In the wake of the deadly terror attack against Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, CTV Saskatoon reporter Nicole Di Donato spoke with University of Saskatchewan political studies professor Colleen Bell about what it means for Canada – and Saskatoon. The interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

What was your reaction to the shootings?

“It was incredibly sad and horrifying, but I also think it speaks to a spread of white supremacist, neo-fascism globally. I think it’s part of a wide trend.”

What does it mean that this didn’t happen in a major city?

“If it's only large centers that are subjected to such attacks, then people in smaller communities think to themselves, well, you know, it's happening in Toronto, it's happening in Montreal, it's happening in Paris, Manhattan and so forth, and we over here in our community are safe because these things don't happen here. And, as soon as these things do happen here in these smaller communities, I think people in a much more widespread sense begin to feel that they're not safe.”

Is there a copycat culture among these shooters, such as the one that attacked the Quebec mosque?

“In some ways we can understand at least one of the suspects involved to have seen himself in some ways as inspired by the actions of others, particularly Anders Breivik for example. Will it inspire future copycat activities? I think we have to know and we have to remember that political violence, terrorism as it’s colloquially called, is politically motivated, is designed to try to achieve some kind of policy objective.

“And therefore, those people who commit these violent acts are thinking to themselves how is what I’m doing connected to what other like-minded political actors are doing? And so, in some ways, copycat doesn’t actually capture the fact that what I think we’re seeing is a rise of a neo-fascist movement that is taking this politically violent form in a number of different locations and that people are inspired by previous acts and probably future people will again be inspired by previous acts.”

Is there a possibility of this happening here? Should we be doing something to prevent it?

”The purpose of political violence and terrorism is to make us believe that this could happen here. The most productive thing that people can do is refuse to change their daily habits because of that fear.”

“I think average people should consider continuing to go about their daily lives and actually try to do what they can to counter the kind of messaging in these politically violent acts.”

Why is this terrorism?

“He’s got a political agenda to scare Muslim people, he sees himself as part of a white supremacist movement, he cites Donald Trump as an inspiration for a reclaimed white identity. So, what distinguishes terrorism from many other kinds of violence is that there is often a political objective being sought.”

Are we seeing a rise of white supremacism?

“I think it’s a problem. I think that we are seeing a rise of white supremacist, neo-fascist violence. And I think that it’s really important to think about how some of our political leaders both in Canada and in the United States and elsewhere are creating a climate of permissibility for these kinds of actors to believe that what they’re undertaking is acceptable and is a reasonable advancement of a white supremacist, political objective. So, I think people should be concerned that we are seeing a number of movements that are anti-immigrant, explicitly racist and are using violence to renew a white identity.”