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Canada committed to becoming world leader in counter-radicalization: Freeland

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 13, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is committed to becoming a world leader in counter-radicalization at both the community level and abroad, with a focus on combatting the "hateful, backward-looking death cult" of the Islamic State.

Speaking to the World Jewish Congress in New York on Monday, Ms. Freeland said that while the most effective way to prevent radicalization starts at the community level with local leaders to develop early intervention, the overlying threat is global.

"As an open, pluralistic, democratic society, Canada is committed to becoming a world leader in counter-radicalization," Ms. Freeland said.

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"We are absolutely committed to fighting terrorism at home, but of course, much of the threat is beyond Canada's borders. Violent extremism is global and the Middle East is a region of particular concern."

Ms. Freeland boasted about the government's $1.6-billion investment in its Middle East strategy, which includes Canada's commitment to the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State, also known as Daesh. She reiterated Canada's commitment to that campaign.

"Sometimes we forget to say this loudly enough, that this is a fight we are winning and it is a fight that we will win. We're on the right side of history. Daesh is a hateful, backward-looking death cult. We can and will prevail in the battle against it. We need to have the courage of our convictions."

Ms. Freeland highlighted the government's pledge to establish an office to counter radicalization at the community level in Canada. The 2016 federal budget set aside $35-million over five years, with $10-million thereafter, for an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator.

Speaking to senior representatives of Jewish communities from 90 countries Monday, the minister said the government has promised to tackle another problem in Canadian communities – anti-Semitism. She said that, according to recent data, 17 per cent of all hate incidents in Canada target Jewish people, although Jews represent less than 1 per cent of the Canadian population.

"Jewish people are the most likely religious group in Canada to be targeted for hate crimes. That is a shame and it's something we have to talk about," she said.

"The government of Canada is committed to ensuring the safety and security of Canada's Jewish community."

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She specifically pointed to an incident in her Toronto riding of University-Rosedale, where the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre was evacuated in March after a bomb threat. The Jewish community centre was among several across North America that have faced bomb threats in recent months.

Ms. Freeland said the government will double the funding for a security infrastructure program, which helps communities protect themselves against hate crimes by providing equipment such as security cameras and alarm systems. She said these kinds of programs are key to protecting the rights of all Canadians to freely practise their faith and their culture.

"Recent incidents are a … reminder for us in Canada that the inclusive and generous society we want to build is a precious and delicate work in progress and one that none of us can take for granted."

Ms. Freeland concluded by saying that Canada stands "shoulder to shoulder" with Israel and supports its right to its security and to live in peace. Her speech was met with a standing ovation.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Michelle Zilio is a reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau. Previously, she was the associate producer of CTV’s Question Period and a political writer for CTVNews.ca. Michelle has also worked as a parliamentary reporter for iPolitics, covering foreign affairs, defence and immigration, and as a city desk reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. More

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