POLITICS

Regulate religious leaders, radicalized man's mother says

12/01/2014 05:35 EST | Updated 01/31/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - Imposing rules on who can call themselves a religious leader is essential to combat radicalization in Canada, says the mother of a young man who was caught up in extremist Islam.

Fragile young people too easily fall prey to people who declare themselves holy leaders but who espouse ignorant and potentially violent views, Michelle Walrond told a Senate committee examining terrorism in Canada.

Those views don't come from within Canada, she said at the Monday hearing.

"Eradicating ignorance, which means eradicating influence of foreign-born radicalism, is the only way to ensure safety from extremism," she said.

Holding religious leaders to standards and guidelines, as well as requiring them to have mental health and social services training, would help keep radical teachings out of religious institutions, she said.

Walrond told the senators her son became radicalized two decades ago by Muslim leaders financed and guided by foreign sources.

He reportedly stood up at an Ottawa mosque recently and declared that the October shooting of a young Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial was a heroic act.

She said her son was drawn to radical Islam in a different way than most young people today, who have the Internet to reinforce what they learn in mosques.

What the government needs to do is help those offering a rebuttal to what is online and on the sidelines of mosques, she said.

"I'm totally convinced that if the alternative voice is presented with anything near similar footing, people will naturally be inclined to it and they will be emboldened to resist any influence or intimidation that they are aware of, or their instincts tell them is not in their best interests or in the best interests of Canada," she said.

Walrond's testimony followed that of senior police officers from Montreal, Edmonton and Peel Region, all of whom called for more community outreach to combat radicalization.