Archive for the ‘Ottawa Shootings’ Category

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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Government introduces bill to expand CSIS powers to monitor, track and arrest suspects

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says he hopes “someday” to make public a video left behind by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau before last week’s attack on the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

The country’s top Mountie said Zehaf-Bibeau was “quite lucid and quite purposeful” in the video and that it contains evidence the shooting was driven by political and ideological motives.

He said the video, which is still being analyzed by police, appeared to have been made “on [Zehaf-Bibeau’s] own device.”

“Our belief is that it has not gone anywhere else, but it may have gone elsewhere,” Paulson said in remarks to reporters after his appearance Monday before the Senate’s national security committee.

News of the video first emerged late Sunday when the RCMP issued a statement announcing its existence and describing it as evidence that Zehaf Bibeau was “driven by ideological and political motives.”

pauslon said investigators don’t yet know if Zehaf-Bibeau shared his intentions to launch a violent attack. He added RCMP are working on a “detailed timeline” to satisfy themselves no one else was involved.

Paulson also said he doesn’t believe Zehaf-Bibeau was wearing body armour during Wednesday’s attack.

Preventing radicalization key, RCMP chief tells committee

Inside the committee room, Paulson told senators that is “extremely difficult to detect the early signs of radicalization, and ultimately determine if an individual may be preparing to launch an attack.”

In fact, he noted, “the more elaborate the plot,” the more chance there is that it can be interrupted during the planning process.

“The events of last week are clear examples of just how suddenly these attacks can occur and how unpredictable radicalized individuals can be,” he told the committee.

“These acts were carried out with no advance warning, and thus far, seemingly little to no preparation.”

He stressed the need for family members and friends to watch for “warning signals” of possible radicalization, including increasing isolation, or espousing of extremist or violent views.

“The best way to prevent terrorism is to prevent radicalization in the first place.”

When asked about possible legislative changes, Paulson suggested that the threshold for obtaining a peace bond could be lowered, and the process streamlined with regard to the current requirement to get the consent of the Attorney General.

“I think there’s an argument to be made that cops can handle that,” he said.

The Senate national security committee, which launched its study of security threats before last week’s attack, also heard from Michael Peirce, the assistant director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

On Monday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney introduced a bill that would strengthen the powers of Canada’s spy agency to monitor and track people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks.

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TORONTO – A published report says the mother of the man who gunned down a soldier in Ottawa has said she believes Michael Zehaf Bibeau acted in despair and is expressing doubt he was radicalized.

In a letter published by Postmedia News, Susan Bibeau says she will never understand what drove her son to such senseless violence and feels shame for what he did.

Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial before making his way to the Parliament Buildings where he died after a gunfight with security and RCMP.

In the letter to Postmedia, Susan Bibeau paints a picture of her son as an “unhappy person at odds with the world” and mentally unbalanced in his final days.

Bibeau writes Michael told her he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia where he could study the Qu’ran and thought he would be happier in an Islamic country.

Bibeau says Michael was angered that federal officials had not granted him a passport and felt trapped.

“He felt cornered, unable to stay in the life he was in, unable to move on to the next one he wanted to go to,” writes Bibeau.

She also disputes a suggestion from the RCMP last week that Zehaf Bibeau wanted a passport so he could go fight in Syria’s civil war.

Last week, Harper referred to the slaying of Cirillo and the Parliament Hill gunfight as a terrorist attack.

Bibeau writes she doesn’t believe Michael was part of an organization or acted “on behalf of some grand ideology or for a political motive.”

She says she believes “he acted in despair.”

Bibeau’s comments didn’t persuade the Prime Minister’s Office to soften its language.

“This was a terrorist attack. He attacked two Canadian institutions – the soldiers standing guard at the War Memorial, and Parliament – had espoused extremist ideology, was, as the police have indicated, radicalized,” said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Harper told The Canadian Press in an email.

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The two men who killed Canadian soldiers didn’t know each other, but shared troubling—and revealing—similarities

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s parents live in a townhouse in a north end Montreal suburb. Martin Couture-Rouleau’sfather lived in a similar cookie-cutter bungalow in the Montreal exurb of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The two men were Muslims, responsible for the death of two Canadian soldiers in as many days. Both had earlier scrapes with the law—drunk driving in both cases, amongst other infractions—that spoke to their propensity for boozy transgression before their apparent conversion to a puritanical strain of Islam. Both had drifted away from family and loved ones for long periods in the lead up to their last violent acts.

There is no indication that Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau knew each other. Yet Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, and 25-year-old Couture-Rouleau, who struck and killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent not 24 hours before Zehaf-Bibeau went on his rampage in Canada’s Parliament, share several similarities. It suggests Islamic State’s campaign to compel believers to commit what might be called “micro-terrorism” is successfully targeting one specific demographic. And it shows how this sort of terrorism—undertaken by lone individuals with little beyond their own bodies as weapons—is incredibly hard to predict and even more difficult to prevent.

First, here is what we know so far about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. According to a joint letter written by his parents, Bulgasem Zehaf and Susan Bibeau, to the Associated Press, Zehaf-Bibeau had only recently reconnected with his parents after a prolonged silence. “You say that our son was vulnerable [but] we were unaware of this, [he] was lost and didn’t fit into a mould. Me, his mother, spoke to him last week during a dinner,” she writes, the same week as Zehaf-Bibeau’s 32nd birthday. “I hadn’t seen him for five years before this.”

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