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

VIDEO: British invasion draws record crowd to Fort Langley

British car owners and enthusiasts alike turned out in droves for the 13th annual St. George’s show.

Langley City mayor’s race heating up

Two councillors in two days declare their intentions to run for the top civic spot in Langley City.

VIDEO: Fight in Poland helps solidify Langley boxer’s cred

Sarah Pucek travelled halfway around the globe to do battle with the world featherweight champ.

Langley’s AOK team need help repairing homes, restoring lives

An Aldergrove family will get help retrofitting their house in May, thanks to volunteers.

Calgary trampled Stealth at Langley Events Centre Saturday night

Pro Langley lacrosse players are off to Georgia for the last game of the season.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Maple Leafs look to stay alive tonight as they face elimination against Boston on home ice

Electric vehicles more affordable than you think

Myths blocking road to electric vehicle adoption

Chilliwack Creep Catchers conduct sting in front of newspaper office

Controversial vigilante anti-pedophile group greets man allegedly trying to meet a 13-year-old

Kinder Morgan bungled pipeline public relations: poll

The survey suggests 58 per cent of Canadians believe the company is to blame for poor perceptions

Plane makes a surprise landing on the Coquihalla

Social media was alive Sunday night with pictures from Coquihalla commuters.

Man charged after two men defrauded on dating app Grindr

West Vancouver police said two victims are out $3,000

Royal baby: It’s a boy for Kate and William

The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to her third child, a boy weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces.

Vancouver’s Chinese community receives apology for historical discrimination

More than 500 people gathered at the Chinese Cultural Centre for the event

Most Read