The specter of violent extremism has elevated in Canada throughout the pandemic — fuelled by misinformation and leading to threats to politicians and public servants — high safety and policing officers advised members of Parliament on Thursday.
However whereas police and intelligence companies are taking steps to detect extremists and stop them from finishing up assaults, the federal government should additionally work proactively to counter the extremism within the first place, they added.
Testifying earlier than the general public security and nationwide safety committee, Cherie Henderson, assistant director, necessities for the Canadian Safety Intelligence Service (CSIS) described the rise of ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE) over the previous two years.
“Because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, IMVE exercise has been fuelled by a rise in excessive anti-authority and anti-government rhetoric, usually rooted within the weaponization of conspiracy theories,” Henderson advised the committee.
“CSIS has famous a marked enhance in violent threats addressed at elected officers and public servants.”
Henderson mentioned CSIS has moved extra sources to watch IMVE.
The listening to got here solely a few days after an unsightly altercation in Peterborough, Ont., the place protesters shouted profanities at NDP Chief Jagmeet Singh after a provincial election marketing campaign occasion.
That incident appeared to weigh on the minds of some committee members Thursday as they wrapped up their hearings on IMVE.
“This has been a really sombre time for the NDP caucus,” mentioned New Democrat MP Alistair MacGregor.
“Our chief Jagmeet Singh needed to wade by a bunch of people that have been calling him a traitor. They have been hurling expletives at him, saying they hoped that he would die,” he mentioned.
“That is the very same form of behaviour that we noticed littered all through the occupation of Ottawa and it is time for us to get up to the truth that this type of behaviour has actual, bodily manifestations and actual threats.”
Liberal MP Pam Damoff mentioned she and different MPs have acquired threats however that they do not essentially result in prison costs.
“It feels prefer it’s a matter of time earlier than this rhetoric and this type of aggressive anger flip into one thing extra violent,” she mentioned.
RCMP Deputy Commander Michael Duheme mentioned the Mounties have additionally seen an increase in IMVE incidents, most by individuals “who will not be clearly affiliated with a bunch and who’re motivated by very individualized ideologies.”
Duheme mentioned the RCMP has recognized gaps in the way it has handled IMVE and has developed a method to deal with them over the subsequent three years and to work with native police forces and different teams.
By “enhancing info sharing and build up our personal intelligence capacities,” particularly on-line, the RCMP will “be in a greater place to determine people and teams who pose a menace earlier than they’re motivated to violence,” he mentioned.
Lesley Soper, director normal of nationwide safety coverage for the Division of Public Security and Emergency Preparedness, described IMVE as “a severe menace” to Canada.
Whereas some individuals on the suitable of the political spectrum are drawn to IMVE, such extremists come from a variety of political views, she mentioned.
“It could be aligned to what we’d historically name right-wing extremism. It could be motivated by different components; anti-mandate. It might be motivated by different societal components,” Soper mentioned.
Earlier, Conservative MP Dane Lloyd challenged Soper and CSIS officers to inform him what they have been doing to research 30 church buildings that have been set on hearth in 2021. Each responded that these have been police issues.
Richard Fadden, a former nationwide safety adviser and director of CSIS, mentioned IMVE has been round for some time however it’s now extra intense, organized and co-ordinated.
Fadden mentioned if Canada needs to counter IMVE, it should get to the roots of the dissatisfaction felt by these drawn to it, and their feeling that their views aren’t being heard.
Fadden referred to as for extra dialogue with these being drawn to IMVE, saying countering it must transcend the federal authorities to provinces, municipalities and colleges.
Nonetheless, he additionally acknowledged it may be tough as of late to speak overtly about some issues.
“I actually do suppose that political correctness has reached the purpose at the moment the place it is virtually unimaginable to have a dialog about a complete raft of points and in the event you’re pissed off with authorities and with society to start with, this isn’t useful,” he mentioned.