Centre aimed at preventing homegrown terror must cast wide net, expert advises

A new centre aimed at preventing the radicalization of young Canadians will only work if all forms of terrorism are targeted, according to a counter-terrorism expert in Ottawa.

Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence to target radicalization at home

A man breaks down next to the caskets of three of the six victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting during funeral services in February. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

A new centre aimed at preventing the radicalization of young Canadians will only work if all forms of terrorism are targeted, according to a counter-terrorism expert in Ottawa.

The federal government announced Monday the opening of a long-promised counter-radicalization centre, though details of what exactly will happen there haven't been released.

The Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence will receive a portion of the government's $35-million annual funding envelope to fight homegrown terrorism. 

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed in October 2014. The gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, then charged to Parliament Hill. (Facebook/Canadian Press)
Recent terror attacks in Canada — the 2014 killing of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a narrowly avoided suicide bombing in Strathroy, Ont., in August and the Quebec City mosque shooting in January — were all carried out by Canadians.

"It's a big enough problem that it's legitimate to be concerned about it," Jez Littlewood, a counter-terrorism expert at Carleton University, told CBC's Ottawa Morning.

Recipe for fear

While certain forms of extremism are on the rise, it's important not to single out any one type, Littlewood said.

"That's a recipe for targeting communities, and communities feeling fear."

No formal models have been put in place for the centre yet, and Public Safety Canada is currently calling for proposals, but the centre will cast a wide net over all forms of violent extremism, Ontario Liberal MP Arif Virani, parliamentary secretary to the minister of heritage, told CBC News. 

Littlewood said it's key to follow through on this promise, and not focus only on radical Islamists.

The centre will encourage community members who are concerned about radicalized individuals to reach out, the government has said. The centre will be housed in existing Public Safety Canada space. 

Proposals for how to set up the program will be accepted starting July 6.