While people being radicalized enough to commit acts of violence like the Auchterlonie brothers’ is extremely uncommon, an expert says it highlights the growing issue of radicalization in general.
On June 28, 2022, Matthew and Isaac Auchterlonie entered the BMO bank on Shelbourne Street and waited for officers to arrive. When police arrived a shootout began, and police have now revealed, the brothers never planned to survive. In fact, police say the goal was to kill police officers.
Edwin Hodge, a researcher with the Centre for Global Studies at UVic says there is an increase in the rise of radicalized violence, but it is still extremely uncommon.
“We are seeing an increase, however, it remains a small percentage of the overall population of people and it remains a small percentage of people who begin to hold anti-government views or begin to hold radical views,” Hodge said in an interview with CHEK News.
“There is often this question of risk or terror like how in danger are we? Statistically you are in as much danger today as you were the day before this event happened. It is a vanishingly small percentage, it’s not zero, but thankfully, it remains a relatively uncommon event.”
In the police investigation, it was revealed that the brothers held anti-police, anti-government and anti-authority views. Hodge says these types of views can be a way in for people to become radicalized.
“Back in the day, if you were trying to bring more people into your cause, you had to go out and recruit them. So you’d see Neo Nazis standing outside punk rock shows with leaflets. These days, it’s often easier for folks to find you,” Hodge said.
“For these folks, the process of radicalization can begin as simply as finding a provocative post on social media, that resonates with them, and prompts them to begin digging deeper, and they can begin moving down this pathway of radicalization.”
Police said Friday the brothers were not considered tech-savvy and there were no indications of their plans beforehand in their interactions online. Previous posts from Isaac’s now-deleted Instagram feed did contain rhetoric against the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, including photos with bullets and posts often focused on gun control.
A post taken from one of the brothers’ Instagram feeds shows a firearm, ammo and magazine on top of a Canadian flag.
However, investigators said they determined the brothers’ motivations after the shooting by looking at the totality of evidence, which may have included liked posts online, in addition to several other factors.
In a police watchdog report on the shooting that came out last month, the civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office noted the brothers’ internet search history showed they had been researching similar types of incidents, including a bank robbery in Los Angeles “which eerily was quite similar,” said Ronald J. MacDonald.
Police confirmed materials they recovered belonging to the brothers explained the theory behind their motivations, but declined to provide further specifics.
In their update on the BMO shooting, police said the family was shocked by the actions the Auchterlonie brothers’ took. Hodge says the signs of radicalization can be subtle, but he says they were present in the brothers.
Hodge says signs of radicalization can include changes in social media posting habits, changes in their demeanor, adopting more extreme terminology, adopting new outlooks on things, changes in language and overall online habits.
If people start to notice loved ones becoming radicalized, Hodge says it can be difficult to get them help. There aren’t many programs available.
He says often people think this is something for police to handle, but not only can police not step in until something illegal has happened, but it can cause the person to be further radicalized.
“If you’ve got a couple people who have been radicalized, and they think the government’s out to get them and in response, you send agents of the government to them, you’re actually kind of validating them,” Hodge said.
“Doesn’t matter that it’s illogical, doesn’t matter that what they’re doing is prompting concern, they have a worldview that says the government is out to get them and lo and behold, agents from the government have now come to talk to me about my thoughts.”
If you notice signs of someone becoming radicalized, Hodge says the best thing to do is to continue reaching out to them.
“A lot of radicalization happens as a result of alienation, as a result of feeling cut off, not just you feel cut off from friends and family, it’s that you feel isolated from the values of your society, and so you’re looking for someone else,” Hodge said.
“Just reaching out and talking to people can have at least some effect. The point is to try to inject yourself into those radicalization networks and be able to say to them, ‘Yeah, actually, there are people out here who are listening to you.'”