Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm grateful for the opportunity today to appear before this committee and appreciate your taking the time to study the issue of IMVE in Canada. The threat that IMVE poses remains a high priority for CSIS.
As mentioned, my name is Tim Hahlweg, and I'm the assistant director of requirements at CSIS.
As this committee is well aware, CSIS has the mandate to investigate threats to the security of Canada, to advise the government on these threats and to take steps to reduce them.
Since 2014, Canadians motivated in whole or in part by extremist ideological views have killed 21 people and wounded 40 others on Canadian soil. This threat is a multi-faceted problem, going well beyond law enforcement and national security, and requires a whole-of-government response, engaging social, economic and security mandates. You will likely hear this refrain from all of my colleagues here today.
Using accurate terminology when discussing national security threats, particularly as they relate to violent extremism, is important. In 2019, CSIS, in consultation with other security intelligence community members and our Five Eyes partners, took a leading role in developing terminology that more accurately reflects and depicts the violent extremist threats facing Canada.
Thanks to this effort, the Government of Canada now uses the following terminology in its discussions of the violent extremist threat landscape: religiously motivated violent extremism, politically motivated violent extremism and ideologically motivated violent extremism.
With respect to the IMVE landscape in particular, our analysis demonstrated that the traditional terms of right-wing and left-wing extremism were overly simplistic and politicizing and did not accurately reflect the complexity of this threat landscape.
While it is difficult to perfectly label the threats in this diverse and very fluid landscape, this new terminology, RMVE, PMVE and IMVE, was also chosen to mirror existing domestic legislation, paragraph 2(c) of the CSIS Act, and section 83.01 of the Criminal Code. None of these categories are necessarily mutually exclusive, as extremist narratives often derive from the personal grievances of the individual.
Even within IMVE, there is no one-size-fits-all ideology. IMVE adherents are driven by a range of grievances, ideas and narratives, including conspiracy theories. They may be motivated to commit acts of violence against others or incite violence to achieve societal change.
CSIS identifies four subcategories of IMVE: xenophobic, gender-driven, anti-authority and other grievance-driven violence. These categories are not silos, however, and threat actors may be motivated by more than one grievance or shift from one to another. IMVE threat actors continue to target equity-deserving groups, including racialized individuals, religious minorities, LGBTQ2+ community and women.
As we know, it is not illegal to be hateful, racist or misogynist. Freedom of speech is constitutionally protected, and CSIS is expressly forbidden from investigating lawful dissent, advocacy and protest.
CSIS only investigates threat actors who rise to the threshold outlined by the CSIS Act. The actor must engage in activities “directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence...for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective”. Only a small fraction of individuals who adhere to the IMVE narratives go beyond the chat rooms to mobilize to violence. CSIS investigates those suspected of posing a threat to the national security of Canada, working closely with law enforcement partners, including the RCMP, to ensure the appropriate response.
The rapid spread of IMVE narratives online adds to this challenge. Online platforms can serve as echo chambers of hate. IMVE adherents are able to connect and communicate anonymously online and mobilization to violence can occur rapidly. Particularly troubling is the number of youth who are espousing these narratives and inspiring others to violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the IMVE threat. We have seen that COVID-19 public health measures have intensified xenophobic and anti-authority narratives as well as conspiracy theories, some of which rationalize violence. We are continually seeing these narratives play out during the vaccine rollout.
In addition to my testimony today, I invite you all to read the “CSIS Public Report 2020”, which we released earlier this spring. It details the very important work that CSIS did last year to keep Canada and Canadians safe in a rapidly evolving threat environment.
The public report makes clear that violent extremism continues to capture a significant portion of our attention and our efforts, particularly IMVE-inspired online and real-world threats. IMVE is a complex and multi-faceted threat that erodes social cohesion, and CSIS, working closely with communities and our partners across the country, is committed to fulfilling its mandate to keep all Canadians safe.
Finally, I would like to thank the employees of CSIS, our police colleagues and everybody else working in the national security space. It's difficult work, often requiring exposure to vile and abhorrent content to detect and investigate these threats, and for that I thank them.
With that, I'll be happy to respond to any questions throughout this session.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.