by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 9, Muharram, 1436)
The Conservative government is using attacks by two men suffering from mental problems and drug addiction to push through legislation that would drastically curtail the rights of Canadians, especially Muslims.
Two criminal acts over a spate of two days — October 20 and 22 — have turned life upside down in Canada, particularly for the beleaguered Muslim community. A masjid in Alberta was vandalized with graffiti calling on Muslims to “go home.” Both attacks resulted in the killing of soldiers.
In the first attack, 25-year-old Martin Rouleau drove his car into two soldiers in the parking lot of a shopping mall outside Montreal on October 20. One soldier was killed and the other wounded. Rouleau then fled in his car, as it was chased by the police. His car crashed and when he emerged from the overturned vehicle, he was shot seven times and killed by the police. Initial reports published on the Toronto Star website quoting eyewitnesses said Rouleau had emerged with his hands up. Later, the newspaper removed the story from its website and reported that the attacker was wielding a knife, quoting police sources. Even if true, could he not have been incapacitated without killing him so that he could be questioned to find out whether he had links with extremist groups or individuals?
The October 22 incident involved a 32-year-old homeless man, Michael Zehaf Bibeau (born Michael Joseph Hall in Laval, Quebec). He shot and killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s War Memorial in Ottawa. Bibeau then commandeered a car and drove to the parliament building. Once inside, he was shot by the parliament security. There was high drama inside the building since members of parliament (MPs) were present for caucus meetings. They were barricaded in various caucus rooms with Prime Minister Stephen Harper shoved into a closet for 15 minutes before being moved to safety.
Soon after Bibeau’s attack, it was alleged that there were perhaps more gunmen involved. Virtually the entire city of Ottawa and several embassies, especially the US embassy, were shut down. The Canadian embassy in Washington was also shut down for security reasons. Later it transpired that Bibeau was acting alone and that the “other gunmen” theory was a hysterical response to a violent crime.
There are other anomalies as well. On October 8, two weeks before the criminal acts, the American television network, NBC News quoting US intelligence officials, reported “that Canadian authorities have heard would-be terrorists discussing potential ISIS-inspired ‘knife and gun’ attacks” inside Canada. Canadian officials, however, dismissed the report.
Is it possible that US intelligence knew something the Canadians were unaware of when there is so much intelligence sharing between the two? Further, American networks, again quoting US intelligence sources, revealed Bibeau’s name around 10 am on October 22 long before the Canadians did? How did US intelligence know these details about a homeless Canadian man that had perpetrated a crime on Canadian soil and in the heart of its capital city, Ottawa, when the Canadians did not or would not wish to reveal? If so why?
The two incidents have led to a major spike in Islamophobia with some news outlets trying to paint scary scenarios of “radicalized” Muslims out to get peaceful Canada. It has been learned that both individuals, born in the province of Quebec had “converted” to Islam. Rouleau was a recent convert while Bibeau’s stepfather (his mother Susan Bibeau has been divorced since 1999) is from Libya. Bibeau was homeless and was living in Ottawa Mission, a shelter for homeless people.
Their Islamic faith has become the subject of intense debate with dire warnings that there is a threat of homegrown terrorism from such “radicalized” people. Some Uncle Tom Muslims (in one case a woman so perhaps, Aunt Jemima!) called for shutting down all masjids in Canada and sending the terrorists back to where they came from. Where should the two criminals be deported to (they are already dead): Quebec? Bibeau’s mother works for the Immigration and Refugee Board and had met her son for lunch a week before his violent attack. Did she not realize that her son was depressed or having mental problems?
Staff and other residents at the homeless shelter in Ottawa where Bibeau was staying said he was suffering from mental problems as well as drug addiction. He had at one time asked to be arrested to help him overcome his cocaine addiction. Information provided by people who knew him, said that Bibeau appeared to be upset with “the government” for not leaving him alone. Were social workers and parole officers hounding him in a way that he felt his life was being suffocated? Did he react to the pressure from government bureaucrats rather than being radicalized by extremists or terrorists abroad?
It is still not clear how Bibeau came to possess a gun when he already had a criminal conviction? Since the attacks, dark hints about homegrown terrorism and radicalization have become the staple of news reports but especially of politicians pursuing their own agenda. These became so intense that even Tom Blackwell, a columnist for the right-wing National Post, took issue with the allegations. In his October 21 column (a day after the Montreal attack but before the Ottawa rampage), Blackwell wrote, “By Tuesday [October 21], the drumbeat of warnings about a new era in home-grown Muslim radicalism had grown louder, with one cabinet minister describing the crime as nothing less than an assault on Canadian values.”
Blackwell went on, “But can a young Quebecer who only recently converted to Islam and began spouting ‘wannabe Jihadi’ rhetoric — with no known links to other Muslims, let alone extremists — really be considered a terrorist? Or was Mr. Rouleau another disturbed man lashing out with senseless and tragic violence?”
Such thoughtful reflection seems to have escaped the government in its rush to push through legislation that would give vast new powers to security agencies including pre-emptive arrest based on mere suspicion that someone may be considering a terrorist act. In Rouleau’s case, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have said he was on their watch list and was prevented from boarding a flight to Turkey last July ostensibly to join extremists in Syria. His passport was also confiscated.
Despite this, he was not arrested because as RCMP Superintendent Martine Fontaine explained during his October 21 press conference in Ottawa, “We could not arrest someone for having radical thoughts. It’s not a crime in Canada” yet but legislation presented to parliament even before these violent incidents occurred aims to grant broad new powers to security agencies. The process would now be speeded up with Canadians being scared out of their wits over the alleged terror threat.
Other measures included in Harper’s new bill would revoke people’s citizenship and impose censorship over the internet. The citizenship of foreign-born Canadians with dual nationality could be revoked but what about people born and raised in Canada, as the case of the two Quebec-born individuals show?
There are a number of other troubling aspects regarding the twin criminal acts. For instance, RCMP Commissioner, Bob Paulson said during a press conference in Ottawa on October 23 that Bibeau wanted to get a passport. Was it withheld or did he worry about it? This may have played a large part in his action, according to Paulson. The following day (October 24), Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was quoted by the BBC as saying that there was no known link between Bibeau and the ISIS extremists/terrorists in Syria. These statements point to the lone wolf theory so why push legislation that would curtail people’s civil liberties even more? Some Canadians have warned about reacting to crises; this is not the time, they argue, to introduce new laws because it precludes thoughtful reflection about its negative consequences of new oppressive laws.
Harper has embarked on a militaristic agenda while drastically cutting funding to social programs. Military budgets — and the resultant military adventures abroad — have escalated. Afghanistan was an unmitigated disaster with 158 Canadian lives lost in a country that is even worse off today than it was 13 years ago. What were these sacrifices for? Harper has now joined the US crusade against Syria ostensibly to fight the ISIS terrorists but in reality to advance the agenda of regime change.
The ISIS terrorists were created and nurtured by the US. Their ranks are filled with people that were armed and financed by Canada, the US, France and Britain to overthrow the government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. It needs recalling that a Canadian general led the air assault on Libya in 2011 resulting in the lynching death of Qaddafi. Libya today has been turned into a hell hole with tribal militias fighting each other. There is no security of life and property. Canada under US pressure wants to create similar mayhem in Syria.
Opposition to such measures is being stymied by oppressive laws that would criminalize dissent. Canadians need to be vigilant otherwise they would lose their hard-fought-for freedoms and rights. Canada may have a very good Charter of Rights and Freedoms but what good is it if the government of the day can override its provisions by introducing draconian measures under the pretext of fighting a contrived terrorist threat?