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CSIS warns some LGBTQ2 events, venues may face threats from ‘lone actors’ – National


Canada’s national intelligence agency is warning that “inspired lone actors” could target crowded or unsecured Pride events and LGBTQ2 venues this year, inspired by growing anti-LGBTQ2 rhetoric and incitements online.

The warning comes after the U.S. government issued a worldwide travel advisory last week about threats of potential “foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence” against the LGBTQ2 community.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said in a statement the possibility of violence against LGBTQ2 people is part of a larger “anti-gender movement” that is expected to continue posing a threat over the coming year.

“CSIS assesses that the violent threat posed by the anti-gender movement is almost certain to continue over the coming year and that violent actors may be inspired by recent ideologically motivated violent extremist attacks, such as the University of Waterloo attack to carry out their own extreme violence against the 2SLGBTQI+ community or against other targets they view as representing the gender ideology ‘agenda,’” spokesperson Eric Balsam told Global News.

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Police say a stabbing at the University of Waterloo that injured two students and a professor during a gender studies class last year was a planned act motivated by hate related to gender expression and gender identity. A 24-year-old man is facing multiple charges, including attempted murder.

Although CSIS noted violent rhetoric alone “does not equate or often lead to violence,” it said continued threats against the LGBTQ2 community have informed the agency’s work assessing the national terrorism threat level, which is currently set to medium — meaning an act of terrorism “could occur.”

“Extremist influencers continue to proliferate anti-2SLGBTQI+ rhetoric, threats and incitements online,” Balsam said. “Inspired lone actors could target crowded or unsecured Pride events and 2SLGBTQI+ venues.”

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The U.S. Department of State’s advisory last week warned travellers abroad it was aware of an increased risk of “foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence” against LGBTQ2 people and events.

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The advisory was issued on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

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A State Department spokesperson told Global News on background that the alert was issued in anticipation of Pride celebrations that are commonly held in June.

“The Department is aware of long-standing messaging by foreign terrorist organizations encouraging attacks against LGBTQI+ persons, including celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons,” the spokesperson said.

The department declined to provide more details on the specific intelligence or evidence that may have prompted the advisory.

Canada had not issued a similar global travel warning as of Friday. A section of Travel Canada’s website contains guidance for LGBTQ2 travellers, who the government warns could face “certain barriers and risks” while travelling outside Canada, particularly in countries with anti-LGBTQ2 laws.

The webpage was last updated a day before the U.S. travel advisory was issued.

A Global Affairs Canada spokesperson referred to that website when asked by Global News if it would issue an advisory similar to the U.S.

The spokesperson said federal travel advice and advisories are “updated promptly to respond to events, including large gatherings and Pride events, that may affect the personal safety and security of Canadians abroad.”

“Canada stands up for the protection and promotion of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, 2-spirit and intersex people globally,” Charlotte MacLeod said in a statement.

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In March, Canada updated its Russia travel advisory page to echo a warning from the U.S. embassy of an “imminent terrorism risk” in Moscow.

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CSIS’s annual public report, issued earlier this month, warned the anti-gender movement falls within one of four main categories of ideologically motivated violent extremism.

“While the movement may collectively hold extreme views, CSIS assesses that only a small portion of adherents are willing to engage in serious violence,” the report says.

The report also said anti-LGBTQ2 rhetoric is spreading widely online among domestic adherents of religiously motivated violent extremism (RMVE), “increasing the risk of extremist violence against these communities, and placing youth vulnerable to RMVE propaganda at a higher risk of becoming radicalized on online platforms.”

Last year, police in Canada arrested 16 people accused of crimes driven by religiously motivated violent extremism, a 166 per cent increase from 2022, CSIS noted in the report.

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The latest federal budget committed $3 million over the next two years to support safety and security needs for Pride events across Canada, as well as $12 million over five years to fund programs to combat anti-LGBTQ2 hate.

In 2023, the federal government gave $1.5 million in extra security funding to Fierte Canada Pride, the national association of Pride organizations across Canada.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but more still needs to be done,” Justin Khan, a senior business consultant for the Vancouver Pride Society, told Global News.

“There are many rural cities and smaller towns that are having Pride celebrations that may not have the same amount of access to this funding, and in some places that’s where that protection is really needed.”

Felix Gilliland, the manager of education and engagement at B.C. non-profit resource centre QMUNITY, said those smaller Pride societies in particular are holding safety planning meetings for possible protests and to ensure staff, volunteers and participants feel protected.

“Most queer folk know that police are not what’s going to keep us safe,” they said in an interview. “Queer folks know that we keep ourselves safe, we keep our communities safe.”

Although the threats of violence are troubling, Pride organizers say the best way to counter anti-LGBTQ2 hate continues to be showing strength in numbers — both among community members and their allies.

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“If you’re a cisgender person who likes to attend Pride, now is your year to really roll up your sleeves and start advocating for us,” Gilliland said.

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