Violent Extremism Explained

Violent extremism is rare, but when it does happen, it can have devastating consequences. To prevent violent extremism and other forms of hate-motivated violence, we first need to know what it is and how to identify it.

What Exactly is Violent Extremism?

Violent extremism is the adoption of beliefs and ideas that support violence to achieve or promote a cause.

Radical beliefs and the desire to bring about change are not concerning on their own, and can lead to positive changes in our society. But when someone believes violence is necessary to create that change, this becomes a cause for concern.

How Can You Identify Violent Extremism?

The path towards violent extremism can often be unclear. Especially in youth, some concerning behaviours may just be an exploration of ideas and identity. However, common behaviours typically emerge in individuals who do become involved in hate-motivated violence and extremism.

Normal Behaviour Concerning Behaviour
Desire to bring about change in society
Insisting that violence is the only way to bring about change in society
Developing new beliefs and strong opinions
Expressing hateful ideas to friends, family or people online
Discussing beliefs and ideas that diverge from the mainstream
Regularly consuming or creating violent and hateful material
Expressing concerns over the future
Believing that a violent collapse of society is imminent and desirable
Feeling isolated and alienated from society
Believing specific groups of people are responsible for one's problems
Dramatic changes in appearance or style of dress
Displaying hateful and violent symbols
Changes to friendships and relationships
Surrounding oneself only with people who express hateful and extreme views
If you notice any of these concerning behaviours, contact the Evolve Program for confidential advice. 

What Can I Do?

If someone you know is showing concerning behaviours that may lead to violence, you might be feeling worried, hopeless or confused.

Rest assured that you are not alone. There are things you can do to help strengthen someone’s ability to resist radicalization to violence.

  • Remain calm and take time to decide the best course of action.
  • Listen without judgement to the person you’re concerned about. Be respectful. Building trust in relationships is important in preventing violence.
  • Keep in mind that challenging someone’s values or beliefs (even if they seem dangerous) will diminish trust and will likely result in defensiveness and barriers.
  • Maintain frequent, open communication that comes from a place of compassion and trust. You’ll be more likely to have any pressing questions answered this way.
  • Avoid discipline or policing behaviors. If someone thinks you’re suspicious of them, they may pull farther away from you.
  • Contact the Evolve Program for specialized support. We are confidential and operate independent of government and law enforcement. We have support available for you, as well as the person you’re concerned about. Our service is offered free of charge.