MONTREAL—The Quebec government announced a series of broad measures to fight violent extremism in the province Wednesday that includes a police squad to monitor social media platforms and an anti-radicalization centre based in Montreal.
The plan comes as the province aims to address a radicalization issue in its own backyard, with many youth having left or attempting to leave in recent months to join militant Islamic extremist groups abroad.
The Liberal government has also been under pressure to act since a Quebec man used a car to kill a soldier in a terror act just south of Montreal last year.
Public Security Minister Lise Theriault and Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil detailed a 59-point plan aimed at preventing, detecting and acting against those either considering or on the verge of committing acts of ideological violence.
“Our plan seeks to prevent violent acts by people who have become radicalized, such as the ones we witnessed last fall and moreover, to stop young people from leaving the country to join extremist groups,” Theriault said.
Weil added there is a plan to offer training to teachers and social workers on how to detect and deal with people who have become radicalized but also to co-ordinate provincial ministries and police forces to better address the problem.
A police squad will be created to monitor social media platforms to detect people trying to recruit others to commit violence.
There are also plans to forge ahead with a $2 million “anti-radicalization centre” in Montreal, the first of its kind in North America according to Mayor Denis Coderre.
The centre will be headed by Herman Okomba-Deparice, a specialist for cultural sensitivity issues and radicalization who has
worked for the Montreal police.
Coderre said the aim of the centre is to offer counselling and psychological services to people who have become radicalized or who have been groomed and recruited to commit violent acts in Quebec and elsewhere. It will also deal with other issues like street gangs and anti-Semitism, for example.
“We will have interveners in the centre to de-program (radicalized people) and work with them in a context of reintegration into society,” he said.
The province also announced the creation of tiplines where the public can provide anonymous tips about anyone they suspect of being radicalized.
Both Weil and Coderre said the plan tries to fight “delicate issues” in society and its goal is not to target any one particular group or religion.
Many members of the Muslim community in Quebec expressed concerns that the anti-radicalization centre and the hotline would target Muslims only, and serve to reinforce the sense among Quebecers that Muslims are a threat.
Weil, however, admitted that the plan was created in light of a specific, new problem in Quebec involving people being recruited with an ideology of Islamic extremism.
The Quebec government also tabled a bill in the legislature Wednesday targeting hate speech and speech inciting violence.