Cornwall ‘attractive’ for radical groups: RCMP

Ottawa RCMP Sgt. Jag Soin, right, makes a presentation to the Cornwall Community Police Service Board on Jan. 27, 2015 about its Countering Violent Extremism program. Soin says there is government money available to teach Cornwall officers to spot radicalization before it becomes a problem. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Two RCMP specialists in violent extremism say Cornwall’s proximity to the United States makes it an attractive place for radicals and terrorists.

RCMP Sgt. Jag Soin, accompanied by Sgt. Syndy Henry, made a presentation to the police services board Tuesday on the threat of domestic and foreign terrorism.

Soin says Cornwall’s proximity to the U.S. “makes it an attractive place for organized crime including groups like Hamas.”

“I want you to get it out of your head that it can’t happen in your community,” he said.

The sergeant outlined the biggest challenge for various law enforcement agencies is recognizing radicalization and nipping it in the bud before it becomes a violent act.

“Radicalization can’t be pinpointed to a specific group of people like underprivileged people for example,” Soin told the board.

The RCMP has developed a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program which focuses on behaviour rather than values or beliefs of a particular group or person.

Soin says in homegrown extremism cases there are always signs before an act. “If you see it, report it,” he emphasized.

In order to help police in looking for those signs, Soin says there are opportunities for federal funding to train local police officers on spotting radicalization.

Police Chief Dan Parkinson says the force will be looking to tap into that funding.

“To have an act of terrorism in Cornwall would be my worst nightmare,” Parkinson told Cornwall Newswatch, “I don’t think we can be naïve enough to think that it couldn’t happen here.”

“The world is a different place today and there’s a need for our officers to be extra vigilant, to be very much aware of signs and symptoms of radicalization and ideologies that may pose a violent threat to the community.”

Parkinson couldn’t say whether those signs have shown up in Cornwall before.

“This is a delicate balance. We don’t want to scare the community. This isn’t about scaring the community. This is about sharing with the community the reality of some home-grown radicalization has taken place right around us,” the chief said, alluding to acts of terror in Ottawa and Quebec.

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