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‘Salad bar’ extremism on the rise in Canada, report says

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Extremists in Canada are increasingly selecting aspects of various violent ideologies to form their own belief system, in a phenomenon known as “salad bar extremism,” according to a new report.

“This ‘salad bar’ extremism, originally used to describe an emerging phenomenon in the United States, is now present in Canada,” says a report released Thursday by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV). .

Hate, extremism and terrorism in Alberta, Canada and beyond measures the evolution of activity between 2019 and 2022.

Mike King, director of research at the OPV, said that in the past there were many distinct ideologies, listing examples such as white supremacy, anti-government extremism, left-wing extremism and extreme misogyny. .

“Now we see more and more blurry planes between these ideologies where people pick and choose parts of the same ideologies, sort of, put them together and almost have their own tailor-made extremist ideology,” he said.

It’s been three years since the OPV – a non-governmental organization created to prevent radicalization and challenge extremist views – released its first report on hate-motivated violence, extremism and terrorism in Alberta.

Since then, researchers say much has changed due to the broad social repercussions of events such as the pandemic, protests against public health measures, tense elections in the United States and the backlash of racial justice movements. .

“The structure and landscape of [ideologically motivated violence extremism] continues its shift from group-based tactics to the activities of solitary actors and small cells, particularly in the area of ​​xenophobic extremism,” reads the report.

Part of the reason for the change, King speculated, is that some of the Patriots and militia groups such as The Three Percenters and Proud Boys have been added to Canada’s list of terrorist entities.

The designation makes it easier to charge and arrest individuals financially supporting the group and prevent funds from flowing to the group, King said.

Proud Boys chapters in Alberta have folded or disbanded since the Capitol Riots in the United States, the report said. The report describes the Proud Boys as “a traditionalist, neo-fascist chauvinist organization loosely tied to white power”.

The report is based on unprecedented access to interviews with members of the RCMP, municipal police departments, provincial and federal justice agencies, public safety officials, community leaders and frontline practitioners, wrote John McCoy, executive director of OPV, in an email.

He added that the OPV runs a program called Evolve, where staff work directly with individuals and families seeking to disengage from violent extremism. Psychologists and mentors who work with Evolve also contributed to the report.

A growing number of people revolving around forms of extremism have mental health issues, King said.

This creates new challenges, King said.

“Is the response primarily a psychosocial response, or is it more of a national security response or is it a bit of both? And I think that can be quite complicated because you certainly don’t want to secure what’s basically a mental health issue,” he said.

“But you also don’t want to medicalize what is a safety issue. So there’s a fine line there, and I think you really need a lot of experts there to help with that. evaluation of these cases.