Inside Politics

PM talked terror 'root causes' in 2011 interview: Liberals

Hot on the heels of Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre's eyebrow-raising assertion that the 'root cause of terrorism is terrorists,' the quote-mining elves at the Liberal research bureau have unearthed comments made by the prime minister that, they claim, suggest that he was 'singing a very different tune' less than two years ago, when he was interviewed by CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

The key passage from that interview -- with emphasis, needless to say, as it appears in the press release sent out by the Liberals:

"The fact that Afghanistan became a failed state, where you know, people just essentially lived in not just poverty, but brutality, to the point where a kind of Islamic fascist regime literally invited terrorists, international terrorists to set up camp in their country. I think that that kind of situation obviously bred a threat, and that's why we are so worried when we look around the world now at other places where the same thing could happen... That's the kind of thing I think we really have to worry about, where you have not just poverty, but poverty and literally lawlessness becomes the nature of the state. And I do think it's in our broader interests and the right thing to do to try and help people and help countries so that they don't get into that situation. That's why, you know, we obviously are helping with the famine in East Africa. It's why we're so involved in Haiti. Not to have that kind of a state in our own backyard. So those, I think those kinds of situations are very dangerous." (Stephen Harper, CBC News - The National, September 8, 2011)

You can watch the complete interview here.

Meanwhile, over at his Ottawa Citizen blog, Glen McGregor points out that, despite the PM's more recently expressed view that this is "not the time to commit sociology," his government has contributed half a million dollars in funding for a Laval University professor's research into "why some individuals and groups resort to terrorism."

Also suddenly seemingly offside with the government's new position: Public Safety's $10 million Kanishka Project, which was launched amid much fanfare in 2011 with the explicit mandate of funding "research on pressing questions for Canada on terrorism and counter-terrorism" -- including, but not limited to that which may assist in "preventing and countering violent extremism."

One of the main themes for the first round of projects is "ideological extremism and violence."

According to the website, "some of the key questions" include:

      • What heightens the risk that violent extremism takes hold and persists in specific groups and not others?
      • How do transnational factors (internet, media, markets, diaspora connections, etc.) affect terrorism?
      • In light of global trends, how is terrorism likely to change over time (e.g. connections with other kinds of criminal activity and illicit networks)?
      • How do we distinguish between those claiming to subscribe to violent ideologies from the few who will follow through?
      • How do we better understand the dynamics of radicalization within the prison system and corrections realm?
      • How do we distinguish among different motivations to join extremist groups, such as group pressure versus true conversion?
      • What are the implications for the management of offenders and for reintegration after time served?
      • What is the interplay between different extremist causes, and how should that inform efforts to counter terrorism?
      • Is there anything different about violent extremist groups based in Canada versus those in other countries? Are there important contrasts in how they draw support (financial and otherwise), how they organize, and what they aim to achieve?
      • Where is the threshold for when views about legitimate expressions of anger and grievance, generally held by a particular group or community, cross from opposition and protest to violence?
      • What are the key similarities and differences between counter-terrorism and other law enforcement problems, and how can such lessons better inform current practice?
      • How effective are programs designed to intervene with individuals, to deter and/or preempt them from turning to violent means to advance a cause?

For more on past -- and present -- federal funding of related research, check out Maclean's columnist Paul Well's post on that very subject. . 

In any case, it remains to be seen whether the Conservatives to downplay what would seem to be their own -- or, at least, their government's -- efforts to understand the root causes of terrorism simply to keep up the campaign against Justin Trudeau. 

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