CSIS warns of increased violent rhetoric from 'extremist actors' since October 7

'While the long-term impacts of the current crisis cannot be easily predicted, it is clear that this conflict has raised tensions within our society,' wrote Eric Balsam, a spokesman for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

CSIS warns of increased violent rhetoric from 'extremist actors' since October 7
The Canadian Press / Christinne Muschi
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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is warning that the Israel-Hamas war has led to an increase in violent rhetoric from "extremist actors" that could prompt some Canadians to turn to violence.

Newly released documents show discussions between CSIS, the Department of Public Safety, and Muslim and Jewish groups about responding to the increase in hate crimes since the conflict began after the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel.

"While the long-term impacts of the current crisis cannot be easily predicted, it is clear that this conflict has raised tensions within our society," wrote CSIS spokesman Eric Balsam.

"Violent rhetoric from extremist actors has increased since the attack by Hamas and, as the conflict continues to unfold, it is possible that these events could impact certain individuals' intent to mobilize to violence."

Balsam added that the agency's role involves monitoring and identifying threats, with the responsibility of alerting the government accordingly. He emphasized that this does not extend to lawful protests and dissent, which are safeguarded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

New documents show that the agency had discussions with leaders of both Jewish and Muslim groups to ensure them that they "will continue to monitor threats and to look for evidence of attacks being planned."

Balsam stated that the agency continues its dialogue with leaders from both Muslim and Jewish communities to address their concerns. Additionally, he noted that Director David Vigneault convened with the federal envoy tasked with combating antisemitism and Islamophobia last fall.

The Canadian Press writes that there are also concerns regarding free speech.

Jewish leaders, joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others, have condemned instances of protesters celebrating Hamas' October 7 attack on southern Israel during demonstrations across various Canadian cities. One such occurrence is currently under investigation by the Ottawa police.

Documents reveal consistent appeals from federal officials prompted by Jewish leaders, urging law enforcement to take decisive action against the "hateful rhetoric" voiced at rallies. Specifically, concerns were raised about the use of the term "Zionist."

"As an overwhelming majority of Jews identify as Zionists and believe in the need for a Jewish state … calls for attacks against Zionists should be seen as calls for attacks against Jews," one document reads.

A summary dated November 29 says that authorities encouraged local law enforcement to extend their attention beyond synagogues and community centres to include Jewish-owned businesses and schools.

Documents also suggest that Public Safety Canada would engage with universities to address escalating tensions and instances of antisemitism on campuses.

Information would be relayed to schools "on the current threat environment."

In the ensuing months, pro-Hamas encampments have been established at McGill University in Montreal, the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and more recently, the University of Toronto.

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