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Recognizing Violent Radicalization



Known cases of violent radicalization in Quebec and the rest of Canada confirm that no single profile fits all radicalized individuals. However, there are a number of behaviours that are frequently associated with the process of radicalization. The Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV) developed a prevention tool, the “Behaviour Barometer”, baseed on these behaviours to help the public differentiate between behaviours that are cause for concern and those that are not.

Behaviour Barometer

Designed as an education and awareness tool for the general public together with front-line workers, schools, social services and professional communities, the Behaviour Barometer makes radicalization leading to violence easier to understand, and identifies early warning signs to watch for.
The barometer divides behaviours that may be associated with radicalization into four colour-coded categories based on the degree of severity: insignificant , troubling, worrisome and alarming.

This category includes a series of behaviours associated with diverse forms of political, religious or community engagement, which are characterized by peaceful actions and democratic means of expression.
Few examples :
– Argues fervently to defend his/her convictions before family members and/or close friends
– Adopts visible signs (traditional clothes, beard, shaved head, religious symbols, specific tattoos, etc.) to express his/her identity or sense of belonging
– Is active on social media
– Takes a stand and campaigns peacefully for a cause related to a community, a group or an individual
– Takes a keen interest in current national and international events
– Expresses the desire to reintegrate or to increase involvement in a religious practice, or an identity or political engagement
– Converts or adopts new religious, ideological or political beliefs
– Insists on following specific dietary requirements due to political or religious convictions
– Expresses a need for excitement or adventure
– Displays a desire to correct social injustices
This category includes individual behaviours that attest to personal ill-being. It also includes behaviours that represent an increasingly sustained self-identification with a cause or an ideology that leads the individual to significantly change his or her behaviour.
Few examples :
– Expresses polarizing views of absolute truth, paranoia or extreme mistrust
– Adopts behaviour which creates a rupture with family practices
– Is drawn to conspiracy theories and discourse
– Begins to isolate himself/herself from family and/or friends
– Suddenly changes his/her habits
– Feels a sense of victimization and rejection
– Insistently preaches religious and ideological ideas to others
– Rejects the rules and regulations of institutions and organizations with which one is in contact (school, workplace, athletic organizations, etc.) based on ideological, political or religious grounds.
– Refuses to take part in group activities or interact with certain individuals due to the latter’s religion, race, skin colour, gender or sexual orientation
– Expresses a need to dominate or control others
– Has difficulty reassessing one’s own ideas and/or recognizing the value of other points of view
This category encompasses behaviours that can be associated with the beginning of an individual’s engagement in a radical trajectory. It is characterized by an acute mistrust of the outside world, and by a preponderance of views legitimizing the use of violence to achieve one’s goals, or to win a cause.
Few examples :
– Cuts off ties with family members and/ or close friends in order to keep exclusive company with a new circle of acquaintances or friends
– Legitimizes the use of violence to defend a cause or an ideology
– Hides a new lifestyle, allegiance or belief system from family members and/or close friends (either online or in real life)
– Becomes closer to individuals or groups known to be violent extremists
– Becomes suddenly disinterested in professional or school activities
– Displays symbols of affiliation or support associated with recognized violent extremist groups
– Becomes obsessed with the end of the world or with messianic views
– Expresses hateful views towards other individuals or groups
This category includes a variety of behaviours that attest to an exclusive and sectarian allegiance to an ideology or a cause, which lead the individual to perceive violence as the only legitimate and valid means of action.
Few examples :
– Takes part in violent extremist group activities by any means whatsoever (material, financial or physical)
– Recruits individuals for a violent extremist cause (or encourages their enlistment to that cause)
– Is in contact with a group or a network of individuals known to be violent radicals, either online or in real life
– Reinforces own beliefs through regular consultation of violent extremist Internet forums and websites
– Commits or plans violent or hateful acts inspired by ideological motives or a violent extremist cause
– Learns about, seeks to acquire or knows how to use weapons (firearms, explosives, etc.) outside the legal bounds
– Plans a trip to a conflict zone or to a region in which violent extremist groups are known to be active

The barometer makes it easier to interpret the significance of observed behaviours properly. Certain behaviours may seem serious when they are not in fact important in terms of radicalization (displaying visible signs of identity, for example, is not a critical factor). Other behaviours, however, might normally be dismissed as insignificant or misunderstood when they should act as red flags for people around the individual (e.g. the expression of dehumanizing views about other individuals or groups is classified under worrisome behaviour).
The Behaviour Barometer is designed to serve as a pedagogical tool and must not be considered a comprehensive screening or detection tool for radicalization. It is designed primarily to help persons concerned about a loved one to identify behaviours them should keep an eye on.

Advice on proper use of the Behaviour Barometer

Anyone wishing to use the CPRLV barometer should know that any given individual’s behaviours will not generally all fall under a single category on the barometer. In fact, a person may display a range of behaviours spanning all four categories at once. Very often individuals will display a combination of behaviours ranging from so-called insignificant behaviours to so-called worrisome behaviours.

This is why it is important that the barometer not be used to carry out a purely qualitative behavioural assessment (concentrating on which category the most behaviours fall under) but rather a qualitative assessment (taking into consideration which behaviours are most significant in terms of the way the individual functions).

It is always vital to take into account the fact that some of an individual’s behaviours may be the result of other issues unrelated to radicalization, such as the person’s state of mental health or an adolescent oppositional disorder. This is why the observation of radicalization-related behaviours must form part of a global assessment to rule out any other explanations for such behaviours.

In need of help or support? Contact the CPRLV directly.

The barometer can be used to provide the public with information on observable behaviours associated with violent radicalization or help family members and friends of individuals affected by radicalization to keep an eye out for relevant signs.
However, the CPRLV strongly advises any person using the barometer to call the Info-Radical hotline (514 687 7141 #116 in Montréal, and 1 877 687 7141 #116 elsewhere in Quebec) for help understanding and interpreting a third party’s behaviours.
The barometer is not a clinical assessment tool. CPRLV professionals will be able to assist in developing a more reliable, thorough and precise assessment of the situation and, if necessary, in determining possible avenues for intervention.

  • 8 September 2021
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This fall, the CPRLV is offering a series of free webinars, open to all, on issues related to radicalization leading to violence and hate-motivated acts. Join us to be better equipped to act as a prevention actor. For more details and to register, check out our programming
  • 1 September 2021
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The CPRLV is growing!

We are delighted to welcome Khaoula El Khalil, our new Research Advisor, to the CPRLV team. As Research advisor at the CPRLV, Khaoula is in charge of researching content on hate-motivated acts, as well as providing scientific support for the content of the teams’ programs and tools. Khaoula is a Master’s graduate in political science […]
  • 20 August 2021
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The 404 Magazine team is looking forward to bringing its new fall issue, which focuses on the theme of “Beyond Hate”. To give you a taste of what’s to come, the members of the team have put together a video explaining why this theme was chosen and why you MUST read this issue !