Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online

Interesting effort to leverage UK experience and expertise in prevention:

The federal government has tapped a U.K.-based company to attempt to “redirect” Canadians at risk of radicalization to violent extremism.

The Liberal government awarded Moonshot CVE a $1.5-million grant to develop a project called “Canada Redirect,” aimed at identifying extremist content online and pushing positive counter messaging at those seeking it out.

Micah Clark, Moonshot CVE’s Canada program director, said the idea is not to take down extremist propaganda, but to connect Canadians who are accessing it with alternative content.

Picture searching for white nationalist content on YouTube, only to be offered advertisements for counter radicalization and outreach resources in your “up next” playlist.

“Taking down accounts and trying to silence extremists online is a laudable goal, in one sense, but it doesn’t work with the logic of the internet … the fact that the internet grows in its own way,” Clark told the Star Tuesday.

“And so Redirect, the idea (is to) use the … logic of the internet, use the fact that people look for everything through a search engine, and try to use that to try and benefit people that may be at risk to radicalization to violence.”

According to Public Safety Canada, the redirect method has been deployed in a dozen countries since 2015. Moonshot CVE’s program would be a first for Canada.

The first challenge, Clark said, is identifying what extremist content Canadians are searching out.

Last month, Moonshot CVE provided the Star with a snapshot of the kind of right-wing extremist content Canadians are seeking out online — but that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has identified a growing white nationalist and right-wing extremist presence online in recent years. The internet is an important tool for any extremist ideology, to disseminate propaganda, build communities, and recruit adherents.

Clark said Moonshot CVE will not be focusing on any single extremist ideology, instead trying to connect counter messaging to any vulnerable Canadians at risk of radicalization.

Source: Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online

Why Canada’s Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence is in the wrong department 

Phil is a friend of mine and I have great respect for the work he did while in government and the analysis and commentary he is doing outside.

His logic is sound in having community engagement and deradicalization outside of Public Safety, to distinguish the security function and  community support/resilience-building. As Phil and I have discussed, in theory, Canadian Heritage would be a good home for all the reasons he lists.

But with respect for the people who work in Canadian Heritage, the department, as constituted, is not equipped to provide strong leadership in this area given its focus on its core mandate.

The area that could have possibly taken this on – multiculturalism – has been largely decimated following the 2008 transfer to then CIC (IRCC) and return back to Canadian Heritage in 2015:

First of all, kudos to the Trudeau government for its commitment to the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (CCCEPE—that name is way too long, however). The $35-million over five years is an excellent start and, although details are wanting, the government sees the new office  as a leadership post for Canada’s efforts.

This move represents a significant shift in Canada’s prevention of violent extremism approach from the purely hardline emphasis of the Harper government to a more inclusive and more comprehensive one under the new regime. As I have said before, we will always need the hardline tool, but we need to do more in early intervention and counter-radicalization.

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

But in other and 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 Prevention of Violence 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 these are staffed by dedicated and professional people but they have one underlying commonality: they are all enforcement/punitive agencies. The Prevention of Violence strategy 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 U.K. with its PREVENT program (which is housed within that country’s version of Public Safety) that communities associate PVE 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 PVE 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 were to put the new office under the Heritage portfolio? PVE 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 PVE—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 the Islamic State that if this were a boxing match the referee would have called the fight years ago.

Of course, those with lots of experience in PVE, especially the RCMP which has a longstanding and robust outreach program, would be asked to lend its assistance and best practices. Other partners could also contribute. Canada is—or rather was—a world leader in PVE 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 may not matter where the government decides to put PVE. Only time will tell. I am glad to see that those in the centre already recognize some important aspects on how to implement their strategy (tailor the approach to match local conditions, acknowledge that the government does not have the credibility to do PVE, etc.).  Evaluation and measurement of what works and what doesn’t will be critical.  Lots of people put their hands out when government funding is provided and the centre has to ensure that the right people are getting that money. The important thing is that it cultivate good relations with the communities it hopes to work with for the best answers to violent radicalization and extremism are to be found there, not in a government policy brief.

Source: Why Canada’s Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence is in the wrong department – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

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

Federal study disputes claim diaspora communities breed extremists

The latest study showing that diaspora communities largely play an integrating role, similar to the Mosaic Institute study on imported conflicts (see Unpacking conflict: “We don’t import conflict. But we do import trauma.”):

Canada’s immigrant communities are not breeding grounds for terrorists, as some would argue, but should be enlisted to reduce any violent radicalization in their midst, says a newly released report.

The research, ordered by the Harper government in 2014, appears to repudiate Conservative measures that alienated Muslim communities in the months before last year’s election.

The authors examined four diaspora communities in Canada — Afghan, Somali, Syrian and Tamil — and found them to be willing allies for rooting out extremism among their often young and isolated members.

“More resilient diaspora communities represent the best line of defence against violent extremism,” says the March 30 report, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

“Diasporas are not a threat, as some of the mainstream discourse on counterterrorism has often implied, but rather Canada’s most valued asset in the fight against terrorism.”

The authors found a mutual distrust between these communities and security agencies, driven partly by news media and academics who have “framed diaspora communities as partly complicit in terrorist activity, a source of threat for host countries like Canada.”

“It has fostered suspicion and even discrimination against certain diaspora groups.”

The research says security agencies such as the RCMP and CSIS need to build trust, especially among Muslim groups in Canada who can often alert police to potential terror activity.

“Dispelling Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination should be a centrepiece of any community engagement strategy surrounding anti-radicalization, as it has fuelled distrust of the state and wider Canadian society in Muslim diaspora communities.”

Helps restore balance

The $180,000 study for Public Safety Canada was carried out over a year by the Kitchener, Ont.-based Security Governance Group, a private consultant firm.

Former Canadian Security Intelligence Service analyst Phil Gurski, a specialist in homegrown radicalization, applauded the findings, saying they can help restore the balance between “hard security” — surveillance, arrests and charges — and “soft security,” or building trust within ethnic communities.

“We had the balance fairly good a couple of years ago, and then some unfortunate things happened towards the end of the Harper government that kind of maligned the trust we had built with communities and put us back a few steps,” Gurski said in an interview.

Among those setbacks was the government’s removal of Hussein Hamdani in April 2015 from the Cross Cultural Roundtable on National Security, after a Quebec blogger alleged Hamdani harboured terrorist sympathies.

The removal resulting from “baseless allegations” was “the biggest blow to the government’s relationship with the Muslim community,” said Gurski, who was Hamdani’s colleague and friend. “It had a chilling effect.”

The incident was followed by last summer’s niqab controversy, in which the Harper government pressed to have Muslim women remove their face covering at citizenship ceremonies, and the Oct. 2 announcement by Conservatives Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander of a “barbaric cultural practices tip line,” allowing citizens to call RCMP anonymously with allegations about their neighbours.

Not too late

Gurski, who was a CSIS officer from 2001 to 2013 and then with Public Safety until retirement last year, said it’s not too late to rebuild trust.

“The communities are willing to play ball again, despite the disappointments they had toward the end of the Harper government,” he said.

Sara Thompson, who teaches criminology at Toronto’s Ryerson University, said the report’s findings parallel her own work with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

“Our findings are remarkably consistent: on the whole the communities under examination should not be viewed as ‘suspect’ but rather as important allies in efforts to prevent radicalization,” she said.

“Community-based tripwires are often activated via a concept known as ‘leakage’ — the tendency among radicalized individuals to broadcast their views and intentions to commit violent acts in advance, typically to friends, family, acquaintances and/or community members.”

Source: Federal study disputes claim diaspora communities breed extremists – Politics – CBC News

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

Ministerial Mandate Letters: Mainstreaming diversity and inclusion, and point of interest from a citizenship and multiculturalism perspective

With the Mandate letters now public, two good pieces by Susan Delacourt (You’ll be judged by how you treat others, Trudeau cabinet warned) and Paul Wells (Justin Trudeau repeats himself) on the template used to guide  Ministers on the government-wide priorities and the expected and broad code of conduct.

Delacourt notes:

Working well with others — including people in the media — is now officially part of the job description for Canadian cabinet ministers.

The “mandate letters” given to every minister are setting a new bar for co-operation in Justin Trudeau’s government, according to one letter obtained in advance of the expected public release.

In fact, if the sheer word volume in these letters is any indication, co-operation seems to be the top item on the to-do list of Trudeau’s team.

Ministers are being warned that they will be judged by how well they treat a whole raft of people — everyone from business to labour, stakeholders and citizens, and yes, the opposition and the media too.

“Members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, indeed all journalists in Canada and abroad, are professionals who, by asking necessary questions, contribute in an important way to the democratic process. Your professionalism and engagement with them is essential,” the letter states.

….One group of people is singled out as well in the mandate letters for special treatment from government. “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples,” the letter states.

 The notable feature of these mandate letters, as mentioned, is the amount of words devoted to culture change of the kinder, gentler sort. “Open by default” is an operating principle.
 Wells analyses further:

Possible explanations for this outbreak of boilerplate include (a) a particularly wonky form of Tourette’s; (b) a desire to put most of the country to sleep before we get to the good stuff; (c) the PM and his advisers actually think the repetitive stuff is worth repeating. I’m going to go with (c). So while many colleagues will focus on what changes from letter to letter, let’s pause here to look at what doesn’t. 

  • “Real change—in both what we do and how we do it.” … Now, these letters come from Trudeau and his staff and appear over his signature, but it’s nearly a deadlock certainty that public servants were involved in the process, and one of them will have said: Prime Minister, if you evoke “a personal commitment” to this stuff and then tell ministers they “will be held accountable for our commitment,” you’re elevating it way beyond the realm of pious nostrum. You’re making it sound like you mean it. Repeating it 30 times in letters to 30 ministers is like tracing a line in the sand, then scraping it a yard deep.
  • “Track and report on the progress of our commitments.” …., idealism and political self-interest become nearly synonymous: Trudeau wants to be able to meet voters in, probably, 2019, with a bunch of check marks next to his 2015 promises. And again, by publicly repeating that goal, he is offering up a jumbo hostage to fortune if any promise proves impossible to keep.
  • “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with”— Actually, it’s interesting here to try to guess how this sentence ends. Important relationships. Hmm. The one with . . . the United States? The United Nations? Hard-working families? Nope. Again in every letter, Trudeau elevates the relationship with “Indigenous Peoples” above every other in his personal hierarchy of priorities…..
  • “Observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do.” …“As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.”Expect opposition members to quote that last sentence back to Trudeau and his ministers any time one of them lands in hot water. “It’s legal” is not, in Justin Trudeau’s own judgment, a sufficient defence for poor conduct.

Diversity and Inclusion commitments:

Turning from the general to the specific with respect to citizenship and multiculturalism, what is striking are the two paragraphs, again to all ministers, mainstreaming the Government’s diversity and inclusion agenda with a commitment to end divisive politics and practices and renewed emphasis on employment equity for women, indigenous Canadians and minority groups in political appointments:
Canadians expect us, in our work, to reflect the values we all embrace: inclusion, honesty, hard work, fiscal prudence, and generosity of spirit. We will be a government that governs for all Canadians, and I expect you, in your work, to bring Canadians together.
You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.

The specific commitments for each Minister will, of course, be reflected in the performance management agreements of Deputy Ministers, which in turn will cascade down to all levels of management. Hence, these are the ones that will be met given their priority.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister

The specific commitments track the party platform commitments in immigration and refugees. On citizenship, the mandate letter expands on the platform by including repealing the revocation provisions of the C-24 Citizenship Act and the ‘intent to reside’ provision.

In other words, very surgical changes rather than more sweeping changes. For example, no mention of reversing the expansion of knowledge and language requirements from 18-54 to 14-64 year olds, nor reversing the sharp increase in citizenship fees (from $100 to $530), nor improvements in due process (oral hearings in cases of misrepresentation).

While not in the list of commitments, presumably the Minister will revise and rebrand the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, with more inclusive substance and language, given the overall priority mentioned above.

The specific commitments are below:

As Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, your overarching goal will be to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to our country’s success. Canadians are open, accepting, and generous – qualities that should be reflected in Canada’s immigration policies and in our approach to welcoming those seeking refuge from conflict and war. Our communities are strengthened when we come together to welcome newcomers who want to build a better Canada and to help those in need.
In particular, I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities:

  1. Lead government-wide efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.

  2. As part of the Annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2016, bring forward a proposal to double the number of entry applications for parents and grandparents of immigrants to 10,000 a year.

  3. Give additional points under the Entry Express system to provide more opportunities for applicants who have Canadian siblings.

  4. Increase the maximum age for dependents to 22, from 19, to allow more Canadians to bring their children to Canada.

  5. Bring forward a proposal regarding permanent residency for new spouses entering Canada.

  6. Develop a plan to reduce application processing times for sponsorship, citizenship and other visas.

  7. Fully restore the Interim Federal Health Program that provides limited and temporary health benefits to refugees and refugee claimants.

  8. Establish an expert human rights panel to help you determine designated countries of origin, and provide a right to appeal refugee decisions for citizens from these countries.

  9. Modify the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee to hire caregivers and work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families.

  10. Lead efforts to facilitate the temporary entry of low risk travelers, including business visitors, and lift the visa requirement for Mexico.

  11. Work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal provisions in the Citizenship Act that give the government the right to strip citizenship from dual nationals.

  12. Eliminate regulations that remove the credit given to international students for half of the time that they spend in Canada and regulations that require new citizens to sign a declaration that they intend to reside in Canada.

Canadian Heritage Minister

Noteworthy for what is not in the letter: any mention of multiculturalism following its transfer back to Canadian Heritage after some eight years at the former CIC.

This will give the bureaucracy time to implement the machinery changes (time-consuming at the best of times) and re-integrate and rebuild policy and related capacity that was dispersed and weakened at CIC.

For better and worse, it will give officials a freer hand in this reintegration process and the more important policy reflections on how multiculturalism can better reflect the diversity and inclusion agenda, lost somewhat at CIC under then Minister Kenney.

This would start with a review of the priorities enunciated in 2010, where language (e.g., inclusion) and substance (e.g., employment equity, racism and discrimination):

  • build an integrated, socially cohesive society;
  • help federal and public institutions respond to the needs of a diverse society; and
  • engage in international discussions on multiculturalism.

The first opportunity to reflect this change will be the February tabling of the Annual Report on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, with the Ministerial message and overview (the report will cover the 2014-15 fiscal year period and thus report on the previous government’s initiatives).

However, there is a risk that the lack of political direction (and ‘supporting minister’) will undermine the ability for the multiculturalism program to play an effective policy role in the government’s overall diversity and inclusion agenda.

The overarching  commitment in the mandate letter:

As Minister of Canadian Heritage, your overarching goal will be to implement our government’s plan to strengthen our cultural and creative industries. Our cultural sector is an enormous source of strength to the Canadian economy. Canada’s stories, shaped by our immense diversity, deserve to be celebrated and shared with the world. Our plan will protect our important national institutions, safeguard our official languages, promote the industries that reflect our unique identity as Canadians, and provide jobs and economic opportunities in our cultural and creative sectors.

The one commitment related to, but much broader than multiculturalism, is with respect to reinstating the court challenges program (it provided funds to groups that need funding to contest specific policies):

  1. Work with the Minister of Justice to update and reinstate a Court Challenges Program.

Roles of Other Ministers

The Minister of Justice is expected to:

  1. Review our litigation strategy. This should include early decisions to end appeals or positions that are not consistent with our commitments, the Charter or our values. [e.g., the citizenship niqab case, cuts to refugee healthcare]

  2. Support the Minister of Canadian Heritage to restore a modern Court Challenges Program.

  3. Work with the President of the Treasury Board to enhance the openness of government, including supporting his review of the Access to Information Act to ensure that Canadians have easier access to their own personal information, that the Information Commissioner is empowered to order government information to be released and that the Act applies appropriately to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has no commitment with respect to softer approaches to countering violent extremism (e.g., research, working with communities, deradicalization) although this can be implied from the overall inclusion messaging.

Link to all mandate letters:

ministerial mandate letters

Government rethinking counter-terrorism plan, Senate learns | Ottawa Citizen

Sensible focus on prevention strategy, particularly community outreach and intervention:

[ADM at Public Safety, Gary] Robertson and other officials from Public Safety and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in response to committee questioning, also revealed Monday that:

– Contrary to rumours, the government is not contemplating outlawing the promotion or glorification of terrorism on the Internet – beyond existing laws against hate speech and hate crime.

– Some of the estimated 80 to 90 radicalized Canadians who have returned home from foreign terror activities have become “disillusioned” with jihad.

– Disruptive measures, such as no-fly lists, seizing passports, immigration actions and officially banning activities related to terrorist organizations and individuals so-called federally listed entities, help explain why more traditional criminal arrests and prosecutions haven’t occurred in Canada.

– The 2012 counter-terror strategy, which put some badly needed meat on the bone of the government’s 2004 national security policy, has four pillars: prevent, detect, deny and respond.

Robertson said the government believes prevention, largely through community outreach and intervention, is the most effective way to address the problem of radicalization.

That includes training individuals, from imams, teachers and school counsellors to community nurses, to recognize changes in behaviours and attitudes that may signal an individual is becoming radicalized.

There also are “law enforcement personnel that are trained and sensitized to these unique issues, that they understand how to (deal) with the community practitioners,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily going to lead to incarceration” if a family or friends of a person approach police about them.

Government rethinking counter-terrorism plan, Senate learns | Ottawa Citizen.

Quebec Premier Couillard emphasizes the importance of addressing social inclusion and causes of radicalization in his meeting with members of the Muslim community:

«Il ne faut pas faire semblant d’ignorer la question, qu’il y a quelque part un lien entre la déformation de l’islam, de la religion et ces actions. Ça, ça contribue davantage à l’incompréhension entre les communautés», a fait valoir le premier ministre.

Il reconnaît que les crimes qui ont récemment ébranlé le Canada ne s’expliquent pas simplement par une cause unique comme l’islam radical, mais précise que souvent des jeunes aux prises avec d’autres problèmes sont plus vulnérables et deviennent des proies pour ceux qui prônent la violence.

Il faut examiner les causes de la radicalisation des jeunes, a avancé M. Couillard.«L’idée nest pas de dire ceci est compréhensible, parce que… Non. Ces gestes sont condamnables de toute façon, dans l’absolu», a-t-il dit.

«Mais on doit travailler ensemble sur notre société pour mettre en place un environnement qui éloigne les jeunes de ce projet, on peut dire, maléfique.»

Il croit de plus que cette discussion est nécessaire, car il faut aussi protéger les Québécois de confession musulmane qui sont eux-mêmes victimes de harcèlement ou de violence.

M. Couillard veut notamment améliorer l’intégration des membres de cette communauté, pour éviter qu’ils ne se radicalisent, en favorisant l’éducation et l’emploi. Il a notamment dit qu’une reconnaissance des diplômes étrangers plus souple est sur la table et que sa ministre de l’Immigration, Kathleen Weil, prépare actuellement une nouvelle politique d’immigration.

Couillard a rencontré des membres de la communauté musulmane | Stéphanie Marin | Politique québécoise.

ISIS threat could mute objections to expanded anti-terror laws, critics fear – Politics – CBC News

Will be interesting to see if the Bill is narrowly focussed on the stated gaps or whether, as is often its want, the Government over-reaches to the point of provoking opposition.

The oversight issue is critical as more powers are provided. We have seen the risks of lack of oversight in the US, with the CIA essentially spying on Congress among other things:

Independent MP Brent Rathgeber agrees that the current international crisis and threat of homegrown terror “will provide cover for the government to expand the roles of CSEC and CSIS, and what they share with the Five Eyes.”

The Five Eyes is the collective name for Canada and its intelligence-sharing allies — the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Rathgeber stressed some of those powers may very well be necessary, “given that the ISIS threat must be taken seriously.”

The issue, he said, is to balance those national security concerns with privacy rights.”

Security agencies unchecked will grow both in times of imminent threat and in times of comparative security,” he told CBC News. “Therefore it is incumbent on civilian oversight and Parliament to provide checks and balances.”

Even so, he said he’s not expecting to see any increased oversight powers in the new bill — and “given the legitimate climate of fear, or at least concern,” he said, “the public will be complacent.”

By a twist of procedural timing, MPs may find themselves with an opportunity to debate greater oversight when a private members bill, sponsored by Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray, comes before the House this fall.

The bill would create a special parliamentary committee to monitor legislative, regulatory, policy and administrative framework for intelligence and national security in Canada, and review activities of all federal agencies, including CSIS.

Murray told CBC News she “has no problem in principle” with giving CSIS more leeway to keep track of suspected terrorists abroad.But shes not ready to give up on transparency and accountability.

“The absence of parliamentary oversight and review mechanism for our security agencies means an absence of accountability to the Canadian public.”

She’ll need to the support of the government to pass her bill, however, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

“There is robust oversight of national security agencies in Canada,” Public Safety spokesman Jason Tamming told CBC News.

“We are always focused on protecting the rights of Canadians,” he said, adding the government appointed a former Ontario NDP MPP to the civilian oversight body in 2009.

“We don’t need to strike any new committees to create duplicative oversight.”

As to the last point, given the overall Government approach (e.g., cyberbullying bill which included increased surveillance powers), impossible to take seriously.

ISIS threat could mute objections to expanded anti-terror laws, critics fear – Politics – CBC News.

Experts cautious about boost in powers for spy agency | Ottawa Citizen

Some initial reactions to the proposed changes to CSIS to allow it to counter extremism and terrorism. Seems like the informant issue may be more problematic than the “Five Eyes” sharing issue:

One measure would let CSIS work more closely with its allies in the “Five Eyes” spy network, which is made up of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. This would allow CSIS to obtain information from the others on Canadians fighting abroad with terror groups, and would allow it to help another Five Eyes country track its nationals working with terror groups in Canada.

A second measure would give CSIS informants the same anonymity that already exists for police sources, who are not subject to cross-examination and can have their identities hidden, even from trial judges.

“What we’re trying to do is give our sources a class privilege akin to that of law enforcement,” said Andy Ellis, CSIS’s assistant director of operations, citing a “chilling effect” on informants without such protections.

“They’re going to have to be fairly careful in how they draft this,” said Craig Forcese, associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. “The devil’s in the details in terms of what’s in the bill.”

Both changes come as courts have slammed CSIS’s approach to investigations.

Last year, a federal court judge said Five Eyes warrants were being used as a back-door way to spy on Canadians, putting them at risk of being detained abroad.

“If you throw some info over the fence, the allies can do whatever they want,” said Forcese, expressing concern over cases like that of Maher Arar, a Syrian Canadian detained and deported to Syria while in the United States. Arar was tortured during his imprisonment in Syria but later completely exonerated in Canada from any links to terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in May that CSIS informants already have sufficient protection, with their anonymity decided on a case-by-case basis.

Intelligence expert Wesley Wark served as an expert witness in that case, in which CSIS revealed one of its sources had failed lie-detector tests. He said not allowing informants to be cross-examined in secret trials would be “very problematic.”

“The court said informants need more protection, but not blanket protection. Why are they going to ignore that ruling and introduce something into legislation?” said Wark, adding that he’s never heard of a CSIS informant’s identity being publicly revealed since the agency’s creation in 1984.

Forcese said police informant anonymity has developed in case law — not through legislation — so enshrining it in legislation will require close constitutional scrutiny to make sure the right of a fair trial isn’t infringed.

Experts cautious about boost in powers for spy agency | Ottawa Citizen.