MONTREAL — It is a "highest priority'' to work with countries like Canada to stem the rise of radicalization and extremism, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday while praising Montreal's preventative approach to the problem.
"We are living in a world of peril because of the spread of radicalism, extremism and violent terrorism,'' he told reporters in Montreal. "It takes highest priority to work with the member states including Canada to stem this flow.''
Ban praised Montreal's preventative approach during a visit to the city's anti-radicalization centre.
"We have to address the root causes,'' he said. "I am very happy to visit this centre to prevent the radicalization that is spreading throughout the world.''
United Nations Secretary General speaks with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. (Photo: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
Before visiting the centre with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Ban stressed that countries must also protect and promote human rights while working to counter terrorism.
"Human rights and human dignity should be placed on top, otherwise what we are doing may be used by the terrorists and we may fall into the trap of violent extremism,'' he said.
Speaking afterwards, Coderre said the UN secretary general was "very impressed'' with the anti-radicalization centre, which he said was in line with the UN's focus on combating extremism through prevention.
"Human rights and human dignity should be placed on top."
"Through the centre we are using our unique model, and we want to make sure all the member states will be creative and work together in the prevention mood,'' Coderre said.
He said the centre's unique approach includes using "behaviour barometers'' to evaluate an individual's potential to become radicalized, and doing community outreach with religious leaders and teachers.
The centre's director, Herman Deparice Okomba, said there have been roughly 612 calls to the 24-7 phone line since it opened in March. The centre intervened in 114 of those cases, and referred nine to police.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is welcomed in Montreal by the mayor Denis Coderre, on Friday. (Photo: Clement Sabourin/AFP/Getty Images)
He said the centre has been visited by delegations around the world who are interested in emulating Montreal's "avant-gardiste'' approach to preventing radicalization.
The centre's staff includes researchers, psychologists and others trained to detect and work with people who show signs of extremism.
"The most important for us is to give an alternative to families, teachers and workers on the ground other than a legal alternative,'' Okamba said.
Ban is wrapping up a three-day visit to Canada that included meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
"The most important for us is to give an alternative to families, teachers and workers on the ground other than a legal alternative.''
Following that meeting on Friday, Couillard announced the province would allocate $500,000 to collaborate with the UN to host an anti-radicalization conference later this year that will focus on the online threat.
Ban also visited McGill University and the head office of one of the UN's agencies, the International Civil Aviation Organization, while in Montreal.
He praised Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis on Friday and told reporters he was back on Canadian soil "because Canada's back.''