THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, February 23, 2015
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 1 p.m. to study and report on security threats facing Canada, and to consider a draft budget.
Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on Monday, February 23, 2015.
Before we welcome our witness, I would like to begin by introducing the people around the table. My name is Dan Lang, senator for Yukon. On my immediate left is the clerk of the committee, Josée
Thérien. I would like to go around the table and invite the senators to introduce themselves and state the region they represent, starting with our deputy chair.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta.
Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais, from Quebec.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick.
Senator Ngo: Senator Ngo from Ontario.
Senator Day: Joseph A. Day, from New Brunswick.
Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.
The Chair: On June 19, 2014, the Senate agreed that the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence
be authorized to study and report on security threats facing Canada, including, but not limited to, cyberespionage, threats to critical infrastructure, terrorist recruitment and financing and terrorist operations and prosecutions, and that the committee report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2015.
Today we will be meeting for our full four hours. Before we commence with our witness, I wish to recall that on October 27, this committee raised with the RCMP commissioner the subject of releasing the video of
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, the terrorist and radicalized jihadist who attacked Parliament Hill. The facts that are known are as follows:
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's father had fought with the radicals with Libya. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau applied for a visa to go to Libya just weeks before and was denied.
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had taken a tour of Parliament Hill prior to the attack, and he also went out to obtain a rifle just days before the attack. His name was also found on a computer of a known terrorist.
Given what we know, I would like to advise the committee that I'll be writing to the commissioner to have the video released as soon as the investigation by the RCMP has concluded.
Now to our first panelist, I would like to welcome to the committee Mr. Marc Lebuis. He is the founding director of the Montreal-based independent research organization Point de Bascule, which means tipping point, that describes and analyzes the threats, methods and means used by some Islamist leaders and organizations operating in Canada to further their goals.
Point de Bascule, in consultation with its Muslim-community advisers, archives numerous collections and indexes, regularly updating each documented, specific component of Islamist structures in Canada. These indexes include organizations, individuals, government agencies and specific countries relevant to the Islamist movement and its mode of operation.
Other ongoing areas of research are radicalization, outreach programs, counter-radicalization programs, terrorist fund collectors and their links with charities, and the impact of Islamist sympathizers on the legal system including with respect to policing and other sensitive government institutions. Mr. Lebuis has frequently appeared on CBC, CTV, TVA and LCN and has been quoted in the National Post, Le Devoir, La Presse, Journal de Montréal,
Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and the Sun Media and is often featured on radio stations in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto and Western Canada.
Mr. Lebuis, you're very busy. Welcome to the committee. We appreciate the work you are doing and are looking forward to your presentation. Please begin.
Marc Lebuis, Director, Point de Bascule:
Thank you to the honourable chair and senators for giving me the opportunity to address the issue of radicalization that Canada faces at this point in time.
Recent Islamist terror attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu remind us of the mounting terrorist threats facing Canadians. But evidence gathered by Point de Bascule indicates that the main danger facing Canada may go beyond the violent jihadist threat — and be made worse — by a little-discussed associated phenomenon, the penetration of our institutions by Islamists.
There are two consequences to this penetration. First, it reduces Canada's ability to respond to the violent Islamist threat, and second, it leads to the gradual introduction of sharia rules in Canada.
By penetration, I refer to the presence of Islamists and their sympathizers within a range of institutions from political and government organizations to NGOs and corporate entities. Those involved could themselves range from non-violent fundamentalists attempting, whether clandestinely or otherwise, to sway policy from the inside, to those that are violently inclined.
Particular concerns have been raised about sabotage risks that could be posed by penetration of security or emergency services, no small worry when one considers what the Muslim Brotherhood revealed in a document produced for evidentiary purposes in the most important anti-terrorism trial in the U.S. in 2008.
This is an excerpt from what is described as an internalization memorandum of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it comes from their own memorandum:
The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers.
There is no time for a detailed analysis of penetration problems in Canada and the Western world, but one might consider a few examples illustrating the diverse risks connected to penetration and the ideas that help shape the call to such actions.
In 2012, Saudi-trained Sheikh Bilal Philips appeared at Ottawa's Assalam Mosque, despite having been banned from several countries on national security grounds and for his advocacy of the death penalty for gays in Muslim lands. Yet weeks later, the Ottawa Police Service participated in a police outreach visit to that mosque and was soon undertaking to do recruiting sessions there.
Earlier, in the United States, Weiss Rasool, a Virginia police sergeant, was convicted after allegedly using a police computer to determine whether he was being monitored and offering official information to a fellow mosque congregate who was trying to find out whether surveillance cars were in the latter’s vicinity, likely undermining a counterterrorism investigation. Rasool had been prominent in complaining about terrorism briefings, as had another officer, a representative of the radical Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Leading influential Islamist leaders have specifically targeted Canada, giving guidance that leads to the examples I just described.
In the early 2000s, Jamal Badawi, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood operating in Canada, said that at the present stage, Muslims should agree to become judges and officials in Canada, even though the country is not governed by sharia or Islamic law. He declared that once they become judges and government officials they should take advantage of their position of influence to stop applying current national legal provisions that are incompatible with sharia law.
In 2004, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, formerly known as CAIR-CAN, told the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications that Jamal Badawi:
. . . is generally understood to be perhaps one of the best North American Islamic scholars, if not the premier.
Again in 2004, in an interview with Egypt Today, Tariq Ramadan followed in the same footstep when he incited co-Islamists operating in the country to use the Canadian legal framework, which he referred to ". . . as one of the most open in the world" to subtly and gradually introduce sharia guidelines and regulations in Canada.
At the time, Ramadan strongly urged his supporters in Canada not to openly mention their commitment to sharia: He said:
The term shariah in itself is laden with negative connotations in the Western mind," said Ramadan. "There is no need to stress that. […] For the time being this is not how we want to be perceived," he added.
In 2013, in Detroit, Tariq Ramadan defined jihad as ". . . the way we implement sharia." This formulation has the advantage of including violent and non-violent methods used by Islamists to reach their goal.
What defines the radicalization phenomenon is that it must include a desire by Islamists to transform the societies in which they operate, in their home country, in our case Canada, often achieved through non-violent means.
In recent years, this non-violent Islamist threat has manifested itself in pressure being exerted on our police forces, security agencies, Canadian politicians and the workings of other institutions.
As an example, one can think about the collaboration between the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the RCMP, which preceded the publication of a booklet in 2014, allegedly dedicated to combatting radicalization, but at the same time advocating several scholars promoting armed jihad.
On June 8, 2012, a delegation of Islamist leaders linked to the Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure operating in Canada met with then Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews. The delegation was led by Hussein Hamdani, an adviser to the Department of Public Safety, as a member of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security.
The report of the meeting was made public at the end of June 2012 on Syed Naseer's website, where Mr. Naseer claimed to have directly received the information from Hussein Hamdani himself. In June 2012, Syed Naseer was IRFAN-Canada's lawyer, the Hamas fund collector in Canada.
In his PowerPoint presentation, Hussein Hamdani lobbied Minister Toews to ban his department's employees from making any references whatsoever to Islam and its principles to describe the threat that Canada and other Western democracies are facing.
This position was adopted by CSIS after Michel Coulombe became its director in 2013. Mr. Coulombe raised this new policy when he appeared in front of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on February 3, 2014.
According to the CSIS director, his organization no longer refers to the Islamic concepts such as jihad to describe the Islamist threat, but is instead limited to talking about ". . . terrorism inspired by al Qaeda ideology." This is exactly the policy that Hussein Hamdani championed and wanted to see adopted in 2012.
The CSIS decision is bad because, first, it limits the Islamist threat to its violent aspect, and second, it discourages the study of works of Islamic scholars, including sharia manuals endorsed by those who threaten us, since these texts and speeches are based on references to Islam.
As Stephen Coughlin, a former Pentagon adviser now with the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, explained, even if the enemy has a wrong understanding of Islam, it is still using it to threaten us. In these circumstances, for our own protection, it is crucial to master its doctrine, its understanding of Islam. In a second phase, it is important to evaluate how widespread this interpretation of Islam is in order to determine the magnitude of the threat.
Mr. Hamdani is also in a conflict-of-interest position in his role as an adviser on national security matters, since he has been associated with the organizations whose charitable status has been revoked in recent years by the Canada Revenue Agency due to their involvement in the financing of international terrorism.
CSIS's decision to cease referencing Islam in describing the threat that faces us has also led to the agency's conclusion that mosques are foreign to the radicalization process that prevails in the Muslim community.
On October 27, 2014, when appearing before a Senate committee, CSIS's deputy director of intelligence, Michael Peirce, said: "When we investigate, we investigate individuals and their activities. . . . we don’t investigate mosques."
This decision by CSIS neglects to take into account the pivotal role of the mosque as it is understood by the Islamists themselves, and it ignores the numerous documented cases of radical discourses preached in mosques reported in recent years and weeks.
Hassan al-Banna, for example, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered the mosque as "the centre of Islamic revolution."
It is a serious miscalculation and a grave mistake that endangers the safety and security of Canadians to acquiesce to or accept the enemy's rules of engagement that are being imposed by the invocation of Islamophobia, defamation of religion or any other concepts.
To understand the offensive led by the Islamists, in both its violent and non-violent aspects, to understand the meaning they give to concepts such as jihad, the role they accord to the mosque, the importance they attach to immigration and demographics, in their plans of conquest, and to understand the conditions that allow them to justify the use of force, it is imperative that we do not rely on what they themselves tell us, but rather we must undertake ourselves, with due diligence, to read, study and analyze what the works and speeches of their own scholars and the sharia textbooks that they endorse say on these vital issues.
I would like to thank you all for listening.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lebuis.
Senator Mitchell: I don't really know where to start, actually. I think you're making, Mr. Lebuis, some very, very sweeping allegations, based on anecdotal evidence which implies that somehow the few anecdotal people you've mentioned actually have influence with radicalizing many, many Muslims in Canada. There are 1.3 million Muslims in Canada; 99.999 per cent of them are like me and, I presume, you. They love their kids. They played hockey with my kids. They want them to grow up; they want peace; they go to their mosque as you go to your church, to enhance their spiritual life, to make themselves better people, to grow their families better, to contribute better to their community. And you're implying that somehow there is something unique about their religion that would make them all violent. I want to say that's unacceptable and that rhetoric is extremely dangerous.
Having said that, can you give us any intellectual, academic, empirical evidence that somehow whatever these few people are saying, and some of them are even U.S. examples, have somehow created mass radicalization, and if so, what's the mechanism? How is that happening? Are all these people listening to it? Are all these good Canadians listening to this? I just don't believe it. I think you're making it up.
Mr. Lebuis: This was an introductory presentation. The time was very limited to go into the details, but in terms of evidence, first of all, I work with Muslims, and these Muslims are extremely concerned and have alerted a lot of people about the radicalization process that is happening in mosques. By the way, this has been going on since the early 1990s. There are recorded documents and recorded evidence to show this. So there is a real concern about the radicalization process that is going on in mosques.
Second, many of the individuals that have gone on to join the Islamic State have also been inside of mosques. I'm not at all wiping off and saying that all Muslims or the religion itself is a problem.
Like I said, I quoted how we should understand the specific ideology of Islam that we're talking about. Some people just recently said about a mosque — let me just describe here just to be clear — that there's a scholar who is very often quoted as being a moderate leader, a moderate scholar, and in most Sunni mosques in Canada his books are being referred to as a reference. He is banned in several countries. He is the foremost leader of the Muslim Brotherhood as we are speaking now. His name is Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He has been described by certain key Muslims as being akin to a pope in terms of his influence in the Sunni world. Yusuf al-Qaradawi described the role of the mosque in these words in 2001:
In the life of the prophet there was no distinction between what the people call sacred and secular, or religion and politics . . . That established a precedent for his religion. The mosque at the time of the prophet was his propagation center and the headquarters of the state.
This was also the case for the successors, the rightly guided Caliphs: the mosque was their base for all activities political as well as non-political.
. . . It must be the role of the mosque to guide the public policy of the nation, raise awareness of critical issues, and reveal its enemies.
There's another scholar that's very important. He was the chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta, oftentimes invited by some of the mainstream organizations in Canada in the circuits of giving conferences. His name is Ibrahim Abu-Rabi'. He wrote a book on Hassan al-Banna. If you read the recent news, recent reports, we understand that the Muslim Association of Canada, as well as ISNA, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood perhaps, and they are described as maybe the largest owners of the real estate park that owns the Islamic institutions in Canada, and the Muslim Brotherhood is the inspiration for the guiding force of both of these most-important Muslim institutions in Canada.
This being said, it describe that Hassan al-Banna has transformed the role of the mosque from a place of worship into a centre of revolution. Now, at the time we had hundreds of people joining the Islamic State, and we're wondering why all these people are joining. We can say the "headhunters" of the Islamic State are out there, and they are not just limited to Syria and Iraq. We're wondering why, what could have radicalized them.
Mr. Rouleau, for example, right after he committed his crime, his terror attack and wounded two soldiers and killed one of them, he took the time to call 911 while he was being chased by the police to say he was doing this in the name of Allah. So we do need to understand what their motivations are. In his own mosque that he attended, if he was exposed to this individual, that is another question. However, in the mosque that he was attending in Saint-Jean there was an imam called Hamza Chaoui. This imam preaches in French, broadcasts his preaching in French on YouTube after he goes into every single mosque where he gives sermons. This individual is teaching exactly the same ideology as the Islamic State, talking about cutting hands, cutting feet, the prescription that you apply inside an Islamic State. The only beef he has with the Islamic State is because it's not controlled by Saudi Arabia, as he said in some of his videos.
What we should be concerned with when we see an individual like this is not this individual. It's not this individual or preacher who is radicalizing, who is giving a radical speech; it's the fact that there is a huge infrastructure that invited this individual. We're talking about dozens of mosques in Quebec. Yes, the Assuna mosque, a mosque related to the MAC. Again we are talking about radical discourse.
There's an imam, Qandeel, who is the main leader of the Muslim association mosque in Montreal. In the summer early of 2013, one year before we learned about the Islamic State, he was giving a discourse in front of what most probably was hundreds of people, and in this discourse he was basically describing the advantage and how we prescribe specific rules of sharia prescription in Islamic State and described different ways and means and methods of how you kill someone who wants to leave Islam. This is a mainstream imam and one of the most important mosques in Montreal.
Senator Mitchell: You're saying many, many, many mosques. I just can't accept it unless you can give us empirical evidence. Again, the evidence you've given is anecdotal, and it can be very misleading.
My question is, to the extent that something is occurring and some have been radicalized — interestingly enough, Bibeau didn't grow up in a mosque. If he were radicalized, it must have started before he got anywhere near a mosque to make that decision. It's a psychological issue, which raises all kinds of issues.
How do you solve it? Do we solve it with programs? Do we solve it with policing, which raises the issue of resources to police forces that have had their budgets cut? Do we solve it with laws? How do we prevent it before it gets to this point? Are you saying we throw these imams out of the country? How do you do that? What are you saying? What's the solution?
Mr. Lebuis: Senator, there is interesting evidence that's happening around Rouleau. CBC interviewed the father of Mr. Rouleau, and the RCMP went to go see Martin Ahmad Rouleau once or twice to de-radicalize him. There were two or three employees of the RCMP of Muslim extraction, female, according to Mr. Rouleau. He thought that they would be able to de-radicalize him, and just several days later he did what he had to do.
That's an example of the programs, and also, by the way, we also knew of Mr. Rouleau before it happened, and according to the president of the mosque that Rouleau attended, there was also — I don't know if this has been confirmed by the RCMP or not — an employee of the RCMP who was a congregate attending that mosque as well which, if it's true
Senator Mitchell: There's nothing wrong with that.
Mr. Lebuis: I didn't say there was anything wrong. All I'm saying is, if it's true, it would be interesting to know if this individual alerted the RCMP that there was a radical imam preaching at this mosque or not, but that's another subject for now.
The point being here, the question you're asking me, is it widespread and there's no empirical evidence, well, there is evidence.
Senator Mitchell: I'm asking for empirical evidence.
Mr. Lebuis: There is evidence. First of all, the sermons were given for this specific individual in several mosques. They were posted on his own YouTube, and they were confirmed by several of the individuals and the people who invited him to their venues to be able to preach, which allows us to question: Why did they see it as pertinent to invite such a radical individual who is now rejected by some of these same mosques? They thought it was pertinent a couple of weeks ago in the last year, and now suddenly, when he's exposed in the media, an Islamic centre was not permitted to open in Montreal because of an intervention by the mayor because of the radical preaching of this individual, because of the correlation between what he's preaching and not.
This being said, no, I am not talking about all Muslims. I work with Muslims. Like I said, they are concerned. Some of them came here trying to alert us for several years that there's a massive problem. And the problem we're having, also, is that a lot of these institutions are controlled and financed, proven, and there's evidence to demonstrate it and it's all over the newspapers; there is proven evidence that they're funded by countries that are known to harbour the most radical fringes of Muslim, the wahhabism fringes, for example.
Just recently, a head of the military basically declared that in England we are having a major problem. One of the problems is that the very people who are asking us to help them fend off and fight the Islamic State are the same people who are spreading an ideology that is basically causing this problem. So this is getting more and more frequent.
In France, for example, Le Monde
published an article a couple of weeks after the massive Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. By the way, this was just the end and the tip of a long string of terror attacks, because there were also some in France just before Christmas. Now they're coming to the conclusion that they're not being radicalized on the Internet. They need to be face to face in front of mentors. They need to have had the establishment of the seed of the ideology.
Now, whether or not this is every Muslim is not the question here, because it doesn't take a lot of people to be able to do the worst that could happen in terms of security threats. What we do know is that we need to assess how widespread is the non-violent aspect which unrolls the carpet later on to be able to allow certain of these imams to be able to recruit, influence and sow the seed of the ideology that is now showing its face all over the world.
I would like to add that Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were considered to be extremely moderate states not long ago, and this is no longer a reality over there. These words are coming from Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore. When he created the independence of Malaysia, and later on the partition of Singapore, he had no problems working with Muslims. They were not radicals. They would take beer with them. They would be able to talk about politics. They wanted to establish a democracy and be free from British rule, and they established a common law.
He does recognize that in the last year, through the influence of petrodollars, the ideology that comes from the Gulf States is spreading all over. It's creating a cancer, and we won't be able to beat this only on the military side or by addressing the violent side alone. He used these terms: He said that we need to be able to find where the queen bee is, and the queen bee is the mentor — those who are radicalizing, the preachers who are spreading this.
Senator Mitchell: For example, in Fort McMurray, a young Muslim man was shot through the door. We don't know what the motivation was, but it was known that only Muslims lived in that apartment. It could be that radicalization is occurring against Muslim people as well.
Mr. Lebuis: Absolutely.
Senator Mitchell: Do you not agree that we have to be extremely careful? What we want to find out is how to get to the root of whoever is being radicalized. I think we have to be very careful of the rhetoric we use and how we could be painting one group in a way that could alienate them and that is extremely demeaning, and inappropriately demeaning, to 1.3 million great Muslim Canadians who work to build this country every day, like everybody else in this room and watching.
Mr. Lebuis: I share your concerns, but the problem is that we're going to have to make a distinction in terms of those who are a threat to our society. I'm not here to talk about those who are not the problem.
How many are there? I don't know. That's not the issue. The issue is to be able to find out what is the cause of radicalization. If we do not name the problem, and if we don't look in their own text, in their own book — this is a sharia manual. This is not the Quran. This book is endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood. This is translated into English, and this English translation is approved by Al-Azhar University, which I would compare to the Vatican of the Sunni world. In this book they give a specific prescription on how to apply jihad.
I also have a Quran that was spread by the Saudi government. This is just the front page of this Quran. This Quran was spread all over, given freely by the Saudi government. Let me read to you an annotation. Just so we're very clear, I'm not telling you that this is generalized and this comes from the Quran. What I'm saying is that there's an annotation in there that is added by the Saudi government, and here is what it says:
"The Hilali-Khan Quran is given . . ." — this is a specific passage that talks about jihad, and they add an annotation for the people who read it to make sure that they really have the right understanding of jihad. It says that jihad, the Islamic holy war — and these are their words, not mine
. . . in Allah's Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands.) By Jihad Islam is established, Allah's Word is made superior . . . and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honor is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish.
This is how they finished. I repeat: This is the annotation for people to understand how they should understand the Quran.
Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.
Senator Mitchell: So I guess we shouldn't be selling them military vehicles.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, Mr. Lebuis, for coming. I appreciate what you're saying and the work that you put into this.
I'm just going to reference some of the things that I'm curious about. You have raised concerns about what is taking place in the pre-criminal space, or what the New York Police Department refers to as "the space where radicalization is incubated."
Can you tell us why you think it's important for us to look at that space? Also, what do you think we can learn from studying the individuals who are doing the radicalization?
Mr. Lebuis: First of all, the NYPD had a report. By the way, the National Council of Canadian Muslims did a de-radicalization booklet. Inside this booklet, they also referred to the NYPD report.
However, one section in this report of the NYPD says that the Muslim Students' Association in North America — by the way, for most Muslim students' associations there is a head office based in the United States. They cater to both Canada and the United States. It's a little bit like having a franchise versus a corporate type of MSA. Some of them follow the guidelines from what they call the national MSA. The New York Police Department defined that these MSAs are the incubators of radicalism.
For proof here locally, in Canada, it is interesting; in Manitoba, for example, an individual was condemned for terrorism. He was the president of a Muslim students' association of Manitoba a few years ago. We were able to find out later on that his name was actually briefed to two presidents of the United States — I think it was under Bill Clinton and George Bush — and later on he was accused formally, because he was not only recruiting but also training recruits to join al Qaeda forces in Pakistan.
Just recently, when we were unable to recover the Ottawa MSA cell, one of these leading figures was also known in the past to have been inspected. I forget his name, but he was also part of a Muslim students’ association of a university in Ontario. He was able to spread and proselytize as well. He became a recruiter, but we were also able to find out that he was also an enabler and might have also facilitated funding of those who wanted to join the Islamic State.
There are a lot of examples. There's a Muslim students' association in Concordia University. About two years ago, an extremely radical individual by the name of Abdurraheem Green came to Montreal. He was the object of a debate at the National Assembly of Quebec because of his radical views. He's not just talking about condoning wife beating, but he was also prescribing extremely violent means and the use of violence where he came from in England.
Now, this being said, when he came here, he was the object of a debate because people were concerned about this radicalization process. He was invited by the Concordia Muslim Students' Association. His discourses are all over YouTube. They were already known. When a reporter from the newspaper of the university went to see the president, Mr. Abu-Thuraia, and asked him what he thought and whether he had checked the background of these individuals, Mr. Abu-Thuraia
said, "I checked the background. I didn't see anything wrong about what he's preaching."
We've seen a lot of this. When I was referring to the Al-Iman Mosque in Saint- Jean, it's the same thing. There was another spokesperson who was recorded by La Presse who knew about Hamza Chaoui coming to preach in her mosque. They were making headlines. His preaching was broadcast on the radios, on the airwaves. It was really a dramatic scene because people were really concerned. These terrorist attacks happened. Ottawa is almost at the border of Quebec, so everybody feels the sting.
This discourse was brought up to the spokesperson, and she said she didn't feel anything was wrong and didn't feel that his discourse was radical.
I'm not sure if I’ve addressed part of your question.
Senator Stewart Olsen: You have. I think that in some of your answers to Senator Mitchell as well, you drew a distinction between Muslims and Islamists, and I think what you are suggesting is that vigilance is necessary for the preservation of democracy and that our ancestors were extremely vigilant.
We have a country that is open and welcoming to people of all faiths, all religions, all walks of life, but all of us have to be vigilant to keep it that way.
Mr. Lebuis: I will also say this vigilance will come by making an effort to understand and make some distinctions. An Islamist is definitely somebody who has chosen to be militant. They may be violent or non-violent, but an Islamist is somebody who is a militant. Being a Muslim does not necessarily mean that you become a militant. So there are a lot of people who actually practise their religion as all of us understand the role of a religion or how we practise religion at home or in our temples, churches, mosques or synagogues.
Senator White: Thank you for being here today as well, sir.
I understand that you've raised some concerns about the RCMP outreach initiative, in particular on de-radicalization. I wonder if you could walk us through your concerns and maybe even a little bit about where you think we should be going if we're going the wrong way, please.
Mr. Lebuis: It's starting to become intermingled, but there used to be something called the outreach program, which we still name that way, and we're talking more and more about de-radicalization. "De-radicalization" is not new a term. It was there in 2006 with the fear of radicalization. We are basically repeating. We are a little more concerned than before about whether it would increase in danger. We are simply repeating what we were debating almost a decade ago.
So one of the concerns that I'm having is that, in some of these programs, we're seeing RCMP visiting some venues, which could be mosques, Islamic centres or even outside, or some groups or organizations, and they're dialoguing and doing much more, I would say, cultural exchange. They're building confidence and trust.
I think I have a definition here by the RCMP that I can get to you. It says on their own website: "Community Outreach is based on the philosophy that effective counter-radicalization programming is about promoting a community that is tolerant and inclusive, and not about targeting specific ideologies or beliefs." I would like to repeat that last point, "not about targeting specific ideologies and beliefs."
The problem that we've had is that we've had several incidents that are extremely disconcerting, to put it best. For example, just recently, after the two terrorists attacks that we went through, we had a de-radicalization event that took place in a university in Ontario. Doug Best was invited, and two people were on either side of him. One of them was Faisal Kutty, and one of them was Muhammad Robert Heft. This is the picture of Mr. Best alongside — I'm supposed to have the poster here; I'm very sorry. But the announcement is very clear.
We had Faisal Kutty right beside Mr. Best, and Doug Best has a very important role within the RCMP in terms of security. He is in charge of the concern of the security threat for the Ontario region.
Now, Robert Heft is considered to be a voice of moderation or a solution of the de-radicalization, and we just went on his Facebook, for example. I didn't go on Google, just on his Facebook, just a few days before the event with Doug Best. On his Facebook, we were seeing the promotion of Zakir Naik. Zakir Naik is banned from entering Canada because he encouraged people to join terrorist organizations. He is also a promoter and sympathetic to al Qaeda.
The second thing we saw on his Facebook was Zakir Naik in Qatar alongside Raheem Green, the individual who is so radical that he is the object of an investigation in England right now. His organization is also mainly Saudi-funded, and they live in what is considered to be right now, according to the most recent report, a building that is also the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood operating in the U.K. This being said, Raheem Green is seen with Mr. Heft, right beside him. He presents him as his brother. He went to Qatar to meet and to share some of their common views.
So that's on Facebook. There again you have a normal citizen, who is just doing some form of fact checking, about to see what this guy is all about.
Then we have another guy, by the name of Faisal Kutty, and this is the most disconcerting for me. He was with Superintendent Doug Best, and the event was called, by the way, the Radicalization Towards Violence and its Impact on Muslims. But Faisal Kutty, in the early 2000s, was the spokesperson of two al Qaeda funding organizations. He was also the head of the board of directors for several years of what was called at the time CAIR-CAN, which became the NCCM, the National Council of Canadian Muslims. He is very prolific in his writing. He consistently defends and promotes people who are known and banned in certain countries. He was trying to defend and promote a Mr. Ghannouchi, who was banned from entering Canada right after an event that he was trying to talk about.
The Chair: Could we shorten the answers because we have a number of other senators who have questions?
Senator White: I was going to do the same thing. I appreciate your taking us on a longer path, but I'm trying to focus us on the fact that, arguably, you don't agree with one event that the RCMP was involved in in Ontario.
Mr. Lebuis: There are several other events. I just wanted to name that one because it's serious because it was right after the two terrorist attacks.
Senator White: I understand that. The RCMP has been here as well, and they spoke to us about their engagement practice. In fact, it's very similar to an engagement practice when you are trying to deal with street gangs in a small community. You are trying to move people to somewhere other than where they are. What do you suggest they do?
Mr. Lebuis: First, they should verify with whom they're going to do their dealings. What we have to expect the RCMP or CSIS or any representatives of sensitive national security then do in some of these mosques or other organizations, when there's a problem that comes from their community where we found a radicalized element, the leader of the mosque or the leader of the organization will say there's nothing wrong with their community. They say they do outreach programs with the RCMP. They are cloaked with an immunity that doesn't allow journalists to understand what's really happening, that gives them an immunity to be able to validate and verify why there could be a radicalization process inside that venue, that mosque, that Islamic centre. This immunity then gives legitimacy and creates the status of spokesperson in these individuals.
Senator White: Just to close the loop, is your issue not so much in what they're doing but who they're doing it with?
Mr. Lebuis: I will add that there is now more and more demonstration but not necessarily proof. But clearly, when Mr. Peirce from CSIS declared that they don't investigate mosques, there seems to be other evidence to show that there are a lot of police forces that also don't go in that direction. In terror attacks like in Boston, there seems to be some indication that there are not even people infiltrating the mosque to be able to see and gauge if there are radical elements that may be frequenting these mosques. If that is the case, then we're having a more difficult problem than simply with the outreach program.
Senator White: Okay. Thank you very much for your response.
The Chair: I want to close the loop a little bit more on this because I think it's very important. Basically the message that you've brought here, along with other witnesses over the last number of weeks, is that in some cases there are individuals speaking for the religious institutions saying one thing in one forum and doing another thing in another forum.
Mr. Lebuis: Yes.
The Chair: Going forward, it would seem to me we're trying to put together a report which will have various recommendations, can help and assist our law enforcement agencies and, most important as well, the Muslim community in respect to withstanding these very extreme views being put upon them. I would suggest the majority of Muslims didn't move here to have this happen.
Mr. Lebuis: Absolutely.
The Chair: What do you think about this as a concept? That CSIS be required to do due diligence when people in the community are being searched out to speak for the purposes of counter-radicalization and things of that nature, to ensure that they have good standing within the moderate Muslim community and other communities that we're involved in, so at least there is a requirement to check and do due diligence as opposed to having people like yourself going on Facebook. Would you like to comment on that?
Mr. Lebuis: That would be a good idea. I would add a slight reservation. In any solutions we apply, we also have to make sure that, if there is the slightest element that would be working for the RCMP, CSIS or other agencies in charge of security that may have a tendency to be sympathetic to views and they are calling us the enemy, or may have had even friendly terms or friendly conversations with these people even at that point, I would make sure that these elements inside our institutions in charge of security don't have any influence.
If we have that, I totally believe that that would be extremely necessary right now because there seems to be the example that I gave about Ottawa, where we're having the RCMP and local police forces recruiting in venues that are known to have invited preachers that are promoting violent jihad or are promoting the disruption of Canadian society.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Lebuis. I have two questions. Since the committee has been studying this issue, some members of the Islamic community have mentioned that there might be a type of radicalization going on within Quebec’s educational institutions. Given that in Quebec, moral instruction is provided in the schools, is it possible that the mosques in Quebec provide teachings that might be conducive to radicalization? If you agree, how seriously should we be addressing the problem of radicalization that might be spreading in Quebec’s mosques?
Mr. Lebuis: First, according to Radio-Canada, we know that in September a significant number of Canadians joined the Islamic State. That prompted more questioning over what is provoking this phenomenon of radicalization.
First, a number of these individuals ended up in mosques and Islamic centres or joined Muslim student associations.
Second, let’s not forget that freedom of expression is an extremely strong value. However, in order to exercise that freedom, one has to defend it. On the other hand, we must also allow those who use speech — I don’t like to use the expression hate speech, I prefer to say incite violence — that incites violence to do so freely, because that allows us to identify the locations from which such speech is being broadcast. That way we can determine how many people are in the rooms listening to these speeches. Then we can take the appropriate measures to determine, as Senator Lang suggested, who is eligible or not for receiving government funding to take part in any newcomer integration programs, or to stop allowing entry to individuals who have ties with radicalization, who can enter critical or less critical institutions with the goal of influencing the course of democracy.
To get there, we have to recognize the ideology and be able to distinguish it. We now know that there are differences between Muslims in general and Islamists. An Islamist is someone who acknowledges that he would like to see Islam — and perhaps not in a violent manner — impose practices such as Sharia law and incorporate it within the legal framework in which we live.
What we can see from almost every book we read on the major organizations that are creating this problem in the world, organizations often supported by Saudi Arabia or the Muslim Brotherhood, is that there is always a formula whereby if the numbers or conditions allow, the use of force is justified.
When we know this pattern, we can allow them to teach, but not fund them. The important thing for us is to have the ability to prevent them from entering our institutions and influencing courses in the most critical institutions. That is what needs to be detected and to do that, we have to know the ideology that motivates them, even in the gentlest way, from unrolling the rug to engaging in violence.
Senator Dagenais: You talked about funding. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but some say that there were kidnappings and ransom demanded in order to raise funds for the Islamic movement.
I’m not sure if you heard about these kidnappings for raising money, but if that is true, how seriously should we be looking at the type of funding activities that might be going on and, in your opinion, is this done in Quebec?
Mr. Lebuis: Yes, this is done in Quebec. We saw this recently in the case of the IRFAN organization, whose charitable status was withdrawn and, later, who was officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. I am talking about IRFAN-Canada, because that organization was funding Hamas.
That being said, there is an extremely disturbing case because it has to do with the largest Islamic organization in Quebec: the Muslim Association of Canada. In December 2012, one of MAC’s directors kidnapped in broad daylight, in December, a young boy who was the grandson of very, very wealthy man in Quebec.
First, it was discovered that the kidnapper was not only a member of MAC’s board for over 10 years, but he was also in charge of MAC’s education program.
Then we found out that there were communications — this was reported in the newspapers — immediately following the kidnapping, after he was caught red-handed by the police. While he was at the police station, he received a phone call on his phone from Saudi Arabia to confirm his trip and the kidnapping. We don’t know what was supposed to happen next.
He was going to demand — such was his intention — $500,000 in ransom. This individual played a very important role within MAC; he negotiated the purchase of one of the largest buildings downtown, an office building once owned by SNC-Lavalin. He also ran a number of mosques in Canada, including one in Ontario, and was linked to a mosque that had ties to MAC in Laval, where he was a leader and invited people to attend Ramadan festivities and the like. He also played a role not only within the board of directors, but also within another internal board of directors at MAC.
I’m telling you all this because — as the media has recently demonstrated — the Muslim Association of Canada is one of the largest organizations if not the largest that owns Islamic institutional buildings in Canada. This includes schools, Islamic centres and mosques. The association also funds a chair at Huron College in Ontario.
The Chair: We are running late. I have a number of other senators. We're going to take another 10 minutes, so I'm afraid, senators, that I'm going to ask you to keep your questions fairly brief. I would like the responses to be fairly brief. I will start with Senator Day.
Senator Day: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I do recognize the timing. I would like to thank Mr. Lebuis for being here and giving us his interpretation of facts. He's certainly much more informed about developments in the Muslim community and with the Islamists than I am. I understand his general thesis, and I think that's sufficient for me with regards to the time, so I'll withdraw any further questions, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Mr. Lebuis, for an excellent, well-informed and documented presentation, and for pointing out to the committee and to those watching that you're working with caring, concerned Islamists. That really matters to all of us.
This committee has heard concerns about the handbook entitled United Against Terrorism, produced by the Islamic Social Services Association, National Council of Canadian Muslims, with a chapter by the RCMP. In the book, on page 13, a number of individuals are listed as authorities on Islam in North America. Amongst them are Ms. Ingrid Mattison, Mr. Siraj Wahhaj and Mr. Jamal Badawi. I appreciated your distinctions between moderate Muslims and Islamists. I wonder what you could tell me about these individuals. Are they moderate Muslims or are they Islamists?
Mr. Lebuis: There are a least two that we should have concerns about, but each one of these individuals has directly or indirectly been related to or they themselves encourage the violent form or the military branch of jihad. For example, just a couple of days ago, there was an event in Quebec, and Islamic Relief Canada decided to cancel an event where Siraj Wahhaj was coming. There were going to be 700 people attending the event, according to the LCN television network. On the list of individuals that are in this booklet there is Siraj Wahhaj, who is already known to be a non-indicted co-conspirator; with the first World Trade Centre, he accommodated the Blind Sheikh. There's a long list of issues that are related to Siraj Wahhaj. But one of them that should really be of concern for us is that Siraj Wahhaj, in the early 1990s, right after the Rodney King riots, basically said that the disenfranchised young in the streets of American cities should be converted to Islam. Now here is what he said afterwards. He said that once they have a proper understanding of Islam, we should equip them with Uzi guns so that he could do the jihad in the streets of the United States. This man, this individual, regularly comes to Canada. He is sponsored here for speaking by the Islamic Relief on a regular basis and by a lot of mainstream mosques and organizations all over Canada. For example, one of the individuals that sponsored this booklet, Shahina Siddiqui, basically in the late 1990s, I think it was 1999, created a program where there was a summer camp where Siraj Wahhaj would lead this Islamic workshop session.
There's another individual that we should be very aware of. There's Jamal Badawi. You may not know him, but he's extremely influential. The man is behind numerous organizations that are considered, even by our security agencies, as being the network of the Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure in North America. He started several of these organizations.
In early 2000, Mr. Badawi gave an interview, as I said in my initial presentation. It's important that when the Muslim Brotherhood describes the term "Muslims," they describe them according to their understanding of how to apply sharia law. Some of the Muslims that came here, who raised concerns about the radicalization of mosques — sometimes when these individuals or these organizations from these leading organizations such as the NCCM — they do not recognize these individuals as Muslim because they don't follow the prescription that they define as the right understanding of Islam through sharia. This being said, Mr. Badawi basically invites Muslims to become judges in order to use the discretionary power so as not to apply the law when it contravenes with sharia. This individual was praised by the NCCM as being, here in a Senate committee on transportation, in their words, a key leader; they say he is one of the most influential leaders, if not the most prominent scholar in North America.
Several of the leaders are tied up with Jamaat-e-Islami, which is known to be a very radical organization. When you look at the entire list, we haven't found any of these individuals who do not — in an almost direct way, have links to radicalization.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Colleagues, we have a few more minutes. I want to ask a question. It goes back to the financing and the charitable status. This applies not just to the situation with religious charities and others as well. It's common knowledge that some money, if not a lot of money, is being raised in Canada and then being directed towards terrorist activities, in some cases Hamas, Hezbollah and others. It seems to me that if this is taking place, obviously the rules we have in place aren't necessarily working. Perhaps you might just have a comment on that.
Mr. Lebuis: If they are working, we did pretty well in the last two, three or four years. We did pretty well. Finally, after almost 10 years, we revoked the charity status of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. This is a Saudi-based organization.
The Chair: On one organization?
Mr. Lebuis: No, we did so on several. We did pretty well in the recent five years, but more can be done, and it may be that the process is a little slow because sometimes there's some evidence that is pretty clear.
One of the things we're noticing is what we could do, however, and what we could expand on. There's already provision in the law that allows somebody to have a charity, and this provision is basically political discourse. You're not allowed to lobby in Ottawa — something like in the range of 10 per cent of your activity should allow you to lobby for political reasons.
One of the things we do notice is that several of these organizations that have charity status are sometimes inviting individuals that have no religious discourse and mainly a political discourse. For example, Tariq Ramadan, who is extremely influential in the Muslim community in Canada, regularly gives discourses on how to deal with politics. He had an interview in 2004 and, just like Jamal Badawi, he was basically targeting Canada specifically and telling his audience how they should go about communicating without using the term sharia but to use the legal system of Canada, which was, according to him, one of the easiest ones to be able to work with in order to implement sharia provisions inside the legal system.
There's nothing spiritual or religious about this. This is totally political discourse. This individual is regularly invited by many of these organizations and a lot of leaders who are talking about laws and how to behave within laws, within the political system, how to become militants inside political activities. This should be monitored, and then we should find a way to be able to enforce this provision that's already part of the charity laws.
The Chair: Colleagues, we've come to the end of our time. I would like to thank Mr. Lebuis for coming forward and sharing the information that he's garnered over the last number of years, looking at a very important issue that all Canadians are very interested in and quite concerned about, I would say. As we said earlier, the moderate Muslim community, which is the vast majority of the Muslims in this country, are very concerned as well in view of the extremist views that are coming into this country and speaking on their behalf. Obviously, we've got to find some recommendations and solutions going forward.
Mr. Lebuis, thank you very much.
Now joining us, as we continue our look at terrorism, are Daniel Hiebert and Lorne Dawson, founders of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.
Mr. Hiebert is a professor of geography from the University of British Columbia, specializing in issues of public policy. Between 2003 and 2012, he served as co-director of the Metropolis British Columbia centre of excellence fostering research on immigration and cultural diversity in Canada.
Mr. Dawson is a professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He is also co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, and co-editor of Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond, in which he contributed a chapter on the Toronto 18. Mr. Dawson and Mr. Hiebert, welcome to the committee.
Daniel Hiebert, Co-Director, University of British Columbia, The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS): Thank you very much. I'll begin, but just for one minute, and then I'll pass the baton to Lorne, who will give a presentation, and I'll give a little presentation after that. We'll try to keep our opening remarks as succinct as possible because the time will go quickly.
I just wanted to first say it's a great honour to be here. Thank you very much for the invitation. It's very meaningful to speak with this particular committee.
In my one minute at the beginning, I simply want to give you a sense of what the organization that you mentioned is about, TSAS, as we call it, or the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.
We have three objectives in this network. The first is to provide evidence-based research on issues of radicalization, terrorism, counterterrorism and anything related to those things. That's the first priority that we foster. The second is to make sure that that research is relevant to policy, so we work very closely with a dozen, I think, different agencies and departments of the national government of Canada. You can, I'm sure, imagine what those departments are, so I won't go through a long list of them. We speak on a very regular basis with those institutions to make sure that the work we're doing is relevant to their needs but also that we understand each other. Finally, our third main objective is to foster the development of a new generation of scholarship on these issues.
Although both of us have some grey hair, we're working with a lot of younger people as well, particularly with master’s degree and PhD students across Canada.
Lorne will go next because he addresses the earlier questions we have been asked to speak about, and I address the later questions.
Lorne Dawson, Co-Director, University of Waterloo, The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS): I'll speak just briefly on some talking points dealing with the issue of radicalization in Canada and about the study of this phenomenon in general. You'll see my last point will naturally lead into Dan's discussion about responding to this issue or problem.
I don't have a formal statement. I have seven talking points, seven things that naturally come to mind that are worth bringing up and talking about. Each is brief and designed purposefully to be unpacked through questions.
First, I've been giving public talks on the topic of homegrown terrorist radicalization in Canada for at least half a dozen years, and it has been my experience that the public has been very complacent in Canada until very recently about this issue. I get lots of requests to talk because it's a sensational topic and people are intrigued, but there's little sense that it was a serious issue for Canadians until very recently.
I have consistently said at those talks, and I happen to have had occasion to say it on CTV and CBC one week before the attacks in Quebec and here in Ottawa, that it's not a matter of if there will be a terrorist attack in Canada — it's just a matter of when. I couldn't have anticipated it would be the next week, of course, by any means, but in many respects, I wasn't surprised, either. I've always been arguing with people that you are a bit complacent now but wait until that attack happens. Everything will change. So that seems to be the situation. I'm not saying that to suggest I have some great foresight but to show how when you're knowledgeable on the topic, certain things are fairly obvious.
My second talking point would be that the threat of homegrown terrorism in Canada has been in a steady state for a long time, much longer than average Canadians realize, and we have been fortunate that it hasn't mushroomed into an actual attack or event at an earlier stage.
The internal social structural conditions promoting radicalization and the external geopolitical conditions are consistent, and there hasn't been much shift in those conditions, so in a complicated way, when you understand what goes into radicalization, I can say with confidence that if there was radicalization before, there will be now and for the foreseeable future.
ISIS coming on the scene has represented a significant escalation for a number of reasons, most importantly, the tremendous expectations for ISIS, the religious connotations of the Islamic State, and the appeal through their excellent use of media resources. I noticed that The New York Times yesterday cited someone as saying that ISIS is currently sending out over 90,000 social media messages a day. It's unlike anything we have ever seen before.
My third talking point is that my research focuses on this process of radicalization, so I don't claim to be an expert in all aspects of terrorism. You have to have some awareness of everything, but what I'm concerned about is developing a much more refined understanding of how relatively ordinary young individuals, men mainly, let's say Canadians in this case, can be led into engaging in extraordinary actions.
We need to understand that any approach to radicalization must be multifactorial; it has to be multidisciplinary, so we need psychologists, sociologists, historians, religious study scholars and others involved in understanding it. In my public talks, and when I'm talking to the RCMP or groups of that kind, I suggest that we need an ecological approach, using that metaphor in a straightforward sense. When a species is dying in a pond, you might initially look to see if someone has released a poison into the pond. If that's not the case, then, of course, you're going to start a search that probably has to do with complex environmental factors that are bringing about a degradation of that species. We have to do something similar here. We have to recognize that it’s a perfect storm, as was said when I presented to the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security, but it's an understandable perfect storm of variables. We do have the means through harnessing existing social scientific knowledge and theories to understand this process much better, but it will take time and the collaborative effort of many individuals. In part, TSAS exists to coordinate that effort on the part of many different scholars and researchers across the country.
Now, we have been limited in doing this because there is something that some British scholars pre-911 called "the hermeneutic of crisis management." That's a little bit of what we're engaged in here, right? We are so rushing ahead to deal with the latest issue or problem. Since about 2006 and 2007, the movement turned strongly to de-radicalization, disengagement and now countering violent extremism. In that movement, in order to address the issue, all reliable scholars would tell you that we are really are in a sense running a risk because we don't adequately understand radicalization yet.
To put it in simple terms, we're very worried. I'm very worried that it's going to be garbage in, garbage out. If you don't have a fine enough conception of what's causing the problem, it's difficult to develop the most effective counter measures. I'm not saying that we then do nothing; we have to proceed as best we know how with counter measures. But we shouldn't do it at the expense of continuing to invest in a better understanding of the nature of the problem to begin with.
The first barrier to developing a better understanding of radicalization is lack of primary data, as we just don't have enough detailed information about the individuals who have radicalized and, more importantly, about their definition of their situation, their perceptions, their experiences and their understanding. There's a bit of research. I'm involved in research in Canada. The Canadian Safety and Security Program is funding a program through TSAS whereby we're interviewing Canadian foreign fighters, individuals in Syria and Iraq, and reaching out to people in Canada who are their associates, friends, family and colleagues. It's a very long, complicated process, but we have to get their voices to hear what's going on.
The second barrier is that we're dealing with secrecy. The data and secrecy issues come together because, as everyone in our field knows and agonizes over, the security services have huge amounts of data that of course are not available to us scholars. I have secret security clearance but not top secret security clearance. The secret security clearance gave me access to Toronto 18 material that other people don't have but only after the trials.
We have been engaged in pretty extended discussions on and off favorably with Public Safety Canada, CSIS and the RCMP about trying to work out some system whereby scholars can start to acquire some higher-level security clearances to make use of the data. As their analysts would admit, we bring to bear a set of insights and a capacity to interpret the data where they don't have the training or the luxury of time to engage in that kind of analysis.
My second last point is that radicalization is happening pretty much everywhere. One of your questions was, where is radicalization happening? Well, it is fair to say, courtesy of social media and the Internet now more than ever before, that it is literally happening everywhere — anywhere you have access to those media. A number of conditioning factors stem from the research record that we should keep in mind. One is that there is still an extremely strong role for local inspirational leaders and figures. Your previous presenter said many things that I maybe would choose to disagree with, but one thing he said that I firmly support comes from a larger body of research: Very few people radicalize online exclusively. It takes face-to-face interactions. The Quilliam Foundation in London with a massive study verified that as well. I'm pleased to see they did that a few years ago.
When I hear of individuals like the two young men from London, Ontario, who left to go overseas and ultimately died in Algeria, I'm pretty confident there is someone in the local community who was acting as a mentor or an inspirational figure in some way. That person has never been identified. Maybe they don't exist anymore. I understand why the community may not know or may wish to not reveal that person. More often than not, I would bet that there are such figures.
This fits in with the second fact: We're dealing with a cluster phenomenon. We're dealing with a situation where group dynamics are absolutely crucial. Many factors go into a multifactorial model, but the one that is probably key in terms of cinching the kind of radicalization that would lead to violence is the strong social-psychological peer pressure elements of the group — young men, peers, pressing on each other. In the case of Canadian foreign fighters, we investigated people like Andre Poulin from Timmins. Initially, it seemed odd — why would an individual from Timmins leave to fight in Syria? We discovered in our research, although it didn't seem to be noticed in the media research, that in fact he had lived in Toronto for almost a year and had been in close association with a number of other individuals. He'd shared a house with three young men of Somali background who had radicalized; so he wasn't doing it on his own. Again, it was a cluster phenomenon. A lot of attention has to be paid at that level.
You asked questions about financing, which is important in terms of international terrorism. In terms of homegrown terrorism, financing is not very consequential. As we've seen from our experience with Zehaf-Bibeau and others, it does not take money to carry off a significant homegrown terrorist activity.
The biggest restriction and the thing that has probably prevented us from experiencing worse attacks is access to materials. There are many more episodes in the United States because guns and other things are readily accessible. In Canada, we really are benefiting from the fact that when you examine plots, the thing that causes the plots to stumble or exposes them to security services is their search for either explosive materials or weapons.
Overall, I stress that the bottom line is the need to get at the nature of the identity issues that tie in with ideology. The ideology works not because of some magical quality of the ideology. In fact, the jihadi narrative is ridiculously simplistic. It fits like a key into the lock of identity issues that these young men are experiencing. It involves this quest for significance, which you may have encountered in some of the other testimony — an idea in the research literature I subscribe to quite a bit.
Overall, it is an issue of morality and religiosity. It is not a matter of Islam. It's one thing to differentiate and say this is not coming from Islam per se, and then to say it's political is incorrect. Religiosity is at the heart of this. When you talk or interact with any of the individuals who radicalize, they talk religion, they're enthusiastic about religion, and they want to interpret everything in religious terms; and I can come back to this too. It's very important, and there are many struggles in the research literature about how to deal with it.
The research literature supports the notion that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Prevention is the only long-term feasible strategy for eliminating this issue in the future.
Mr. Hiebert: I'll give you a quick sense of where I come from. Unlike Lorne, I'm not a person who came from a terrorism scholarship background. My background is studying immigration, cultural integration and the impact of the rapid and profound diversification of the Canadian population. I've been looking particularly at that issue in Canadian cities.
Ten years ago, I was approached by members of Canada's security establishment to answer a question. They asked me whether I thought that what are commonly called "ethnic or immigrant enclaves" in Canadian cities were places of radicalization and whether the Canadian security establishment should pay attention to those parts of cities in terms of their surveillance activities. That really was the catalyst for my getting into this new area of thinking, which is around the intersection between cultural diversity in Canada and transnational connections that cultural communities have in Canada and their impact on issues of national security. That's kind of where I'm coming from.
Lately, I've been working with the RCMP locally in my part of Canada, Vancouver and British Columbia more generally, in two elements of what they are trying to do. The first is in the training of officers on issues of counterterrorism and radicalization to violence, and also participating in their very embryonic emerging programs around countering violent extremism. The outreach programs were mentioned a little while ago when you were speaking about the previous speaker. So it's with that concern on public outreach that I'm coming to this meeting.
It's really important to acknowledge a couple of basic points. I'm sure other speakers you've been listening to over the weeks and months you have been in deliberation have also made these points. The first is that Canada simply lacks sufficient capacity to monitor every radicalized individual. It can't be done. We don't have enough officers on our forces to be able to do such a thing. Even throwing a lot more money at the RCMP and CSIS will still never give enough capacity to monitor fully every radicalized individual.
On the second point, although I won't name the person, I will quote from a senior analyst in the Canadian government who has worked for a long time in security issues. When speaking about the issue of foreign fighters, he made a point that I completely agree with. He said:
We can't arrest ourselves out of this problem. We can't identify everyone who is going to be interested in being a foreign fighter. We can't monitor everyone, and we can't arrest everyone that is in that category.
That inevitably leads to the issue that we have to bring communities into this equation. We can't solve this problem by strictly law enforcement measures.
Of course, that poses the question: How do we get the community involved? Let me give you a very quick illustration of this, which happened with the case of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before he made his attack of October of last year.
For some time, he was living in the Vancouver area and he attended a mosque in the area of Burnaby, a suburban municipality in Vancouver. He really raised concern when he was attending that mosque. People found him a difficult person. They understood that he had radicalized views. They found him kind of frightening and expelled him from the mosque, but they didn't take the next necessary step. They didn't tell any authorities about that person or that event.
So he was told to leave the mosque. He was separated from that community, but they didn't tell the RCMP about it, and of course we know what happened subsequently.
What's interesting is that since then, members of that particular mosque have understood they made a mistake, and now they are working very closely with the RCMP, and they are involved in officer training of the RCMP. They're also involved in doing the rounds of other mosques in British Columbia and explaining what to look for, issues of how to recognize extremism. Very importantly, they are also going around to the mosques of British Columbia and explaining to people what the difference is between a conventional interpretation of Islam and a radicalized interpretation of Islam, why the radicalized interpretation is an incorrect interpretation of Islam and how to watch, particularly when young people are perhaps going down that road. Also, it is providing a conduit between the mosques of British Columbia, which are part of their larger association, and the RCMP.
That is about the ounce of prevention and the potential many pounds of cure. Getting the community engaged in that kind of vigorous, forceful way is very important.
Where do we go with this insight? I'd like to make a couple of fundamental points on this, and in order to make those two points I want to make the distinction between hard and soft approaches to security. Hard approaches are the things we commonly think of, including investigations, using the legal code, arrests, incarcerations, et cetera. Soft approaches are around community engagement, outreach by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and so on.
With that distinction in mind, I want to make my last two points. The first is that in Canada, we have not yet had any kind of a real conversation — I'm hoping your committee can have this kind of conversation — on the mix, the balance between these different tools of security.
I would say for every dollar we are spending on soft security measures, we are probably spending a hundred dollars on the hard security measures. Is that the right ratio? Is that the right way to think about this? If we have to draw the community in, and if we can't arrest our way out of problem, what is the proper mix of expenditures on soft and hard approaches to security?
The second major point I want to make is that in an ideal world, the mix of hard and soft approaches to security would work in a combinatorial way where each informed the other and where the sum of the parts was greater than the whole.
In the real world, though, the challenge is that execution of hard security measures can undermine the capacity for soft security measures. If, for example, a community feels stigmatized, if they feel they suffer disproportionately from stop and search procedures or if they feel that engaging with authorities will send their kids to prison, these are not going to bring communities to the table. These are not going to be ways of effectively setting up a community engagement strategy and a soft touch to the security side of things.
That's another conversation we need to have, and I think what we've been doing until now is evaluating the various laws and policies we put in place for security from a hard security imagination. We've been thinking, will this law help us in terms of the investigation we need to do? Will this law help us in terms of intelligence gathering? Will this law help us in terms of arresting and incarcerating people who do bad things? I don't argue against that at all. That's very important. What we haven't been doing enough is asking if this policy or law will support the community engagement and soft security measures that need to be done as well.
We need to be evaluating our security policies from a soft security lens, as well as from a hard security imagination and lens, because I think we really need both those sets of tools to promote the safety and security of Canada.
The Chair: Thank you. I want to assure you that what you've just said about soft security versus hard security is in part why we've started in this public conversation. Some of this public conversation is difficult to have because you not only have politics but you also have religion, the question of public security. These all come into the same question, and it is not an easy one. Prevention is one of the most important areas that we as a committee want to consider in the question of de-radicalization and prior to anyone being radicalized.
I want to assure you this is in part why we're having this conversation, and we want to have an honest conversation. Sometimes it may not be politically correct because there are issues out there that I think we have to discuss.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, gentlemen. This was very refreshing, in one sense. The bad news is that you reinforced that there is this problem of radicalization, but the good news I want to emphasize is that you've pointed out we're so early on in efforts to research and deal with it that there's lots of potential to have success if only we focus in the right way and develop that potential.
My first question arises from the observation that Dr. Dawson made we don't know enough about radicalization at all. We don't know the profiles. We don't know the processes. We don't know the psychology. We don't know the pathology. We don't know all of that.
Much of the research of your group is funded by Kanishka, but the Kanishka Program is up.
Mr. Dawson: March of next year.
Senator Mitchell: What will you do for money?
Mr. Hiebert: Maybe that's a question for me. You can say Lorne is the brains, and I'm the money manager.
I'm sure Lorne can speak to your question about what we know and do not know about radicalization. However, in terms of funding our organization, tomorrow we go to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for an interview on a partnership grant. If that materializes, which we'll know in about six weeks, then we are good to go for the next seven years in terms of core funding for our organization.
We've also received funding from Defence Research and Development Canada, in particular through their program called CSSP, the Canadian Safety and Security Program. In fact, much of our research is being funded through that.
We are ever hopeful. That's something for you folks to consider. It's above our pay grade. We're ever hopeful that the Kanishka Program will be in some way renewed. I realize it was only set up to be a five-year program, and perhaps that will be the end of it, but we think the issues facing Canada have not gone away. Although that program has made great progress in helping us develop networks and new understandings, the need for that program has by no means evaporated, so we're hoping that the Government of Canada will find a way to renew it.
Those comments are on the funding side; on the radicalization side, back to Lorne.
Mr. Dawson: Yes, the renewal of Kanishka, or some kind of legacy growing out of Kanishka, would be extremely important and useful. Almost every other country — if we take places like the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Germany, the United States in particular — they have ongoing large sources of funding. In the United States, the National Institute of Justice funds very large projects and hundreds of them every year and is ongoing. There is no cut-off date as to when that is going to end.
I can’t verify this, but I have been told that the United States spends something in excess of $40 million a year on research on terrorism and counterterrorism. The Kanishka Project, which ran for five years, is $10 million. Canada is not the United States, but some proportionality would be great to see.
Certainly there are huge numbers of intriguing issues to investigate; so I'll take the liberty, if I can, to briefly go through some of the components of an ecological approach to terrorist radicalization. This is just the way I model it at present.
If you go from the widest variables down to the narrower, more localized variables, at the first level we have to recognize that all young people today are coping with new social, structural conditions brought on by what sociologists call "late modernity"; right? These are issues around globalization, around the use of communication, identity issues, risk issues, things of that nature. There is a lot of speculation in the literature that these things are probably pertinent to why terrorism, especially the homegrown variety, is thriving now, but we haven't had a chance to really explore those issues.
The second layer, going down from that, is the fact that a disproportionate number of the people who are vulnerable to radicalization are either immigrants themselves or coming from an immigrant background. In Canada, through people like Dan and many others, we have remarkable expertise on immigration and on the experience of immigrants and on integration issues, et cetera.
We work in our silos in academia. Very little of that literature has been focused on how has our knowledge of immigration and the struggles, especially of adolescents, with immigration issues related to radicalization. From case study literature, we have good reason to suspect that an issue that is called "managing two worlds" or "two identities" is crucial here. These are disproportionately the young men who are radicalizing in Canada, who show signs from their case histories that they are having a difficult time trying to fit into Canada and maintain some sort of faithfulness to their traditional cultural and religious identity. That struggle opens up a cognitive opening to the jihadi narrative, to a new way of forming an identity, one we don't want them pursuing.
Then we have youth culture and rebellion issues, and the vast literature from juvenile delinquency has not been systematically applied to questions of radicalization. All I can say is scholars are aware of this, but they lack the multiple kinds of training and background on their own to pursue these issues. It takes a team approach.
Then we have the issue of ideology, and that is absolutely crucial. I would put it "ideology/religion." We have to understand how a 20-year-old man, subject to some of these issues, responds to ideology and how that impacts his identity formation processes. We have good literature on that, too, but not specifically related to the radicalization issue.
We have the group dynamics next, which I have talked about, which comes closer to some of my background and expertise. Good progress has already been made applying social identity theory, group think, standard social psychological, experimental social psychological insights into what is going on; but what is missing is that primary data. We haven't seen whether these theories that looked promising and apply to analogous groups apply, and how exactly do they apply in the context of the young men who left from Calgary to go fight for ISIS?
So we need, at all these levels, to get there. At the bottom level, you have certain issues of personal trauma and crisis, but I would argue that personal issues usually act as catalysts. They are not usually the source point of the radicalization.
Overall, the data would suggest — and you always have to take a proviso of separating out conditions in Europe from those in North America. There are things that are common that apply, but there are distinct differences between those two environments too. But if we concentrate on a North American situation, we are talking about remarkably ordinary, quite well-adjusted, potentially could be fairly accomplished on the whole, statistically, young men who go on to do some really extraordinary and unusual things.
We need to understand the process that takes kids who are actually well socialized to the norms of our society, well socialized to their parents' values, respect their parents — they're basically good kids. There are exceptions. I'm talking statistically. On the whole they're not the kids who join youth gangs.
The process by which they radicalize is similar to the process of getting drawn into a youth gang. The difference is the motivation; it is completely different.
The Chair: Could I just ask you to be more concise in your responses?
Senator Mitchell: I really feel like we're making progress with your testimony. It's really excellent, and I much appreciate it.
There is another feature. There is the research and what you were talking about moments ago. There's also the point that Dr. Hiebert made about the Vancouver case where the people in that mosque did the right thing but maybe not quite enough of the right thing and didn't realize there was more to do.
The earlier witness today mentioned the
United Against Terrorism book, which I think is an excellent book, and I absolutely disagree with his assessment of it. There are certainly some excellent things in it.
I don't mean to pick on the Muslim people, but that is clearly part of this issue. There is Muslim leadership in this country that is trying. You also get the feeling that they have the pressures of their lives and community and that trying to get them to do that in a coordinated way is difficult. It isn't just Muslim communities; Air India wasn't Muslim. There was radicalization involved there, too.
How do you begin to get communities to coordinate and to become more effective in their approach? Because, as you say, it will take the community. Is it money? Is it government leadership? Is it bringing them all together in Ottawa and sitting down and talking about it?
Mr. Hiebert: I think part of the lack of coordination starts with the government and law enforcement itself. The RCMP, for example, the divisions across Canada are doing absolutely wonderful things, but they're not talking very much to each other. In fact, that's going to happen now, but they've been developing them in isolation.
We haven't had a coordinated approach from the law enforcement side, which means that it's hard to get a coordinated approach from the community side. It's one-hand-clapping stuff; right? How can you have one without the other?
The first thing is we have to clarify and have a more coordinated strategy from the RCMP and the intelligence community of Canada and that, thankfully, is happening almost as we speak.
The second thing is getting communities to coordinate. There are some really big challenges here. There is no magical answer. One of the big challenges is who do we find as appropriate spokespersons from a community? Just to give you one little insight into that, I'm very interested in the complexity of Canadian society. If we take the Egyptian community in Vancouver, 2,500 people, it's not huge, but it's big enough that it's worth noticing. A third of them are Muslim, a third Christian, and a third no religion. So who do you pick for the right spokesperson for that Egyptian community?
If you want to have a good conversation, you actually need at least three, and that's just one community of 2,500 people in a population of 2.5 million, so there's the issue of whom should you speak to.
The second is trust building. How do you make sure that you're going to have the lines of communication open such that people feel they can tell you things about their community that are going to be treated respectfully but are also going to lead to productive engagement rather than non-productive engagement? Without that trust, really, everything is going to fall apart.
In the interests of being succinct, I'll stop there, but there are lots of other things I could say.
Senator Stewart Olsen: We have heard concerns that the RCMP and CSIS are perhaps speaking to the wrong people or utilizing the wrong people, and you just actually elaborated on that point. I'm wondering how they choose the people.
Mr. Hiebert: Maybe Lorne wants to talk about this as well, but I'll start. In the research literature on this question, there's a difference of opinion, so there you go. What's the difference of opinion? There are those who think that it's only appropriate for agencies of government to speak with people who are bona fide moderates, and any time you speak to anybody else you're doing the wrong thing. There are others, however, who feel that if you limit yourself to only ever speaking with moderates, you're missing the people you really want to convert in these programs. That's the tough balance in the literature.
I think these programs are very embryonic in Canada. In Vancouver, for example, we've really only had our first public meeting around these issues. At this point, the approach has been cautious to really connect up with as much as possible the moderate voices in communities, but there's a tough call to make in the future about what we do about that grey zone. Between the violent extremists and the moderates, there's a grey zone of people who are thinking about things, experimenting with ideas. They're the ones we want to get onto the moderate side. If we leave them out of the equation, we may be making a mistake.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you. One point you made about radicalization is that it's not new; it's always happening. That's true. For many, many years our youth have gone to fight in Spain, for instance, or gone to a foreign country to support a cause, and I think that's part of human nature, but things have changed for me, from my looking at it, in that now these kids or these people are turning on their own. That's the hard part for me to accept. Many of them are going abroad and doing their thing and they come back, but now we're afraid they're going to turn on their own people, Canadians. That's a change that I see, and I just wonder what you might think of that.
Mr. Dawson: I think it's accurate what you're getting at, and there's a more complex dynamic involved. So we do have young individuals who are struggling more than in the past to establish their identity on a highly personal level. We live in a very individualistic society as opposed to our youth who went — my grandfather left medical school at Queen’s and went off and fought in the First World War. It was a very foolish thing to do, but he did it for the spirit of the land.
The young men that went to Spain were fighting for kind of a social identity. We now live in a world that is much more about a highly personalized identity, a project of the self. That's one element.
Then if you're talking about young men who are struggling with how to establish that personal, significant identity — and I would expect in most cases we're dealing with individuals who have an inordinate sense of the need to do this — they may find that it's unsatisfactory to stay within their traditional, religious and cultural identity. They don't feel they can achieve the things they think they should be achieving within a conventional Canadian framework, maybe because, in many cases, they will have subtly felt marginalized. It's about perception, not reality. They perceive they are being discriminated against in certain ways. Then they find this grand, heroic, transcendental, in the case of ISIS, task.
I like that you mention one thing. I spend a lot of time talking about this. We have to remember that from the dawn of time human beings have been willing to sacrifice their lives for causes. It gets so complicated. We're so astounded that a young man from Calgary who is working for an oil company could suddenly go off to Syria and fight for ISIS, because this seems so contrary to our conception of what someone would be willing to do, as opposed to go fight for the republican forces in Spain.
It's the same issue of individualism and trying to find an issue. He's not satisfied with the conventional notion of individualism but totally infected with an individualistic drive to distinguish himself. Then they find this grand, heroic cause, a kind of cause that's missing from our world. It's a cosmic cause, literally in the case of ISIS, and then they are willing to throw down their lives because the meaningfulness of that cause transcends everything else.
We have to be concise, so I'm trying to show there are complex, social and psychological variables which we can delineate, but we have to recognize it's not going to be a simple delineation. We can make it clear, but it's going to involve complex elements.
Senator White: Thanks to both of you for being here. I listened to some of the commentary you had around the recruiting and radicalization. You do some comparing to gang recruiting, to be fair, or at least young people looking for a cause. The reality is that their recruiting is typically done in large groups of people who are already involved. It isn't seen as a negative by their peer groups. It may be by those around them, but not their peers. In this case it's different. It's individual recruiting done typically in silence or a quiet place where not everybody is a part of this team, and in fact, some have to convert in their mind the way they've grown up and move away from it, so we're seeing it done online or even in facilities. Some witnesses here have talked about schools.
Have you seen that in the school systems? If you have, where? Is it done formally through people leadership, or is it done informally through the non-leader of the facility?
Mr. Dawson: I have never read anything in the research literature showing that it's happening in school systems. That doesn't mean there isn't some possibility this is going on. It has never reached the point where it could be documented in a way that would warrant getting published.
What I know is reading individual case histories in the literature, so we're talking potentially hundreds of individuals from a wide variety of circumstances. I can't think of a single instance of an individual converted to a radical viewpoint in a school context or environment. It's almost always outside of a school context.
Senator White: Through social media?
Mr. Dawson: It's through social media, but what social media facilitates is a very quick discovering of other young individuals of like mind.
Mr. Hiebert: Two quick points. The first is I think the public outreach programs will help us understand if that's an issue much better because public outreach will bring people in schools into the process; and if it is a two-way street of information flow, we'll get a sense of what they are seeing in schools. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, if I were worried about any institutions in Canada, schools wouldn't be at the top of my list, but rather prisons. We have much better evidence of people being radicalized in prisons than we have of people being radicalized in schools, and that is one of the reasons why one of the senior members of our intelligence establishment in Canada said you can't arrest your way out of this because actually arresting people and putting them in prisons will amplify the problem. If they're starting down a radicalization path, put them in a prison and guaranteed that's where they're going to go.
Senator White: Thanks for that, in particular the discussion around prisons. I may drag you back into that before you leave.
The second commentary that I caught from you had to do with hard versus soft. Lorne referred to gang activity at one point, and I will do the same.
In anti-gang initiatives, you first have to make people safe before you can do anything about it. In that context, we don't know what many people that we're pursuing look like. We can no longer say where they came from. We're seeing people who are, as they would call themselves, converts, so it's not like we actually have a place to look. We still have to do something about making people safe before we can try to de-radicalize or engage.
We had the discussion around the RCMP, CSIS and police agencies being the engagement for de-radicalization, but they're the same people who are engaging to make it safe and secure. Are they the wrong people?
Mr. Dawson: This supplements what we were talking about earlier. Studies are going on around the world right now, countering violent extremism programs. I've been present at conferences where some initial results are being reported. I've been in workshops here with people from around the world coming and talking about their different programs.
We're in very early stages, but certain things seem obvious. It is better if it's done in a grassroots framework. This does open up more jeopardy, because they need support, assistance and some coordination from a government level, but we need to find individuals — I believe you will talking to Mahdi Qasqas later today, who is a fine example of an individual working from within the community, with some assistance. There's more credibility, and it's more likely that the right kind of young people will show up or pay attention. The message is more believable. It's more likely they'll get the tipoffs as to the kids who didn't come but whom we should actually be speaking to in that context.
The Muslim community itself is naturally extremely worried about being stigmatized, and they're extremely worried about dealing with the security officials head on, one on one, especially anything below the leadership in those communities. The average citizen really does not want to be talking to an RCMP officer about these events.
Just to illustrate and concretize that, in the research that I said we have going on about foreign fighters right now — I won't name where because we have to maintain confidentiality — we were about to interview a set of family members in a community here in Canada. They reached out to us and said, "We don't know if we're going to go ahead with the interviews, because now we've been contacted by the RCMP and they want to come and talk to us." They were very upset and worried about that. We ended up having to say, "Look, it won't be that bad. Here is probably what is going to happen. Please still talk with us."
So there are these strong reactions back. Grassroots works. Finding the right individuals with professional qualifications but credibility in the community is definitely the best way to go. You do not want to be talking just with moderates. You don't want an anti-drug program to simply be talking to kids who have never even entertained taking a drug. You want to talk to those kids who have already taken a few drugs, and stop them from that next step. You want to get at those young, smart-alecky kids who are starting to talk the radical talk and starting to take this on as an identity.
I will throw in one final thing. The research literature shows that in the conversion process in general — and here, too, there's a significant element of role play before conviction — there is a whole period of time where young people are trying this on as a cool identity. It sounds strange to us, but that's what they're doing. That's when you can have access to them.
Mr. Hiebert: Can I make one extra point on that? You might want to look at the Prevent program in the United Kingdom, particularly their program called Channel. It has two components. I won't talk about the first, except to just mention it. The first component is working with communities to gain trust. There's a lot to say about that.
The second component is working with individuals who are vulnerable to radicalization. Once an individual has been identified to them, they establish a multi-institutional panel to work with that individual. The law enforcement police officers are there to gauge risk, but then they bring in people from the education system, social work, psychiatrists, et cetera, to deal with the other aspects of that person's life that need to be fixed, to get them to divert from that path towards radicalization and violence.
It's this combinatorial panel that works. That's expensive, but, again, an ounce of prevention, a pound of cure.
Senator White: Mr. Chair, he caused me to have another question. Can I use it?
The Chair: Colleagues? Very short.
Senator White: You're both familiar, I'm sure, with the Toronto 18 — somewhat less than Toronto 18, really, when you consider it. Some were fully committed, some were kind of committed and some were trying it on. Your argument will be that the police, RCMP, et cetera, need to target fully committed and somewhat committed; we have to have another strategy for the "trying this on" to keep them from reaching the second or third level. Does that make sense?
Mr. Dawson: I would say that for the fully committed, the hard measures are probably the only things that are going to work. We're really trying to figure out how to differentiate that other group and get at them.
Senator White: Thank you very much. I truly appreciate it.
Senator Dagenais: I have two questions. Some witnesses who came to our committee told us they felt particularly concerned about de-radicalization. Do you have any success stories from de-radicalization programs? If so, what method was used to de-radicalize these people?
Mr. Hiebert: I will be very brief. I'm sorry I'm replying to you in English, but I grew up in Winnipeg and — I'm sorry — the French training in Winnipeg was less than perfect.
Probably the best examples of this come from Europe, and I'm particularly drawn to the example of something called EXIT-Germany. That's a group that had a very interesting start. They started by trying to de-radicalize people who wanted to take on Nazi ideologies. As you can imagine, in Germany this is a big issue.
It started as a denazification program. Then, starting in the 1990s and early 2000s, they realized there was another kind of radicalized group to begin worrying about, and that was people who were radicalizing towards terrorism. They used the models they developed in denazification in the approach to terrorism. It's an expensive and very time-consuming process, but it has a high rate of success. They approach each person as an individual. They find out what makes that person tick, and then they use that as their opening point to try to reach out to that individual. I can't say anything more if I am trying to be concise, but I could give you a much longer explanation.
Mr. Dawson: I agree; EXIT is an excellent program. At a workshop on countering violent extremism that Public Safety Canada ran here in December, they had the founder of the EXIT program in Berlin. He has moved on, but he was teleconferenced in and he detailed the program. I already knew about it. It's a very good model.
One other key element is that de-radicalization may be aiming too high. Disengagement is really what you want to get at first. It's much easier to convince people. In the case of EXIT, you're contacting individuals who already have some doubt. They're not hardened neo-Nazis. They were in the neo-Nazi movement or they were jihadists, and they've returned from Syria and they're disillusioned. That's who they're dealing with.
It's easy to help those people to disengage, renounce violence and start integrating back into mainstream society. Let them keep their more radical beliefs for a period of time, knowing that they will eventually dissipate. Don't tackle the ideas right away, because that's where it becomes so confrontational. Go after matching what you want with what they want, which is to get on with life and get back into doing things they were doing before they took this detour.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, gentlemen, for an excellent presentation. TSAS has obviously worked for a long time with public funding, other groups, the Air India report and the Toronto tragedy. Thank you for all the work you've done.
I wondered if you would be able to provide to the committee, from the fruits of your efforts, the names of radical religious leaders currently causing the most difficulty in Canada. Do you know who they are and where they're active in Canada? What would you recommend to us to contain in our report to prevent their preaching in this country?
Mr. Hiebert: I'm not the person to answer that. Can you?
Mr. Dawson: No, I can't. I can say there are a few individuals that we have some knowledge of. But, under the confidentiality agreements of my research, they will never be identified. They have been coded into numbers, and all of the identifying information has been destroyed. So this is one of the dilemmas. In order to meet ethical standards that all academics in Canada are held to and actually to ensure that people would be willing to speak to us to begin with, we have to guarantee them this confidentiality.
This is one of the interesting roles. Research can't provide that kind of naming of names or identifying people in that sense. When we started this research, CSIS and the RCMP, who are our partners formally in this research, said, "You won't find anything we don't already know." We've already shown that's not the case. We've found things they didn't know simply because, under conditions of confidentiality, people have opened up and spoken to us about things they would never reveal to a direct agency of the government.
This is one of the great advantages of having arm's-length, independent research — properly funded research — on these issues, but it can only work in terms of developing an understanding of broad general principles, not identifying individuals, places, things of that nature.
Senator Beyak: A supplementary question, chair, if I may.
The Chair: Very quick, senator, please.
Senator Beyak: If, in your research, something was revealed that was going to be another Toronto 18
Mr. Hiebert: Then we have to. It's the same as a lawyer's confidentiality or a priest's confidentiality. We have to.
Mr. Dawson: I don't mind saying this: we have already — because we're only dealing with adults — encountered children. That's why we do have a formal partnership with high level officials at Public Safety Canada. When we encounter the children who are online and interacting with people and we can identify that they're underage, we send that information through. We don't know what happens beyond that because that's not our job, but we're careful about that.
Senator Beyak: That's excellent, very reassuring.
Senator Day: Gentlemen, I'm sorry we have to ask you to give short answers. This has been a fascinating hour that we've had, and I think the work that you're doing is extremely important. I've been looking for ways that we can encourage and support you on the work that you're doing.
One is the funding issue that you mentioned and the Kanishka Project coming to an end. I think that's one of the areas that we can be conscious of and may have some influence on. I'll just leave it at that, but I think it's important that you understand that the work you're doing is very important. We're hearing a lot of different things, but the evidence-based research is where we would like to go.
Dr. Dawson, you mentioned that all of this radicalization is religious-based. I think that is the terminology that I heard you use.
Mr. Dawson: We're talking about jihadist, right? I just want to stress that there are a lot of attempts sometimes to say that it's political and not really religious. Overwhelmingly, I would argue that it's the reverse. It's fundamentally religious, but their conception of religion encompasses political action. So, if you want to understand them, you need to understand their religious motivation. When we talk, and we have talked extensively with Canadians in Syria and Iraq, if you aren't willing to talk religion with them, no conversation is going to happen. They want to talk religion, and that's not accidental because that's what they are fixated on.
Senator Day: I'm wondering, how much of what we are seeing is copycat? How much of what we're seeing is people who say, "I'm going to go out and do this because I'm going to get all kinds of attention from the media and the social media?" That's not religious-based; although they send off their application form to the Muslim community so that they can say they're doing this for Islam, really, they're not. How much of that are we seeing, and how much more are we going to see?
Mr. Dawson: It sounds like I'm contradicting myself. I agree with you on that point too, but it goes to Senator White's point. As the literature shows, we have a variety of people attracted for a variety of reasons. They radicalize slightly differently. They take on different roles. So we are developing typologies of the different kinds of individuals attracted for different reasons, but the ones that are most seriously a threat to us are what a Norwegian typology calls the "entrepreneurs," the guys who really get into this in a dedicated way. They are the ones that lead others down the path of radicalization. There are lots of personal things that they are benefiting from it, but there's a hard core religious motivation there. But you're right that there are a lot of drifters, a lot of individuals just playing at this. You can usually tell; once you start to know these people, you can sort out which you're dealing with. They need a different approach or attack.
Mr. Hiebert: I was speaking about community engagement strategies, which I believe in very much. However, community engagement strategies only work with people who are connected to communities. Lorne used the term "drifters"; some people use the terms "lone actors" and "lone wolves." Those will be the toughest to reach in terms of community strategies. I'm not saying it's impossible; I'm saying that's a big challenge. That again reinforces the point Lorne made a minute ago about there being different pathways to radicalization and different social networks and personalities associated with those different pathways.
We would be happy to come back, so if you want to ask us more questions, we can do it another day.
Senator Day: One of the other points you made that we may be able to help out on is in relation to your access. You indicated there's a tremendous amount of information that could be very helpful for you in your work, but because of security clearance or whatever, you're not able to get there. If it's there, is it a security clearance issue? Could you not look at the information without an individual being identified?
Mr. Dawson: I'll give you an example. I don't think I'm revealing anything I shouldn't be in terms of classified material, but I'll keep it vague. CSIS ran a study using their data, and they could have a hundred thousand pieces of data they were working with, information on individuals. What was interesting about that study is that it verified what I had been saying in repeated talks — so that's why they brought me in — that the single strongest indicator of the potentiality for radicalization was the degree of religiosity. That doesn't mean that religious people are terrorists, but it means that a certain style of religiosity is strongly connected. I saw the results and some of the statistical results for a few other variables, but I was not allowed any access to how they did that, whether it was reliable, what the methodology was, the data they were using, how the data was coded. It's an interesting insight, but, ultimately, not of any use to me unless I can appraise it the way I would any other social scientific endeavour.
Mr. Hiebert: There is a constant dilemma for academics, which is that, if we get higher levels of security clearance and if we are able to see the data, we can't talk about it.
Senator Day: Those are just a couple of the points I thought that we might, as a committee, want to pick up on.
I have one point of clarification that they may be able to help us out with.
The Chair: I know you'll be short.
Senator Day: I'll be very short. A previous witness made a statement that all Islamists are militant. Some are violently so, and some are not. Do you accept that? I think that's important to clarify.
Mr. Dawson: I am not quite sure. Everyone uses the terminology in a different way, but the concise answer is that only a tiny percentage of people who adopt a radical viewpoint, whether you want to call them militant Islamists or whatever, ever actually engage in any violence. So we talk about a two-stage radicalization. You're radicalized to a worldview, but then there's a second set of variables that kick in that involve radicalization to violence. We need to be sifting those two things out because the broader radicalization could be problematic for us, but it's not really the key issue. The issue is the violence. So it's the subsample that really should be the focal point of concern.
Senator Day: Can I use the term Islamist for those non-radical, God-fearing people who have a religion but have no desire to cause havoc with other people?
Mr. Dawson: Yes, in a sense. We used to talk about Salafi jihadists, Salafism being a specific form of extreme viewpoint in the Islamic community. We're now even backing off of that because, in the prisons in France and elsewhere, the Salafists are working against the jihadists, and they're turning out to be one of the biggest bulwarks against radicalization. So fundamentalist Muslims are preventing people from becoming jihadists. We're down to just saying jihadism. It mainly has to do with accepting those few key principles about jihad.
The Chair: I want to follow up on Senator Day, and I want to get down to practical terms.
We are now experiencing some extreme teachings being propagated in this country, the United States, England and Australia. We know that. Now, as to where, one could argue where it is.
What can government, the public at large and that huge moderate Muslim community do to ensure that type of teaching is not being propagated week in and week out, because if we can prevent that and we can stop that or curtail it, then in part it will help solve some of our problems. Is that not correct?
Mr. Dawson: I think we have alluded to it several times. Educate people not to let this pass. If you're in a mosque and someone has been expelled from the mosque, then have the means to communicate that information. It is going to take time to get people to realize that.
We have to encourage the community itself to respond against these individuals and de-legitimate them within the community itself.
An analogy I often use is that some years ago when kids told us, "I'm going to kill myself and then you'll be sorry," we just said, oh, adolescents, that's the way kids speak. We don't think that way anymore. We've conditioned and educated ourselves that if a young child says they're going to kill themselves, that's it. We don't worry about whether it's serious or not; we immediately start to engage.
Similarly, we need to get people to realize that if someone says, "Anyone who is not a Sunni is
a kuffar and they should all be killed," that's not a line you let pass. The trouble is if your only recourse right now is to phone the police or the RCMP, it's not going to happen. If you can phone some kind of other interventionist body, softer, as we've been talking about, you'll be more likely to get that reporting happening, and we'll be able to get in and deal with those people when they're still in this role-play, rhetorical, trying-it-on stage.
The Chair: The fact is some of this teaching is taking place. How do we prevent it?
Mr. Hiebert: I would go back to community engagement as being the most fruitful way of doing that. I don't think you prevent it through hard security, in other words, investigation, intelligence gathering, arrests and so forth.
I think you have to get a community that's unreceptive. That's the key, and to get a community that's unreceptive means engaging. In the example I used around the Burnaby mosque where a couple of years ago they didn't bother to tell the RCMP when they had a radicalized individual in their premises, now they would. That's a process of engaging that particular group, bringing them into the orbit of thinking about these issues, and now they're spokespersons for Canadian society on this particular issue.
That's where I would start.
Mr. Dawson: The previous witness here made some comments, and I don't know him or his work so I'm not trying to be disparaging, but his situation is analogous to the struggle over new religious movements or cults, which has been another area of my study over the years. You have to be leery when someone is reporting to you that someone has said things that are dangerous or unacceptable, and he himself admitted that when he talked to other individuals associated with those individuals, they denied it, and he is implying that they're lying or being deceptive, instead of accepting that they may have an alternative interpretation of what was said. The key point is that people say things, but it's often very tricky to interpret exactly what they're saying and what the context is.
If it goes to the point of being actual promotion of terrorism or of hate, we have the laws on the books to deal with that. As our colleague Craig Forcese has developed effectively in a number of papers along with Kent Roach, the laws are there. They are good laws that have yet to be properly enforced. Rather than bringing in new laws that may be vaguer and gather too much under those laws, go back and use the laws that already exist within the counterterrorism legislation in the Criminal Code, section 83. If you're promoting terrorism — and it's a reasonably broad definition of it — you can prosecute people now. We need to take those laws seriously.
The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen; it has been very interesting. Thank you for attending.
Joining us for our third panel is Ms. Shahina Siddiqui, Founder and Executive Director of the Islamic Social Services Association, a charitable organization based in Winnipeg. She is also a member of the National Council of Canadian Muslims and was actively involved in producing the United Against Terrorism booklet with the RCMP.
Ms. Siddiqui, welcome to the committee. I understand that you have an opening statement. Please begin.
Shahina Siddiqui, Islamic Social Services Association, as an individual: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, and peace be with all of you.
I have been very involved in the Muslim community for many decades and in many capacities but, for the purpose of time, I will mention simply that I am the founding member and chair of Islamic Social Services Association. ISSA itself has incubated two institutes, the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute and the Canadian Muslim Women's Institute.
I immigrated to Canada in 1976 and have been working within the North American Muslim community for over 25 years as a spiritual counsellor. I have had the privilege to see up close the progress of the Canadian Muslim community. I have seen it grow and flourish. I have celebrated its many achievements as well as struggled with the many challenges, especially post-9/11.
I chose Canada to be my home, where I have devoted my entire adult life to working for justice, human rights, gender equality and against racism. Canada is a place where I had the privilege to discover my faith and to practise it. As a Canadian, I am invested in the security, well-being and progress of Canada and guarding the seven freedoms our nation is built on.
Like our fellow Canadians, Canadian Muslims aspire to make our nation a beacon for human rights, human equality and human values of justice, harmonious coexistence and to build a society that is compassionate, inclusive and governed by rule of law and that cherishes civil liberties for all its citizens regardless of race, creed, religion or culture.
Canadian Muslims are not a monolithic group. We are diverse culturally, ethnically, linguistically and in our religious understanding and observance. Muslims have been in Canada since before Confederation. In my province of Manitoba, Muslim families from Turkish and Lebanese descent are third- and fourth-generation Canadians.
My son and parents are buried in Canada. This is where my second son was born and raised and his two sons were born. This is our home. It is deeply disconcerting and hurtful to have my loyalty to Canada questioned, my faith derided and my civil human rights threatened due to geopolitical concerns, criminal acts by those claiming to be my co-religionist or to be acting in the name of and inspired by teachings of my faith.
The security concerns Canada faces today from the likes of ISIS and al Qaeda impact Canadian Muslims as much, if not more, than they do my fellow Canadians. We are in the difficult situation of having to preserve our faith values from the hate ideology of these terrorist organizations and to defend our faith from the onslaught of religious bigotry by Islamophobes.
Yes, Canada is facing a new threat today in terms of some of our youth being influenced and recruited by an ideology of hate, but to successfully purge this evil from our midst we need to work together and not treat Canadian Muslims as part of the problem but, rather, as part of the solution.
Canadians need to bring all stakeholders and experts together and work in the spirit of partnership and multiculturalism to set forth short-term and long-term goals, to prevent radicalization to violence and to help and rehabilitate those who may have fallen prey to ideology of violent extremism.
We have enough knowledge from such terrorist and gang-like threats of the neo-Nazis, the IRA and the KKK to help us address the latest threat. The similarities of brainwashing and recruitment techniques of all these groups make it possible for us to come up with and implement a comprehensive strategy to prevent violence radicalization and extremism and also to address it once it has occurred. My organization of ISSA has developed such a plan.
Please note that the vulnerability of some young people or those who are otherwise impressionable to being radicalized to the point of violence is rooted in factors that affect their families and the circumstances that make the whole family vulnerable. Stabilizing the family and strengthening the integration of Muslim families within the broader multi-ethnic Muslim as well as the wider community is what ISSA is all about.
My personal experience and much solid social science research all support the family counselling approach. The underlying philosophy of family counselling is the key to de-radicalization. Unfortunately, the language in which this phenomenon of Muslim youth radicalization towards extremist violence is being framed is extremely problematic and counterproductive. These are Canadian youth, and we need to have a made-in-Canada solution. Demonization of Islam and giving into stereotypes of Muslims will only exacerbate the situation. We need to adopt a prejudice-free and fully informed lens to this issue of radicalization to first prevent it and then eradicate it.
As Professors Bessma Momani and Lorne Dawson mentioned in The Globe and Mail today:
The government should acknowledge that using the law may seem like a quick and cheap fix, but ignoring the need for a more "sociological" approach will cost more in the long run.
I hope to give more details as to how we do this in answers to your specific questions. Thank you for your time.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Colleagues, during the course of the last two panels, some senators didn't really get an opportunity to ask their questions in depth, so I'm going to start a procedure for the course of the balance of the afternoon and ask if each senator would keep to one question unless it really carries on it something else.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, Ms. Siddiqui, for being here and for your comments. My question is directed at your point that it comes down to family counselling. How do you do it? How do we fund it? How do we make sure that enough of it is available?
Ms. Siddiqui: I am actually just coming out of a very intense training by Hayat Germany. Dan Köhler was in Winnipeg training us in exactly that. We are looking at this German model, and we will adapt it to a Canadian context. It seems to be closest to our context.
When you are counselling Muslims, whether it is in family counselling, marriage counselling, you name it, in my 25 or 30 years of experience, you need to get the family involved. In the case of radicalization, the family is actually the first responder. They know what is going on. They see the change in the individual. They have concerns. When we work with the whole unit of the family, we are most successful in at least prevention.
We have been talking a lot about prevention and intervention, but there is another stage that is pre-prevention, where the education is extremely important and putting into context what these individuals are listening to and what they are doing.
For example, if your child is on the Internet, where we see most of the radicalized literature and videos available to these youth, the family is the first point of contact that will tell us that and help us assess it. They are also the ones who are emotionally connected to this individual. Just as we try to take young people out of gangs and we get the family involved, it would be the same kind of process.
I'll give you my example. Our Islamic Social Services Association gets absolutely no funding from the government. I volunteer my time as executive director so that we can keep our work going. In Germany, it is funded by the government. There are many different aspects involved and many different partners that we bring to it.
Senator White: I have one question in two parts. Thank you very much for being here today, and I do appreciate your taking the time. We're talking a lot about extremist viewpoints, people expressing them and engaging others and causing them to act in a way that may not be their norm. Have you actually seen this occur, and if so, how have you handled the passing of information on to the authorities or to leaders in your own community?
Ms. Siddiqui: First, there is very little capacity within Muslim communities across Canada to deal with this issue. They are not trained. In my case, I have assessed the cases where I had to inform the RCMP; I have done so. Where I felt that it was a pre-radicalization stage, where it is what just big talk and questions, we have addressed it accordingly. So I think the assessment process is critical when the case comes to you, when parents come to you, when the individual comes to you. That is where we are hoping to build capacity. A lot of questions were raised about what the Muslim community is doing. We are not trained in policing. We are not security experts. But we are the connection. That is where we need to focus, to build that capacity. Not every Muslim will be able to do this work. So we need to build teams within the communities that would work with the RCMP and with CSIS and this have partnership built and established, so that we can do work which is productive and effective, rather than right now what I see is that everybody has a piece of the puzzle, but it has not been put together. We are all struggling because it is a new phenomenon for us. I think partnerships are absolutely important, but partnerships that are based on mutual trust and respect.
Senator White: A follow up question, Mr. Chair?
The Chair: Very quick.
Senator White: You just made a statement: We haven't seen this before. Why haven't we seen this, with Al Qaeda and others? Why haven't we seen this before? Why now and not those other times when we've seen this extremism happening?
Ms. Siddiqui: That's a very good question. We are also looking into it, but I think there are a lot of conditions that are available now that were not available before. First, there is the Internet. The fast exchange of information is one thing. Number two, the geopolitical conditions, the wars in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, have given a lot of fodder to extremists who would like to paint the West as the enemy of Muslims.
We were not paying too much attention, both in our community and from the larger Canadian community, to the impact of second-hand trauma on our community and our on youth especially. Because I do counselling I see this all the time. I am a practical person, so here is a simple example: During the night a child has watched Al Jazeera with his parents and has seen bombs dropped on his village, where his family may still reside. He sees his mother cry herself to bed, and the father is upset and angry because he feels he can't do anything. In the morning, this child goes to school. He is feeling grief and he's feeling helpless, and there is no one to talk to. Our guidance councillors are not trained. He is told by his parents not to talk about this because they don't want him to be profiled or get into trouble. So this grief and this helplessness are internalized. He will try to find venues where he can go and find answers for this. The community, for ourselves, we were not opening up forums and asking youth to come and talk and giving them that psychological counselling to help them channel their anger, their grief, their helplessness in a productive, constructive way. So we were each, I think, failing at our own ends. We always think of traumas as something that you personally have been experiencing, but second-hand trauma is very real. It is happening and it is there.
It's the same thing as people who get kids into gangs. They have their radars up. These recruiters have their radars up. They're watching where this kid is going and which websites he's accessing. They see the website, so they respond. It is a radicalization; it doesn't happen overnight. It is a process. As the speakers before have said, there's very little understanding and training, whether it's school counsellors, trauma counsellors, in general, about this process. There are very few experts around the world in this process. But we do have the knowledge, as I said. We have the knowledge from other groups. We have the knowledge from other experiences. It's a matter of pulling that all together and really having a strategic, comprehensive plan because these are our kids. We don't want them going and dying in foreign lands. We don't want them committing acts of violence. These are promising futures.
I think that's where the partnership needs to come in.
The Chair: If we can keep our questions relatively concise and our responses concise as we move along.
Ms. Siddiqui: I will.
Senator Beyak: Thank you for your presentations. Several witnesses before the committee have expressed concern that the organizations leading the call for counter radicalization are themselves linked with radical groups. I note that the National Council of Canadian Muslims, on whose board you sit as a director, was formerly known as the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. The website states that the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations was a fully independent and distinct organization from the American group. But in 2003, an affidavit by Ms. Sheema Khan, chair and founder of CAIR-CAN noted that CIRC uses the trademark CAIR and CAIR-CAN and the name Council on American-Islamic Relations under licence from CAIR United States. Under the terms of licence, CAIR United States has direct control over the character and quality of all activities of CIRC, including the use of trademark and trade name.
The information is relevant because I believe you know that CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a successful terrorist financing case in the United States with Hamas. CAIR is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates. The question I have is this: How can we trust community organizations to help us develop a counter radicalization narrative when they themselves are affiliated with organizations with known ties to terrorism?
Ms. Siddiqui: First, let me make it clear that I am the most senior board member of NCCM and I have been part of it since its inception. When you talk about CAIR in the U.S.A., it's an independent organization from NCCM. When we started off, the name was CAIR-CAN and we soon realized that it was confusing people as to our mandate in Canada. CAIR U.S.A., you say, has unindicted co-conspirators. I really do not know what that word means because if they are unindicted then they're not guilty. So there is a lot of stuff that is out there, and I would advise this respectful committee to give me the time to respond because a lot of accusations were made. A lot of slander and innuendos were thrown around right here. I am sad about that because if I had known, I would have come prepared to respond to each and every one of those allegations. So please give me the time to respond and I will respond to all of you in writing to all those accusations made because I don't believe in speaking from the top of my head, without having evidence to back up what I'm going to say.
Suffice it to say that NCCM is one of the leading voices in human rights, civil liberties and advocacy on behalf of Muslims. It's a respected organization. I am part of it, and I'm proud to be part of it. When it comes to CAIR U.S.A., when you go to their website they have answered, in detail, this accusation that has been made against them. They have also responded to United Arab Emirates, in detail, and I think their name has been removed from that list. You can check into that, but all the responses are there. So it's best to speak to people who can respond to it in the best way, but as far as NCCM is concerned, we will respond to you in detail.
Senator Beyak: After that many years on the board of directors, I'm surprised you would not have those answers at the ready. They're simple questions. Thank you.
Ms. Siddiqui: I had not known that I was being called here as a board member of NCCM. I was invited as President of Islamic Social Services Association because of the handbook that we have done and also because of the work that we are doing in this field. I also sit on the RCMP Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Diversity and on D-Division's Commanding Officers’ Advisory Committee on Diversity. I'm also Chair of the Islamic History Month in Canada. I'm also a board member of the Canadian Association for Muslims with Disabilities. I also sit on a round table for the Winnipeg police. But I'm not here speaking on behalf of all of them, only on the work that we are doing at ISSA.
Senator Dagenais: I have a simple, two-part question. In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to Muslim Canadians? Is it the Islamophobic demonstrations by some Canadians you talked about or is it more the actions of Muslims who are more radicalized? How do you foresee what we might call co-habitation between the peaceful Muslim groups and the radicals hiding here?
Ms. Siddiqui: It was a twofold question. I'm sorry, could you repeat the first part?
Senator Dagenais: What is the biggest threat to Muslim Canadians? Is it the Islamophobic demonstrations by some Canadians or more the actions of radical Muslims?
Ms. Siddiqui: They both feed into each other, and that is why we need to look at it. I have watched so many videos over the last four days of how they are recruiting our youth. Those videos, their propaganda material and their magazines will tell you that they zero in exactly on these issues. They tell them you cannot be a Canadian and cannot be a Muslim. It's a dichotomy. You can't be a good Muslim in Canada. They focus on that. Then they go on to tell our youth the reasons: "Look at how they attack and demonize your faith and stigmatize the Muslim community and how they won't allow Muslim women to wear the hijab." There's a laundry list of things that they use in those propaganda materials. Then they turn on the Muslim community in general and say, "Look, they're not doing anything for you; they're not doing anything for the brothers and sisters in Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq." So those are the ways in which they are trying to reach some of the vulnerable youth.
That's why it's very important when we are doing de-radicalization to look at the entire picture of what's causing it. Islamophobic messages and extreme media are playing roles in it because they legitimize what these extremists say, in the minds of the at-risk youth. Most will be able to process it and go to elders and community leaders to talk it through and get the answers, but some will not. One of the stages of radicalization is the isolation of the individual. We have used a lot of the term "self-radicalization." I can tell you that nobody radicalizes themselves. They may initiate radicalization, but they need a group of people around them; they need a community.
Right now that community is being provided on the Internet of extremists, who surround them and answer their questions. Every time there is doubt, they have a response. In order to counter that, we have to show our youth, we have to convince our youth, that they are part of Canada, that Canada is their country and that they can be both loyal Canadians and devout Muslims. There is no dichotomy. That's the message we want to get across.
Senator Day: I think it's a pretty well-known strategy that if you want to build up support for one side against another, whether it's a nation or another army, you have to build up the hatred towards the other side and create a fear of the other side. Your comment that you resent the fact that your freedom of religion is being taken away from you made me think about just what's happening. I have a grave, grave concern that we're going to see more retaliation. We're going to see more bullet holes in mosques and mosques burned, and it's because of what ISIS is doing by beheading people on the Internet. This is going to escalate. As soon as your community starts seeing this activity, which has been triggered by something happening way off somewhere else, more and more young people are going to join up to go fight for the jihad. It's going to be more and more difficult for your community. Your community is going to react to the other communities within your area; and it's going to escalate. What are we doing to stop this? We've got to stop it now or it's going to get out of control.
Ms. Siddiqui: We have to stop it now because we have the experience of Japanese internment. We did that to Japanese-Canadians out of fear. I hope this is not going to go there. Canadian Muslims have made it very clear: ISIS does not speak for us. ISIS is rejected as a terrorist organization. That brings me to the language we are using to contextualize this whole phenomenon. For example, calling them "jihadis" or saying that somebody is "doing jihad" is actually playing right into their hands, because they can turn around, and they do, and say to our young people, "Look, even they recognize that this is jihad."
Now, you have to know the meaning of "jihad." Jihad comes from the root Arabic for struggle and striving to do good. This is the meaning of "jihad." In the military sense, yes, we are not a pacifist faith as we are allowed to go to war, but only in self defence. This is the message being drowned out both by the extremists and by Islamophobes. They want to push this so. The language we use in framing the dialogue and discussion is very important. I know that people are taking it very easy, but language has an impact. We want to call a spade a spade. Terrorism is not jihad. It is terrorism; it's evil; and we need to purge it.
At the same time, we need to tell our youth and our community that the majority of Canadians are not Islamophobic and are not racist. They may not be well informed, so our job is to inform, educate and reach out. In our organization, we reach out to five communities in Canada: the First Nations, because we have a lot in common with them; the Japanese community; the Mennonite community; and other interfaith and cultural groups to bring them together to have conversations.
The RCMP are in our mosque on a regular basis. They come to our events. I just have to pick up the phone and call my CO for anything, and he's always available. Our police chief is the same way. He's the first Black chief in Canada and an amazing human being who has reached out to our community. These are the positive examples that we want our youth to know so that they are not taken in by the hate; but I can't do that alone. We need partners. We need our political leadership to show leadership in that regard, and we need our civil society to work with us. We need research so that we can have statistics and information. Every sector of civil society has to be a partner around this. We have to look at this issue in a holistic way. If you're going to take religion and hammer on that, it's not going to work because this is not the only cause for it. Islam is a religion of peace, but it can be a partner in this. It's getting the right messaging out. Look at the videos. They are so slick. We have shown them to experts in communication in Canada and the United States. They say we can't top it; this is a Hollywood production. Then what do we do in response? We go out and talk to the community, right? Our response is so benign compared to what these people are able to do with the financing and the money they have.
Senator Day: The ISIS.
Ms. Siddiqui: The ISIS.
Senator Day: We were told earlier that ISIS is sending out 90,000 messages a day. Could you be sending out 90,000 messages from the Muslim community saying we don't adopt that, we don't approve that, if you had the money to do it?
Ms. Siddiqui: Not with the resources. One other thing that was brought up, I would like to emphasize, is that when people are talking about mosques, perhaps they confuse them with churches, which are based on membership. Our mosques don't have membership. Anybody can come to a mosque to pray. The mosques are open. We don't stand at the door and ask, "Are you a member?" For them to say we should monitor the mosques, it's an impossible task. That's number one.
Number two, a mosque is just four walls. Anybody comes in, sits and talks. We can control the material that comes into the mosques, and we have procedures and guidelines for imams. We will not let anything go through that is problematic, but we are not police. We are not set up to respond to every person on the street who decides that he is going to lead or get to a group of youth and whatnot, so we need help in that area as well. We have to recognize that it's run by volunteers, by the way. Not a single mosque has an executive director. Many of the mosques have volunteer imams. The infrastructure, the finances and all that you will need to come up with for comprehensive ways of dealing with it and being a partner are not there.
Senator Day: I'll finish with this, Mr. Chair. I wanted to get an answer to my initial question. Do you have the resources in personnel and funds, within the Muslim community, to counter the communication coming from ISIS that's developing this war against Muslims?
Ms. Siddiqui: Absolutely not. As I said, I have one staff member. Islamic Social Services Association is the only social service association that is helping communities all across Canada in this area. I have one staff member. I volunteer my time. With the training we did with Daniel, we could not afford to bring him in. He offered to do the training without cost. This is how we're struggling.
The strategic plan I talked to you about puts everything together. We have approached the federal government through Joyce Bateman, our MP from Manitoba, to help us in that area. I am willing to volunteer all my time, the scholars are willing to volunteer their time, but when it comes to the medium by which we will reach not only our youth but also reject and counterbalance what is coming out
Senator Day: That is critical.
Ms. Siddiqui: It is critical. We don't have the resources to do that, except for our personal commitment and passion for it.
The Chair: I would like to ask a question. I want to refer to United Against Terrorism: A Collaborative Effort towards a Secure, Inclusive and Just Canada, which you were very much involved in. There's an area that should be explored here, and I think it should be part of a public conversation. It was referred to earlier today and has been referred to a number of times from representation that has come before our committee. It's the question of the individuals who have been named as spokespeople. It's on page 13, and it's a group of suggested scholars who demonstrate a keen knowledge of the current geopolitical environment.
Research has shown that quite a number of them have been indirectly or directly involved with international, national associations that, quite honestly, one would look at and question exactly what are they doing, who they are and what they are involved with. There are also some very extreme statements made by a number of them. People can make mistakes, I accept that, but these are very extreme statements.
I'm wondering, from your perspective, with an important document such as this, why we would have individuals being named who raise this question? We've had individuals here on numerous occasions speaking out, saying, "Look, some people are coming out as spokespeople in the Muslim community, yet at the same time they actually do have some extreme views." So we're getting almost double-talk in some cases. Perhaps you can explain that to us in respect to this particular document, because I think it begs the question.
Ms. Siddiqui: Sure. If you look at the question to which this was answered, it was whom do we consult to gain an accurate understanding of our faith? These were questions raised by 200 community members in a town hall meeting. The panel was answering them. This idea to put them all in a handbook was because when I talked to my colleagues across the country, they said these are questions that the youth are raising. They're asking for references on where we can go, to suggest some names.
All these people that are mentioned here, I know them personally. I can tell you that I don't know what research you are indicating, but if you are going to chop up and take out of context something that somebody said, we can prove anything if you apply a cut-and-paste approach.
The other thing is that I may not agree with all their views, and you may not agree with all my views, but in Canada we have the freedom of expression where we can express and counter those views. I would really like to see the research where those connections were made.
When you're talking about the geopolitical situation, you want to talk to people who do have a geopolitical view, who do have some connections. A lot was said about MAC, the Muslim Association of Canada. A lot was said about other mainstream organizations, and this is was extremely problematic because these are people who are respected, knowledgeable. I have heard them speak, read their work. Some of them are professors in Canadian universities. These are people who are invited all over North America and Europe to speak, to consult with.
The problem is when people have very little knowledge of what Islam is and what Islamic terminology means, and they juxtapose that ignorance on the faith itself and the situation we are in. We will have claims made that you and I, as critical minds, need to look into and get more information. If you can prove to me — and by "you" I mean the general sense — that any one of them has promoted violence or an ideology that comes close to hate, I'm the first one that would remove their names from this handbook. I would put a disclaimer on it. But I can only go on evidence. I cannot go on hearsay. I would say it is strategic because if you can go after the respected legitimate leadership of a community, you break that community. You make it weak.
I know that there are people who are extremists and who have extremist views that I do not agree with. They have been called out on it. We have refused to bring in speakers where we fundamentally disagree with their views. Anything that harms Canada or is in any way a threat to Canada is a threat to me. I would respectfully submit to you, please look into this if it is a concern and bring it to my attention as well. We have done due diligence in putting these names out.
There are people on the Internet, there is entire hate mail that comes to me every day in my office. I get threats all the time. Why? Because I dare to speak up for Islam and Muslims, or I dare to speak up for Canada on both ends of the spectrum. But I don't let that cloud my critical judgment because it is essential, as I said, that we continue to stand up for our seven freedoms.
The Chair: I appreciate what you've just said here, and let me just conclude this. We will correspond with you in respect to this, but when you see statements that indicate that, for example, being part of an organization that talks about authorizing the killing of American troops in Iraq, things of this nature are really concerning to everybody on the committee, if that was the case. Those are just one or two examples.
Senator White: When this handbook was first coming out, I was under the understanding that the RCMP had withdrawn from the handbook. Is that correct?
Ms. Siddiqui: No, they have not withdrawn from the handbook. I'll just tell you what my communication was with them. The night before I got an email from our CO saying, "Shahina, there is an issue." I said, "Okay, I will talk to you in the morning." He called me later that morning when we were going to have the press conference, and I want to quote him correctly: "Headquarters has a concern," and I said that's — so we cannot come to the press conference. They were actually printing the handbooks to bring because we didn't have the money to print the handbooks. I said, "What about the handbooks?" He said, "Sorry, we can't send them either." That's all that we know about it.
Then later on, the next day, I get a call from the media that says the RCMP has put out a statement saying that they have concerns with the tone of certain parts of the handbook, which was also not very clear as to what that reason was. RD division at that time did not know anything about that statement. Of course, the media started calling from all over.
To this day, it has not been communicated to me because my response, and our statement is on the record, the response was that it is a free country; people are entitled to their opinion. The disclaimer is already on the handbook on the back of the first page saying that the three organizations that have collaborated on this are only responsible for their section; right? So it was obvious that the RCMP was not responsible, and I was not responsible for the RCMP section either.
I can tell you that for 14 months this handbook and the drafts were going to and fro. Until midnight of the printing, there was one objection to a quote from Pierre Trudeau in the handbook from the communications department at HQ. We removed that and put "Vision" of RCMP on it.
I am clueless as to why this was done. The RCMP knows we are distributing. This handbook has gone into second printing because it gives parents red flags to look for and so forth. Europe has asked for it. I am going to Vienna and Pristina on the invitation of the embassy to present on de-radicalization and radicalization and this handbook. It has gone as far as Russia and Nigeria. I don't know why and what the issue is.
Senator White: They haven't asked to be removed from the book?
Ms. Siddiqui: No.
Senator Beyak: I just want to say that the comments I get from constituents all the time are that we all have to stop being offended, stop being thin-skinned and work together. They are tired of hearing excuses. If 21 Christians were beheaded by Jews, they would be called "radical extremist Jews." And if pilots were burned in cages by a Christian, they would be called "radical violent Christians."
We have to work together, stop being so thin-skinned and find a solution to a worldwide problem. They declare themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood, and as Senator Lang pointed out, their plans are very clear.
What would you answer to people who are legitimately concerned, not about you or me or Jews or Christians, but about Canadians in general who are sick of the fighting and want some action?
Ms. Siddiqui: Which fighting? ISIS and Iraq?
Senator Beyak: Between ourselves and between everybody being offended because somebody said something they perceive as nasty or untrue, even though it's documented and clear for people to read. Canadians don't want to hear all that. They're tired of us being offended and thin-skinned, and they want us to do something about it. People who are threatening to blow up malls and who are burning pilots in cages and beheading Christians.
Ms. Siddiqui: On average in a week I speak to three groups of Canadians, and I speak all across Canada and North America, and I get emails from everywhere.
Canadians are as concerned about the loss of innocent life, whether it is done by ISIL, al Qaeda or by all other terrorist groups.
The number one targets of these groups are Muslims. Seventy thousand Pakistanis have been killed by terrorist attacks. The same numbers go across the board. It's not about Muslim versus Canadians or Canadians versus Muslims; it is humanity versus terrorism.
When you talk about "offence," offence is a very mild word to use. What we are dealing with is slander. We are dealing with defamation. A person's reputation is all one has. When I am called a terrorist supporter or somebody who caters to that, you are attacking me at a very fundamental level — my employment. I have two Canadian grandkids. How do I tell them that your own country, your own people are turning on you? I don't have the heart to tell them that the Canada I chose to be my home and I will defend to my last breath is attacking my community in general. We don't do that to any other community.
Three Muslim youths were killed by a self-proclaimed atheist, and if you go on his Facebook you will see his antireligious rant. Nobody called it terrorism. An individual belonging to a fundamental Christian group, who killed four of our Mounties, nobody called it a Christian terrorist.
This is what we are facing. We are not saying don't call an ace an ace, but what we are saying is at least before you say that, get your facts straight; right? Get the information. Because otherwise we will tear each other apart, as you were saying. We have to have the trust in our democratic values that we can overcome this evil with those values, not by ignoring those values.
That's my submission to all of you: Don't give into the fear and the propaganda. Just as I tell my youth, don't give into the fear and propaganda of these groups. They are someone who hates humanity, and all of us are human beings.
But if I am made to feel, as a Canadian Muslim, a second-class citizen, I will speak up. If I don't, I would be doing a disservice to the democratic values of the country that I chose to be my home.
Senator Beyak: Christians and Jews have been offended and slandered for millennia. It has nothing to do with that. As our witness told us last week, being offended is no excuse to kill — pure and simple.
Ms. Siddiqui: Do you think they are killing because they are offended? No. They are killing because they want the land. They want the money. They want to control and to go on. They want to implement their hate ideology. They're not doing it because they were offended.
Senator Beyak: Journalists were killed in France because they were offended.
Ms. Siddiqui: Who said that?
The Chair: Senator.
Senator Dagenais: The committee has heard the concerns from Muslim Canadians about the Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other influences in the Gulf, funding radical Islamic preachers and also providing funding to Canadian organizations.
Do you think it is appropriate for Canadian mosques in B.C. or Ottawa or university organizations to be receiving foreign funding with strings attached, or could this be contributing to radicalism?
Ms. Siddiqui: It is absolutely a good question. We have been struggling with this since the 1980s. I can tell you that my own organization was offered $3 million. We refused, even though I had not a penny in my account at that time, when I started the organization, because this is a Canadian organization, and we don't need funding from anywhere else.
The same thing with our mosques in Manitoba. We were offered money from Libya when we made our first mosque. We refused it.
Are there some mosques that have accepted money from overseas because it was legal to do so? If we want to curtail them, we have to make it illegal, not just for Muslims but also for all groups, for you to raise funds from abroad. That would be my response.
But this is the message that has been going out to all communities when we do our round tables, when we have our conferences. We are telling organizations, "Do not accept funding from overseas, even if it sounds kosher, because there are strings attached to it, and we want to be a Canadian Muslim organization."
I do share your concerns, and, to give you an example, I was perhaps the first one in Canada to stand up to the translations of the Quran that were coming from Saudi Arabia. I told all of the mosques in Winnipeg to remove those Qurans from our shelves. We will not accept them. When I was at conferences in other communities, I said the same thing, because, for me, even the translation that was in English was problematic. Thank God we have the Arabic text that it could be compared with.
The way the women were being treated in the mosque was not a Canadian phenomenon; it was a Saudi phenomenon of excluding women. I'm the first person who spoke up against it in a handbook for all Muslim organizations, saying how to make mosques more women-friendly and to reclaim our heritage.
Just to show you that I am not the only one, there are many others within the communities, but we are not outside the community. Some people that you hear from are sitting on the sidelines and are armchair intellectuals, I would say. We are those people who are in the trenches. We are trying to make the difference from within. You know that change is only good when it comes from within, when people understand why they need to change, why they need to ignore certain things and influences.
This is what we are doing, and we need help, of course, in doing that. But we will continue to do that. Even the strategic plan, which requires a lot of investment, I'm not going to put on the sideline because the federal government didn't come through for us with the funding. We will do it — God will provide —because this is just too serious to ignore. I cannot have another young Canadian being led down this route of violent extremism. I cannot see the tears of these mothers any more. I just cannot. This has to stop, and this has to go beyond name calling. We need concrete steps. We need concrete cooperation. We need a concrete plan to do this as a team. Just please do not treat Muslim Canadians as if they are the enemy, because we are not.
The Chair: Colleagues, I just have one question, if I could, following up on Senator Dagenais.
You talked about the financial assistance coming in from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, other interests. It's not just one particular country. I understand that there are a number of countries involved. You're a member of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Do you know how many mosques in the country have received money from these interests?
Ms. Siddiqui: I don't have the figures.
The Chair: Can we get them?
Ms. Siddiqui: I think so. I think all you have to do is to go to the tax department. They file their taxes. You would know.
The Chair: Okay. Colleagues, our other panelists are here. I would like to thank our witness for appearing. We appreciate the time and effort that you put into it. I know that at times this is a difficult conversation. But it's a conversation obviously long overdue, and we appreciate your appearing before us. I want to thank you very much.
Joining us, as we continue our look at threats to Canada, is Mr. Mahdi Qasqas, a doctoral candidate in the University of Calgary faculty of social work. Mr. Qasqas is a provisional psychologist and a registered counsellor. He is also the founder and president of 3OWN, a counselling service for Muslim families in Calgary. For the past year Mr. Qasqas has provided counselling to Muslim inmates at the Bowden and Drumheller institutions, as well as cultural and sensitivity training to staff and post-release support for inmates.
Mr. Qasqas, welcome to the committee. I understand you have an opening statement.
Mahdi Qasqas, Registered Provisional Psychologist, Muslim Youth and Family Services, as an individual: I do, and thank you for having me.
Every parent, I suppose, wants to provide for their children all the opportunities to live in a safe world with the right to grow, prosper, be healthy and happy. Certainly it's what the thousands of families that I've worked with over the many years want for their children and their youth even if sometimes youth don't seem to get it.
Many immigrants have left comfortable lives for the future of their children. That extends also to anyone with a child; they want a better future for their child, but for many they feel that something goes wrong.
As a father, a Canadian, a mental health professional, I believe part of my purpose on this earth is to empower youth, their families and the organizations that serve them. As such, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to dialogue with you all today to figure out how we can forge a better future for our children in Canada.
I can only imagine how stressed you and the thousands of well-intentioned people are to have the burden of protecting Canadians from a serious problem. I have to ask: How do you do it? What keeps you going despite the uncertainty, the stress, and at times these feelings of insecurity?
I believe that how we all deal with this ongoing trauma will be the key to the future of this nation. I really hope what motivated you all to be here today and what motivates all the unsung heroes in this nation will lead to the goal of good policy and a better future for us all.
However, I am here today as a service leader, not as a policy leader. I can only pray to God that what little I have to offer to you today will contribute to the health, safety, security and prosperity for all Canadians for years to come.
As a service leader, I have over 10,000 hours of volunteer service. I'm honoured to give back to the community constantly, with youth and families and the organizations that serve them, and I continue to learn. I don't want to sound pretentious today and pretend I have all the answers, despite so many in my community, including my wife and family, depending on me to give a really good response here today. But my roots in the community have made it paramount that all Canadians know that Islam is not the problem, multiculturalism is not the problem and immigration is not the problem.
Simply put, the problem is the problem. And the problem I and thousands of others, including you, are working on is preventing marginalization and promoting "integralization." It goes beyond just integration and beyond just being together. I believe it goes to having our younger generation being integral to the prosperity of this nation.
It is this vision that led to the OWN IT conference, where I coined the term "criminal radicalization." I believe it is perhaps a more useful construct to begin the process of preventing violent attacks. Out of this clear definition of this problem we are able to collect better data, which leads to better assessments, which leads to better interventions and, God willing, to greater impact. This is precisely what I'm working on with many researchers, trainers, politicians, service providers, families and, most of all, with youth themselves directly.
I believe you've heard in previous testimony from Lorne Dawson about his research. I'd also like to mention an individual by the name of Kevin Cameron of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessments and Trauma Response. With him we are developing a module to add to the multi-agency violence threat risk assessment model. This model looks at the work he did with the RCMP behavioural sciences branch on school shootings, with over 100 high-profile cases since Columbine. It also provides a typology of different types of perpetrators. So if we're going to clearly identify what interventions we need and with whom and how we go about it, I believe it's important to conduct that better data and have better constructs that we use.
I would be happy to share more details about this and other programs, including the STOP program, which is a prevention program, the Smooth Transitions Outreach Program, which helps youth in vulnerable transitions. Soon we will be applying it to criminal radicalization.
Another primary prevention program that I would be happy to discuss today or at a later day is the Rage is Not Enough program. This is an opportunity to address wide audiences, because sometimes we just don't know who is listening in the audience. When it comes to youth and their feelings of injustice that start to build up, that's what we need to seriously intervene on. The fundamental principle behind the Rage is Not Enough program is that after you emotionally explode, then what? It's not enough to just be angry all the time. You've got to do something about it.
So far I've presented it to many people, to about seven or eight different gatherings, over 1,500 people. It's still anecdotal in its evidence, but the principle behind it is that it allows for a catharsis. Then we can get working on the real issues.
Finally there is the Repurpose program. Instead of calling it de-radicalization, I prefer to approach it as repurposing. Those are the three main anchor programs to all the work we do, along with the Reach One Teach One mentorship program and other stuff we do generally with youth who are facing various risk factors to crime in general.
Senator Mitchell: Thanks for your work in the community and your articulate presentation.
One of the things you didn't mention is your work with inmates in the Alberta prison system. Can you give us some insight into the dangers, the process of radicalization that may or may not be occurring or that we hear could be occurring at least in the prison setting?
Mr. Qasqas: One of the ways we look at the criminal radicalization is that 10 different people can commit a violent act for 10 different reasons. For some it may be a purest form of extremism where they are so motivated they are willing to kill for a cause, whereas others are killers in search of a cause. For the adults in the prison system, in order to help the guards understand Islam in prison it took about a year of back and forth until we came up with the term "Prislam." It's not Islam, it Prislam. The pillars of Prislam are different. They're usually about manipulation.
They're usually about getting what they want. Some of the inmates that I worked with didn't even know the basics of Islam, yet they were there getting the diets and everything like that.
With these individuals, I believe, not to generalize, but they're like empty vessels. Whatever gets put in there, it justifies any act to get what they need; that's where the danger lies.
So for the very same reasons that led them down a path of crime, now there is this justification process. For example, mental illness: Sometimes people in the prison system are extremely depressed and suicidal. Then something happens and those suicidal thoughts start to get transformed into homicidal thoughts. If we don't intervene with that, through counselling and strong therapy, then what ends up happening is they're on this justification path to justify the crime they wanted to commit to begin with. They could have zero religious convictions. Ask any psychologist in the system because psychologists that are there are seen as part of the system; they don't trust them, and it's a culture in and of its own. I think with the prison programs, the post-release programs, we can be more successful because they're out of the system, sort of. To really focus on the very same reason that leads them down a path of crime — in this case, I think, the number one issue is the depression and suicidal thoughts that transform into homicidal ones.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you. I take it that you counsel Muslim families on issues of radicalization — somewhere along the process — or of the dangers. How is it that these problems are referred to you? How is it, in your community, that they find you, or do you find them? How are they identified?
Mr. Qasqas: Fifteen years in the community and I do the Friday Khutbas, the sermons. With families, for some reason, they enjoy them. Humour helps. So what ends up happening is that I built up rapport and trust very quickly with these families. The one thing that they can walk away knowing is that I will do my very best to help them and I will never intentionally harm them. I'll do everything in my power not to unintentionally harm them either, so there's a trust that gets built in the community. It's very easy to build trust with the Muslim community, and the more authentic you are in the community, the more people approach you.
On my way here the cab driver opened up about his son and his problems. When I said yes, I'm a psychologist, he said, "I went to this . . ." and then he just opened up. What they really are looking for is somebody to be culturally responsive with them, to take their world view, their belief, their experience and current circumstance and to use that to help them get to where they want. I barely ever promoted my private practice as a provisional psychologist and counsellor. Word of mouth builds like wildfire, and they really like the way I connect with their youth. So it opens up many, many doors. These are mainly the reasons why families would approach me. Youth approach me because many of them may get approached by elders who have good intentions, but sometimes it ends up with them saying that yeah, it's their job to tell us what to do and our job to pretend to listen. So there's not that much impact. I hear it all the time that outreach with youth doesn't work and just talking to them doesn't work. And they're right, just talking to a youth doesn't work because we believe that we can motivate youth, and that's totally wrong. We need to understand how to help youth motivate themselves, by looking into their internal motivation, their sense of connectedness with each other and their sense of choice and competence; the three Cs I guess. Those elements are exactly what they find on Facebook and video games. They get to choose. Their feedback is constantly given. It's no longer like Pac-Man where you see your score; they're more intense. Now what's starting to happen is that some of the youth who feel disconnected, they feel like they're not competent and they don't have that sense of choice. They're forced into all those things and become those empty vessels.
I believe parents appreciate my work with their youth. I run leadership programs, youth empowerment programs and all these other things. I don't mind playing around with children, engaging young children at their level. That's what I believe is culturally responsible practice.
Senator White: Thanks for being here this afternoon. I look at the challenge we have across the country with the radicalization discussion. Calgary seems to be the red dot in this country right now, even though it's not the largest city. In fact, it's not the largest city of Muslims. We have seen upwards of a dozen people who are actively overseas or active in Canada and wanting to go overseas. What's the driver in the city of Calgary?
Mr. Qasqas: I really wish I knew.
Senator White: There could be a book in this.
Mr. Qasqas: Some of them have been telling me that I should repurpose my PhD to focus more on this. I will go back to the source, and that's marginalization. Here in Calgary, where so many youth are marginalized, what I don't think that many people see is the trauma that the community is facing. It's like a grieving process. Every time something happens out of Calgary, the whole community freezes up; it's like a fight-or-flight response.
Rather than fighting for the rights of youth, for more programming for youth, more mentorship, more crisis intervention and counselling, we are freezing. We're taking the third approach, and we don't know what to do. However, after we started catching our breath, the community started looking at other areas. By community here I mean law enforcement, universities, everybody coming together, and look at what is going wrong with these particular youth. These are case studies. I do believe that with the youth that left Calgary, you can certainly see some of them had mental illness and some of them had a combination of mental illness and empty vessels. I don't really believe that these youth were born wanting to kill people. I don't believe that. I don't believe people are born evil. Something happened along the way. Even if you look at some of the cases, you find active, engaged youth with a potential future, but then something happens. I think we're not working with youth to a level that we should be. I really believe, and forgive me for my frustration here, but we need specialists with youth. There are specialized teachers. They get training to educate and they can have a youth for every single day for 10 months straight and never really connect with the youth, never really be able to motivate them or educate them.
Are we going to sit here and believe that we can have some guy, who has no connection to a specific youth, have impact in just one day or a week? The idea is, with the youth in particular, hopefully to bring it back to your question, for the ones that left, we require a deeper understanding of mental illness and a deeper understanding of what really went wrong.
I apologize. I don't have an answer for it. It saddens me because these are children of parents. They had an upbringing. I look at my three-year old son. I want to cry. I think of what burdens will he have to face in the next 10 years. Will we be ready for it?
Senator White: Thanks for the response and the honesty of not knowing. Actually, it is valuable. You referred to a term earlier: "Prislam." A lot of people in Canada that we are seeing engaged in this, I believe and I would argue, certainly have a limited true understanding of the Quran or Islamic faith. A number of the ones we have dealt with here locally are "converts," although I would argue they did not understand what they converted to, possibly, since they're doing something totally different than what the Quran would tell them to do. In Calgary, what percentage would be put into that terminology or Prislam versus Islamic faith?
Mr. Qasqas: Very few come back to Calgary.
Senator White: How many of them, would you say? I have seen them. I see them as strong believers. Is it that all of a sudden something happened, are they converts, or are they new to the faith in Calgary?
Mr. Qasqas: Again, I've got to be honest about not knowing. I can't see somebody and say, "Oh no. That person is on the evolutionary path to criminal radicalization." And that path changes for people as well. Sometimes when we look at low-, medium- or high-risk offenders for violence, we think of those low, medium, and high risks as linear; but they ebb and flow. Many of these guys have come into contact with six or seven systems, including prison. The idea is that intervention there would have worked. Again, prevention is key. I see what you're getting at in terms of identifying somebody who is high risk. It's very low in Calgary. I think it's negligible — the high-risk violent offenders for criminal radicalization. But as the days go by, the risk for crime in general will increase amongst the Muslim community because of this disconnect between youth and law enforcement, youth and the public, and especially between youth and Islamic organizations.
I've been hearing a lot of talk about Islamic organizations and what's happening, what they're doing. These organizations are overwhelmingly run by volunteers. There's not that much training. With this trauma that affects the community, they're constantly asked to do more with less. We're getting farther away from our youth.
Senator White: You are talking about disenfranchisement. You're suggesting that young people within the Islamic faith are becoming disenfranchised for multiple reasons, which will drive up criminal radicalization.
Mr. Qasqas: Every time they turn on the news, their core beliefs, the religion of their parents and their identity are being put in question. It's easy for somebody to come out and say they're an expert on Islam. I was born a Muslim and I've worked with thousands of Muslims for thousands of hours, over 15,000 hours, but I would not even dare to be pretentious and say I'm an expert on Islam. I don't know how they know more than I do about the community, but there's got to be some reason. I'm sure they're well-intentioned. I believe Morris Viteles, a pioneer in industrial organizational psychology, said, "If it isn’t scientific, it’s not good practice, and if it isn’t practical, it’s not good science.
Good science leads to practical applications. The idea here is that we need to see impact from these people who speak publicly about Islam.
Going back to the point, when the phrase "Islamic extremism" is used, it implies that there's something inherently wrong with the faith and that if you push any Muslim far enough they're going to engage in this extremist violent act. That's a very poor construct to use, and I don't think it has the intention that it's supposed to have. It sometimes has the reverse effect.
Senator Dagenais: I have two short questions. Mr. Qasqas, in 2010 you stated that when the concept of radicalization is exaggerated, it leads to a ripple effect of psychological messages to Muslim youth. Do you believe radicalization is an issue that the government should monitor in the Muslim community?
Mr. Qasqas: If it's okay, I'll ask for the definition of "Muslim community." What are we looking at? Do you mean Muslim community as in all one million Muslims across Canada, the mosques, centres, schools because that will help me answer the question better.
Senator Dagenais: I come from Montreal. We have a Muslim community in Montreal.
Mr. Qasqas: I come from Calgary, and the communities are diverse and dynamic, so what the community was like a year ago has changed. Is criminal radicalization a problem in the Muslim community in whatever way we define it? Would that be the question?
Senator Dagenais: Yes.
Mr. Qasqas: I don't think criminal radicalization as we're defining it in terms of religiously motivated violent acts is a problem. What I certainly believe to be a problem is the other categories: youth who are already prone to violence and use Islam as a justification. Not too long ago I had a young boy, a refugee from Syria. He has a criminal history. He said to me, "Oh, somebody told me that because they stole our land, we can steal their cell phones." On the face of it, you might wonder what's happening here. The concept is very clear. He's trying somehow to justify theft. It took two minutes to reframe that, right? Simple answer. No, it's not, period.
If Muslim youth are taught an authentic version of their faith, it's a protective factor, not a risk factor. That's why I can easily say that criminal radicalization in the way that it has been defined thus far as religiously motivated is not a problem. However, youth who are disenfranchised and disconnected feel like they're incompetent empty vessels that need something; there's a void. Those are the ones we really need to help. Thankfully, we've seen interventions that work in cognitive behavioural therapy and solution-focused brief therapies, and so on.
Senator Dagenais: Can you outline any form of radicalization that you may have found during your work in prisons in Alberta?
Mr. Qasqas: No, just people wanting to justify more crimes, although it has been a few years. I hope nothing has changed, but it could change.
The Chair: I'll follow Senator Dagenais' question with respect to radicalization within the community. Over the last number of months, we've been told at this committee that some radicalization is taking place in some institutions. In other words, there are teachers and imams who are advocating against Canada and everything we stand for; and young people are hearing it.
Are you aware of that occurring in Calgary?
Mr. Qasqas: I'm not aware, no.
The Chair: Going back to Senator White's question, with significant numbers getting involved in one way or another with terrorist activity, this has to be a concern.
Mr. Qasqas: It's certainly a concern if it's happening. I guess my circle of concern is very wide, but my circle of control is very limited. I can't think of one institution in Calgary that would actively promote violence from the Muslim community — period. What might be happening is that you have an empty vessel, and you know the concept of the copycat criminal, so it's imitation terrorism. If we could better identify these empty vessels, then people who speak passionately, and I speak very passionately in my Friday sermons, need to take caution that an empty vessel might misconstrue it totally. There needs to be a follow-up if someone wants to advocate for a human rights cause because there are a lot of human rights violations.
The Chair: You talk about conducting a sermon. Are you an imam?
Mr. Qasqas: I don't call myself an imam, but I do conduct sermons at Friday prayers, yes. I conduct sermons and I've given well over a thousand, sometimes three on a Friday at universities, centres and everything else.
Senator Day: Am I correct in interpreting that you've said you're not as concerned about radicalization resulting from religious teachings as from other sociological, psychological factors?
Mr. Qasqas: Yes.
Senator Day: You talk about empty vessel and disenfranchisement as being the risk factors that you would be looking for?
Mr. Qasqas: Yes.
Senator Day: Are there any others?
Mr. Qasqas: Absolutely. The National Crime Prevention Centre outlines about 18 risk factors to crime. Another one that we should be looking at is the attitudes of youth towards law enforcement. When a youth looks at the police as the enemy, there's something wrong. It's not thug life; we don't want youth looking at gangsters as role models. A second risk factor is the lack of role models, of meaningful connection to adults.
For example, with the youth many of you have worked with through the Senate program, you can see a bright future for them. They have that. They have people like yourselves and your colleagues to guide them, to mentor them towards a better future. A lot of these youth don't. The more stress and strain we place on the organizations, especially the wide sweeping statements like there are Islamic organizations that promote this stuff, it causes the ripple effect the senator mentioned. These youth no longer want to connect. If I knew that one organization in the city of Calgary was promoting this, I would be afraid for my own child to send him anywhere. So begins this constant marginalization, families stay isolated and closed, communities start getting worried, and then we spend all this time focusing on putting out fires rather than building bridges and building institutions.
Senator Day: It's the youth and, in fact, the Muslim community feeling they're being unfairly picked upon by others, but the others are seeing 90,000 ISIS messages a day — terrible atrocities — and they're not saying we're a special radical form of Islam or Muslims. We're doing this on behalf of the Muslim faith. How do moderate, reasonable Muslims take back their faith so that we can avoid this kind of escalation and division of the community?
Mr. Qasqas: Through freedom fighters, but freedom with a read. Education is key here. They need to learn what the faith is, like that young guy who is going to justify based on whatever misinformation he gets. Here's the thing: I don't see it as us versus them. I don't see Muslims being unfairly targeted by Canadians or media or government. I don't see that. I see us together as having a lot of confusion around this issue, so we end up trying to reduce it to one factor or one variable. It has got to be here or there. I don't blame anybody, for that matter.
Part of the purpose of this committee is to find better practices, better threat assessments, better interventions, more impact into the community, and if that means a six-year long research, then okay, great. But we cannot wait six years for research results to come out. I believe, from this dialogue, that you want answers now. I do believe there are certain things that we can do now.
Senator Day: Would you include in that list better communication by the Muslim community to the public at large that this ISIS activity is not condoned by them nor accepted?
Mr. Qasqas: Absolutely. I think that has been happening for a long time.
Senator Day: I'm not sure the message is getting out there.
Mr. Qasqas: What do we do to get the message out there?
Senator Day: That's exactly what I'm asking.
Mr. Qasqas: Sometimes you hear the question, why are Muslim leaders not speaking out about this? How would you know if they were? They would be here before you, telling you that they are. That's only one way, but how many people watch CPAC? I do, sometimes. I like seeing you guys.
The Chair: It's late at night. We can't sleep.
Mr. Qasqas: I do believe, Senator Day, that building social capital in Canada should be our number one priority. And with social capital, there are three levels. First, there are social bridges. That's bridging with people unlike yourselves. We bridge out. The other is social bonding, which is bridging with people like yourselves, so these communities can have support groups. And I don't just mean the Muslim community. With people from Ottawa, the community in Montreal, the community in Alberta, other Canadian communities, I can only imagine people who have no knowledge of Islam or Muslims or have never had any contact with Muslims are thinking, "Oh my God, anyone can be a radical."
When I did work in the prison system, I found an interesting gap. Most of the guards were from the neighbouring area. They have never interacted with a Muslim in their lives. The only interactions they have had with Muslims are inmates. I'm not saying all of them, because some of them are genuine about their faith, and faith has a lot of powerful healing factors, but a lot of them manipulate the faith as well. So when they see that, it's their only knowledge about Islam.
When I come to do a cultural competency program, I first have to help them unlearn what they learned, and then relearn. If you ask any mental health professional, it's one of the hardest things you can do, which I apply to the repurposing program. You have to help criminally radicalized youth unlearn and then relearn. That's the bonding, the support groups and then finally social linking, which are better relationships between the community and government.
The Chair: What's the subject matter of your thesis for your PhD?
Mr. Qasqas: Effective Muslim leadership during times of crisis.
Senator Beyak: Thanks for a great presentation. We heard from an imam from Calgary, a Supreme Court justice and various witnesses something similar to what your answer was to Senator Lang's question. You say you're not seeing much radicalization in the schools, universities and the mosques in Calgary, but what would you be looking for, and how would we go about making a recommendation to find out if it is happening?
Mr. Qasqas: I would be looking for marginalized youth, and that's why it's so hard. By virtue of the definition of "marginalized," they're not only disconnected from society but also from the community.
What people look at, unfortunately, is the isolated youth, the youth who look different, talk different, act different and have different beliefs. I wouldn't go so far as to say values, but their junction of faith means something different to them. I'm certain that nobody here would ever recommend changing their faith or have them practise the way we want them to practise. I would never tell anybody how to live their life, but it's those marginalized youth that I believe we can start to identify.
The best place to identify marginalized youth is in the school systems themselves. You start to identify risk factors to marginalization. I also believe that in community programs, parents will often identify that their child is changing. I hope nobody has ever experienced somebody they love going through a drug problem. You can start to identify the factors. Once upon a time, they would be in the house, they would play and you were their hero. Then they get into the teenage years, you're their enemy and something disconnects. This is something that a lot of Muslim families are facing. They don't know what to do.
The raising techniques that they had, wherever they came from, can't apply. This is where the Rage is Not Enough program is so important because it is very clear to parents, don't hit your children. If you feel the need to hit your child, something is wrong with you, not your child. Just because your parents did it to you, it doesn't mean you're okay. Often they will say, "My parents hit me, I'm fine." No, you're not. I won't say that too directly.
The idea here is that families, schools and these community organizations would be the best first responders to identify the risk factors. I'm hoping that with more research and better data, we can start developing and working with people on better assessments. Otherwise we are just looking for youth who look different, but I don't think that's the future of Canada. Difference is good.
The Chair: I'm going to go into an area that perhaps I know will raise some questions, but a number of weeks ago we had a mother of an individual who has been apprehended and now detained and is up for an assault, and it was reported that this individual had two wives and I think it was 14 kids.
Mr. Qasqas: Sorry, two wives and 14 kids?
The Chair: As we know, polygamy in Canada is illegal.
Mr. Qasqas: Poor kids, yes.
The Chair: Now, we've talked about mentorship and having these young people have an opportunity in respect of the community. How prevalent is that within the community, where there are a number of spouses and then up to 14 children for one father? I mean, is it prevalent?
Mr. Qasqas: I've never had anybody come to me with more than one spouse with those problems. I know there are some studies. One came out of the Bedouins in Arab Israel that Dr. Al-Krenawi and Dr. Graham — Dr. Graham, one of my supervisors for my PhD, excellent man, and they did the impact of — I forgot the terms, but the impact of polygamy on children and the first wife. So there's obviously going to be psychosocial impacts on the children and the families themselves, but I think that's the extent that I can comment on that.
The Chair: This goes back to the question again, in respect to the community and the parents and the parenting, I know a village can raise a child, but you still need your parents.
Mr. Qasqas: Absolutely.
The Chair: Anyway, it was an observation that was made, and I thought the question should be asked.
Sir, I want to thank you very much for coming and taking the time to share what you've learned in the past and with your experience.
Colleagues, I'm going to excuse the witness, and then I would like to have five minutes in camera prior to adjourning.
(The committee continued in camera.)