Archive for the ‘Ottawa Shootings’ Category


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MONCTON, N.B. – Justin Bourque was suffering from sleep deprivation and felt depressed about his life in the days before he committed one of the worst police shootings in Canadian history, newly released court documents reveal.

A court-ordered psychiatric report and a pre-sentence report shed light into Bourque’s family history, social interests and the moment he reached “his breaking point” before he opened fire on RCMP officers in Moncton on June 4, killing three of them and injuring two others.

The documents are among a number of exhibits including a videotaped interview Bourque gave to police after his arrest that were made public when the Court of Queen’s Bench ordered them released.

News media organizations including The Canadian Press asked for access to exhibits used to sentence Bourque, who pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

In some ways, the documents portray someone with a fairly typical upbringing.

He is the third of seven children and as a child, he mowed lawns in his neighbourhood and delivered newspapers, spending the money he earned on Nintendo video games. At 16, he got a job at a Sobeys grocery store.

His psychiatric assessment, prepared in July while Bourque was held at the Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester, N.B., for a month, says he was not clinically depressed nor did he suffer from any psychotic illness. It concluded he was fit to stand trial.

But the document shows signs of strain between Bourque and his family, particularly his mother, who home-schooled him and disliked his passion for video games.

“95 per cent of the time, he did not like being home-schooled,” says the assessment written by Dr. Moses A. Alatishe. “He vented his anger and frustration towards his mother. He said, ‘I wanted a normal life.'”

He also felt he grew up in a “religious fanatic” environment believing he was a soldier of Jesus Christ, Alatishe wrote.

The assessment says an older friend taught him how to shoot when he was 15 years of age.

“He said he became gun crazy at this age,” Alatishe says in the assessment.

The psychiatric assessment and pre-sentence report discuss at length his interest in heavy metal bands as he got older and his “chronic” marijuana smoking, a habit he picked up at 22.

The pre-sentence report says Bourque felt his marijuana smoking helped him cope with his negative thoughts about life, which included a disdain for authority.

In that same report, Bourque’s parents Victor and Denise tell a probation officer that they noticed a “dramatic change” in their son in December 2013, when he became increasingly vocal about his dislike for police and “established societal norms.”

“While Mr. Bourque was worried about his son, he continued to encourage Justin to stop worrying about issues beyond his control,” says the report dated Oct. 10.

Both that report and his psychiatric assessment say Bourque’s life unravelled further in the two weeks prior to the shootings as he was working 15-hour days at a wholesale outlet on two hours sleep and couldn’t afford marijuana.

“Mr. Justin Bourque was in an emotional turmoil, disillusioned and confused from sleep deprivation and probably also withdrawing from marijuana (THC),” the assessment says.

“In a blind rage, he dressed up in camouflage and left his trailer. When he left the trailer, he said, ‘I knew I was not coming back to the trailer alive.'”

The pre-sentence report adds: “Justin Christien Bourque explained he was again working in a job he did not like, had no money and his romantic life was not going the way he had hoped. On the day in question he had decided he had reached his breaking point and was going to go live in the woods, with no plans to ever return home.”

Bourque, now 25, is serving a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 75 years. It is the most stringent sentence handed down in Canada since the last execution in 1962.

Killed were constables Dave Ross, 32, Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, and Doug Larche, 40. Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were also injured in the shootings.

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Sources say Hall of Honour security video appears to show attacker hit during gunfire exchange


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Alert from Privy Council Office came 5 days before shooting on Parliament Hill

A top-level federal memo warning of a potential “violent act of terrorism in Canada” was distributed by the prime minister’s staff five days before last month’s attack on Parliament Hill, according to a copy obtained by CBC News.

The memo was circulated on the evening of Friday, Oct. 17 — three days before the Oct. 20 hit-and-run attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., by Martin Couture-Rouleau and five days before the Oct. 22 shooting in Ottawa by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

The alert directed security staff to ensure extra vigilance and strict compliance with security protocols. That included the updating of communications lines and emergency numbers to “ensure readiness in the case of an incident.”

It is not clear what, if any, action was taken as a result of the federal alert. Security experts have cited a lack of vigilance on Parliament Hill when Zehaf-Bibeau was able to enter the Centre Block and fire his hunting rifle just steps away from the prime minister, who was meeting with his caucus nearby.

“They had enough warning that there should have been some security protocols put in place,” said Garry Clement, a former RCMP superintendent who is now a security consultant.

“One of the things I thought they would have done is upgrade the security on Parliament Hill.”

The alert was sent to security officers for all federal departments and agencies across Canada. Even so, counter-terrorism experts like Steve Day, a former commander of Canada’s special forces, see little evidence of tightened security.

Pointing to the surveillance video from Zehaf-Bibeau’s arrival on Parliament Hill, Day said last week, “If there would have been a police officer at those bollards when the shooter first departs his car, we’ve got a different scenario.”

As it was, Day said, RCMP officers on the scene seemed to be in the dark, even after Zehaf-Bibeau hijacked a car at gunpoint and headed for the Centre Block.

“When you look at the RCMP cruiser outside Parliament Hill,” Day said, “it doesn’t move until the other cruiser passes it. It tells me he’s not aware of an approaching threat.”

‘Act of terrorism could occur’

The warning from the Privy Council Office bears the all-caps heading, “HEIGHTENED STATE OF ALERTNESS,” and is signed by Iwan Chan, acting executive director of security operations in the security and intelligence secretariat of the Privy Council Office — the prime minister’s department.

It tells federal DSOs (departmental security officers) that a new report from the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, known as ITAC, indicated “a violent act of terrorism could occur in Canada — although there is no information indicating that an attack is imminent.”

While Chan’s warning was circulated to the DSOs on Friday night, it is unclear whether it was forwarded to their front-line staff until late the following Monday, after the hit-and-run in Quebec. Some staff only saw it after 5 p.m. on Monday, three days after the PCO sent it out.

The e-mails forwarding the memo say the threat level across Canada had been raised from “low” to “medium.” It also says the alert, while not classified, should not be passed on to the public or to the media. Rather, it was to be distributed on a “need-to-know” basis.

Whether that enabled officers in the field to see it is uncertain. Security experts point to the fact that, on the following Wednesday, Zehaf-Bibeau was able to shoot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and to run unchallenged onto Parliament Hill with a hunting rifle. He then hijacked a ministerial car and drove past two RCMP cruisers, who did not interfere until after he passed. Finally, he was able to enter the Centre Block, where no-one had alerted security guards to lock the door.

He might have been stopped sooner if the PCO alert had been taken more seriously, said Clement, who oversaw Parliament Hill operations during his time in the RCMP.

“This is a classic case of, well, it’s not happened, it probably won’t happen, and the proper amount of resources and thought did not go into this.”

Specific directions to tighten security

The Oct. 17 PCO warning gave specific directions to ensure that all security routines would be strictly observed. These include:

  • “ID cards clearly displayed at all time, access points controlled, visitor sign-in and escort procedures followed, building emergency response plans and business continuity plans up to date and ready to be activated.”
  • “Encourage staff to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity, vehicles and/or persons around the perimeter of their facilities or within them.”
  • “Ensure adequate monitoring, e.g. visual surveillance of all facilities, regular patrols, IT systems monitored, heightened situational awareness.”
  • “Validate communications and notification protocols, e.g. internal communications to staff, emergency phone line, emergency notification system.”
  • “For DSOs with responsibilities for the security of ministers, ministers of state or parliamentary secretaries, remain engaged with the RCMP to make any necessary adjustments to their security arrangements.”

Threat level raised

The raising of the threat level to medium on Oct. 17 was not routine — it was the first time that happened in more than four years, since August 2010. In raising it, ITAC reported that “intelligence indicates that an individual or group within Canada or abroad has the intent and capability to commit an act of terrorism. ITAC assesses that a violent act of terrorism could occur.”

Even so, the PCO memo highlighting the ITAC assessment urged security officers not to discuss the matter publicly. According to Garry Clement, a complacent attitude may have led many officers to shrug it off.

“The unfortunate part is, I think complacency has gone into the Canadian mosaic, amongst the authorities, and they stepped up security a little bit,” Clement said.

“But the reality of it is, I don’t think there was enough sensitivity and enough objectivity placed on this correspondence.”

The PCO memo tells the security officers that, “At this time the Government of Canada does not publicly discuss the threat level. Communications on this matter will be reactive and led by Public Safety Canada.”

Neither the minister of public safety, Steven Blaney, nor his officials would say what action, if any, was taken in response to the Oct. 17 alert.

“I don’t comment on operational matters,” Blaney told CBC News, adding, “the security of the hill is the responsibility of the Speaker of the House.”

A spokesperson for the RCMP also declined to say whether the force took any action in response to the memo.


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Teams scheduled to play on night of Ottawa shooting honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Sunday

The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs gathered at the National War Memorial on Sunday to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, including Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed while guarding the memorial last month.

The teams came together late on Sunday morning ahead of their game at 6 p.m. ET at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.


The game was originally scheduled for Oct. 22 in Ottawa, but that was postponed after the shooting incident in downtown Ottawa.

Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed before the shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, entered Parliament Hill. He was then shot and killed inside the Centre Block…

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arper's silence on anti-Muslim backlash disheartens Muslim groups

A woman’s hand is seen through a missing pane of glass, broken by vandals, as people enter the Assunnah Muslims Association mosque in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Muslim groups are disappointed that Stephen Harper hasn’t spoken out against a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since two separate attacks by jihadist sympathizers left two Canadian soldiers dead last week.

OTTAWA – Muslim groups are disappointed that Stephen Harper hasn’t spoken out against a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since two separate attacks by jihadist sympathizers left two Canadian soldiers dead last week.

The prime minister has not publicly uttered one word of support for Canadian Muslims following the incidents, which Harper and the RCMP have labelled acts of terrorism.

He’s remained silent despite an apparent backlash against Muslims , including the defacing of a mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., racist slurs against Muslim candidates in Toronto’s municipal election and threats against the B.C. Muslim Association.

In the latest incident, windows were smashed early Friday morning at the Assunnah Muslims Association mosque in Ottawa.

Mosque president Mohammed Mostefa believes the vandalism was “probably” in response to last week’s incidents: the hit-and-run murder of a soldier in Quebec and the killing of an honour guard at the National War Memorial by a gunman who then stormed the Parliament buildings.

In both cases, the killers were Canadians with an alleged history of drug addiction, mental illness and admiration for extremist Islamic terrorists who’ve been on a brutal rampage in Iraq and Syria.

Muslim groups have condemned the killings and the extremist beliefs which apparently motivated them. But they say their efforts to demonstrate that most Muslims do not share those beliefs and to show solidarity with non-Muslim Canadians need to be reinforced by political leaders, particularly the prime minister.

“We are trying to work together with our law enforcement and our authorities to end this what is called radicalization of youth. We are trying to do our utmost to help,” said Mostefa.

But when political leaders denounce Muslim extremists but don’t come to the defence of moderate Muslims, Mostefa said young Muslims will think: “This is my country and you don’t come to my support to stand by my side.”

And that sends “the wrong message.”

Mostefa’s mosque issued a statement Friday urging all elected officials, from the prime minister to municipal councillors, to denounce acts of hate against Canadian Muslims.

“Our leaders have a very important role to play,” concurred Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“It’s the leaders who have to set the positive tone.”

Immediately following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Elghawaby noted that then-prime minister Jean Chretien visited a mosque “just to show Canadians that there’s no such thing as collective guilt.”

She said her group expects Harper, “as leader of our country, to speak up for the minorities that live here.”

“He has a responsibility to represent everyone and certainly Canadian Muslim communities are extremely worried about a backlash and I think that needs to be spoken to.”

Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said it’s “very disheartening” that Harper has not bothered to speak out against the anti-Muslim backlash. But it’s not surprising to her.

“I don’t think he much likes Muslims,” Hogben said.

Canada is a multicultural country with over 1 million Muslims, most of whom are Canadian citizens whose religion is only part of their identity, she pointed out.

“I think it’s absolutely vital that the head of the country, like the prime minister, would accept that and also somehow reinforce it and reassure people.”

Asked why Harper has not specifically denounced any of the recent anti-Muslim incidents, the prime minister’s spokesman Jason MacDonald said: “These acts are obviously unacceptable.

“That’s why our government has issued statements, like the one issued by (Multiculturalism) Minister (Jason) Kenney last week, among others, condemning this vandalism.

“The prime minister has been clear that our full attention is on radicalized individuals, jihadis and anyone else who seeks to harm Canada or Canadians, including Canadian Muslims.”

Kenney last week issued a written statement condemning the vandalism of the Cold Lake mosque as “a cowardly act” that “has no place in Canada.” He said Canadians “will not stand for crimes of intolerance and bigotry against anyone.”

In the House of Commons last week, after being questioned on the matter by a Liberal MP, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also condemned the “despicable” vandalizing of Muslim municipal candidates’ campaign offices in Toronto.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, has acknowledged the concerns of Canadian Muslims more than once since the shootout on Parliament Hill.

In a televised statement that night, he directly addressed “our friends and fellow citizens in the Muslim community,” saying that Canadians know acts of violence “committed in the name of Islam are an aberration of your faith.”

Trudeau repeated that message the next day in a speech in the Commons and during a visit Friday to a mosque in Mississauga. He also issued a statement condemning anti-Muslim vandalism.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair issued an open letter to the Muslim community several days after the Parliament Hill shootout, promising that New Democrats can be counted on to fight racism and “Islamophobia” and to stand up for human rights.

“As we struggle to comprehend these terrible events, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are all Canadian and we have all been profoundly touched by this tragedy,” he said in the statement.

Mulcair also took to social media to denounce the vandalism at the Cold Lake mosque, issuing several tweets on the matter.

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Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert featured Kevin Vickers’s role in ending the Ottawa shooting


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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s comments that the deadly actions taken by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau should not be characterized as terrorism has sparked a debate among his political rivals and highlighted a controversy often ignited when using such terms.

“We cannot look at an act of violence on its own and immediately declare it is terrorism or not, we have to take into account context — motivation and intent, victim, perpetrator, etc,” said James Forest, professor and director of the graduate program in security studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “And as with many things in life, different aspects of context will undoubtedly be interpreted differently by different people.”

For his part, Mulcair suggested Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, had committed a “criminal act” and that based on the shooter’s past, there wasn’t enough evidence to describe his actions as terrorism.

“When you look at the history of the individual, attempts to get help, even to be in prison to get help if that turns out to be the case, I think that we’re not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it,” Mulcair said.

The remarks were immediately seized upon by Conservative MPs, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said there was “no contradiction in individuals who may have a series of personal financial and mental difficulties, and also be engaged in terrorist jihadist activities.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau agreed and referenced the RCMP, who have said Zehaf-Bibeau’s actions were motivated by political ideology.  A source familiar with the investigation has told CBC News that a video recovered by the RCMP appears to show Zehaf-Bibeau making specific reference to Canada’s foreign policy as motivation for his actions and that he praises Allah in the recording.

But is this an incidental factor, as Mulcair suggested, and is the real root of Zehaf-Bibeau’s motivation his major dependency and mental health issues?

Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo sociology professor and co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, says no.

Lashed out in ‘politically significant way’

While acknowledging  Zehaf-Bibeau’s drug and mental health issues, Dawson pointed out that he also decided to lash out in a “very politically significant way — at least symbolically.”

“It may be wise in the end to interpret him as yet another victim of jihadi terrorist groups, since they are purposefully seeking to exploit the vulnerabilities of people like him. But his actions constitute terrorism in their nature and their consequences, whether he fully understood that or not.”

Forest agreed that Zehaf-Bibeau’s personal issues don’t mitigate whether he committed a terrorist act.

“When an individual commits a non-terrorist act of homicide, do we call it something other than murder if it turns out he/she also had major drug issues, mental health issues, etc. at the time of their crime?”

“The fact that there was a political ideology motivating the attack separates it from other kinds of murderous violence that stem from homicidal lunacy, passion, profit or personal revenge,” Forest said.

Whatever mental distress Zehaf-Bibeau was suffering, it doesn’t exclude the reality of what he did and what he specifically attacked, said Michael Zekulin, a political science professor who studies terrorism and radicalization at the University of Calgary.

“This is a political statement, a symbolic statement. If he’s simply mentally distressed and wants to kill people, he could have killed people at the shelter he was staying at, he could have gone to a mall, he could have shot people in the street. He specifically went to and targeted a member of the Canadian military and then he moved specifically to the institutions of government.”

What about Bourque?

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, terrorism is defined as a violent act committed “in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of  “intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”

Bur how one defines an “ideological purpose” and whether other acts should also be considered terrorism is often debatable.

For example, there’s the case of Justin Bourque, who fatally gunned down three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B. earlier this year. He was charged with first-degree murder, but no terrorism-related offences, even though his sentencing hearing heard that he was trying to start a rebellion against what he considered to be an oppressive corrupt government that he insisted was squelching the freedom of most Canadians.

Zekulin acknowledged that Bourque’s case is a grey area, and that different experts would split on how to classify his actions.

“But the argument here is, where is the greater political statement? With him at this this point, it is less clear or less cut and dry as it is with both Mr.[Martin] Couture-Rouleau or Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau.”

“I would still look at [Bourque’s case] more as the personal [motivation] of ‘I hate the police, I hate government.’ It’s not an effort to impact or effect large-scale political change.”

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Martin Couture-Rouleau  waited in a parking lot for at least two hours before driving his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one. Two days later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he guarded the National War Memorial, before storming Parliament Hill.

They didn’t know each other and their respective attacks were not directly linked. But Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shared common traits — both self radicalized and adrift in their lives and connected in their sympathy to radical Islamic ideology, seeking to venture overseas and possibly fight for what they considered a higher cause.

“They’re both lone wolves,” said Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. “Both a bit more impulsive, bit more opportunistic, if there was planning, it’s amateurish.”

Couture-Rouleau waited in a parking lot for at least two hours before driving his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, Two days later, Zehaf-Bibeau, armed with a Winchester .30-30 calibre rifle, fatally shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he guarded the National War Memorial before storming  Parliament Hill.

“Mr. Rouleau [committed the attack] where he lived,” said Michael Zekulin, a political science professor who studies terrorism and radicalization at the University of Calgary. “Mr. Bibeau, he was on the move. He was all over the place. He didn’t live anywhere. There wasn’t that same attachment. Mr. Rouleau seems a little more opportunistic. Whereas Mr. Bibeau seems a little more ‘I’m just going to shoot the first soldier I see … and then move on to Parliament.'”

“Going directly to Parliament is much more symbolic and is a much more powerful message than Mr. Rouleau running down people in a parking lot of a mall,” Zekulin said. “Both are making a statement but if you’re going to compare them, both get soldiers but one gets a soldier on Parliament Hill then proceeds into the institution of government.”

They were known to authorities. Although Zehaf-Bibeau launched the more brazen attack, police considered Couture-Rouleau the bigger threat of the two, naming him as one of the 90 suspected extremists who the RCMP believed intended to join militants fighting abroad.

Couture-Rouleau also had a much larger online presence than Zehaf-Bibeau and had posted propaganda videos and other materials admiring jihad — or “holy war” against enemies of Islam — on his Facebook profile page, including a video featuring the logo for ISIS.

Zehaf-Bibeau’s online activities are much less known but officials say he had visited extremist websites and interacted with individuals on those sites.

Tangled with authorities over passport

Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau also tangled with authorities over their passport. Couture-Rouleau’s passport was seized after he was arrested at the airport in July while on his way to Turkey. Zehaf-Bibeau was apparently frustrated over the time it was taking to obtain a Canadian passport and the time it would take to get a Libyan passport. The RCMP said passport issues likely played a role in both the attacks.

Both men converted to Islam as adults — Couture-Rouleau last year and Zehaf-Bibeau some years earlier. Couture-Rouleau was an occasional attendee to his Quebec mosque, had stopped going about two months ago and kept to himself, apparently never giving any hint of his radicalized beliefs, the Globe and Mail reported.

Although Zehalf-Bibeau also kept to himself at the B.C. mosque he attended in 2011 for three to four months, he was more vocal, and expressed his objection to its policy of accepting non-Muslims. (He was asked to leave in 2012 after trying to sleep there following some time spent in jail.)

But where Couture-Rouleau appears to have had no criminal record, Zehalf-Bibeau had a history of getting in trouble with the law, in both Quebec and B.C. and had pleaded guilty to charges including drug possession and robbery, and had a history of battling substance abuse.

Couture-Rouleau’s issues seemed more domestic and financial in nature. He was apparently having problems with his estranged wife and was facing financial constraints following the failure of his pressure washing business.

Both came from divorced families but Zehaf-Bibeau was also estranged from his family. His mother claimed that she had only spoken with him last week, having not seen him for over five years before that. Couture-Rouleau, however, lived with his father, his dad saying that he seemed fine the morning of the attacks, although acknowledging he had concerns about his beliefs. In fact, the RCMP said authorities had visited Couture-Rouleau after being notified by family members, who were concerned about his extremist views.

Exhibit similar traits

Zekulin notes that Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau exhibited similar traits —​ relatively recent converts to Islam, coming from broken families, personal problems.

But he says these similarities just aren’t consistent enough to help pick out these types of people. Radicalized individuals can come from well-adjusted backgrounds. People who have trouble with the law or have a history of drug abuse or come from broken families or are recent converts — none of those are necessarily markers to predict extreme behaviour.

“The reality is that if you were to stack that up into large samples of individuals, they’re not all going to look like this,” Zekulin said.

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