The Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPDLV) has published a new report that looks at why some young people want to go overseas to fight for a terrorist group. The Montreal centre’s research looked into the ways radicalization occurs and how far it extends within Quebec.

According to the report, more than 30 000 foreign nationals have joined jihadist groups in Syria since 2013. Between 130 and 250 were Canadians and 20-30 of them were from Quebec. Most were between the ages of 16 and 20 with a 50/50 split between men and women.

The report used data collected by the CPDLV as well as interviews with individuals who either left or attempted to leave Quebec, along with their family, friends and those who worked with them in the school system.

The report cites the conflict in Syria as one of the main examples used to radicalize young people. It also found the recent debates around reasonable accommodation and the proposed Quebec Charter of Values had an effect on some young Quebec Muslims who felt victimized by the polarizing discourse.

According to researchers there is a peer effect that happens in these cases of radicalization.

“When you start into this radicalization process maybe you don’t believe in the discourse but you stay inside of these dynamics because your friends are already involved there,” said Benjamin Ducol, a researcher who worked on the report. “It’s a process that grows so fast, at one point you become completely disconnected from reality.”  

Researchers say deprogramming or de-radicalizing these kinds of individuals is very difficult. Education is important to explain that world politics are a lot more complicated than what they’ve been lead to believe. It’s not a simple process but the according to the CPDLV they are having success with the people they are working with.

According to the report schools have an important role to play. Schools are a gathering place for young people who are in the  process of figuring out their identity. They're also a venue for young people to connect and interact. Researchers say it is also schools that are on the front-lines for prevention and monitoring potential instances of radicalization and violence.

There were concerns that College de Maisonneuve may have been a breeding ground for radicalization of students. In April, 2015, two students at the CEGEP were arrested on terrorism-related charges and five other students have also left to join jihadist groups in the Middle East.

According to Ducol, the centre’s research shows there was no radicalizing happening at the college.

 “It was more circumstantial elements that made College Maisonneuve the centre of that event last year,” he said.  “As always with radicalization it was the perfect storm.”