Summary Report of the Meeting of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security

February 22-24, 2019
Toronto, Ontario

The Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) convened in Toronto for a productive weekend of meetings that featured three consultation sessions, a number of interactive and strategic discussions, and networking opportunities. Officials from Public Safety, the Department of Justice, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Heritage, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) participated.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, met with CCRS members on the Friday evening. Acknowledging members’ breadth of expertise and viewpoints, Minister Goodale called upon the Roundtable for advice on bias-free terminology and inclusive approaches in national security. In particular, he solicited members’ input on the language used for describing terrorist threats to Canada so as to ensure accuracy without stigmatizing entire religions or groups. He referred to the 2018 edition of the Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada and explained that, while the intent was to provide a more comprehensive overview of a variety of threats, some Canadians felt the terminology was disparaging to certain groups.

In response to Minister Goodale’s request and as part of the first consultation session of the meeting, members offered several considerations for improving the Public Report as well as promoting inclusivity in the national security field. This included better tailoring the information for the general public by keeping it brief and making it easily digestible for the widest possible audience. The Roundtable further suggested to shift the focus from “who” commits violent acts, to “what” types of acts are being committed and “why”. Doing so would shed light on the intent of violent individuals or groups and contribute to an increased understanding of the issue at hand. According to CCRS members, Canadians would also benefit from knowing what the Government is doing to prevent potential terrorist attacks compared to detailed information vis-à-vis possible threats. Finally, members emphasized the importance of involving diverse and culturally competent officials and independent departmental advisory boards, such as the CCRS, in national security policy and decision-making.

During this meeting, Roundtable members were also consulted on an initiative aimed at countering violent extremism in Canada’s online space. Co-developed with Google in 2015 and led by Moonshot Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the Redirect Method has been deployed in over a dozen countries. Thanks to funding from the Community Resilience Fund, Moonshot CVE will be implementing the project in every Canadian province and territory starting in 2019.

Members’ insight was sought to identify key community actors who already have online counter-extremism messaging or content that could be leveraged for this effort. In addition to specific interveners, non-governmental organizations and social service groups, schools and positive youth influencers were highlighted as stakeholders that should be engaged. Considerations around local realities, sensitivities, and sensibilities were examined and ranged from language, to urban versus rural demographics, to significant environmental issues, to Indigenous populations. Concerns were expressed regarding assumptions being made about individuals who appear to fit the profile of being “at risk” and search criteria that have multiple meanings (positive or negative). The examination of current events as part of the media analytics was one of the suggestions put forward by the CCRS to help paint a more complete picture of the situation and inform the approach.

The third consultation session of the weekend was led by the RCMP who solicited members’ views on how to increase trust and strengthen resiliency between police and community in the context of hate-motivated crimes and incidents. This included providing feedback on a factsheet that will be used for outreach by regional offices across the country to promote awareness around the issue and encourage public reporting.

Trust was identified by members as a necessary foundation in order for any progress to be possible. The Roundtable acknowledged the historical contexts that have led to a sense of divide between police and communities as well as to youth’s longstanding trust issues with the police. The lack of resources or funding cuts in social services and changes in police leadership add to the challenge. According to CCRS members, a diverse police workforce, the ongoing presence of police at community-based events, and regular exchanges in informal settings are optimal conditions for establishing a rapport and fostering positive interactions. Best practices include recruiting officers directly from within communities and police taking an active role within community networks. A consistent two-way dialogue is the key. Members highlighted that effective collaboration and action during a tragedy as well as resiliency beyond an incident requires proactive outreach and ongoing communication with communities. They also underlined a need for public education with respect to the seriousness and impact of some hate-motivated acts as well as for making services available to victims of less major crimes/acts. While people tend to react to big events with sympathy, reporting on smaller day-to-day incidents is often perceived as onerous.     

The risk of terrorism financing in the context of Canada’s charitable sector was another timely topic discussed at this meeting. In addition to protecting the integrity of the charity registration system at home, CRA participates in the world-wide effort to combat terrorist financing. As more than half of CCRS members are involved in registered charities, they were interested to learn about ways in which charities are getting infiltrated, how to recognize the signs and protect an organization against terrorist financing abuse. CRA advised that the Agency is currently developing outreach materials to better inform charities vis-à-vis the risk indicators, which continuously evolve and can vary from sector to sector.

The weekend’s agenda also offered an opportunity for the CCRS to learn about the One by One movement and its co-founder, Mr. Marcell Wilson, who is a former gang member now dedicated to helping youth choose a path that is different from the life of gangs and organized crime. Adopting a long-term approach focused on mentorship, interpersonal relationships and life skills coupled with raising awareness concerning existing social programing are the main ingredients to the success of this organization. Mr. Wilson explained that, while incarceration can have a positive eye-opening impact on some, it can also serve as a “university on gangs” for others and even add to their credentials on the street. Based on his personal experience and observations, people need to be ready to change in order for any kind of intervention to be effective. In his opinion, someone’s intrinsic motivation has more power over his/her decision to change than the fear of punishment or a tough on crime approach. 

The meeting concluded with an update on the National Public Awareness Campaign on Drug-Impaired Driving. The creative concept for a second video aimed at raising awareness was shared with Roundtable members. Overall, the idea was well received by the CCRS who concurred with focus groups observations that the consequences shown were impactful and that it will be important to ensure a clear link between cannabis use and driving as well as between flashbacks and present-time moments. Some suggestions were offered for future concepts including longer-term consequences (e.g., the loss of a limb) and other methods of cannabis consumption (e.g., edibles).

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