More Ottawa Shooting Commentary

Further to yesterday’s round-up of the recent shootings, more of the better commentary or more interesting commentary that has crossed my eye.

Wesley Wark: Reducing the risk of terrorism provides a sober assessment of the ongoing risks and the need neither to over or under act, but learn the lessons from any failures and gaps in security.

In the theme of let’s not get carried away, André Pratte in La réponse and Stephen Maher Time to reflect on the courage of our ancestors remind us to have balance and perspective. Doug Saunders notes how the public space around parliaments the world over has been whittled down by successive security threats in Don’t let the seat of government become a fortress.

On the other side, Journal de Montréal’s Richard Martineau is characteristically alarmist in Terrorisme: appelons les choses par leur nom.

More on the common elements to the two most recent cases of radicalization, Martin Couture-Rouleau  and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:

Martin Couture-Rouleau et Michael Zehaf-Bibeau partagent plusieurs points en commun : ils étaient jeunes (25 ans et 32 ans), ils s’étaient récemment convertis à l’islam radical, la GRC avait confisqué leur passeport par crainte qu’ils rejoignent le groupe État islamique, et ils auraient agi tels des « loups solitaires ».

Pour les autorités policières, c’est le cauchemar. Les deux jeunes ont agi de leur propre chef, sans même avoir été initiés au combat par des groupes extrémistes à l’étranger. Ils sont difficiles à repérer et à neutraliser.

Un loup solitaire aux motivations inconnues

And further details about the troubled life of the shooter, Zehaf-Bibeau in the Globe in Drugs and religion key themes in Ottawa shooter’s troubled life and in the Post in Details of Zehaf-Bibeau’s life paint picture of a man derailed by homelessness, crime and addiction, detailing his drug addiction, quarrelsome personality and his failed efforts to use his faith to control both.

Canadian Muslims are quick to respond and express outrage in Canadian Muslims denounce recent attacks, fear backlash.

Matt Gurney challenges the military’s decision in Canadian soldiers don’t hide in their own damn country — rescind the order to not wear uniforms in public.

Barbara Kay covers a different angle in The unique anguish of a terrorist’s mother:

If it is inevitable, why feel guilty about these “bad seeds”? And yet, inevitably, parents do. Our sympathetic embrace for the real victims should therefore be wide enough to include their murderers’ collateral damage.

A great deal of favourable commentary on Parliament yesterday, how each leader struck the right tone, the hugs of support, and the deserved standing ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Vickers starting with Jeffrey Simpson in Tribute, solidarity and back to politics (with some barbs at the difference between Government rhetoric and funding).

Jonathan Kay noted the contrast between this time and 30 years ago, when the then Sergeant-at-Arms was able to talk armed Denis Lortie into surrendering in Two Sergeants-at-Arms, two kinds of heroism.

Rick Salutin, similarly praises Kevin Vickers, but provocatively, and accurately, rubbishes the idea of Canadian innocence in We didn’t lose our innocence. We never had it.

Andrew Coyne, perceptively noted the nuances in the various positions and how that hopefully portended more serious political dialogue and debate in Politics weren’t put aside during the Ottawa hug-out, they were just made over for the occasion:

For Mr. Harper, it was “to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home,” as well as “to work with our allies” in the fight against “the terrorist organizations” abroad who hope “to bring their savagery to our shores.” For Mr. Mulcair, it was “our commitment to each other and to a peaceful world.” For Mr. Trudeau, it was “staying true to our values” of “fairness, justice and the rule of law.”

“We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper vowed. “That is not going to happen,” Mr. Mulcair seconded. “We will not be intimidated into changing that,” Mr. Trudeau agreed. But they meant very different things.

And the still and video images of the citizens of Ottawa paying their tribute to fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo (as well as the accounts of those who tried to save him in ‘You’re breathing — keep breathing’), as well as to democratic values, were moving.


ICYMI: CSIS has tabs on radicalized Canadians who have fought abroad

Good analysis of the challenges in knowing the numbers and the nature of radicalized Canadians:

“When we’re talking about 80 returnees, we’re not talking about 80 people who have fought in Iraq and Syria, and we’re not necessarily talking about people who were directly involved in planning terrorist activities,” Coulombe told the committee. “We have Canadians in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in the Sahel, in the Maghreb, who are involved in terrorist-related activities. But it could be fundraising, could be propaganda, so I don’t want people to believe that we have 80 returnees who are hard fighters in Iraq and Syria, because that is not the picture we have at the moment.”

CSIS has tabs on radicalized Canadians who have fought abroad.

Wesley Wark: The rise and fall of Arthur Porter

Wesley Wark on Arthur Porter, the disgraced former chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Pulls no punches and rightly so:

The lesson of Arthur Porter is simple. He was exactly the wrong kind of person to appoint to SIRC: No political experience, no knowledge of the world of security and intelligence, no capacity for thoughtful, non-partisan analysis, no moral compass. Now it behooves the current government and its successors to give serious thought to what the right kind of person should be.

A start could be made by actually appointing a SIRC chairman. The SIRC chairmanship has been vacant since Chuck Strahl’s resignation in January and the committee is down to three members, rather than the statutory five. Any fresh appointment to the SIRC chair should involve a much-more transparent process, involving genuine consultation with opposition parties and hearings before the appropriate Parliamentary committee. In that way, we might avoid a future man-on-the-make and actually give SIRC greater credibility and clout.

Wesley Wark: The rise and fall of Arthur Porter

RCMP looking at ways to identify young people at risk of becoming radicalized

Good overview by Douglas Quan on the various approaches being taken to reduce the numbers of those drawn to extremism:

For those who show signs of becoming involved in violent extremism but who have not yet crossed that threshold, the RCMP is developing an intervention program — set to roll out by the end of the year — designed to link those individuals with community mentors for “advice, support and counselling.”

Dash confirmed that public safety officials have been studying different intervention models, such as the Berlin-based EXIT program, which provides help to Germans trying to leave the neo-Nazi movement. A few years ago, the group created an offshoot program to support families of radicalized Muslims.

Dash declined to say what criteria the RCMP have developed to decide who merits intervention. She did say that someone who expresses extremist views is not necessarily going to be radicalized to violence. “It could be just someone who is being curious. We don’t want to stigmatize anybody.  There’s no one-size-fits-all indicator,” Dash said.

Experts say various “diagnostic tools” have been developed around the world to assess where someone falls on the “spectrum of dangerousness,” but no consensus has been reached on which one is best.

In the U.K., a police-led early-intervention program called Channel saw in its early days referrals of young people simply for wearing what were deemed to be “radical” clothes, according to a 2012 report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. “People were not sure what to look for and so they erred on the side of caution,” a Channel coordinator was quoted as saying.

The program has since developed a “vulnerability assessment” framework consisting of 22 behaviours to look out for. They include spending time in the company of extremists, changing style or appearance to accord with the group, loss of interest in friends, and condoning violence or harm towards others.

RCMP looking at ways to identify young people at risk of becoming radicalized |

And Wesley Wark, as usual, pointed in his criticism for the lack of serious discussion by the Government:

The 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada sums all this up. Whether you agree with the government statement or not (and maybe there are other things we should be worrying about, such as cyber threats, climate change impacts, pandemics, a new Cold War, etc…) the report moves our thinking into the present and nudges us out of a frame of reference dominated by legacy fears of Al Qaeda.

So why the whisper? Maybe the government can’t find the headline in its own report. Maybe it feels uneasy because it can’t say with certainty what the exact threat to Canada from terrorism is in the post-Al Qaeda age. Maybe it feels the public doesn’t really need an education on the new terrorism threats or is not interested. Maybe it thinks there are no votes here. Whatever the answer, it’s simply not right. We need a little less megaphone on the world stage and a little more at home.

Wesley Wark: Where’s the megaphone on the threat to Canada?

How much of a threat do terrorists pose to Ottawa?

Wark’s comments appear to be the most sensible of those cited:

So, has Iran reached a violent tipping point with Canada? Is Ottawa sufficiently fortified? How concerned should we be?

Experts interviewed this week conclude this: Hezbollah is an important threat, but the probability of an Iranian-Hezbollah hit on the capital is low. If the aim was to strike against the West, there are other higher-value targets outside Canada.

“Canada is by and large off the political radar screens of most of these groups. It’s hard to see al-Qaida affiliates or terrorist movements abroad turning their sights on Ottawa specifically,” says Wesley Wark, a national security expert at the University of Ottawa.

“But a Canadian urban centre might be the bullseye of some disaffected Canadian who went the route of jihad and had the means to try violence. We’ve been there before in terms of the so-called Toronto 18 plot.”

How much of a threat do terrorists pose to Ottawa? | Ottawa Citizen.