Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday August 19, 2016
Ottawa pledges deradicalization hire despite skepticism at anti-terror effectiveness
Following the fatal police shooting of would-be suicide bomber Aaron Driver, Canada’s Public Safety Minister says the Liberals will “up our game” in the fight against terrorism by imminently hiring a deradicalization adviser.
“What the incident in Strathroy demonstrates is that this is important,” Ralph Goodale told reporters on Wednesday. He said the new adviser will be hired within weeks and could succeed in counter-terrorism challenges where police and intelligence services are falling short.
Mr. Driver, 24, from Strathroy, Ont., was killed last week. Federal authorities had red-flagged him as an aspiring terrorist, but nothing could make him reconsider his sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Despite a degree of monitoring, he had managed to put together an improvised bomb and a video in which he promised to shed Canadian blood for the terror group.
The creation of a deradicalization adviser, who will run a $10-million-a-year office, fulfills a 2015 campaign promise by the Liberals. At the time, the party criticized the then-Conservative government for its law-and-order approach to fighting terrorism.
Details are under wraps, but observers are keen to see how the approach will take shape, especially since the global track record of such initiatives is mixed. “There are all kinds of these programs all over the world. Everyone’s got one,” said Phil Gurski, a former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. And yet, he added, no one has really figured out the best approach.
CSIS recently canvassed outside experts for feedback on which governments’ deradicalization – or “countering violent extremism” (CVE) – programs are working best. Many replied that none are known to be working particularly well.
“Some expressed skepticism as to the relevance of CVE initiatives, highlighting the lack of supporting empirical evidence thus far to measure their effectiveness,” says a CSIS discussion paper recently published online. Other experts told CSIS such programs are only valuable “provided that their implementation is not led by governments … [because] governments are not credible messengers.”
Speaking to reporters after a speech to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police on Wednesday, Mr. Goodale said he is mulling over who among two or three short-listed candidates will lead the government’s newest office. “We will be making the selection shortly,” he said. “That person will be directing a very important effort to up our game in Canada in terms of recognizing and understanding the process of radicalization.”
The minister said the new adviser will focus on how to nip extremism in the bud, as well as on how to unlock the psyches of hardened extremists. Mr. Driver was for years an active cheerleader of the Islamic State on Twitter. Last year, police compelled him to appear in court to swear a specialized peace bond that exists for terrorism suspects. (Source: Globe & Mail)