Evidence of meeting #31 for Public Safety and National Security in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was far-right.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Christian Leuprecht  Professor, As an Individual
Barbara Perry  Professor, As an Individual
Phil Gurski  Retired Canadian Intelligence Analyst, Terrorism Specialist, As an Individual
Martin Geoffroy  Director, Research Professor, Centre d’expertise et de formation sur les intégrismes religieux, les idéologies politiques et la radicalisation

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

That means there is a link between radicalization and the culture of toxic masculinity, in other words, the male domination, as you said, that the CAF is often criticized for. That is how I understand your comments and the research you are conducting.

4:05 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

Yes, that is certainly something we've seen with the far right generally. You put together that hypermasculinity associated with the far right with the hypermasculinity that is associated with the military culture as well, and it's almost layering on there. The forms of masculinity within the military that have enabled this culture of sexual oppression, again, underscore or exacerbate the toxic forms of masculinity of which you're speaking there. It's doubly damaging and dangerous.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Madam Larouche.

Mr. Harris, six minutes, please.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

I want to thank Dr. Perry and Dr. Leuprecht for their analysis and presentation.

Let me start, first of all, with Dr. Leuprecht.

Thank you for your very concise and incisive analysis, as usual. I think you've told us that the resources of society to protect the public would be better spent on some more conventional things than the individuals here, the dozen different causes for individuals to act up in a radicalized way. That's helpful.

Can I ask you something about the military, even though you didn't talk about it? I want to ask Dr. Perry some questions, but because you're a professor at the Royal Military College, can you tell us what you have to say about the fact that there have been individuals identified at some events, including the Rideau Hall event, involving military types? Dr. Perry just mentioned that as a problem at the recruiting level, sometimes people go into the military for that reason, but I heard recent comments from military leadership saying that the problem is more pervasive than they thought it was.

What's your perspective on that, from the point of view of teaching at RMC, and also on what the military ought to be doing about it?

4:10 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

That's a lovely question, Mr. Harris.

Of course, the Canadian Armed Forces is an institution that is tasked with defending our way of life. There is conduct that is unacceptable in the Canadian Armed Forces that may be acceptable in civil society. It might still be objectionable, but acceptable. I think that's the first point about the armed forces.

The second is that inherently we know there's a selection effect in the Canadian Armed Forces, and that selection effect has some ideological dimensions, regional dimensions and the like. But I think it is not appropriate to construe and paint with a broad brush the Canadian Armed Forces—an institution that has shown itself fully committed to defending our way of life—and associating the institution as a whole with somehow being sympathetic to any form of right-wing ideology.

Yes, the institution has a challenge with certain aspects of institutional culture, but I personally object to relating that to right-wing idiosyncrasies and ideology. There are many issues that play into the institutional culture in the Canadian Armed Forces.

I would also remind the audience that the individuals in the Canadian Armed Forces we're talking about are, to the best of my knowledge, all reservists. They are reservists of various types who have spent different amounts of time in the Canadian Armed Forces. Some have been out and then have returned to the armed forces. The armed forces have also, by and large, done a reasonably good job at identifying these individuals or acting upon them expeditiously, when these matters have come to their attention.

There's certainly an issue where more needs to be done proactively. I know Australia and the United States have very much stepped up their efforts to identify these individuals precisely for the reasons that Dr. Perry laid out: the propensity of some of them to join precisely to get the sort of training that we would never want someone with those sorts of perspectives on life to have. But I think we've proven ourselves reasonably resilient and the organization has proven itself resilient against individuals who join for anti-democratic reasons.

I would separate the issue of institutional culture from ideology.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Dr. Leuprecht.

Dr. Perry, you mentioned the notion of toxic masculinity. This is a cultural thing, obviously as well, that you find in institutions. Justice Bastarache told us it existed in the RCMP with misogyny, homophobia and other aspects of toxic masculinity that he identified, and that cultural change was very difficult.

Can you say, so far, whether you're going to have the kind of access that you think you'll need to be able to do a proper job of investigating this question within the military?

4:10 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

We certainly have the support of senior leadership. The question will be whether we can garner the participation of people across the service. We're starting with a series of interviews with people at different levels, hopefully, at the majority of bases across the country, as well as social workers, padres and those sorts of folks. Then we'll do a survey.

I think the survey will be interesting. I suspect we won't get as strong an uptake on that as we would like, which is the nature of survey research anyway. We're hopeful and optimistic with the interview phase in particular.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Dr. Perry, you have an interesting chart indicating the distribution of the far right in Canada. I see there are no groups in Newfoundland and Labrador. That's a piece of good news for me.

Tell us, briefly, what is the manosphere, which you have identified as one of the categories of the far right?

4:15 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

That's the misogynistic element, which intersects often with the incel movements. The parts of the movement that are particularly.... When we talk about toxic masculinity, this is the worst of the worst in the movement. Its focus is on constraining women and constraining women's rights, and are most likely to engage in not just physical violence but sexual violence against women, often women within their own arena, within the movement itself, and within specific groups.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Harris.

Colleagues, our next round is a 25-minute round. We have less than 15 minutes, so I'm going to take the chair's prerogative and cut it back to three, three, one and a half, one and a half, one and a half, and three and three.

The Liberals need to identify to me who their second questioner might be.

We will start a three-minute round with Mr. Kurek.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate the witnesses appearing before committee. It's certainly very interesting what you have presented, and I've had a chance to look at some of your work.

To Dr. Leuprecht, your research suggests that online bravado appears to be a bad predictor of whether or not somebody will be a violent extremist. I don't think you say no link, just that it's not a good metric to use to predict violence. I ask this question in the context of being an elected official and having an online presence. I certainly have been subject to and seen a lot of very extreme content, some of which was directed at me.

Could you expand on that and talk about whether that's an accurate summary of what your research has concluded?

4:15 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

If you look at the amount of research that Dr. Perry has collected, if there was a connection, let alone a strong connection, between bravado and violence, we would expect to see a lot more violence in Canada than we do. What it suggests is that we need a much more nuanced approach to the issue.

There are four different levels at which we can engage in this. One is a matter of the criminal investigation side for people who engage in this type of conduct, but the other three are conversations we need to have more aggressively.

What are the economic and psychological barriers that as a society we have put in place to prevent people, who engage in bravado and so forth, from moving to action?

What can we do with certain elements of the community, where there are actual small groups and pockets that we can identify, to tell them counter-narratives, to tell them a better story? That's an opportunity, in particular with youth who we know are susceptible to influence.

We also need to turn this around: If there are so relatively few ones but there's this huge number of zeros, what are we actually doing right as a society to make our society resilient, to begin with, from people buying into this proliferation of hate online? This is something that, compared with, for instance, some of our partner countries, Canada has done very well, so we need to focus on the proactive measures that we as a society have in place.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I've been concerned about some of the politicization around this issue that seems to pen some of the ways we describe it into more of a political issue than how law enforcement could actually address this. I wonder if you have any comments on that. I know the time is brief.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Please be very brief.

4:15 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Christian Leuprecht

I'll provide a very brief reply that while there is a proliferation of groups—and Dr. Perry can maybe comment on the Canadian context—in the U.S., the vast majority of postings online are generated by a tiny group of individuals. This is not a random distribution problem across society. It is highly concentrated among a few people who are extremely aggressive and proactive in this space and a large number of followers who are hangers-on.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you.

Ms. Damoff, please. You have three minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Quoting from the CSIS reports, since 2014, 21 people have been killed and 40 others have been wounded on Canadian soil because of extremist ideological views. Obviously, CSIS has a problem with what's happening.

Dr. Perry, last month you said the far right has become more adept at integrating populous grievances into their own narratives and exploiting them to enhance membership. I recently read White Fragility, and in there there's a quote from the godson of David Duke, where he talks about how they need to change the language they use—we need to shut down immigration, we need to fight affirmative action and we need to end globalism—and that you can win those positions as long as you don't get outed as a white nationalist.

You mentioned earlier the anti-Trudeau sentiment. We're hearing talk of tyranny and corruption. Often the people who use this terminology call themselves “patriots”. I wonder if you can maybe talk a bit about your concerns around this.

4:20 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

We have to put it in a broader context too. The events of January 6 are a reminder of the risk of allowing that kind of anti-statism to go unchecked. Granted there you had a political leader who was also sort of a threat to democracy, if you will.

However, I think in the Canadian context, that anti-Trudeau sentiment we're seeing from the right is also contributing or being woven into similar grievances coming from the mainstream as well. It's this process of gradual absorption of those mainstream issues into the far right, of reinterpreting them and sending them back.

We saw that earlier with the yellow vest movement, which began as a really legitimate and important set of concerns around threats to the oil industry in particular. That same process is at work here in the context of shutdowns.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

When you talk about anti-Trudeau sentiment, we're not talking about the differences on policy here. We're talking about people who actually believe the Prime Minister should be arrested and put in jail.

4:20 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

Yes. That's because there's a whole litany of crimes for which he's thought to be guilty. It's not just the lockdowns or mishandling of COVID. It's also that he's responsible for “unbridled immigration” and “dangerous refugees”, and all that sort of thing, almost borrowing Trumpisms from the U.S.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

It's the terminology that the white supremacists in the U.S. were saying they wanted to use in order to make it more appealing to the masses.

4:20 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

Yes. It's that sanitization.

You mentioned David Duke. We saw it with David Duke in the 1980s, when he said, “throw off your white capes and put on your business suits.” That's the same sort of thing. That's sort of the alt-white in particular and their mastery of that mainstreaming of hate, that sanitization, making both their appearance and their narratives more palatable.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Ms. Damoff.

Ms. Larouche, you may go ahead. You have a minute and a half.

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Thank you.

Ms. Perry, you talked about how the gun culture ties in with the radicalization of paramilitary or right-wing extremist groups.

What is the link between the radicalization of those groups and guns?

Also, what do you see as a solution to combat that culture, which could lead to the radicalization of certain groups, be it online or not?

This being my last turn, I would like both Mr. Leuprecht and Ms. Perry to answer.

May 31st, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Barbara Perry

I'll speak to the first half, and perhaps, Dr. Leuprecht, you can respond to the second half.

Dr. Leuprecht mentioned this notion of defending our way of life, and this is why there's this desire to take up arms, to defend our way of life as they understand it, which is very different from what I think Dr. Leuprecht was speaking about there. For us, the idea is to defend equity, inclusion, respect for inclusion. For them, those are exactly the threats, so that defensiveness really is the foundation of that arms narrative that we're seeing.

I'll allow you to answer what we do.