CSIS study on 100 radicalized Canadians released

Photo: CSIS

On Monday, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), released its study of 100 radicalized Canadians.

The document, titled, “Mobilization to Violence (Terrorism) Research:
Key Findings,” is a look into how Canada’s spies are learning to understand modern terrorists.

It also reveals that CSIS like to refer itself as “the service.”

CSIS Official Crest Photo: CSIS

“In light of the terrorist attacks in Ottawa and Saint Jean-Sur-Richelieu in 2014 and the waves of foreign fighters who left Canada… the Service updated and enhanced its analysis and understanding of the process of escalation to terrorism.”

The study is an analysis of how radicalized Canadians mobilize towards terrorism. The document make no equivocation that its purpose is not to answer questions about the causes of  radicalization or how terrorist acts can be prevented.

“It explores not why a person becomes radicalized, but rather how the person mobilizes to engage in terrorism. ”

The goal being to learn how to better separate the “talker” from the “walker”.

Radicalization does not follow a linear path, and all those who become so do not engage in violence. There are no  signs that definitively  show an individual is moving towards committing violence, but the study points to indicators that have been present in the past.

Travel preparations, changes in fitness routines,  selling of personal belongings, recording martyrdom videos, as well as “final preparations and getting affairs in order behaviours,” are all identified as potential indicators.

Different demographics also face various unique obstacles when mobilizing.

“Minors generally have fewer obstacles to overcome in their process of mobilization and they also tend to mobilize to violence in groups,” it says.

This teamsmanship  makes detection exponentially more difficult.

“Findings show that 80% of the youth and young adults under the age of 20 mobilize in groups of two or more.

“Young women in particular rarely mobilize alone.”

Minors and young adults also face special obstacles during mobilization. They have to overcome inaccessible passports, limited access to money and credit, all the while deceiving parents and authority figures.


The study also acknowledges some tricky realities about detecting terrorism.

“There is no single terrorist profile.

“One cannot detect the next terrorist by looking at characteristics such as age, gender or socio-economic background.”

A criminal history is also not an indicator of potential mobilization. Only 25% of the Canadians in the study had a record with authorities for violent crime.

Factors that are linked to terrorist violence, according to CSIS, include personal history, peer pressure, grievances, charismatic ideologues, and international events.

Most of the Canadian’s that the Service examined for the study left to fight for Daesh. Others did participate in plotting attacks, travel and/or the facilitation of the activities of other terrorists.

A typical radicalized Canadian take an average of 12 months to mobilize to violence. Cases of spontaneous mobilization (five days or fewer) exist but are rare, according to the report.

CSIS also found that radicalized individuals in Canada differ from their counterparts in other countries. There is typically a 12-month gap between their violence and

“Canada, mobilizers make a clear transition between criminal and extremist activities. This finding stands in stark contrast to academic literature describing the extremist environment in Europe, where criminal and extremist activities are described as increasingly related—or even completely symbiotic. ”

CSIS also says that most Canadian mobilizers demonstrate some form of “leakage” — where another individual become aware of their intent.  This gives these bystanders the opportunity to impede or report what they have learned.

The analysis also found that individuals can, and do, stop their movement towards violence on their own.

The release of this report is an unusual move for the typically secretive CSIS. There is no mention of how or where these 100 Canadians were observed and investigated.

The agency was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

They however made clear that the report is a framework for understanding how these individuals move forward with terrorism, but not a set of rules.

“Indicators of mobilization to violence are not meant to serve as a predictive model of behaviour nor as a profiling template.”


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