MONTREAL – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says it’s a highest priority to work with countries like Canada to stem the rise of radicalization and extremism.
Ban praised Montreal’s preventative approach during a visit to an anti-radicalization centre this morning.
“We are very proud and happy and honoured the centre is playing a role,” Ban said Saturday.
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.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says the city offers a model for combating radicalization that is unique in the world.
“Radicalization: you can approach it by two ways: you attack it or you prevent it,” he said.
“Clearly what we’re doing today through the centre is to use our unique model to make sure that all the member states will be creative and work together in a prevention mode.”
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.
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.
WATCH: Highlights of Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Canada
Ban is wrapping up a three-day visit to Canada that included meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
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.”