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Saturday, 1 December 2012

What's the problem?

Dear Readers;
I have a comment at the end of this article. -Allan

Stewart Bell
Saad Gaya and Saad Khalid joined a terrorist group that plotted truck bombings in downtown Toronto. Caught in 2006, they are now imprisoned for terrorism.
But not necessarily for much longer.
Gaya became eligible for unescorted temporary absences in September, while Khalid will be eligible next week, which has some asking questions about what the government has been doing to help convicted extremists like them abandon their violent beliefs.
From the guilty pleas and convictions of the Toronto 18 ringleaders to the return of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay, Canada is experiencing a bulge in the number of prisoners behind bars for terrorism-related offences.
Although they still number only a handful, they are a growing part of the inmate population and their imprisonment has created fundamental challenges for the government — foremost how to rehabilitate them so they don’t continue their terror campaigns once they are released.
While the Correctional Service of Canada declined to comment, those familiar with the issue said in interviews they were concerned not enough was being done. “There’s zero help,” said Ibrahim Downey, who has counseled prisoners in Toronto since the 1980s. He said extremist inmates needed more support, both in prison and after they are released. “If they’ve come now to change themselves and they’ve left behind some of this radical behaviour, don’t they deserve a second chance?”
HandoutOmar Khadr, who was returned to Canada from Guantanamo Bay in September, is Canada's highest-profile terrorism-related prisoner.
The government itself has been raising alarms about those it calls radicalized offenders. “Given their unique risk factors, standard correctional programs are unlikely to meaningfully influence the recidivism of violent extremists,” Public Safety Canada wrote in 2009.
HandoutThe CSC’s 2011 annual planning report warned that, “Adequate resources that are required to address the risks posed by radicalized offenders may not be in place.” The 2012 report said the CSC “cannot sustain results with regard to radicalized offenders.”
Canadians need only read the headlines to see what is at stake: rather than reforming terrorists, prisons have a record of breeding them, from the planner of the 2004 Madrid bombings to the members of the Assembly for Authentic Islam, which formed in a California prison and was planning attacks in the U.S.
There are signs it is happening in Canada as well. While awaiting trial, Ali Mohamed Dirie, a member of the Toronto 18 terrorist group who considered white people “filthy” and said he hated non-Muslims, tried to indoctrinate other inmates and recruit them into his terrorist group. He was released last October.
The Correctional Service’s former chief psychologist sees it as a growing problem. Dr. Wagdy Loza authored a 2009 study that found some Canadian offenders held extreme Middle Eastern ideologies characterized by support for the establishment of non-democratic government, hatred for Western culture and a belief in violence for the revival of Islam.
‘This is all based on their fundamental belief that they’re doing the right thing, they’re doing God’s will, so that’s a really challenging thing to overcome’
Prisons are fertile ground for spreading extremist views, said Dr. Loza, past chair of the Canadian Psychological Association’s extremism and terrorism section. “The majority of them are young, frustrated, angry at whatever or maybe at the system. They feel that they are hard done by society. So when you have this, it’s very easy to convert to a radical view.”
Not including Khadr, seven inmates convicted of Anti-Terrorism Act offenses are currently in federal institutions. Five more are awaiting trial in Ontario and Quebec and two Winnipeg men who joined al-Qaeda are wanted on outstanding RCMP warrants. Canada also routinely detains terror suspects pending deportation and extradition.
All those now serving sentences were convicted of crimes motivated by what could be loosely categorized as Islamist extremism, an intolerant anti-democratic and virulently anti-Western worldview that preaches that violence against non-believers is a religious duty and a path to paradise.
“This is all based on their fundamental belief that they’re doing the right thing, they’re doing God’s will, so that’s a really challenging thing to overcome for a correction service,” said Ray Boisvert, a retired former senior CSIS official.
The Correctional Service and CSIS are currently finalizing a joint study on prison radicalization but a government source familiar with the issue said there were signs it may not be as bad as feared and terror convicts were having little success recruiting other inmates.
Lars Hagberg for National Post
Lars Hagberg for National PostDr. Wagdy Loza says Canada is making a mistake treating those imprisoned for terrorism as if they had committed traditional crimes like thefts.
The government has opted to keep convicted terrorists together rather than spreading them across the prison system. Most are held at the Special Handling Unit, the super-max prison in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., which houses about 90 inmates considered the most dangerous in Canada.
“You run the potential they can conspire,” Mr. Boisvert said. “That’s the problem with organized criminal groups when they spend too much time together in federal penitentiaries. By the time they get released they’re ready to roll. But on the other side, ultimately you can keep a better handle on them and they don’t infect others.”
The most contentious debate is whether corrections officials should be striving to de-radicalize inmates, so they will reject extremist ideology, or whether it is enough to disengage them so they at least abandon violent methods.
The CSC’s current approach is to focus on changing violent behaviour rather than ideological or religious beliefs, the government source said. Each offender has a customized correctional plan — a mix of spiritual counseling and social and educational programs. The CSC works with the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy to provide religious support for offenders.
“This focus is appropriate, given that while some extremists never give up the ideology they may nevertheless be convinced to abandon pursuit of acts of violence through existing correctional programs,” said the source. “That said, the CSC approach contains many of the elements that the programs of other countries highlight as essential.”
‘De-radicalization often entails digging deeply into the religious and ideological roots of political violence, and challenging their legitimacy’
But Dr. Loza said the CSC was making the mistake of assessing and treating those imprisoned for terrorism as if they had committed traditional crimes like thefts and assaults. “This is a unique population and you need unique treatments for them.”
Treating terrorists means tackling the belief system that got them involved in terrorism in the first place — everything from their us-versus-them outlook to the view that their religion is superior to all other faiths and the skewed sense that Muslims suffer disproportionate injustice and that violence is therefore justified, he said.
To do that, the corrections system needs expertise in religion, culture, language and world political events that it currently lacks, he said. “If you don’t have that, you don’t have a clue what you are dealing with,” said the Queen’s University adjunct assistant professor of psychology.
But even a well-funded Saudi program has had mixed success. To reform captured al-Qaeda adherents, the Saudis use a combination of religious instruction, psychological counseling and assistance after release that includes money to buy homes and help finding wives. But it doesn’t always work. One graduate of the program went on to become the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen.
By contrast, Canada has relatively few terror convicts but that should allow the government to build a “tailored and highly-individualized” program for each one, said Alex Wilner, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies in Zurich.
“Doing so should greatly improve the odds of proper rehabilitation and diminish rates of recidivism,” said Mr. Wilner, who wrote a paper on Canadian prison radicalization published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
The paper recommended: denying extremist inmates access to other prisoners; excluding radical religious leaders from prison; screening prison libraries for radical literature; and investigating de-radicalization and disengagement programs to see what works.
“Effective de-radicalization is more difficult to achieve than disengagement, so Canadians may not have much of a choice in the matter,” Mr. Wilner said. “But more importantly, de-radicalization often entails digging deeply into the religious and ideological roots of political violence, and challenging their legitimacy. I’m not sure Canada will be particularly effective in that regard.”
Khalid and Gaya were “helpers” in the plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS office on Front Street and a military base. Both university students, aged 18 and 19 at the time, they were unloading three tons of ammonium nitrate from a delivery truck when they were arrested. Police found literature about jihad in Khalid’s bedroom.
At their sentencing, the judge was optimistic about their chances of rehabilitation. He said they were young, had no previous record and were remorseful. Gaya said he was ashamed and denounced violence in the name of political and ideological causes.
While the details of their correctional plans are not known, the government source said one Anti-Terrorism Act offender’s rehabilitation program includes psychological counseling to address his extreme thinking, radical ideological beliefs, emotions and thought processes about the perceived injustice towards Muslims. Spiritual counseling is also helping him challenge his extremist religious views. Canadians will find out soon how well it worked.
National Post
Dear Readers:
I keep hearing people say they don't know what to do with these terrorists and extremists.
We here at Perspective on Canada don't want to argue .........., we don't even want to discuss!
Just send the sick bastards back to where they came from!
(Is that so difficult?)