What is PVE?

Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) refers to a wide array of possible approaches to prevent individuals from being radicalized to extremist violence.[1] PVE is a variation on the more commonly used phrase “countering violent extremism” (CVE). Ultimately, the goal of any PVE or CVE campaign is to reduce involvement in extremist violence. While PVE and CVE are often used interchangeably, we have chosen to adopt the term ‘preventing’ to emphasize the proactive nature of our campaign.

The Theory Behind the Campaign 

The Public Health Model 


Our campaign is informed by the public health classification system of disease prevention. Commonly referred to as the public health model, the classification system is a way of framing PVE programming and provides a systematic and scientific approach for understanding and preventing violence.[2] Fundamentally, it is based on thinking about radicalization to extremist violence as a public health issue, much like responding to the spread of an infectious disease.

The public health model’s classification system consists of three levels of disease prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary.[3]

Primary prevention aims at addressing the potential for problematic behaviour in large groups of people or the population in general [4] (e.g. all Canadians, Ontarians, or everyone living in Ottawa). Examples of primary programming include general awareness campaigns and education programs.

Secondary programming is aimed at a smaller target audience, specifically those at-risk of developing the problem or behaviour.[5] Using the analogy of disease prevention, secondary-level programming could, for example, be targeted at those individuals who have been displaying symptoms of the illness. Examples here include targeted intervention with individuals considered most ‘at-risk’ of engaging in violent extremism.[6]

Tertiary programming is designed to treat the symptoms of an illness or behaviour, rather than the cause.[7] At this stage of radicalization, preventative programs are no longer effective, and more reactive measures are required to help individuals disengage from an extremist organization or to desist from violent behaviour.[8] Examples of programming at this stage often include law enforcement or security officials.

Our PVE program is based on a primary prevention strategy, designed to inform the public about violent extremism in Canada. Generally, we intend to raise awareness of violent extremism, broadly defined. Crucially, our program is directed at many different forms of radicalization and extremist violence, and is not intended to single out any one community, as extremist violence manifests itself in many different ways in Canada. Through education, we seek to contribute to ongoing efforts to prevent the emergence of attitudes and behaviours that may contribute to individual engagement in radicalization to violence.

In addition, a key part of our campaign is to provide a list of resources to those who may be struggling with radicalization to violence.

For more information about radicalization, click here.

For information on resources in your community for radicalization to violence, click here.

[1] Davies et al. “Toward a Framework Understanding of Online Programs for Countering Violent Extremism.” Journal for Deradicalization, no. 6 (Spring 2016): 51.

[2] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention.” (Last updated March 25, 2015). https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/overview/publichealthapproach.html.

[3] Harris-Hogan, Shandon et al. “What is countering violent extremism? Exploring CVE policy and practice in Australia.” Behavioural Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 8, no. 1 (2016): 8.

[4] Ibid: 12.

[5] Ibid: 10.

[6] Ibid: 11.

[7] Ibid: 9.

[8] Ibid: 10.