The Hallucination of Strategic Jihadi Intervention
"It makes perfect sense [to use community safety hubs across the city and more across Canada to try to apprehend violent extremism] because we already have these mechanisms that respond to situations of risk."
"At the heart of it, it's about connecting people to services to reduce the risks that they face, whether it's extremism or something else."
Scott McKean, City of Toronto
"For a certain proportion of people who are moving into that radicalized space, I think that what the Toronto Police Service is doing will catch and hopefully help to re-engage those people on a different trajectory."
"We're all flying by the seat of our pants right now based on a small number of studies, and growing the knowledge base is so important to getting this right."
Sara Thompson, associate professor, Ryerson University Department of Criminology
"It's an issue that our citizens, our communities, are concerned about and that we recognize is out there. It's no different than the concern that their child may be starting to get into drugs. Maybe they need a mentor to help them navigate what they're going through."
"We don't have all the answers. We're putting what we think is a good initiative forward. We may have to tweak it along the way or make some changes as we move forward, but I think we've done our due diligence."
"I think it has huge potential. Everybody is watching to see what happens."
Det.Sgt.Kelly Gallant, 30-year police veteran, firearms instructor, tactical team member, negotiator
Jack Boland / Toronto Sun / QMI Agency James Ramer speaks at Police HQ.
Violent radicalization has surfaced as a problem just about everywhere in the world, with Islamist jihad proving to be an attractive provocation in inciting interest among young Muslim men and women eagerly subscribing to the ideology of a reborn Islam, returning to its roots of triumphant coersion through violent conquest; from the 7th Century of its inception to the 21st Century of its reinvention as a barbaric tool of religious conversion.
Canadians in significant numbers have taken to travelling abroad for combat training in the Islamist hotspots of the world -- from North Africa to the Middle East and places in between. Although al-Qaeda had its attractions, impelling Muslim men to make the trek in obeisance to the call to jihad, it took the advent of a caliphate calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant which proudly and with the aid of social media celebrated its public relations agenda of wanton slaughter through inventive atrocities to rally the minds and hearts of recruits.
Recruits who have involved themselves in terrorist plots, who have been arrested and placed on peace bonds, who have been apprehended from travelling outside Canada to join terrorist groups, or those who have returned to Canada after having received terrorist training and gained experience on the jihadist battlefield championing violent Islamist triumphalist conflict. They will remain the concern of the RCMP. The Toronto Police Service decided it would absorb a counter-extremism function into a standing community safety program to address the problem of emerging jihadists.
Deputy Police chief James Ramer tasked two officers, Sgt. Donald Locke and Det.Sgt. Kelly Gallant on their return to Canada in 2014, from mentoring women police officers in Kundiz province, Afghanistan to formulate a protocol to address the concerns of Toronto residents recruited into Al Shabab, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Islamic State, the Tamil Tigers and the Ku Klux Klan. The team of two initiated their assignment by attending American conferences, by consulting academics, by reading research papers and visiting interventionist programs in countries like Britain.
They concluded through that research that often people became radicalized through their own vulnerable mental health issues, personal identities, or family problems. A program to address similar problems began in Glasgow, Scotland, was picked up by Saskatchewan as a working model, and the Toronto team saw fit to emulate it, extending what had basically been a tool to tackle guns, drugs and gangs into an extended project to encapsulate Islamist terrorism as well.
People at risk were to be identified and intervention to take place at weakly "situation tables" involving police, the city and the United Way community services agencies. Each case was studied and strategies devised to counter addiction, social housing, education, employment and other issues which might be involved in helping to divert people from the alternate paths they choose leading to societal isolation, resentment, crime and radicalization.
Ottawa Citizen A tourist shot this photo of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau during his attack near Parliament Hill.
"Misfits", "wannabes", "hangers-on", on the cusp of committing to extremism considered to reflect a proportion of those being radicalized were to be identified by members of the associated community; anonymity was guaranteed to community members to give them confidence that coming forward to police to report concerns about extremists would be kept confidential in the process of bringing the cases to the situation tables. Concerned individuals could convey their impressions of radicalization to police without fear of community identification.
"I don't think it's a panacea", doubtfully commented Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor specializing at Carleton University, School of International Affairs. Equating issues underlying those representative of drugs and gangs with those of extremist Islamist jihadists simplifies the concerns of terrorism by normalizing it into a common stream of criminality, when it is far more than that; a vicious, threatening existential threat, no mere societal non-convention.
Even while cases are initially screened to ensure that any who have committed criminal or terrorist activity are excluded from the program of hoped-for rehabilitation and referred directly to the RCMP for investigation: "We are not going to send somebody like that to the hub", stated Deputy Chief James Ramer reassuringly. Experts are divided on the potential effectiveness of the police program for intervention.
To the present time, although the interventionist team has been in service for well over a year there has been a total of two events they have been involved with, one respecting parents worried their child was fixated on viewing ISIL videos. The outcome of that investigation was the conclusion that mental health issues were involved. The second, the case of a girl missing from home, and found to have crossed at Fort Erie into the United States. In her possession was an Pakistan-bound airline ticket.
Like her gullible counterparts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, she was en route to meet an utter stranger who had romantically convinced her via social media that she could join him in the jihadist camp to become his wife. Instead, the chagrined young woman was returned by authorities, to the care and custody of her parents.
Postmedia News Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — also known as Daesh — are seen in an undated photo
"So you're basically treating the two populations [drugs and gangs, and jihadist-attracted youth] as being very similar. And it's not a good fit, at least not in a Canadian setting, for violent radicalization."
"This is all a work in progress. We're going to see if it works."
Phil Gurski, former investigator, Public Safety Canada