Demonstrators held up anti-racist signs at at a rally in front of Vancouver city hall rally. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

RADICALIZATION AT HOME

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

A proposed anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C. could be key to stopping violent extremism before it takes root.

That’s according to UBC political science professor Chris Erickson, who said although British Columbia is not a “hotbed for radicalism,” the government is making the right move by introducing a Countering Radicalization to Violence Centre.

“Radicalization doesn’t really restrict itself geographically,” said Erickson. “A lot of it is done through online forums that are coming from all over the world.”

The government will award a one-year contract on April 1 to provide services valued at under $30,000 per year at the new centre.

The facility aims to help “vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization before engaging in criminal behaviour,” said a B.C. public safety ministry spokesperson, as well as “reduce the level of violent extremism across the province.”

The new centre will work also with the federal Office for Community Outreach and Countering Radicalization to Violence.

Canada’s National Terrorism Threat Level has been at medium, meaning a violent act of terrorism “could occur,” since October 2014.

How at risk is B.C.?

Erickson said there is risk anywhere that has an increasingly diverse population. Immigrants make up 28 per cent of B.C.’s population, though he said it’s not necessarily the newcomers who create tension.

“You also have radicalization from the people who were there already and seeing the immigrants coming in,” he said. “A sort of ‘Hey, this is our place, we don’t want you here’ sort of attitude.

“Radicalization builds on what sound like very common sense positions and just takes them to an extreme.”

When it gets dicey, Erickson said, people begin to view “the other” as a threat to their existence. “But it’s not like your existence is a threat to mine. We need to start to see each other as human beings, as opposed to some opposing force that threatens each other’s very existence.”

He said it’s especially important in areas where immigrants make up close to half the population, like the Lower Mainland, which sets a “groundwork against which people could become radicalized.”

In Richmond, where immigrants make up 60 per cent of the population, tensions have arisen over Chinese language-only signs. In December, a man was charged after calling a woman “a whore and a slut” while riding public transit.

Fake blood was poured on statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in Cloverdale last fall, and someone scrawled “Kill all Christians” on the walls of a church in North Delta. In White Rock, police investigated after a swastika was spray-painted in a park.

White nationalism is not as prevalent in B.C. as it is south of the border, but Erickson said it occasionally rears its head, making it worth watching out for.

“Radicalism comes into strong effect when people feel alienated… when they don’t feel seen, they don’t feel like they’re human beings. At that point, what do you have left to lose?” he said.

“If you can address that, then the need to be radicalized – which I would argue is really a need to be heard – diminishes.”

How do you stop it?

“Safe spaces” have gained popularity in recent years as places where marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ community, can go without fear of being discriminated against or shamed.

Erickson said that opportunity should be available to all groups, even ones that aren’t traditionally thought of as disadvantaged, so as to stop the problem before it gets too large.

The centre should drill down to people’s concerns, he said, and hear them and address them before they get too far along and can no longer be helped.

“They (hardcore radicals) are typically surrounded by a group of people who aren’t there yet,” he said. “But that seems to be the only option that’s available, so that’s where they’re going. You could potentially address that group.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Dramatic undersupply’ of workers in Parksville Qualicum Beach: new labour report

Analysis supports what many already know, reinforces need for action: Burden

Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

City issued Manna Homeless Society cease and desist order after complaints from public

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Discarded needles, theft from homes and businesses keep Oceanside RCMP hopping

Crime report also includes cannabis-related infraction

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

B.C. woman allegedly threatens to rip out intestines of American man

A Kamloops-area woman is accused of harassing and threatening to disembowel an American man

B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry, ride-hailing group says

Ridesharing Now for BC says it had hoped the bill would be more customer-driven like in other cities

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Vancouver Island men ordered to pay thousands in fines following deer meat sting

The incidents happened years ago but sentencing was recently concluded.

The Vancouver Island elasmosaur needs your help

Famous Comox Valley fossil hunting for votes in chase to become BC symbol

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Most Read