CALGARY — A heartbreaking video featuring a mother’s message to her son who died fighting for the Islamic State is part of a new program to fight the radicalization of Canadian youth.
Extreme Dialogue is believed to be Canada’s first school-based initiative that tackles the issue.
It features films and educational resources using the stories of real people to help youth think for themselves and challenge extremist ideas.
Chris Boudreau, whose 22-year-old son Damian Clairmont was killed while fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria last winter, has continued to speak out against extremism.
“Here we are today. We have no body. No way of touching you one more time. No way to look at you and say goodbye,” says the Calgary woman as she looks directly into the camera in the 10-minute video.
“Why couldn’t you come home once you saw how it was? Why didn’t you come home? How do we live our life knowing some of the things that you may have done?”
Boudreau said Tuesday that she hopes the message will get through to young people at risk.
“It just shows the raw emotion and how we’re affected as victims,” she said. “It opens up an opportunity for youth to see the effects and to engage in critical thinking so they can make some decisions for themselves.”
The program is available to schools and community groups and is aimed at teens between 14 and 18.
Rachel Briggs from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which helped develop the program, said the Islamic State uses the Internet to recruit the young. Extreme Dialogue will at least make another point of view available.
“If we can’t shield our young people from the content entirely, at least we can make sure that they have the skills to see that propaganda for what it is,” she said.
A handful of Calgary youth have already reportedly gone to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The federal government’s annual national security report said that at the start of 2014 it knew of more than 130 individuals who were abroad and suspected of terror-related activities. About 30 people with Canadian connections were suspected of terror activities in Syria.
The new program has the support of law enforcement.
RCMP Supt. Yvon de Champlain said using the Internet to battle extremism is like fighting fire with fire.
“Having an Internet presence in today’s world of social media is so important. That’s how we reach our children,” said de Champlain.
Canadian Muslim student activist Raheem Siddique cautioned that Extreme Dialogue is not going to be a cure-all.
“It’s something counsellors and teachers can turn to if they see any type of extremism showing up in their classrooms, their environment, just like a textbook. It’s a resource for them,” he said.
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