Alberta has become home to a number of extremist ideologies and movements, according to a draft of a new report obtained by Daily Hive.
The federally funded report by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence addresses extremism in the province and identifies six typologies of extremism in Alberta.
From 2016 to 2017, the rate of police reported hate crimes increased by a further 38% in Alberta, in what the report says is hand in hand with rising fears of extremism.
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The authors of the report spoke to close to 350 informed Albertans from
all walks of life, including police officers, community leaders, and social workers, to identify threats as well as the current status and impacts of extremist groups.
According to the report, extremist ideologies have improved mechanisms through social media to “undermine our democratic and constitutional values, and therefore impact national security and the social fabric of our country.”
The media’s coverage of some of these groups has also played a role in member recruitment. Authors explain that before some news articles were published, there was drop in interest and membership from late 2017 to Summer 2018.
The report classified six specific groups that could be a potential threat present in Alberta:
- Al Qaeda, its affiliates and splinter groups (AQAS)
- anti-authority extremists such as Freemen on the Land
- involuntary celibates
- far-left such as anti-fascists
- patriot groups such as Three Percenters, and Soldiers of Odin
- white supremacy
From 2012 on, despite a population of roughly 4 million, the province was responsible for generating approximately 30-40% of the Canadian foreign fighters who left to fight for ISIS or al Qaeda-related groups.
During this period, several notable waves of fighters left the province, primarily from the two urban centres of Calgary and Edmonton. Based on the report and open source data, it is estimated that roughly 20 individuals with a nexus to Calgary travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq.
According to the report, up to 250 people are estimated to be in anti-authority groups such as Freemen of the Land, who view the government as an oppressive and overreaching. The report says that a small minority of them, 10-15 people, demonstrate a “behavioural propensity for violence.”
While the report found that left-wing extremists have not generated any major violent incidents in Alberta, there is still reactionary confrontation with right-wing groups (e.g., white supremacist, patriot, and militia groups) and law-enforcement.
While only 20 to 30 people are involved in these groups, there were sub-groups within them who openly support violence, and the report found this movement was growing.
Patriot and Militia groups
The report says that “economic stagnation and recession in Alberta and Western Canada and increased migration from non-western countries have created an environment where some individuals feel “left behind.”
All of these groups are imbued with some anti-immigrant beliefs, and although there are no incidents of planned violence or “significant threat to public safety”
However, the report states that “there are not trivial concerns that individuals associated with, or more accurately on the margins of these groups may carry out ‘lone
actor’ or small network violence.”
According to the report, between 2008-2012 Canada witnessed the highest level of violence from White Supremacist groups since the 1990s.
The report states that these groups pose a threat to minority groups despite the fact that they have never organized terrorist attacks in Alberta.
Despite a decline in the broader movement, the assessment identified Calgary and surrounding areas “as the primary concentration of white supremacist and associated ideologies in the province. Smaller concentrations and isolated individual adherents are present in Southern Alberta, Central Alberta, the Greater Edmonton Region, and Northern Alberta.”
The Organization for the Prevention of Violence emphasizes a need for police to be proactive and improve training and resources for officers as the largest terrorist incidents since the late 20th century have originated from a broad spectrum of groups and ideologies.