RCMP questionnaire for asylum seekers targeted Muslims, asking them about head coverings, terrorist groups

Kellie Leitch’s value testing in action:

The emergence of an RCMP questionnaire targeting Muslim asylum seekers in Quebec sparked criticism Thursday that the Liberal government mismanaged last summer’s massive flow of migrants from the United States.

The questionnaire was used at the Quebec border crossing that saw an influx of thousands of asylum seekers from the U.S., many of them of Haitian descent who were concerned about the Trump administration’s decision to cancel a program that allowed them to stay in the country.

Among other things, the questionnaire asked opinions about religious practice, head coverings associated with Muslim women and terrorist groups with mainly Muslim members.

Toronto immigration lawyer Clifford McCarten said he obtained a copy of the document from a client seeking refugee status, who had been given the three-page, 41-question document by mistake.

“He was shocked by the questions,” said McCarten, who provided a copy to The Canadian Press.

The man was originally from a Muslim country, he added.

“Canada is a very liberal country that believes in freedom of religious practice and equality between men and women. What is your opinion of this subject? How would you feel if your boss was a woman? How do you feel about women who do not wear the hijab?” says the questionnaire, which also asked the same question about other head and body coverings, including the dupatta, niqab, chador and burka.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government found out on Tuesday about the existence of the questionnaire from a “stakeholder” who takes an interest in the work of the department.

Public Safety Spokesman Scott Bardsley said the department was immediately concerned and the document is no longer being used by the RCMP.

“Some of the questions were inappropriate and inconsistent with government policy,” Bardsley said in an emailed statement.

Bardsley said the document was only used “locally,” but would not say whether there would be repercussions for any of the Mounties involved in its creation.

He referred those questions to the RCMP, but a spokeswoman said Thursday the Mounties would not be granting interviews on the topic. In a written statement, the RCMP said the “interview guide” was used by its Quebec C Division and “has been revised to better evaluate individuals coming into the country whose origin is unknown, while being respectful of their situations.”

McCarten said the existence of the document raises questions about the federal government’s competence in managing the sudden surge of arrivals from the U.S.

“If, in fact, this was a local detachment making this decision — which I find a bit hard to believe — then it’s deeply concerning that one of the most, if not the most problematic crisis spot in Canadian immigration and refugee policy right now . . . doesn’t have a federal strategy for how screening is happening.”

The New Democrats said the government needed to show more leadership in dealing with the influx of asylum seekers.

“Canadians need to be assured that security measures are in place, but this looks more like religious profiling,” Matthew Dube, the NDP public safety critic said in a statement.

“Either the minister was aware this was taking place and did nothing or he doesn’t have a handle on what practices are being used.”

Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, said the government needs to provide more answers on how the questionnaire was used.

“The number of times someone prays should have no bearing on their refugee status. That is not who we are,” she said.

Other questions asked the applicants to specify their religion and “how often” they practice their religion.

McCarten said the RCMP needs to conduct security screening, but the questions being asked don’t cover all potential threats to Canada.

“It appears to instruct RCMP officers to be asking questions to the exclusion of other types of concerns, specifically the right-wing, white supremacist violence happening in the U.S. and that we have a history of in Canada,” he said.

“It asks questions that are discriminatory, that reflect a kind of institutional bias and an institutional ignorance of the RCMP of the nature of risk.”

He said asking a Muslim their opinion of head coverings is “absurd” and akin to “asking a Jewish person what their opinions are about men who don’t wear the yarmulke.”

McCarten said the document reflects on the RCMP as a whole, and shows “a kind of Islamaphobic bias that is animating how it does its business.”

Source: RCMP questionnaire for asylum seekers targeted Muslims, asking them about head coverings, terrorist groups | National Post

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Someone should take the fall for Ottawa’s botched Phoenix pay system

Hard to disagree with Barrie McKenna: the lack of accountability at both the political and bureaucratic level, the inability of government to manage large-scale IT projects and the miss match between those who “sold” the project and those responsible for delivery are of broad concern, not just in the case of Phoenix.

IT in government is complex given the myriad of requirements and groups involved.

My experience with IT in government is a mixed bag. My most successful project, done with a small group of PCO policy types, was the creation of an Access database to manage the then Chrétien government annual priority setting exercise. Delivered on time, it worked  and ensured consistent tracking rather than the previous time-consuming and error prone Word-based process.

My second experience, also at PCO, but on a larger scale (more data, more users) and thus involving IT folks, was replacing the previous Cabinet meeting planning system with a more up-to-date platform with more flexibility. The IT folks and the consultant never got it to work during my time there.

Lastly, at Service Canada, we partnered with Service New Brunswick to deliver, on Transport Canada’s behalf, a system for pleasure craft licensing. When it went live, it crashed but we were able to identify and fix the problem within a few days (the data link capacity was too small, something missed in all the preparations, by all involved). After that it worked well (Service Canada eventually decided to end its involvement and focus on core services to ESDC):

The mess that is Phoenix is a story of misguided political objectives, bungled management of a major technology project and a complete failure by anyone in charge to take responsibility for mistakes.

The fiasco raises troubling questions about the government’s ability to perform one of its most basic functions – paying its bills and taking care of employees. The Phoenix system is just one of the major information-technology projects, totalling billions of dollars, now under way in the government.

Centralizing the multitude of separate payroll systems was the brainchild of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which was convinced it could wring huge savings out of the bureaucracy. In charge were then-public works minister Rona Ambrose (now interim Conservative leader) and Tony Clement, former president of the treasury board. Neither has expressed any remorse for the fiasco.

The Conservatives eliminated 700 payroll jobs in dozens of departments, mainly in Ottawa, and created a new centralized pay centre in Miramichi, N.B. – political compensation for the shuttered gun registry. Most of those offered positions there refused to move, leaving the running of Phoenix in the hands of hundreds of untrained new hires.

The problem now belongs to the Liberal government, which could have delayed deployment of the system to work out the inevitable bugs. To his credit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged his government initially didn’t take the problem seriously.

“I’ll admit it,” Mr. Trudeau told a frustrated civil servant at a town hall in Kingston, Ont., earlier this year. “This government … didn’t pay enough attention to the challenges and the warning signs on the transition we were overseeing.”

But the mea culpa came three months after the government had promised to resolve the payroll mess. Now, it’s not even offering a target.

Just as troubling is the lack of accountability within the upper ranks of civil servants. Many of those responsible have retired or moved to other jobs in the government. No one has been fired.

Nor has there been a thorough investigation by Parliament of what went wrong. Deputy Minister of Public Works Marie Lemay, who inherited the payroll problem, appeared before the House of Commons government operations committee last year. But none of the original architects of the system have had to answer for their roles.

And then there is IBM Canada, which Ottawa hired to design and implement the system. It appears the government, not IBM, is on the hook for fixing the problems. So why, one wonders, would the government sign a contract that left it so dangerously exposed to financial and technical risk?

Phoenix was supposed to save Ottawa $70-million a year. Instead, the government has spent $50-million fixing the problem, including an extra $6-million paid to IBM, and there is no end in sight.

This isn’t just a story of a botched payroll system. It’s about the chronic inability of governments to manage major purchases, including technology projects.

Unless Ottawa gets to the bottom of what went wrong on Phoenix, it will keep making the same mistakes elsewhere in the government.

That should worry all taxpayers, not just government workers.

Source: Someone should take the fall for Ottawa’s botched Phoenix pay system – The Globe and Mail

Shared Services Canada, already having resulted in the resignation of the Chief Statistician (INSERT), now comes under fire from the RCMP:

CBC News has obtained a blistering Jan. 20, 2017, memo to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in which Commissioner Bob Paulson details how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since the beleaguered department took over tech support for the entire government five years ago.

Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent.

“Its ‘one size fits all’ IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system,” reads the memo.

The document appears to respond to a request for more information after a series of CBC News reports on the RCMP’s long-standing dissatisfaction with Shared Services Canada (SSC).

Despite the agency’s creation of special teams and committees to address shoddy service and repeated computer outages, Paulson said minimal progress has been made.

The commissioner bolstered his arguments by enclosing an appendix of recent critical incidents to show just how little appreciation or understanding there is for operational law enforcement requirements.

RCMP commissioner warns continued IT failures will have ‘catastrophic’ consequences

RCMP commissioner worries ‘caustic political discourse’ is radicalizing extremists

Sensible observations and words, applying to Canadian and foreign political discourse:

Canada’s top cop says he’s concerned that the “caustic tone” of “political discourse” in Canada may be a contributing factor in radicalizing “criminal extremists” like the shooter in Quebec City last week.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared Monday at the Senate standing committee on national security and defence and was asked for an update on the terrorism threat in Canada in the wake of the Quebec City massacre at the Ste-Foy mosque.

Paulson refused to provide specific numbers of individuals or groups under investigation. Yet asked whether authorities detect a rise in what Paulson had called “non-classic” terrorist activity such as the offender in Quebec City, he said, “there’s not an increase in that particular type of activity but there is, I think everyone would agree, a more sort of caustic tone to the political discourse that seems to attract and agitate and radicalize people of all persuasions, particularly those who know hardly anything about it, to engage.”

“And that represents a concern for us. And I think everybody’s concerned about that including the Service (Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS) and us and other police forces. And we are doing everything we can to get our heads around it.”

In the wake of the shooting, he said, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police convened its counter-terrorism committee to compare notes and reach out to Muslim community leaders, in part to ensure they were aware of any risk to them.

“We are doubling our efforts down with our police partners to make sure that we have a full sense of the picture there.” he said.

Drawing a distinction between classic jihadist-inspired terrorism and other kinds of radicalization, Paulson gave the example of Freemen of the Land “out in the West,” referring to followers of a movement who refuse to acknowledge police authority and believe only laws they consent to are applicable to them. Paulson said police have had “numerous encounters with that kind of criminality and other instances.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s overtaking the classic terrorism threat but it’s something we shouldn’t lose sight of as we pursue these other threats.”

 

…But Paulson did not back down from his clear warning there are lessons to be drawn from the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, charged with first-degree murder after six Muslim men died in the Ste-Foy shooting on Jan 29.Bissonnette’s social media activity showed he “liked” a wide range of pages that did not fall under a specific ideology, including those of U.S. President Donald Trump, far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, the federal NDP and former NDP leader Jack Layton.

“This offender needs to be understood, what was driving him to have acted in the way that he did,” said Paulson. “And sometimes there’s a political backdrop to that. And you know it seems to me more broadly some of the conversations that are taking place in some of those chats, on the Internet, on Twitter and those kinds of forums, approach — and I’ve been asked several times how come we’re not pursuing hate crime investigations in some areas — so we need to make sure we’re being thoughtful about doing that.”

Paulson said police continue to investigate whether terrorism charges are warranted in Bissonnette’s case. “If at some point in the view of the police and the prosecutor there is a compelling public interest dimension and the evidence is sufficiently developed to make the sensible argument that a terrorism prosecution is in order, then that’s what will happen.”

Source: RCMP commissioner worries ‘caustic political discourse’ is radicalizing extremists | Toronto Star

RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab

English media finally caught up to the French media on this story (see earlier Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC)

The Mounties have adopted a new uniform policy to allow female Muslim officers to wear the hijab.

Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, confirmed that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson recently approved an addition to the uniform policy to allow women officers to wear the head scarf “if they so choose.”

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a progressive and inclusive police service that values and respects persons of all cultural and religious backgrounds,” Bardsley said in an email.

Male members of the Sikh faith have been able to wear the turban as part of the RCMP uniform since the early 1990s, he noted.

That right was won by Baltej Singh Dhillon, a young practising Sikh who wanted to become a Mountie but also wanted to wear a turban on the job.

The federal government’s decision in 1990 to end the ban and allow him provoked emotional debate and widespread protests across Canada.

Bardsley said the new policy is intended to better reflect diversity in Canadian communities and to encourage more Muslim women to consider the RCMP as a career option.

Special RCMP hijab developed

RCMP Staff Sgt. Julie Gagnon said current policy, which came into effect in January 2016, requires an “exemption” to wear the hijab from the commissioner, the only senior officer permitted to approve faith-based accommodations.

Gagnon said the RCMP developed a hijab for applicants or serving female members of the Islamic faith, reflecting “the diversity of the RCMP’s workforce.” It underwent rigorous testing to ensure the design meets “the highest standards of officer safety.”

She said the RCMP currently has no members requesting to wear the hijab on duty.

The only other religious or cultural item allowed is the turban for male officers.

Source: RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab – Politics – CBC News

 

Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC

Did not see this in the English language press.

Similar to policies in Edmonton and Toronto and consistent with the 1990 decision to allow Canadian Sikh members of the RCMP to wear a turban:

Dupuis janvier, la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) offre à ses agentes de confession musulmane le droit de porter le hijab avec leur uniforme.

Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson, a expliqué dans une note d’information à l’intention du ministre de la Sécurité publique, Ralph Goodale, que cette mesure vise à permettre au corps policier de refléter davantage la diversité culturelle du pays et d’encourager les femmes de confession musulmane à entrer au service de la GRC.

La GRC devient ainsi le troisième corps policier au pays à permettre aux agentes qui le désirent de porter le hijab, après la police de Toronto en 2011 et la police d’Edmonton en 2013, a souligné le commissaire Paulson dans sa note obtenue par La Presse en vertu de la Loi sur l’accès à l’information.

«La décision de permettre le port du hijab avec l’uniforme de la GRC a pour but de mieux refléter la diversité changeante dans nos communautés et à encourager plus de femmes musulmanes à envisager le travail de policier comme option de carrière», affirme Bob Paulson dans cette note datée du 14 janvier.

Il a souligné que trois sortes de hijab ont été testés par les autorités policières au cours des derniers mois et que le hijab qui a été retenu peut s’enlever rapidement, n’est pas encombrant et ne représente donc pas un risque pour l’agente qui décidera de le porter.

 «Les tests ont démontré que le hijab ne réduit en rien l’efficacité d’une agente dans l’exercice de ses fonctions.» – Le commissaire de la GRC, Bob Paulson

À l’étranger, d’autres pays ont aussi décidé de permettre aux policières de porter le hijab dans le cadre de leurs fonctions, notamment la Grande-Bretagne, la Suède et la Norvège, tout comme d’ailleurs certains États américains, a souligné le grand patron de la GRC. Il a rappelé que les Forces armées canadiennes permettent également aux femmes musulmanes de le porter.

Aucune demande pour le moment

En vertu de la Loi sur la Gendarmerie royale, le commissaire de la GRC est le seul haut gradé du corps policier ayant le pouvoir d’accorder des accommodements religieux aux agents. Mais il appert que M. Paulson n’a reçu aucune demande en ce sens pour le port du hijab de la part d’agentes employées de la GRC. «Jusqu’ici, il n’y a pas eu de demande formelle faite par une agente pour porter le hijab lorsqu’elle est en devoir», a d’ailleurs souligné M. Paulson dans sa note, soulignant que les demandes d’accommodements religieux sont traitées au cas par cas.

Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, la GRC a reçu quelque 30 demandes d’accommodements pour des raisons culturelles ou religieuses un peut partout au pays. Dans la majorité des cas, il s’agissait de policiers qui réclamaient le droit de porter la barbe, comme l’exige leur religion.

Rappelons que la GRC permet à ses policiers de porter le turban depuis 1990 dans la foulée d’une décision de la Cour suprême du Canada.

Source: Le hijab, nouvelle pièce d’équipement des agentes de la GRC | Joël-Denis Bellavance | Politique canadienne

Many Mounties oppose opening ranks to permanent residents, easing entrance requirements, spokesmen say

The change from making Canadian citizenship a requirement to a preference brings the RCMP in line with the overall public service, although this change is unlikely to make much of a difference to recruitment.

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001As noted in earlier posts and in the above chart, the RCMP diversity numbers are poor:

The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) said Sunday management has caved in to political correctness and the “knee jerk” changes amount to lowering standards.

“Essentially we face operational security issues as well as serious repercussions in service delivery if we hire people to meet political vs. operational criteria,” the association said in a statement through spokesman Rob Creasser.

On the issue of allowing permanent residents to apply to become Mounties, the association asked, “As a Canadian icon, shouldn’t the national police be Canadian?”

Internal records obtained by the National Post through access-to-information legislation show when the force announced the changes in May, officials anticipated questions over whether hiring non-citizens could affect the RCMP’s image and “what the RCMP represents.”

The RCMP’s proposed response says fewer young people are interested in policing careers and the force is struggling to attract “not only applicants, but also diverse applicants.”

Allowing permanent residents to apply would improve diversity and help the force deliver “culturally sensitive policing.”

The documents note the force’s senior executive committee has set recruitment targets of 30 per cent women, 20 per cent visible minorities and 10 per cent aboriginal.

Still, “RCMP recruiting standards remain very high and we continue to seek to attract the most qualified applicants from all backgrounds,” according to the documents.

The RCMP has a proud tradition as a national symbol of Canada, and that will continue

“The RCMP has a proud tradition as a national symbol of Canada, and that will continue. This change will also directly contribute to the RCMP’s commitment to ensure a workforce that is representative of Canada.”

Despite the new measures, the RCMP will still give priority to applicants who are Canadians citizens.

Permanent residents must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years, but if hired, they will be not be pressured to become citizens as that is a “personal choice.”

The force is also exempting more people from having to take the entrance exam, a test designed to gauge aptitude for police work.

University graduates have been exempt since June 2015. Now, they are being joined by people with two-year college diplomas.

In a further streamlining of initial screening, applicants need not prove they are physically fit. All physical testing now takes place during the 26-week program at the RCMP’s cadet training academy.

These changes were adopted in response to complaints the application process was “too long, inflexible and outdated,” the RCMP says.

Sgt. Brian Sauvé, co-chairman of the National Police Federation (NPF), another association representing some Mounties, said Sunday while the federation does not have a problem with opening applications to permanent residents — this will help the force represent Canada’s “blend of great people”  — it has serious concerns with the other changes.

All applicants should undergo aptitude and fitness evaluations before joining the training academy, he said. Without them, the force runs the risk of more people getting injured during training, as well as higher attrition rates later as recruits realize policing is not for them.

Source: Many Mounties oppose opening ranks to permanent residents, easing entrance requirements, spokesmen say

RCMP changes application requirements, with permanent residents welcome to apply

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001RCMP employment equity reports consistently show under-representation as the above chart shows. The citizenship requirement change will make a slight difference: after 10 years, about 65 percent of visible minorities are citizens, with the percentage rising to 80 percent after 15 years:

The RCMP has changed its application requirements, with more people now eligible to apply to be a Mountie and some applicants not needing to take some of the previously mandatory tests.

Up until now, Mounties had to be Canadian citizens. But under the changes that took effect today, permanent residents who have lived in Canada for at least 10 years are eligible to apply.

The shift could only help the RCMP meet its target for 20 per cent of its ranks to be comprised of visible minorities.

Last summer, the RCMP exempted university graduates from taking the national police force’s entrance exam. Now, people with a minimum two-year college diploma may also skip the exam, which tests a person’s aptitude for police work.

There are also changes to the physical abilities requirement evaluation. Previously, prospective recruits had to complete the test at their own expense before submitting an application. Going forward, RCMP applicants won’t have to perform the test until they’ve been accepted at the RCMP’s training academy in Regina — called Depot Division — and the Mounties will cover the cost.

The RCMP says it will reimburse the $79 fee to anyone who completed the test between Jan. 1 and March 15, 2016.

These are big changes for the national police force; the RCMP Act says members of the RCMP must be citizens. The only exception is when there is no one available for appointment who meets all the criteria except citizenship.

It suggests the Mounties may not be receiving enough applications to keep up with the pace of retirements or meet the demands of its policing contracts with several provinces. That could explain a notice on the RCMP website that reads: “In order to meet organizational needs, applicants from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba will have the opportunity to select their home province for their first post following graduation.”

Source: RCMP changes application requirements, with permanent residents welcome to apply – Politics – CBC News

RCMP refugee screening a $16M flop, says internal report

Must be some lessons learned from a big data perspective, both for the RCMP as well as the government as a whole:

$16-million RCMP project to help keep dangerous refugees out of Canada has turned out to be an expensive security flop.

An internal evaluation says the screening project delivered information too late, strayed beyond its mandate, and in the end did almost nothing to catch refugees who might be linked to criminal or terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, 30 Mounties were tied up for four years on duties that did little to enhance Canada’s security.

FedElxn Conservatives 20150909

Then prime minister Stephen Harper said in Welland, Ont., on Sept. 9, 2015, that Canada needed to proceed cautiously in taking in refugees from war zones because they had to be properly screened for criminal and terrorism links. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“The current approach does not appear to provide much by way of relevant information to support the admissibility screening of refugee claimants,” concludes the Sept. 29, 2015, report, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

The report on the anemic results was completed at about the same time as then prime minister Stephen Harper said Canada had to proceed cautiously in accepting Syrian refugees so that Canada’s screening process could weed out terrorists.

“When we are dealing with people that are from, in many cases, a terrorist war zone, we are going to make sure that we screen people appropriately and the security of this country is fully protected,” Harper told a 2015 election rally in Welland, Ont.

“We cannot open the floodgates and airlift tens of thousands of refugees out of a terrorist war zone without proper process. That is too great a risk for Canada.”

Domestic databases checked

The RCMP screening pilot was launched in 2011-12 as part of a package of Conservative reforms tightening up the processing of refugees, including a controversial move to withdraw some medical treatments for rejected asylum seekers. The Liberals have since reversed that measure.

Under the pilot project, the RCMP vetted potential refugees already in Canada — the names were provided by the Canada Border Services Agency — by checking domestic police databases for links to criminal or terrorist organizations, among other things.

Source: RCMP refugee screening a $16M flop, says internal report – Politics – CBC News

Spy agencies see sharp rise in number of Canadians involved in terrorist activities abroad – The Globe and Mail

Not totally unsurprising that the numbers have increased, as well as our ability to detect:

Canada’s spy agencies have tracked 180 Canadians who are engaged with terrorist organizations abroad, while another 60 have returned home.

The latest figures mark a significant increase from the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, which identified about 130 people involved in terror-related activities overseas, including 30 taking an active role with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the Nusra Front in Syria.

“The total number of people overseas involved in threat-related activities – and I’m not just talking about Iraq and Syria – is probably around 180,” Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe told The Globe and Mail after testifying before the House of Commons public safety committee. “In Iraq and Syria, we are probably talking close to 100.”

These people are involved in various activities, including direct combat, training, fundraising to support attacks, promoting radical views and planning terrorist violence.

Mr. Coulombe said about 60 suspected foreign fighters have returned to Canada, although he stressed the numbers keep changing almost daily.

Source: Spy agencies see sharp rise in number of Canadians involved in terrorist activities abroad – The Globe and Mail

Phil Gurski’s take on their testimony:

I think the most important message in all this is that despite a rise in those who pose a real terrorist threat, the number is still relatively low, and perhaps manageable – though I will of course leave it to CSIS and the RCMP to make that call – in comparison to other countries.  Our allies in Europe and the Middle East are facing threats that are orders of magnitude larger than ours.  We here in Canada remain more or less safe: that does not mean that the threat is not real and that we can start shaving money and resources from our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  Again, though, it is important to see the positive side of this.  Sorry for the repetition, but the terrorist scourge does not represent an existential threat to this country and most likely never will.  The glass is half full people.

The current terrorist threat environment in Canada

 

Experts say Liberal counter-radicalization office should bridge, not drive, regional efforts

Not sure it is an either/or choice, some mix of the two approaches may be best:

The challenges, say security and radicalization experts, will lie in defining exactly how the office would work with regional actors: namely, whether it will act as a bridge or a driver.

“Is this going to be driven top-down by government or will it be government supporting more grassroots initiatives?” asked Michael Zekulin, a terrorism researcher at the University of Calgary. “I think most people would agree that it cannot be government-driven because part of the narrative is that government is part of the problem.”

During committee hearings on C-51, the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terrorism legislation, the critique given most often by terrorism researchers was that the bill ignored the need to nip radicalization in the bud, before individuals become inspired to commit violence.

Yet nothing in the legislation provided any kind of a plan for doing that.

The RCMP also promised to launch their own $3.1.-million program — initially called the Countering Violent Extremism Program but later changed to the Terrorism Prevention Program — which then-Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney admitted had no designated timeline and relies on “leveraging existing resources the RCMP already has in place, including frontline police officers, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team members and outreach coordinators.”

At this point, there are few details available about what the Liberals would plan to do differently or how a national coordinator would work with existing programs already being implemented by regional bodies.

There are various initiatives being launched by police agencies and local governments across Canada, said Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

In September, the City of Montreal was the only Canadian city out of 23 from across the globe that signed on to the Strong Cities Network, a forum for leaders to share best practices and community-based approaches for tackling violent extremism, while the Edmonton and Ottawa police departments are rumoured to be planning their own counter-extremism initiatives.

The York Regional Police are also in the process of hiring a “Counter Violent Extremism Subject Matter Expert” and just two months ago the Calgary Police Service launched ReDirect, which aims to prevent youth from becoming radicalized after several high-profile instances of local youth leaving the country to join ISIS.

One of those young men was Damian Clairmont, who died in January 2014 after going to Syria to fight with ISIS.

His mother, Christianne Boudreau, became an active proponent for stronger initiatives to prevent youth from becoming radicalized and in addition to launching her own family counselling network, Hayat Canada, also helped launch the the Extreme Dialogue video campaign earlier this year.

Boudreau says it’s essential to have someone who can coordinate efforts nationally and help integrate global best practices into domestic, community-based approaches. But she cautions that any coordinator will face the added challenge of having to earn the trust of organizations who may be skeptical of working with the government.

“I think the biggest difficulty is the diversity of the various organizations and helping them connect — there’s inter-faith, there’s the authorities and everybody else involved, and right now [there’s] the trust factor with the authorities, with the government,” she said, noting that any national coordinator should also be prepared to work with international partners as well as domestic ones to learn and adapt best practices.

“It’s integral to help bring the groups together to help cross those barriers, to help foster the diversity that’s there and help everybody get along.”

Experts say Liberal counter-radicalization office should bridge, not drive, regional efforts