Preparing Professionals to Dialogue about Extremism and Radicalization: A look at the ERC programs at McGill University and University of Quebec in Montreal


Historically, extremist groups from religious and far-right organizations have been active across Canada. In the last few years, the situation in Quebec has been particularly alarming (Amarasingam and Tiflati 2015; Dwivedi 2017; Zine 2019). According to Ministere de la securite publique (2016), between 2013 and 2014, religious-based hate crimes against Jewish people, Muslims, and unspecified group increased by 190%, 175% and 400% respectively. In 2017, the Ministere de la securite publique (2017) announced that 47% of hate crimes across the province in 2015 (130 of 272 incidents) were based on religion indicating a 200% increase in religious based hate crimes in Montreal and Quebec cities (combined) between 2016 to 2017 (Duval 2018). The horrific far-right extremist attack on a mosque in Quebec City that killed six innocent people in early 2017 was the climax of this vicious development (Fundira 2017). Meanwhile, the departure of several Muslim Quebec CEGEP students to join ISIS in Syria in the preceding years shows another dimension of the threat to public and national security.

Almost all of these young people who joined a terrorist organization such as ISIS were in their teenage years or early twenties which indicates that young people are especially susceptible to adopting radical or extremist ideologies compared to older generations. They are in the active process of uncovering their own identity and searching for meaning in their lives, so that they are highly prone to be misled by the narratives of the radical groups (Samuel 2012). Psychologically speaking, on the one hand, this age group tends to be very much action-oriented and highly riskprone. On the other hand, they lack life experiences and solid ideological positions, so that they are always ready to experiment with new values and identities (Silke 2008). This is one important reason why young people have been most likely to be attracted by and recruited to the extremist groups worldwide (Neumann 2017). Given that education plays an important role in helping students construct their identities it can be a significant force in helping young students to become resilient against the narratives of the radical and extremist groups that exist in both online and offline environments.

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TSAS RR 2020-01

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