Radicalization to violence is the process of adopting any extreme beliefs or ideas that include the willingness to use, support or facilitate violence as a way to change society.

It is important to remember that a person adopting extreme views is not, on its own, radicalization.

People are allowed to hold radical views in a free and democratic society. Where extreme views cross the line is when they include a willingness to use violence.

People do not become radicalized for any one reason, but many factors contribute to it and every individual’s journey is unique. While there is no typical profile of someone who is vulnerable to radicalization, there are certain changes in behaviour that can show a person is moving in that direction.

Individuals can be radicalized to violence for any cause and it is an issue that can affect members of any nationality, political view, religion or system of belief. Radicalization is a community problem and all of us need to work together to prevent and address it.

Key Behaviours of Radicalization

Violent Extremism and Terrorism

Radicalization can result in violence if it is not addressed. The two main concerns are that radicalized individuals can end up participating in violent extremism (which is putting radical views into violent action), or terrorism (which is using violence or threats of violence against civilians to create a culture of fear).

There are five broad categories of violent extremism and terrorism that have been observed around the world:

  1. Religio-Political:
    These groups have a political aim, like changing a government or acquiring a territory, which is motivated by religion.
  2. Nationalist:
    These groups typically are trying to gain political independence for a particular territory or people group.
  3.  Right-wing:
    These groups typically have ultra-conservative ideology that desires homogenous or racially-pure states. Often these groups blend historical ideologies with new ideas, for example, neo-Nazis.
  4. Left-wing:
    These groups have historically been motivated by some form of communist ideology aimed at changing society into a socialist state through violent means.
  5. Single Issue:
    These groups have a special interest that they are willing to use violence to achieve. It is often not connected to a larger political or religious ideology, though those may be factors in some cases.

Other Resources

Government of Canada: Countering Violent Extremism

Learn more about what the Government of Canada is doing to stop violent extremism

Youth Online and at Risk: Radicalization Facilitated by the Internet

Learn how to protect the young people in your life from online radicalization

Extreme Dialogue

Find Extreme Dialogue information and teaching resources about extremist violence

Strategic Dialogue

Find ideas for policy and operational responses to extremism and conflict


Learn more about the issues of Radicalization and De-radicalization from this German institute

Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence

Read the research from this Montreal based early intervention and prevention centre

Canadian Practitioner Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence

Learn more about Canada’s network of Practitioners in the prevention of radicalization and extremist violence