Organizations and Youth Come Together to Combat Violent Extremism

Organizations and Youth Come Together to Combat Violent Extremism

Last month, four Canadian organizations joined forces to form an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration. Drawing from all regions and provinces, and united in their efforts to empower young people, these organizations have sought to better understand and develop solutions to pressing social issues that impact all Canadians.

EDMONTON, Jan. 10, 2019, 09:00 MST/ The Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV), the Canadian Practitioners Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence (CPN-PREV), the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS), and the Students Commission of Canada (SCC), lead of the Center of Excellence for Youth Engagement (CEYE), partnered to hold a 4-day conference that brought together academics and analysts; practitioners and police; community leaders and policymakers; as well as 40 youth and young adults from across Canada. The conference took place in Edmonton, Alberta from November 30 to December 3, 2018 and aimed to disseminate innovative interdisciplinary research, and open a dialogue between youth, academics, and practitioners.

The conference was grounded in the idea that we need a paradigm shift in the way we conceptualize youth. Instead of seeing youth as future adults, it is time to value them for what they are, rather than what they will become. Youth are active and contributing members of society who have meaningful and valuable opinions on social issues.

“Young people, in particular, understand how polarization, exploitation, and victimization occurs – in their schools, among their peers and in the online space. It is critical that their perspectives and ideas on prevention are heard and acted upon by those who have the power to act.” – Ghayda Hassan, Director and Founder of CPN-PREV

Young people have a desire to be civically engaged. They aspire to ideas of citizenship that have the capacity to be transformative and benefit all members of society. New research suggests that models, where young people partner with adults, lead to greater achievements and the meeting of shared objectives. Young people increasingly engage in alternative forms of citizenship that can easily go unnoticed when viewed through a conventional lens.

“It is important to be mindful of ways in which youth might be choosing to express their citizenship and engagement because they might differ from adult modes. When youth are meaningfully included in the entire process from initial conversations to implementation, we all benefit. » – Heather Lawford, co-director of research for the Center of Excellence for Youth Engagement

Building on these priorities and standards, the conference was in line with the cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary mandates of our organizations, and the excellence we are striving to achieve in the advancement of the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism.

“If our collective goal is to build a more cohesive society and prevent violent extremism from occurring, we need a whole society approach and multiple stakeholders to engage in studying, understanding and addressing it.” – John McCoy, Executive Director of OPV

The conference was grounded within global best practice recommendations and approaches to prevention of extremist violence. Included in these practices are those developed by youth for youth empowerment of grassroots solutions from communities and civil society, which are integrated in a broader civic engagement frame, rather than top-down solutions from governments. These kinds of flexible and entrepreneurial approaches are necessary to address the complex and often unpredictable processes that drive violent radicalization. Our goal was to identify strategies for addressing social polarization, violent radicalization and extremist violence in our diverse communities.

“In today’s globalized world, often the things that divide us can, in a slightly different form, connect us and allow us to better understand one another. Preventing violent extremism in our homes and neighborhoods means harnessing the very best of research in collaboration with partners in government and the community.” – Veronica Kitchen, Acting Director of TSAS

The diversity of experiences and expertise represented by the range of participants was of great value in supporting creative collaboration throughout the conference, and a key to enabling innovation in preventing radicalization and extremist violence. It was also necessary for us to include these voices in the discussion in order to reach our collective goals of respect, non-stigmatization, and inclusiveness.

“Research is showing that experiencing diversity has positive outcomes for youth both in terms of learning and mental health but also supporting them in safe spaces in their schools and communities. Experiencing diversity is important in the prevention of social polarizations.”– Stoney McCart, co-Founder of SCC and Director of Strategic Partnerships

This innovative conference would not have been possible without the contribution of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), the Edmonton Police Foundation, the UNESCO Chair for the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism (UNESCO-PREV Chair), REACH Edmonton, the Political Science Department and the Kule Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Alberta as well as the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Our four organizations were privileged to be able to count on their help and benefit from their support.

We would also like to express our gratitude for the support of the Canada Centre on Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (Canada Centre), and recognize their efforts in encouraging and empowering youth-led initiatives. The National Strategy on Countering Radicalization through Violence was launched on December 11, 2018, and they identified “Engagement with youth” as an area of priority.

About the Organization for Prevention of Violence

The Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV) is based in Edmonton, Alberta and is a community and expert-led non-government organization. They are engaged in research and prevention-based activities that aim to mitigate violent extremism. In pursuit of this goal, they work closely with communities, human service providers, and all levels of government.

About the Canadian Practitioners Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence

The Canadian Practitioners Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence (CPN-PREV) is a pan Canadian organization based at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in Montreal, Quebec. The CPN-PREV supports coordinated collaboration, capacity building and knowledge transfer among key sectors and stakeholders through a nationwide multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach in preventing radicalization and extremist violence. Our goal is to bring forward Canadian leadership and develop excellence in countering violent radicalization by supporting best practices and collaborations among intervention teams, through sustained knowledge mobilization between the research, practice, policy and community sectors.

About the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society

The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) is an independent academic organization and led by a consortium of thirteen Canadian Universities. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, TSAS supports research, and the dissemination of research, related to the threat of terrorism, security responses to terrorism, and the impact of both terrorism and securitization on Canadian society. The organization focuses on developments in Canada and encourages international collaborations through their multiple partners in other countries. TSAS is seeking to help create a uniquely Canadian response to terrorism and its social consequences and, finally, also support the development of academically excellent and policy-relevant research.

About the Students Commission of Canada

The Students Commission of Canada (SCC) is a charitable organization based in Toronto, Ontario that purposefully works with others to ensure that young people are valued, heard and their ideas for improving themselves, the lives of their peers and communities are put into action. Our Four Pillars — Respect, Listen, Understand and Communicate™ — are the values and process that guide our work. Respect is granted, acknowledging strengths that each of us has to give, which lets us listen deeply with all our senses; we then move from listening to understanding, the basis for the first action, which is effective communication. SCC leads the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement and hosts the #CanadaWeWant Conferences that have engaged hundreds of youth participants across Canada. The desired outcome of SCC is a world where all young people transition positively into successful adulthood.


Canadian Practitioners Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence
Marie-Eve Gosselin, Knowledge Mobilization and Public Relations Coordinator
+1 514-621-0398


Organization for Prevention of Violence
John McCoy, Executive Director
+1 780-995-6107


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Ramey, H., Lawford, H., Rose-Krasnor, L. (2017). Doing for others: Youth’s contributing behaviors and psychological engagement in youth-adult partnerships, Journal of Adolescence, 55 (2), 129-138. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.01.001

Ramey, H., Lawford, H., & Vachon, W. (2017). Youth-Adult Partnerships in Work with Youth: An Overview. Journal of Youth Development, 12(4), 38-60. doi: 10.5195\\jyd.2017.520

Ramey, H. Lawford, H., Rose-Krasnor, L. (2018). Why we should pay attention to the power of youth. Retrieved from

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