Dissuade: An Ounce of Prevention and the Sociology of Anti-terrorism

AuthorCraig Forcese; Kent Roach
Dissuade: An Ounce of Prevention and
the Sociology of Anti-terrorism
The Foreign Terrorist Fighter
Damian Clairmont went through many dierent phases in his short life.
Friends said that at one point he had “looked like a rapper in a ball cap and
baggy baske tball clothes.” en he outtted himself like a fash ion model. As
a Roman Catholic, he wore a crucix. He had ambitions to join the military.
But he fought depression, dropped out of high school when he was four-
teen years old, and tried to kill h imself by drink ing antifreeze when he was
seventeen. After that, he stayed in a group home, took medication, and was
treated by a psychiatrist. At one point, police arrested him for attempting to
buy e cst as y.
Friends said, “It seemed like he was trying to nd h imself.” He turned to
Islam, renaming himself Mustafa. Initia lly, this seemed to bring him peace.
But Clairmont was soon “preachy and judgmental,” calling on friends to con-
vert. He urged one to avoid a military career, claiming that “the Canadian
military wa s killing Muslims like him.” He became secretive and ar gumenta-
tive, propounded / conspiracy theories, and made claims about anti-Muslim
media bias. Unemployed and on disability benets, he began hik ing with his
prayer group and spending time in the gym. He also talked about moving to
a Muslim country to study Arabic, naming Egy pt as a possible destination.
And despite predictions that Clairmont — a “big talk er” — would never
follow through, he did leave Canada and his Calgary home. Christianne
Boudreau, Clairmont’s mother, only found out that her son was in Syria
when CSIS ocers arrived at her door in December . CSIS had been
watching Clairmont as part of a t wo-year investigation into an extremist
Clairmont may rst have joined the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida aliate
listed as a terrorist group in Canada. He seems to have joined ISIS (Islamic
State of Iraq and Syria) sometime in , adopting the nom de guerre Abu
Talha al-Kanadi (“e Canadian”). While with ISIS, his infrequent com-
munications with the outside world suggest an increasing ly radicalized reli-
gious worldview, a hostility to Muslims with views diering from his, and a
general contentment with his lot.
In January , t he twenty-two-year-old Clairmont was reported killed,
defending his base in Syria.
The Foreign Terrorist Fighter’s Mother
Since that time, his mother, Boudreau, has campaigned tirelessly for various
community-based counter–violent extremism (CVE) programs, but with
little apparent assistance from the federa l government.
She has spearheaded an eort to bring Germany’s Hayat (Arabic for
“life”) model to Canada. Hayat is a German-based CVE program initiated
by the Centre for Democratic Culture and aimed at fami lies and friends of
those at risk. It has enjoyed some success and participates in a t wenty-four-
hour helpline nanced by the German Oce for Immigration and Refugee
Aairs.Hayat’s edgling Canadian version focuses on family counselling. It
has no government support and relies entirely on charitable donations.It has
not yet been able to implement a t wenty-four-hour helpline.
Boudreau is also part of a multinat ional group named Mothers for Life,
which issues pleas through social media for sons and daughters to return
from foreign terrorist ghts and hopes to assist them in their subsequent
reintegration into civil society. Its appeals should not be dismissed: the group
relies on both the ability of mothers to prevail on their children and reli-
gious reasoning — “remember that even the Prophet Muhammad (peace
and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.’”
When asked to comment on Mothers for Life, a spokesperson for Prime
Minister Harper ass erted that returning foreign ghters would be prosecuted
and that if they were dual nationals, their citizenship would be revoked.
Boudreau rejoined, “at’s not an answer. ere are other ways — better
ways, we believe — to make us safe. A nd Europe is seriously exploring them.
I hope Canada will be pa rt of that.”
Chapter Thirteen: Dissuade
Are we? And if not, should we be? In this chapter, we address these ques-
tions, focusing on the anti-terror tool left unaddressed in earlier chapters:
dissuade. In Chapter , on our “threat escalator” tool, we portrayed dissuade
as the broadest and least coercive response to the th reat of terrorism — and,
more specically, radicalization to violence. As we discuss below, CVE ob-
jectives are also consistent with t he “prevent” prong of the government’s 
anti-terrorism policy.
Given its signicance as a rst-level response, it may seem puzzling that we
have left this topic to the penultimate chapter. We have done so for two
reasons. First, CVE in itiatives may be the best “exit strategy” f rom many of
the shortcomings of other tools that we have discussed i n this book. Watch,
share, interdict, restrain, interrupt, and even prosecute get you only so far.
ey are temporary solutions even when they involve criminal convictions
that may endure for years. We need an endgame, one best discussed at t he
end of a book.
The Fog of CVE Strategies
e second reason is that while CV E strategies may be the last, best hope
for many of our security dilemmas, they are both embryonic and opaque,
especially in Canada. ey depend on sociological research t hat is under-
developed and on practical experience that is slender. e government grey
literature in the area is lled w ith models, best practices, diagrams (often
triangles like t he one we use in Chapter ), and checklists. e research lit-
erature is lled with caveats and calls for more close inquiry to esh out the
theories or limited empirical samples (often focusing on terrorists without
control groups). Indeed, empirical literature on the topic is comparatively
sparse, creating the risk of an echo chamber in which policy conclusions are
extrapolated from a slender experiential foundation.
is means that the discussion in this chapter is the most provisional
of any in this book. It is the new frontier. is is especially true in Canada ,
which, as will be seen, has ye t to implement a full-edged CVE program — let
alone evaluate it and then adjust it in response to slowly evolving knowledge
about what works, what does not, and what may even be counterproductive.
As present, there is much talk of the need for “community engagement,”
but this underestimates the diversity of Ca nada’s Muslim communities.
ere is also a focus on security t hat asks much of these communities but

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