Montreal, Quebec launch anti-radicalization centre to combat extremism
Montreal and the province of Quebec have outlined more details about a $2 million centre to stop the radicalization of Canadian citizens who are tempted to join jihadist groups.
In March Mayor Denis Coderre said the centre would support the parents of youths who sympathized with Islamist and terrorist groups.
At the time it included a phone number to a police department for those seeking help, but not much more.
Now the centre has a specific director who will fight jihadist ideology: Herman Okomba-Deparice.
He has spent the past decade working in the Montreal police department as a specialist in cultural relations, and most recently in dealing with radicalized groups.
The centre is meant to prevent and detect violence and to help the radicalized person reintegrate into society. The situations reported would not necessarily become criminal matters.
“It's really to support those who are worried, parents, family members friends,” said Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Kathleen Weil.
Coderre said the plan doesn’t just target Muslim extremists.
“We need to fight islamophobia, we need to fight anti-Semitism; we need to fight any kind of intolerance and racism,” he said.
Much of the groundwork did, however, involve the Muslim community, said Weil.
“The consultations that we held, it was really was with the Muslim communities,” she said.
The plan must have targets, said Montreal Imam Omar Kone of the Soufi Naqshbandi Centre.
He said the Muslim community must be more involved in stopping radicalization among its youth.
“The community should obviously be involved in addressing this issue because they are obviously the main source for it and part of the answer is within the community itself,” said Kone.
Freedom of expression must be protected, said constitutional lawyer Julius Grey.
“People should be allowed to say things that are abhorrent to most of us,” said Grey, but adds there is must be a limit if one calls for violence.
“Every state, every society may have its own forms, so we have to understand what’s happening in Quebec,” said Grey.
Coderre and Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said the need for an agency to work against radical Islam became apparent with several incidents in the past year.
In January four men and two women from Laval and Montreal left Canada and are believed to have joined Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Ten teenagers had their passports confiscated in May for attempting to leave the country, allegedly to join the same religious war.
In April two teenagers were arrested and are facing charges for aiding a terrorist group and possessing explosive materials.
Last October Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down and killed an off-duty soldier in St. Jean sur Richelieu.
In the months before the attack Couture-Rouleau's family had contacted police to say the man was becoming radicalized, and authorities confiscated his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey.
The telephone number to reach the centre is 514-687-7141 or 1-877-687-7141.