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What Is Violent Radicalization?

What is Violent Radicalization?

The Power of Words

  • Words matter. The words we use to understand events in our lives, their causes, and their solutions can justify and mobilize political and social actions. We must therefore be cautious about what words we use to talk about hate, extremist
    violence, violent radicalization, or terrorism, as their misuse may cause unintended (or 
    intended) harms to individuals and communities.
  • Generally, what or who is defined as violently radical changes across social, political or historical contexts. Also, historically, groups using supremacist and racist ideologies, as well as state-supported forms of violent extremism, have been responsible for large-scale atrocities—such as genocide or those resulting from slavery and colonization—as well as hate incidents and crimes.

At CPN-PREV, we consider violent radicalization to be a non-linear process by which individuals, groups or governments undergo systemic transformations (e.g., behavioral, socioeconomic, psychological, identity-based, political, and/or ideological) that lead them to support, facilitate, or use violence towards an individual or a group in order to further their cause and bring political, social, or economic changes to society.

  • More recently, when the term violent radicalization was used and defined, it was heavily infused with ideological and political bias and mainly targeted Muslim communities. This resulted in over-surveillance, repression, unjustified policing measures, and ostracization of Muslim individuals across the world. We need to remember that all religions—including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism—have been used to inspire different forms of extremism.
  • Because of potential biases and double standards in the field that reinforce systemic discrimination towards some historically marginalized groups, it is necessary to constantly examine the words and definitions we choose and the ways we use them. To capture this complexity, CPN-PREV took on the challenge of offering the following nuanced definition, which we acknowledge must be constantly re-examined as the knowledge base evolves.
  • At CPN-PREV, we consider violent radicalization to be a non-linear process by which an individual, a group, or a government undergoes systemic transformations (e.g., behavioral, socioeconomic, psychological, identity-based, political, and/or ideological) that lead them to support, facilitate, or use violence towards an individual or a group in order to further their cause and bring political, social, or economic changes to society.

We also stress the fact that historical or contemporary movements of Resistance to Violation of Human Rights or Colonization should NOT inherently be conflated with violent radicalization.

Is Radicalization Always Violent?

It is important to understand that radicalization rarely leads to violence and that in fact, very few people in the process of radicalization will value or resort to violence. Indeed, radicalization is often motivated by a refusal of the status quo, a desire to change society for the better. In this respect, radical movements have often, throughout history, brought about beneficial changes in society. We can think of feminism or ecological movements. Also, we can evoke people who, by their thoughts or their gestures, have radically changed society or our way of being in the world.

We also stress that historical and contemporary movements of resistance to colonization should NOT inherently be conflated with violent radicalization.

Get to Know Brad Galloway

Our guest presenter for the third instalment of the “Get to know…” series will be Brad Galloway. Brad currently works as the Coordinator of the Centre on Hate, Bias & Extremism (CHBE) at Ontario Tech University and is also involved in several PVE/PVR initiatives such as the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV) and Life After Hate, among others. Being a former extremist, Brad’s lived experiences have influenced his current work in PVE and primary research interests, which include right-wing extremism and terrorism, preventing and countering violent extremism, and the roles of former extremists in combating violent extremism.

Expo-quiz junior “Éveiller l’esprit critique, parlons-en!”

Description: This primary prevention tool intended for 9-12 year olds aims to help practitioners in education-related fields and youth workers to discuss the issues and risk factors leading to extreme behaviors that can eventually lead to certain forms of radicalization.

* Content in French only

Get to know Colleen Kerr and Brian Aasebo

The previous “Get to know…” event featured Colleen Kerr and Brian Aasebo from the City of Surrey’s Community Safety section. Colleen and Brian introduced how the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) Program is taking a coordinated approach to preventing and addressing youth gang involvement.

Forum Rules

Forum Rules of Conduct / Code de conduite pour les forums

Below you will find our rules of conduct for participation in the forums.
CPN-PREV moderators may choose to decline the publication of a post if it does not respect the guidelines below. If a post is not accepted, you will receive an explanatory message, with a request to modify your post before it is published.

  1. Please make sure your posts are relevant to the main topic of the forum thread. If you want to suggest a different discussion topic, please email us at . If selected, your discussion topic may be chosen for future forum discussions.
  2. Please make sure that your posts do not give any specific examples or names that could compromise confidentiality commitments you may have with clients.
  3. Please remember all posts on the forum should be considered as individual personal opinions and experiences, unless proper references to evidence-based sources are provided. 
  4. Please make sure to respect the copyright limits of any material or content you post in the forums.
  5. Please do not use the forum to advertise or announce events. If you want to share an event with colleagues, please inform the Knowledge Mobilization team at, we will be happy to include the event in CPN-PREV’s newsletter.

Vous trouverez ci-dessous nos règles de conduite pour la participation aux forums. Les modérateurs du RPC-PREV peuvent choisir de refuser la publication d’un message si celui-ci ne respecte pas les lignes directrices ci-dessous. Si un message n’est pas accepté, vous recevrez un message explicatif, avec une demande de modification de votre message avant qu’il ne soit publié.

  1. Veuillez vous assurer que vos contributions sont pertinentes au sujet principal du fil de discussion du forum. Si vous souhaitez proposer un autre sujet de discussion, veuillez nous envoyer un courriel à . Si ce sujet est sélectionné, il pourra être retenu pour de futures discussions sur le forum.
  2. Veuillez vous assurer que vos messages ne donnent pas d’exemples ou de noms spécifiques qui pourraient compromettre les engagements de confidentialité que vous pourriez avoir auprès de la clientèle avec laquelle vous travaillez.
  3. N’oubliez pas que tous les messages du forum doivent être considérés comme des opinions et des expériences personnelles, à moins que des références appropriées à des sources fondées sur des données probantes ne soient fournies.
  4. Veuillez vous assurer de respecter les limites des droits d’auteur de tout matériel ou contenu que vous postez dans les forums.
  5. Veuillez ne pas utiliser le forum pour annoncer des événements. Si vous souhaitez partager la tenue d’un événement avec des collègues, veuillez en informer l’équipe de mobilisation des connaissances à l’adresse, nous serons heureux d’inclure l’événement dans l’infolettre du RPC-PREV.

Systematic Review (2)

2nd Systematic review: Prevention

Context & Objectives

The last two decades have witnessed increases in the number of extremist groups, hate incidents/crimes, and mass attacks that target specific racial, religious, gender minority, or political groups. These attacks have also become more globalized, affecting multiple societies around the world.

As a response, prevention programs have been implemented globally. This effort to counter violent radicalization has led to increased involvement of, and costs to, institutions outside national security including mental health and education sectors, as well as legal and prison systems. For example, in the United States alone, approximately 1 trillion dollars were invested in programs to counter terrorist activities between 2001 and 2011. Even though most of this sum was directed towards surveillance and security agencies, some funds were also directed towards programs that aim to prevent the radicalization of vulnerable populations. Although the swiftness with which these programs were developed and implemented is commendable, the limited timeframe also left very few opportunities to empirically assess their positive and negative outcomes. The issue of iatrogenic or negative effects is particularly important to prevention programs, as they are entrenched in ideological conflicts.

Currently, practitioners are relying on the local expertise and case-by-case results to design prevention programs. Despite the clear benefits of a rapid response, the rollout of these programs in the absence of integrated evidence regarding outcomes, transferability, and benefits to communities, may be counterproductive or even result in greater harm for the targeted populations. In order to inform policymakers and practitioners on what really works, the CPN-PREV team has conducted a systematic review that addresses the following questions:

  • Are prevention programs really able to counter violent radicalization?
  • Are there specific program modalities associated with a higher chance of success or failure?
  • What are the evidence-based recommendations for professionals involved in current and future prevention efforts?

Because preliminary evidence suggested that prevention and intervention programs have diverging ranges of outcomes, the CPN-PREV research team decided to treat them in two separate reviews. The current review focuses on prevention efforts, i.e., primary and secondary prevention programs.

Private Platform

Private Platform

The private platform is a virtual space where practitioners are able to share with other professionals working in the field of prevention of radicalization and violent extremism (PVR/PVE) and where they can access resources that will help them in their practice. The private platform adds to our range of knowledge mobilization tools and consolidates the network’s community by promoting sharing among practitioners.

On the private platform, practitioners can interact through thematic forums, register to CPN-PREV events and access resources that have been specifically curated for practitioners in the network. Depending on their line of work, each practitioner will have access to different types of contents on the platform.

To have an account on the private platform, you must be a member of the network, and be a practitioner working in the field of PVR/PVE. Once you join the network, and the information you have submitted has been reviewed, you will automatically receive your access credentials to the platform. Please do not hesitate to reach us at if you have any questions about your account.

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If you were trying to access a page on our Private platform or were using a link from an email, try the following:

  1. Visit this URL and enter the credentials that were provided to you by the CPNPREV team. You will be redirected to the homepage after successful login.
  2. Once logged in, you can either navigate to content by browsing, or by using the link from your email.
  3. If you still experience difficulty accessing the website, please reach out to us at

Video Tag


Description: The City of Surrey’s Community Safety section launched a new website dedicated to helping parents, caregivers and other trusted adults build protective factors among Surrey children and youth to reduce their susceptibility for gang involvement.

Called Empower Surrey, the website aims to enhance the impact of the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment (SAFE) Program and is available in over 80 languages. It features information on Surrey’s unique gang landscape, how to identify and address risk factors, tips and tools to start early conversations with children and youth, and links to free prevention, intervention and enforcement programs available to Surrey residents.

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