In action

15 / June / 2016

The Right Balance between Security and Community: Montreal’s Centre serves as an Innovative Model

Often reporting to the police about a suspicious behavior of an acquaintance or a loved one can be risky. The […]

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Often reporting to the police about a suspicious behavior of an acquaintance or a loved one can be risky. The qualms about someone’s radicalization could prove to be false, but if the police are already involved, the situation could spiral out of control. Thus there is a need for a middle group – an entity comprised of civilians that can act as a bridge between the citizens and the police regarding their suspicions and worries about an individual´s risk of radicalization. Montreal’s Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV) acts as an entity separate from the police force, yet available to tackle concerns about citizens who are suspected to be vulnerable to radicalization. Opened only a year ago (2015) the centre has already garnered notable success and its model is being duplicated in Brussels, which is the largest exporter per capita of foreign fighters in Europe.

The man behind Montreal’s centre is Herman Deparice-Okomba, who has over ten years of experience working with the police. Although Deparice-Okomba was a rather unknown figure when he was appointed to the leadership position, he has gained fast notoriety along with the centre. Since its creation in March 2015, the Centre has received over 700 calls flagging potential radical behavior. Out of all the calls, as of January 2016, only 10 cases were referred to the police. And in this lies the unique and innovative approach of the organization. Although the organization calls the police one of their partners, it claims to be independent from the authorities and ensures the confidentiality of its callers. Departice-Okomba believes that “…radicalization requires a multi-disciplinary approach,” thus the centre employs psychologists, community relations experts, criminologists and social workers.

Arguably the success of the centre partially lies in the trust it has managed to hone from the community. People who are affiliated with individuals at risk of radicalization are no longer afraid to be called terrorists themselves if they report such behavior, because unlike the police, the centre ensures anonymity and confidentiality. In addition, it appeases and educates overly concerned citizens who call the centre when they believe that just because someone refuses to eat pork he/she is at risk of radicalization. The employees take their time to teach the callers about the differences between what is a religious practice and what is indoctrination. Thus, it is important to note that through education and counseling, the centre tackles Islamic radicalization along with extreme right radicalization, which is a bigger issue in Montreal. Regarding far right extremism Departice Okomba stated, “Dealing with all forms of violent extremism gives us a long-term perspective for the centre.”

Club de Madrid’s Global Consensus, outlines 10 goals which collectively present an effective and comprehensive framework for the prevention and countering of violent extremism. When it comes to security measures necessary to utilize against violent extremism, Goal 9 calls for measures which are “balanced and foster peaceful and cohesive societies in the long run.” Striking a balance between the police and the civil society, as successfully done by Montreal’s centre for prevention of violent radicalization, fosters a more trusting and a collaborative community, which in the long run will prove to be more effective at correctly identifying signs of radical behavior and taking a proactive counteroffensive.

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