It is about being or becoming Canadian.  Another aspect is the debate over narratives.   I have long argued that we need to move away from “counter narratives” to “alternative narratives”.  Alternative narratives are an important part of CVE – what better place to locate them than within Heritage, the department that helps foster the Canadian narrative?  Our narrative is so superior to that of IS that if this were a boxing match the referee would have called the fight years ago.

Of course, those with lots of experience in CVE, especially the RCMP which has a longstanding and robust outreach programme, would be asked to lend its assistance and best practices.  Other partners could also contribute.  Canada is – or rather was – a world leader in CVE and many countries look to us for models on what to do.  We don’t need to reinvent it, we just need to tweak it to make it better.

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter where the government decides to put CVE.  The important thing is that it cultivate good relations with the communities it hopes to work with, for the best answers to violent radicalisation and extremism are to be found there, not in a government policy brief.

Source: Borealis Threat & Risk Consulting

Internet plays role in terrorism, but is rarely the single cause, study says

Despite the previous government’s rhetoric, some good work done:

The Liberal government is inheriting a new study into the “root causes” of terrorism – a study the Harper government ordered last year, despite mocking Justin Trudeau’s call for the same basic research.

The report into how the internet plays into violent extremism concludes the web does have a role, though its psychological and social effects are often overstated, and says more research is needed.

The $40,635 study, delivered to Public Safety in late June, is an ironic rebuttal to Harper and others who dismissed Trudeau for wanting to “commit sociology” rather than combat terrorism as a crime requiring policing and surveillance tools.

“The internet is almost never in itself a sufficient nor a necessary causal factor of violent extremism,” concludes the study by five Canadian criminologists.

“It would be wrong to think of the internet as a monocausal and homogenous factor that impacts individual trajectories towards clandestine political violence in the same way.”

CBC News obtained a copy of the document under the Access to Information Act.

The report is among five that Public Safety commissioned in October 2014 as part of the Kanishka Project, a $10-million anti-terror initiative spawned by the inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing.

The internet study ordered by Public Safety does just that, referring to the “biographical preconditions” that make individuals susceptible to becoming violent extremists, including their “social isolation and marginalization.”

A key section of the study assembles 15 case studies of violent extremists, eight of them Canadian, including Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Parliament Hill gunman who attacked on Oct. 22 last year. Zehaf-Bibeau is classed as “Jihadism/ISIS inspired,” but the group also includes Justin Bourque, an “anti-establishment” killer who gunned down five Mounties in Moncton, N.B., killing three. The list also has three “right-wing” examples from abroad.

The lead author of the report, Benjamin Ducol of Laval University, defends the inclusion of non-jihadists.

“By focusing too much on the jihadi threats, and on the jihadi militancies, we are missing other kinds of militancies that can be quite dangerous for Canadians’ safety and in terms of national security threats,” Ducol said in an interview.

The internet report drew on news media accounts as well as court records, but the group was denied access to confidential police intelligence on these cases, said Ducol, who’s seeking permission from Public Safety to produce a scholarly article on the findings.

“The internet is part of our daily life, so it kind of makes sense that it’s going to be part of the radicalization process,” he said.

Each case unique

But the impact is “very different from one case to another. … We’re still at the beginning of understanding how the internet plays a role.”

Source: Internet plays role in terrorism, but is rarely the single cause, study says – Politics – CBC News

ICYMI: Stephen Harper pledges $10M to research terrorism, radicalization

Good investment and one that any government should maintain and possibly strengthen:

On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is committing new money to research terrorism and radicalization.

Harper said Friday that a Tory government would provide $10 million over five years to the Kanishka Project, an initiative — established in 2011 and named in recognition of the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 331 people — to better understand radicalization and effective ways to prevent attacks.

The Kanishka Project is administered through Public Safety Canada and has funded research by academics both in Canada and abroad. For example, in October 2014 the government put out a call soliciting research on how jihadists use the internet, while in July it was announced that the project would provide $170,000 over two years to an Australian sociologist studying why some Canadians convert to Islam.

Source: Stephen Harper pledges $10M to research terrorism, radicalization – Politics – CBC News

Canadian converts to Islam focus of study by Australian sociologist

Some Government rhetoric notwithstanding, the Kanishka Project continues to fund some interesting and potentially useful studies on the sociology of extremism and radicalization:

Public Safety Canada is funding a project by an Australian academic to study why Canadians convert to Islam.

This is the first study on the subject ever conducted in Canada and one of a number of studies to receive money from Public Safety through its Kanishka Project, which funds research into terrorism and counterterrorism.

“Canada was a country that had not even one published journal article on converts between its borders. So, I thought, ‘Wow, what a great opportunity,'” said Prof. Scott Flower of the University of Melbourne.

Flower’s earlier research looked into Muslim converts in Papua New Guinea and Australia and he was looking for comparative cases in other Western nations.

Scott Flower, a researcher from The University of Melbourne in Australia, says he understands why some Muslims may be leery of his research. (University of Melbourne)

He hopes to spend the next few months in Canada conducting interviews with converts to Islam with a view to finding out what spurred their conversion.

Flower doesn’t know what the government will eventually do with his research but he did stress in an interview with CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning that he understands how the subjects of his study might be leery of it.

“You’d have to be very ignorant to not sense the level of concern amongst the Muslim community in general, let alone the convert community. There’s been a number of recent legislative bills passed in this country — I won’t use the word oppressive — but I would say that it’s really made Muslims go to ground,” said Flower.

He added that this atmosphere is complicating his research.

“That’s really posing a challenge to recruiting participants to what is really a study that is not interested in security whatsoever,” he said.

Canadian academics who have received money from the Kanishka Project for other studies say there is nothing nefarious about its intentions.

“All the work is being done by independent scholars that are arm’s length,” explained Jeremy Littlewood, a Carleton University professor and terrorism expert.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Halifax, agrees with Littlewood, but sympathized with Flower’s challenges.

Amarasingam is conducting his own research into violent radicalization, also funded by the Kanishka Project.

“We’ve tried very hard to explain that [our] research was independent. None of the data is being handed over and the government is seeing the final product and there is no secret report,” he said.

“As the researchers retain copyright, such reports provide policy research advice and do not necessarily represent the policy position of Public Safety Canada,” wrote Jean Paul Duval, a spokesperson for the department, in an email to CBC News.

Canadian converts to Islam focus of study by Australian sociologist – Politics – CBC News.

Do new Canadians leave old conflicts behind? – The Globe and Mail

Good report from Mosaic Institute on imported conflicts and some of the factors that increase and decrease the likelihood and impact:

Social inclusion is the single biggest factor in encouraging that change to happen; respondents spoke over and over about the importance of meeting, speaking with, living and working alongside people who are different from them in affecting that change of perspective. That is Canadian multiculturalism living up to its full potential.

Conversely, racism and exclusion can undermine that process of reframing conflict, and can impede new Canadians’ attachment to Canada. Sadly, all across the country, the darker our skin and the more we are visibly identifiable as a member of a racialized community, the more likely we are to experience racism and other forms of social exclusion at school, at work, and on the street.

Do new Canadians leave old conflicts behind? – The Globe and Mail.

No ‘mass phenomenon’ of homegrown radicalization in Canada, says Harper – Winnipeg Free Press

Correct assessment, although even isolated incidents can be deadly. Interestingly, no mention of the ongoing research towards better understanding of some of the possible factors involved that are part of the federally funded Kanishka Project:

…. invest in research on pressing questions for Canada on terrorism and counter-terrorism, such as preventing and countering violent extremism.

The Project is about better understanding what terrorism means in the Canadian context, how that is changing over time, and what we can do to support effective policies and programs to counter terrorism and violent extremism in Canada.

No ‘mass phenomenon’ of homegrown radicalization in Canada, says Harper – Winnipeg Free Press.