Christianne Boudreau isn’t the first parent in history to wonder how her child ended up on the path he did — and she certainly won’t be the last.
Still, her story is likely more unique than others.
Boudreau’s son, Damian Clairmont, was a 22-year-old Calgary man who was killed fighting for ISIS in Syria in 2014.
“Religion, as well as culture, mental illness and feelings of marginalization are [the] main causes of radicalization,” says Boudreau. “Behavioural or mood changes in grown-up children have something [to do with] it.”
[C]ontemporary parenting has become more difficult with the dawn of social media and smartphone technology that allows youth to access information more easily without detection. Many parents worry that the wired world is making those impressionable youth more vulnerable.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks among the happiest countries in the world. Still, concerns over homegrown terror cells and attacks on Canadian soil mount. Academics and crime investigators have determined that extremism is bred in different circumstances, categorizing them into smaller sub-groups, such as the psychologically ill, anarchists, religious fanatics and “disgruntled youth.”
In an Angus Reid poll on homegrown terrorism, 18 per cent of respondents said the best place to focus attention on preventing and addressing radicalization is the family home. But what can parents do to prevent radicalization?
Parenting in a Plugged-In World
“Parent-child bonding is based on love and care,” says Calgary’s Muhammad Kalim, a father of two university students. “Parents don’t want their kids to become problematic in society.” He adds that parents have a lot to potentially share and exchange with their kids.
For Kalim, contemporary parenting has become more difficult with the dawn of social media and smartphone technology that allows youth to access information more easily without detection. Many parents worry that the wired world is making those impressionable youth more vulnerable.
“The extremists of ISIS use messaging and social media services such Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp and a language their peers understand,” says U.K.’s surveillance chief Robert Hannigan, in an article in the Financial Times.
“Families require lots of support from the community network to stop the process of radicalization.” – Christianne Boudreau
Dr. Zulfiqar Ahmad Tarar agrees. The Islamic scholar and spiritual leader says when parents neglect their child, social media fills a void and shapes their ideology on life. He argues the radical propaganda on social media can be countered by engaging with children and educating them in the importance of tolerance and mutual respect for humanity.
“Parents need to spare some time for their children to involve them in positive and constructive activities and educate them about the consequences of radicalism,” says Tarar.
Families Also Need Support
Boudreau continues to crusade across the country and overseas, sharing her story and advocating for change.
“Families require lots of support from the community network to stop the process of radicalization,” she says.
The need for a larger network of support is a point that resonates with many. In an article called “Lone Wolves, Radicalization and the Threat to Canada,” Dr. J. Paul De B. Taillon argues that the government also needs to step in to minimize the threat of radicalization.
So far, the government appears to be listening.
In an e-mail to New Canadian Media, Public Safety Canada wrote, “The fears of radicalization are everywhere, in schools, in neighbourhoods, online and on the streets of Canadian cities. Preventing radicalization in the first place is critical. The Government of Canada remains unwavering in its commitment to protect the safety and security of Canadians. It will continue to take appropriate action to counter terrorist threats to Canada and its citizens.”