Public Safety’s Kanishka Project

Aug 8, 2016

Encouraging development of safety & security initiatives

Upon taking the helm as the new executive editor of FrontLine Safety & Security, I let readers know that I would be seeking out examples of best practices in safety and security – success stories. I am pleased in this article to report on new safety and security tools, materials and knowledge, all ­arising from investments made through Public Safety Canada’s Kanishka program.

Established in 2011, the Kanishka project provides money to fund research largely on terrorism-related issues. Since its inception, Kanishka has funded almost 70 projects which have resulted in the development of a significant number of new tools, materials and learning about preventing and countering terrorism. A list of the projects funded and those receiving the funds are available on the project website. The various projects will no doubt provide important materials that may help address some of the issues around countering and dealing with terrorism.

Martin Rudner, a world renowned scholar in intelligenc studies and a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Carleton University, has published and talked about the need for investment in academic research in intelligence in Canada as being important for both the development of human resources that are needed for Canadian security and intelligence needs and the development of the scholarship required to address Canadian intelligence needs.

A significant portion of the funding has gone to Canadian academic institutions and, in fact, one of the first projects to be approved was the establishment of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. The network, which can be found at, serves as a gathering point both for those studying terrorism, security and society from a Canadian perspective. The site (and the network) has a wealth of information, including an online library and dozens of working papers on a broad range of topics ­– some of which have been funded by the Kanishka project. For example, a paper about Personality Traits and Terrorism. The network was started with the University of British Columbia in partnership with Simon Fraser University and the University of Waterloo.

The funding of academic research and networks in Canada is seen by many as being critical for the development of a solid base of Canadian knowledge in these areas. Martin Rudner, a world renowned scholar in intelligence studies and a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Carleton University, has published and talked about the need for investment in academic research in intelligence in Canada as being important for both the development of human resources that are needed for Canadian security and intelligence needs and the development of the scholarship required to address Canadian intelligence needs. The Kanishka program has provided important funding towards this objective and has funded both research and training programs at over a dozen Canadian Universities.

But the program has funded more than just academe and even the non-academic funding has resulted in the development of an impressive array of tools and materials to help in both the fight against terrorism and addressing the problems created from terrorist activities.  One such program was the development of an internet-based repository of best practices in responding to victims and survivors of terrorist acts. The project was the brainchild of Heidi Illingworth from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Heidi has developed an impressive program and resources around helping those affected by violent crime (including their families) cope with the impact of violent crime. As a result of her organizations growing reputation in the area of helping those impacted from violent crimes, Heidi and her organization were sought out to help out those impacted from the Air India bombing, Heidi recognized both the similarity and differences between those impacted by violent crime and those impacted by terrorism and realized the need to develop new materials and programs to assist those affected by terrorism. Given her extensive knowledge in the area Heidi and her organization worked towards developing resources that would help victims of terrorism. Through the research and experience developed helping those affected by terrorism, Heidi became aware of the need to help communities develop the capability to address and prepare for the impacts of terrorism. With the assistance of a grant from Kanishka Heidi and her organization created , a website with practical information to assist emergency response personal address terrorism events. The vision and objective of the project and the ensuing website is “To provide a checklist of lessons learned from international responses to terrorist events for use in community emergency response planning in order to facilitate recovery for healing for victims and survivors”.  The easy to use checklist provides information and links to resources to assist with pre-incident preparation, time of incident management, technology, media, donations and volunteers, trauma response, mental health, longer term needs and memorials. The resources are meant to be used by law enforcement officials, emergency management personnel and government official so the coverage and materials are purposely broad and as a result many of our readers should find materials of interest on the website.

Kanishka has also provided funding to foundations with terrorism related mandates. One example of this is the SecDev project for detecting online signals of radicalization. The website for this project is at The SecDev Foundation is a Canadian think tank that focuses on security, development and new technologies. The portal developed through the project compiles research on violent extremism and social media. “This portal is to help CVE (Canadian violent extremism) researchers to quickly find recent research on the threats and potential of social media in the fight against violent extremism.”

Kanishka has funded other online initiatives as well. With violent extremist content growing in online sources, many have been concerned about how to effectively address this. Given how poorly censorship works in this case, creating a counter-narrative has been an area of growing interest. This led Kanishka to fund an initiative with the Trialogue Educational Trust (in the UK) focused on addressing this need. The result was the development of an online tool – the counter-narrative toolkit ( The organization reports that its “handbook and website help to proactively respond to extremist propaganda with counter-­narrative campaigns, and is intended as a beginner’s guide for those with little or no previous experience of counter-narrative campaigning. It takes readers through the main stages of creating, launching and evaluating an effective counter-narrative campaign.”

Another UK-based defence and security organization, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) was awarded a Kanishka grant based on a proposal focused on helping policy-makers and practitioners in the counter violent extremism area manage their programs. The result was a handbook available to practitioners for free download called Learning and Adapting – The use of monitoring and evaluation in countering violent extremism. As of the writing of this article, the book was available for free download from Public Safety.

Kanishka grants have resulted in the development of many other materials and programs, and readers are encouraged to visit the Kanishka website and to also check out the materials from the list of funded initiatives in the text box. Collectively, these studies, networks, websites, tools and materials will be valuable to FrontLine Safety and Security readers, as they represent free resources to assist our readers in enhancing both their understanding of, and ability to address, violent extremism.

Jonathan Calof is the executive editor of Frontline Safety and Security.


Some Successful Kanishka Project Proposals (as of July 2016)

The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) (University of British Columbia; Dan Hiebert, Project Lead, in Partnership with Simon Fraser University and the University of Waterloo).

Imported Conflict in Canada: Perception and Reality (The Mosaic Institute; John Monahan, Executive Director).

Collective Efficacy and Cultural Capital: Building and Fostering Resilience in Different Ethnic Communities (Ryerson University and the University of Toronto; Dr Sara Thompson and Dr. Sandra Bucerius, Lead Investigators).

The Effects of Terrorist Group Organization on their Behaviour and Vulnerability (Carleton University; Dr. Jeremy Littlewood, Project Lead).

Fourth Edition of the Summer Study Program on Terrorism (Laval University, Dr. Aurélie Campana, Associate Professor).

Canadian Perspectives on Security, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (Association of Canadian Studies, Jack Jedwab, Project Lead).

Right wing extremism in Canada (University of Ontario Institute of Technology; Dr. Barbara Perry, Lead Investigator).

A system for measuring population response to a crisis in online social networks (McGill University; Dr. Derek Ruths, Lead Investigator).

Understanding and responding to terrorist threats to critical infrastructure (Dalhousie University; Dr. Kevin Quigley, Lead Investigator).

Terrorist and extremist organizations’ use of the internet for recruitment (Donnybrook Research and Analysis; Dr. Garth Davies, Lead Investigator, with support from Simon Fraser University).

Cultural Competency training as a response to radicalization leading to violence (Jewish General Hospital; Dr. Myrna Lashley, Lead Investigator, in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Quebec in Montreal, Ryerson University, and the Environics Institute).

The dynamics of resilience: Which practices counter a turn to violence? (University of British Columbia – Michelle LeBaron, lead researcher)

Spectral Sentinel: Advanced analytics for situational awareness and early warning of violent extremism (SecDev Group – Rafal Rohozinski, lead researcher, Arnav Manchanda, lead contact)

Airport security: Design, governance, performance, financing and policy (Wilfrid Laurier University – William G. Morrison, lead researcher)

Strengthening Canada’s interfaith organizations and networks to foster resilience, public safety and counter-terrorism (Dr. Scott Daniel Dunbar, lead researcher)

Canada’s experience in and response to lone actor terrorism (Royal United Services Institute – Charlie Edwards, lead researcher).

Bridging the gap: The role of the private sector in counter-terrorism (Conference Board of Canada – Satyamoorthy Kabilan, lead contact).

Government Actions in Terror Environments (GATE) Canada: New data and insights (University of Denver – Erica Chenoweth and Laura Dugan, lead researchers).

Performance measurement and evaluation of countering violent extremism interventions (Royal United Services Institute – Charlie Edwards, lead researcher).

Risk/threat assessment and management of group-based violence (ProActive ReSolutions, with support from Simon Fraser University – Alana Cook and Stephen Hart, lead researchers).

Development of an internet-based repository of best practices in responding to victims and survivors of terrorist acts (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime – Heidi Illingworth, lead contact).

“Terrorist chatter”: Understanding what terrorists talk about (Flashpoint Global Partners – Lorenzo Vidino, lead researcher).

Identity and Resilience: From Attitudes to Behaviour in Response to Security, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (Assn for Canadian Studies, Jack Jedwab, lead contact).

The Somali Experience in Alberta (Sandra Bucerius and Sara Thompson, with support from the University of Alberta).
Counter Narrative Resources for Education Professionals (Trialogue Educational Trust, Rachel Briggs, lead researcher).

Securitizing Minority Canadians: Evaluating the Impact of Counter-­Terrorism, National Security and Immigration Policies since 9/11 (University of Ottawa, Wesley Wark and Patti Lenard, lead researchers).

The Syria Conflict: the Evolution of al Qaeda and other Militant Movements after the Arab Spring (King’s College London, Shiraz Maher, lead contact).

The Impact of Narratives of Conflict, Security and Co-Existence on Muslim Communities in Canada (McGill University, Anila Asghar, lead researcher).

Project Communitas (Canadian Council on Muslim Women).

Development of Curricula to Combat and Prevent Hate Speech Leading to Violence and Violent Extremism: Using Social Media to Build Resilience in Canadian Youth (Concordia University).

Barriers to Violent Radicalization: Understanding Pathways to Resilience Among Canadian Youth (Dalhousie University).

Evaluating Countering Violent Extremism Programming: A Handbook for Civil Society Organizations (Fourth Freedom Forum Inc).

Towards understanding the extremely rare: distinguishing ordinary processes of religious conversion from violent extremism (Dr. Scott Flower).

Social Media Target Audience Analysis: Measuring the Impact of Counter Narrative Resources for Education Professionals in Canada (The SecDev Foundation).

Evaluating Methods to Diminish Expressions of Hatred and Extremism Online (Dr. Susan Benesch).

The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS) (University of British Columbia).

Investigating the long-term psychological consequences of terrorism: Factors that contribute to trauma, grief, growth and resilience (Voices of September 11th).