1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 149

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Acting Speaker


Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to address the issue of radicalization in Canadian society. The gravity of this issue has recently been confirmed with the terrorist attacks on an Algerian gas plant that took the lives of over 80 people. This tragedy and the alleged involvement of Canadians in perpetrating it should remind us of the importance of understanding the roots of terrorism. This way we can create proactive strategies to prevent our youth from choosing the path of violence.


Today, I want to address three questions. First, what is radicalization? The Royal Canadian Mounted Police defines radicalization as “the process by which individuals — usually young people — move from moderate, mainstream belief towards extreme views.”

It is important to note that not all radicals are terrorists. Some of history’s most important figures — such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela — were considered radicals in their time. However, we should be concerned whenever people use violence to achieve their goals.

Second, who becomes radicalized into violence? Recently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service released a study of radicalization. The main conclusion was that there was no profile for individuals at risk. It is largely an idiosyncratic process. One common misperception is that radicalization results from poverty, marginalization or the failure of immigrants to integrate into Canadian culture. However, evidence shows that domestic extremists tend to be born and raised in Canada, have post-secondary education and come from a variety of socio- economic backgrounds.

Third, where does radicalization take place? There is no clear answer to this question. Parents may influence the radicalization of children, and wives may influence their husbands and vice versa. The Internet may also play a major role. Terrorist groups often will often use social media for propaganda and recruitment. Another common location for radicalization is in prison. Studies show that prisoners are particularly vulnerable to being converted into extreme ideologies, but we must remember that radicalization is a social process that can happen wherever humans interact.

Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in committing to do more to prevent the radicalization of our Canadian youth into violence. Although the recent attacks in Algeria are particularly troubling, terrorism is also a serious threat within our own borders. This was demonstrated by the criminal convictions of members of the so-called Toronto 18. In that case, luckily, a tragedy was prevented by our police and intelligence services. However, we cannot rely solely on our public safety authorities to protect us. We must take a community-based approach to counter radicalization. This strategy should emphasize and identify youth at risk through social programs and fostering greater engagement of our communities in the democratic process.

Honourable senators, we in the Senate need to be involved to stop violence in our communities.