A new study on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) monitoring habits is causing a bit of controversy. According to this report, the CSIS abruptly stopped looking into extremism from far-right groups (including neo-Nazi and white supremacists) in 2016, just one year before the deadly shooting at a Québec mosque.
As the report shows, CSIS classified extreme right-wing groups as a “public order threat” rather than a “national security threat” before the tragedy at Québec City’s Grand Mosque, which killed six people. Liberal critics argue that if the CSIS had taken right-wing groups more seriously, then they might have been able to prevent last year’s fatal shooting.
The CSIS did, however, start treating right-wing groups with increased scrutiny ten months after the tragedy in Québec. The man responsible for this shooting, 28-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, was allegedly a supporter of many alt right figures and worried about Canada’s refugee policy.
Liberals question the CSIS’s decision to stop holding extreme right-wing groups to the same standard as Islamic jihadists. For it’s part, CSIS leaders say they believe neo-Nazi ideologies are the primary reasons behind “lone wolf” attacks in Canada.
Some former security experts believe the CSIS is having a difficult time tracking potentially violent far-right groups due to the complexity of the Internet. Many neo-Nazi-style groups meet and organize almost exclusively on Web forums, and the CSIS is having a tough time balancing Internet privacy with public safety.
Going forward, the CSIS says it will try harder to track any groups in Canada that pose a credible threat to the general public. Spokespeople stressed that violence, no matter what ideology backs it up, is never acceptable.
Although it’s hard to know how many far-right groups there are in Canada, government officials are concerned about their growth. The most recent estimates suggest there are about 100 of these groups in Canada with thousands of supporters.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee was behind the publication of this latest CSIS report.
Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.