A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Officials concerned if Canada is ‘able to effectively respond’ to right-wing extremism

CSIS says it is now looking at racially motivated, ethno-nationalist, anti-government or misogynist violence

Canadian security officials have been grappling not only with how to address the growing threat of right-wing extremism, but also the best means of defining the phenomenon and explaining it to the public, newly released documents show.

In a briefing for deputy ministers responsible for national security, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP openly asked whether, given the nature of the threat, the government of Canada was “able to effectively respond?”

The secret briefing was aimed at providing the senior officials with an overview of right-wing extremism in Canada and fostering discussion of “broader considerations” on dealing with the issue, says a heavily censored version of the April 2019 document, released through the Access to Information Act.

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister at the time, also received a briefing on the issue, an accompanying memo indicates.

CSIS, which has spent much of the last two decades investigating jihadi-inspired terrorism, said last year it was increasingly preoccupied by those looking to support or engage in violence that is racially motivated, ethno-nationalist, anti-government or misogynist in nature.

After the devastating New Zealand mosque shooting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last March that Canada had taken important steps to combat discrimination and hate.

“We have stepped up investigations into groups that spread hate propaganda, including white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. We have implemented significant gun-control reforms. We have increased funding to protect places of worship. We have also invested in programs that promote inclusion, build bridges between people and celebrate our diversity,” Trudeau told the House of Commons.

“Nevertheless, we know there is still a lot of work to do, but I want everyone to hear me when I say that we are going to do what needs to be done.”

READ MORE: Canada adds right-wing extremist groups to terrorist list for first time

Less than a month later, the briefing from security agencies asked:

— Are terms like “right-wing extremism” or “far right” accurate? “Do we need a broader conversation on how we understand and describe all types of ideologically motivated violence?”

— How should agencies articulate the threat to government officials and the Canadian public?

— At what point are these activities considered terrorism?

— How do federal officials help Canadians report violent extremist behaviour?

The internal briefing document notes that the investigation of hate crimes — offences involving elements such as propaganda, promotion of genocide and targeted vandalism — falls largely to local police forces, which in some communities is the RCMP.

National-security criminal investigations can be triggered when there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate a clear ideological basis and motivation for the act, the briefing added. But it cautioned: “Obtaining sufficient evidence to warrant a terrorism charge can be challenging.”

Authorities might be concerned the same problems that occasionally emerge in terrorism cases around being able to prosecute on the basis of a demonstrated “political religious or ideological motivation” may also occur with right-wing extremism cases, said Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa security and intelligence expert.

That concern is likely to fade should right-wing extremism in Canada begin to reveal genuine connections with overseas movements and doctrines, he said.

Closing any gaps between local police, the RCMP and CSIS could be achieved by ensuring that existing Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, which include players from various agencies, are “fully seized” with the far-right threat, Wark added.

The briefing mentions a proposal to include, for the first time, right-wing extremist groups on the national list of terrorist organizations.

Blood & Honour, an international neo-Nazi network, and its armed branch, Combat 18, were indeed added to the roster last June, opening the door to stiff criminal sanctions. A group on Canada’s terrorist list may have their assets seized, and there are serious criminal penalties for helping listed organizations carry out extremist activities.

In the briefing, the RCMP also flagged efforts to create awareness of right-wing extremism through community outreach activities and developing partnerships.

The force noted its program on terrorism awareness for emergency personnel — often the first ones at a crime scene — now includes a segment on the far right.

Wark said this would be “a recent development and is a good sign.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Witset writes its own cannabis law

First Nation says it is their constitutional right to govern cultivation and sale of marijuana

Police watchdog recommends charges in 2017 in-custody death of Witset man

Dale Culver was pepper-sprayed by RCMP in Prince George and died later in hospital

Town grants Chamber $20K

Chamber estimates up to $65K in lost revenue, turns to council for help

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach urges feds to compensate airline passengers

Letter to transport minister touches on Northwest B.C. tourism operators impacted by COVID-19

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Most Read