Stephen Harper’s search for the root causes of terrorism

‘We need to know as much as we can about terrorists, their tactics, and the best solutions to protect people …’

Despite his insistence that Real Leaders shouldn’t “sit around trying to rationalize” terrorist violence “or figure out its root causes,” Stephen Harper has announced a multi-year program worth millions of taxpayer dollars designed to do just that.

I’m indebted to CBC blogger and Former Colleague Kady O’Malley for pointing this out. On June 23, 2011, during his annual St. Jean Baptiste sojourn through Quebec, the prime minister marked the seventh annual National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism by launching the Kanishka Project, a five-year, $10 million program to “invest in research on pressing questions for Canada on terrorism and counter-terrorism.”

From the PM’s speech that day:

“…the first and most solemn duty of government is to keep its people safe. It took far too long to learn the lessons of Flight 182. One of those lessons is that information is an important tool in the struggle against terrorism. We need to know as much as we can about terrorists, their tactics, and the best solutions to protect people…

We will engage Canada’s best and brightest minds, and we will provide funding for publications, conferences and research projects – anything that can help us build the knowledge base we need to effectively counter terrorism.

 The Kanishka Project is named in memory of everyone who boarded the aircraft, and we will ensure that the families of the victims are involved in helping to guide the project’s work.”

The Kanishka project, designed to commemorate the Air India bombing, builds on such excellent Harper Government root-causes work as the 2009 RCMP guide Radicalization: A Guide For The Perplexed, which I am not making up. It includes this paragraph published by your national constabulary:

“Geopolitical factors — particularly the perceived suffering of the Ummah (global community of Muslims) at the hands of the West — are also critical drivers pushing individuals into extremist thought, if not action. The message that the world is fundamentally “at war” with Islam is key to the Islamist “single narrative”, or “one size fits all explanation”, that drives terrorism the world over. This narrative is reinforced by current events, such as the Israel / Palestine issue and the conflict in Afghanistan, which characterize the embattled Muslim communities as small but stalwart Davids beset by a lumbering and brutal Goliath. The romance of this unequal struggle may be especially appealing to young Muslims, who feel both justified and compelled to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters against the powerful forces arrayed against them.”

On May 30, 2012, Jason Kenney and Vic Toews, two tough guys who don’t take no guff from fancy boys, announced the first round of projects funded under the Kanishka project. “Research supported by the Kanishka Project will increase our understanding of terrorism,” Kenney said. “This will help produce more effective policies and tools for people on the front lines, including community leaders, police, lawyers, and judges.”

Recipients of your tax money dollars in the research round Kenney and Toews announced on behalf of the steely-eyed and morally serious Prime Minister included the Mosaic Institute, which is all about “harnessing Canada’s diversity for peace at home and abroad” and which operates UofMosaic, which was praised by Conservative Senator Hugh Segal for “addressing the root causes of long-simmering conflicts.”

Funding recipients also included the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS). That ambitious multi-disciplinary group of academics held a terrorism workshop last November on “Social Conditions and Processes of Radicalization” that I’m sorry I missed. The entire conference agenda is worth reading, but I’ll note that participants included Laval University’s Aurélie Campana, whose biographical note mentions that her “publications include a systematic review of the root causes of terrorism.” And, looking further down the grant list, we notice that Dr. Campana is herself a Kanishka grant recipient for her summer study program on terrorism. Don’t tell the PM!

The TSAS Twitter account pointed me to this thoughtful video by University of Waterloo sociologist Lorne Dawson, who describes the profile of young men likely to become terrorists, on the perhaps non-insane hunch that it is better to anticipate such events than to wait until something blows up and then get tough.

Here are the recipients of the second round of Kanishka grants. They included McGill’s Myrna Lashley, whose study subjects include “cultural aspects of radicalization leading to violence.” I note that she wrote to Vic Toews last summer after a national roundtable meeting raised concerns about possible government interference in academic work on issues surrounding terrorism.

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