TORONTO – Ontario is looking for advice on how to prevent youth from becoming radicalized and drawn into extremist groups.
The Liberal government has issued a request for proposals, seeking one or two experts to do research and report back on youth radicalization.
Michael Coteau, the province’s minister of children and youth services, said Tuesday that the government is concerned about all kinds of radicalization.
“We’ve seen young people being brought into terrorist groups, we’ve seen young people join white supremacist groups,” he said. “We’ve seen extremism in so many different forms.”
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Some Canadians who have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have gained widespread publicity, including Ontario-born John Maguire, who joined ISIL and released a video calling on Muslims to launch attacks against Canadians. He and two other Ottawa men were charged with terrorism offences, but he is believed to have been killed.
Coteau said he believes young people can become radicalized when they don’t see a future.
“We need to make sure young people know that there are many options and we’re here to support them, and we have their back as a government, as a community and as a province,” he said.
It’s too early to tell what kind of government program the research on youth radicalization could lead to, Coteau said.
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The request for proposals posted online asks for research that “will contribute to ministry’s understanding of youth radicalization process and identify practical ways of preventing” it.
“The proposed solutions and approaches should be aligned with the ministry’s vision of an Ontario where children and youth have the best opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential and focus on strategies and resilience factors that contribute to prevention of youth radicalization,” it says.
The research must be specific to youth, and separate from security approaches and information concerning the radicalization of adults.
Coteau cited a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque earlier this year and what he sees as increasing race-based hate in the United States as reasons for his growing concern about youth radicalization.
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Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder with a restricted weapon following the January shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City.
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services says the request for proposals stems from a commitment the province made at a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety in January of 2016 to work together on countering radicalization. Coteau said Tuesday he’s looking forward to working with his counterparts on the issue.
The federal government has also promised action to combat radicalization, including the establishment of an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator. In a speech last week, federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland her government is expanding its efforts in Canada and abroad.
“As an open, pluralistic, democratic society, Canada is committed to becoming a world leader in countering radicalization. We really believe we have to do this right at home, and we are committed to doing it,” Freeland said. “Preventing radicalization often starts most effectively at the community level, when we work with local leaders to develop early intervention tailored to local conditions.”