Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and society (TSAS) Working Paper series (14-07), The Process of Radicalization – Right-Wing Skinheads in Quebec by Samuel Tanner and Aurélie Campana
Even though right-wing extremist groups, including right-wing skinheads, are included on the Canadian Anti-terrorist Strategy list of threats to national security, very little empirical and theoretical knowledge is available about such groups in either political science or criminology. This Working paper is a pioneering and careful examination of the segmented and fragmented skinhead movement in Quebec.
Drawing from internet-based research, several interviews and the collection of cases involving former and/or current skinheads who have been convicted of criminal offenses, the first section of the working paper offers an intriguing mapping of a segmented and fragmented oppositional movement. As the paper cautiously states, there is no unity within the right wing skinhead movement in Quebec. From the preservation of Quebec identity to the promotion of violence towards immigrants, through the development of websites to actual acts of violence, the French-Canadian Skinhead galaxy is a mix of discontentment, ordinary racism, vocal discourses of white supremacy up to neo-Nazi armed and violent individuals.
Most of our respondents claimed to be “patriotic,” but this term was given different meanings: for one, it meant being separatist, for another, it meant defending French-Canadians, and for a third, supporting Canada” (p.30)
The second part of the working paper focuses on the radicalisation process, offering as such some tangible insights into the always convoluted and complex mechanisms at stake within the Quebecois Skinhead world. The reason why most of the interviewees joined racist groups is not that they were particularly endeared to racist ideologies but rather more because of the attraction that stems from the excitement of semi-clandestine activities (mostly private concerts), the strong links developed between members and the possibility to express a desire for violence loudly. As noticed by the paper’s authors, most violence in skinhead activities is verbal and symbolic; violence continues to be highly valued as a means to gain respect within the group and is perceived by most skinheads as a sign of pride and dignity. As such, skinhead radicalisation cannot be disconnected from its social and political context and is certainly not a simple linear process but a relational dynamic. A long lineage of militant far-right activism or belonging to a neo-Nazi band does not produce automatically an extremist, a “lone-wolf”, but
In a context where groups are loosely structured and frustration is overtly expressed, should we fear a lone-wolf scenario, something like the bombings carried out by Breivik in Norway, for instance? (p.34)
Without doubt, the 2011 Norway attacks and the 2012 Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting have triggered new concerns about “self-radicalised” extreme-right individuals. The third section of the working paper engages with the vexatious issue of the possibility of a Quebecois skinhead lone-wolf scenario emerging. The authors offer a cautious and provisional analysis.
The full working paper is available here
About the authors:
Dr. Aurélie Campana holds the Canada Research Chair on Conflicts and Terrorism and is the deputy director of the Peace and Security Program (Institut des Hautes Études Internationales, University of Laval). She is a member of the Centre International de Criminologie Comparée (University of Montreal).
Dr. Samuel Tanner is an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology at the Université de Montréal. His current research interests focus on transnational policing, release of war and security issues that accompany them, and in particular the role and participation of civilian police – CIVPOL – to international peace operations
About the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and society:
Led by a consortium of the University of British Columbia, the University of Waterloo, and Simon Fraser University, the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) is funded through a Partnership Development Grant from SSHRC and a Contribution Agreement with Public Safety Canada, along with the following departments of the federal government: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).