Reporting suspicious incidents to police
Communities and police working together to prevent violent extremism
Some people hold social or political beliefs that may be considered "extreme" or outside mainstream ideologies. Although some ideas alone may be concerning to those around them, it is when a person uses or actively supports violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals that the police have a role to play.
Someone committing an act of vandalism that targets a specific group of people can be a troubling indicator of the path they may be following.
Law enforcement has no role in policing the thoughts of Canadians.
Police will, however, take action to prevent crimes if there is evidence that an individual is planning or preparing to commit an act of violence or to actively provide support to others doing so.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and FreedomsFootnote 1 guarantees:
- freedom of conscience and religion;
- freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression;
- freedom of peaceful assembly; and
- freedom of association.
However, there are limits on freedoms in the Canadian Criminal Code on matters concerning violence, hate crimes and providing support for terrorism.
Terms and definitions
General definitionsFootnote 2
- Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)
IMVE is often driven by a range of grievances and ideas from across the ideological spectrum. The resulting worldview consists of a personalized narrative, which centres on an extremist's willingness to incite, enable and/or mobilize to violence.
Extremists draw inspiration from a variety of sources including books, images, lectures, music, online discussions, videos and conversations.Footnote 3
- Politically Motivated Violent Extremism (PMVE)
PMVE narratives call for the use of violence to establish new political systems, or new structures and norms within existing systems. Adherents focus on elements of self‐determination or representations rather than concepts of racial or ethnic supremacy.
- Religiously Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE)
Ideologies that underpin RMVE often cast an individual as part of a spiritual struggle with an uncompromising structure of immorality. RMVE ideologies assure
their adherents that success or salvation — either in a physical or spiritual realm can only be achieved through violence.
Definitions specific for this guide
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause" with the intention of intimidating the public "…with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act."Footnote 4 Terrorism offences include providing support to individuals or groups that are involved with terrorism.
- Hate Crime
A criminal offence committed against a person or property, the motive for which is based in whole or in part upon the victim's race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Depending on the objectives of the person committing a hate crime, it may also be considered terrorism.Footnote 5
- Radicalization to Violence
This is what happens when an individual identifies with and comes to support an extremist ideology in which 'success' may only come about through hostile action, including violence, against the ideology's targets. The police have a role if the individual is planning, preparing, or committing crimes motivated by the ideology.
- Extremist Propaganda
Violent extremist groups use social media, the internet, and other methods to share their message and recruit followers. Their misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda can be found in music videos, online games, videos, and written documents. People of all ages who are regularly consuming this material may move on to interacting with extremists and being brought into an extremist group or ideology and even participate in criminal acts.
This is when an individual starts to act on the ideological motive by taking steps to engage in terrorist activity such as an attack, travel for extremist purposes or facilitating the terrorist activity of someone else. The mobilization process may be revealed by shifts in the pattern of behaviour that a person exhibits in their daily life.
In case of emergency
Immediately (or as soon as practicable) call 911 or the emergency police line in your area.
If you have concerns that someone is considering, planning, or preparing to commit an act of violence or to help others in committing acts of terrorism, contacting your local police department would be a good first step. The sooner the better, as they may be able to help prevent someone crossing the line into criminal actions.
Do this in the way you feel most comfortable whether it be by phone, visiting your local police station, or using your local police website to report online or explore anonymous reporting options.
You can also request to have an in person conversation with an officer away from the police station. Please bear in mind that not all reports require extensive police involvement. Police agencies have referral contacts with various support resources that may be alternatives to law enforcement measures.
If you prefer to contact the RCMP directly, non‐emergency tips can be reported to the RCMP National Security Information Network by phone at 1‐800‐420‐5805 or by email at RCMP.NSIN-RISN.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Your report may be the one that helps the police in detecting and preventing a violent extremist attack.
Valuable observations and reports of suspicious activity often come from people who have seen or heard only hints of planning or preparations.
This guide seeks to prepare you with some initial steps to share what you know with police
When sharing information with police
When reporting to police, provide as much detail as you can. In order to better understand the situation, the police may ask further questions. Keep in mind that the police officer is hearing your story for the first time and wants to help you the best way they can. If what you are reporting does not appear to be a criminal matter, but there are other concerns, they may be able to direct or link you to the appropriate community or health resources in your area.
Ultimately the most important thing to consider is,
- If you do nothing what could happen if the person's plans move forward?
- Could they end up in jail or hurting other people?
- What if you are the only one who has the information that could prevent a tragedy?
Reporting a non-emergency situation
When reporting a suspicious behaviour or incident to police, do so by explaining what you have seen. Outline what is usual to you, and then explain each observation that was unusual, and why it was of concern (what risks the activity could pose).
Your explanation about each unusual behavior (and your perceived risks or concerns) will help the police officer better understand your perspective and concerns.
Here are some tips to help you be prepared when contacting police. It is a good idea to prepare notes about the events you are concerned about so you do not forget any important details.
- You may be asked to provide your personal information as in name, address and telephone number
- Date(s) and time(s) of the events or behaviours
- Where did it happen?
- Was anybody else around?
- Was it the first time?
- Have you talked to anybody else about this?
Once the process is complete, if you have not already asked these questions, these may help you better understand the process.
- Is there a file number I should have?
- What is the officer's contact information?
- What are the next steps?
- What would be a reasonable time to follow up with the officer?
- If anything further happens, what should I do?
- What support services are available?
For more information on National Security
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP): https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca
The Government of Canada (Public Safety Canada): https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca
This document was created by: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP): Federal Policing National Security in collaboration with Federal Policing Strategic Direction, First Responder Terrorism Awareness Program (FR-TAP).
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