A new report indicates that the RCMP is developing a program to disrupt the radicalization processes on Canadian soil.
In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of focus on three Canadians who have purchased one-way tickets to Syria with claims to support the ISIS terror regime. John Maguire, 23, is a former student from the University of Ottawa who recently converted to Islam. He has been in Syria for over a year now. Gregory and Collin Gordon, brothers from Calgary, are also known to have joined the terrorist regime and have been reported missing since late 2012. The Gordon brothers left Canada around the same time as Calgary-born Salman Ashrafi and Damian Clairmont, both of whom have been reported killed in ISIS-prompted suicide bombings.
The RCMP program, which has not finalized the details of how it will work, is aimed at high-risk youth and “vulnerable individuals who are experiencing behavioral changes.” Undoubtedly, a major focus of this program will be tackling the ISIS propaganda that is used to actively recruit from within Canada. This past summer, ISIS released a recruitment video featuring Ontario-born Andre Poulin. The content of this video is aimed at persuading Westerners to either join the ranks of ISIS, or to donate funds. The video includes footage from a typical Canadian landscape… individuals fishing, playing hockey, or snowmobiling, and is complemented by Poulin’s testament to this lifestyle, “I had a good family… I watched hockey…I went to the cottage in the summertime”. Poulin further explains that those who convert can gain a high position with Allah if they “just sacrifice a small bit of this worldly life”. It is evident that ISIS’s strategy, using this Poulin video, specifically targets recruitment in Canada.
The message conveyed in the video also illustrates how anyone can join the ranks of ISIS or more broadly support its operations. It attempts to persuade that the average Canadian can achieve something extraordinary, in subscribing to radical Islam.
As the RCMP finalizes the details of its counter-terrorism programs, it will have a considerable amount of literature at its disposal to explore the process of radicalization, and provide greater understanding of its materialization. The act of suicide bombing, for example, has been examined by Tel Aviv University psychology professor Ariel Merari in what has been deemed the most comprehensive study on individuals who conduct acts of terrorism. Merari’s conclusions, while based specifically on suicide bombings, can be applied to the discussion of overall terrorist recruitment, “No organization can create a person’s basic readiness to die.” The recruiter will not create this willingness, but, rather, “identify this predisposition in candidates and reinforce it.”
The RCMP’s program will attempt to disrupt the process of targeting certain predispositions, such as individuals described as emotionally or mentally vulnerable and/or experiencing behavioural changes. A sense of vulnerability can also stem from an individual’s experiencing a lack of purpose, direction, or sense of belonging within one’s current environment.
While the RCMP strengthens its counter-terrorism efforts at home, it must recognize that the radicalization network is complex, with some of the strongest influences residing abroad. A key influence is the caliph – the leader of the ISIS hierarchy. Right now, the title belongs to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former American prisoner in Iraq, now in hiding. Since these radicalist leaders would never consider killing themselves in any plots, the importance and need to recruit members is heightened, hence the connection back to domestic efforts to disrupt the radicalization process.
As per the recent report, the RCMP will be prioritizing their national counterterrorism efforts by attempting to disrupt the radicalization process that occurs domestically. This plan serves as an important step in both enhancing Canada’s strategy of national security, at a time when the propaganda from abroad is contributing to higher levels of risk for targeted individuals, as well as the general Canadian public.