At 10 a.m. on the morning of October 22, 2014, a lone shooter killed a Canadian soldier who had volunteered to stand guard at the National War Memorial, just a few blocks away from Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
The assailant was shot and killed not long afterwards, after he gained entry to the main Parliament building while brandishing a shotgun.
This event pretty well paralyzed the city because the police had no idea if it was an organized attack or how many people were involved. It created a frenzy and a lockdown of public buildings that lasted until the evening. They had to evacuate the Prime Minister and comb the inside of the premises looking for the rest of the crew.
The scene became very chaotic and the media descended in grove to report on this saga unravelling before our very eyes. Anderson Cooper from CNN graced us with his presence and proceeded to even have one of our local reporters fired for not respecting his space.
In Ottawa, the government buildings are open to the public and this event served as a warning sign; it is time to beef up security. After all, a man ran in with a shotgun and could have easily done way more damage if he had access to more powerful weapons, which luckily, are not readily available in Canada.
A Newspaper reporter who was inside the Parliament building, recorded part of the event with a mobile phone video. We could hear several shots ringing and see security guards running and police following suit.
As a result of the shooting, security was tightened across the country. Quebec officials stepped up protection at the provincial legislature in Quebec City and Montreal City Hall. British Columbia increased security at its legislature in Victoria, while the legislature in New Brunswick decided to close.
The shooting happened two days after a Canadian soldier died and a second was injured after being run down by a car driven by a suspected Islamic militant whom the authorities said had been “radicalized.” The incident took place about 50 kilometers southeast of Montreal, and according to the government, was linked to “terrorist ideology.’’ The police shot and killed the driver after a car chase.
What is interesting to point out, is that in both cases, the attacks came after the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced that Canada was going to participate in some air attacks on ISIS with the US.
Harper, who is a die hard Conservative, had sent troops to Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq and kept warning the population about possible out of the blue attacks. His recent decision to join forces to combat ‘evil’ was not going to earn him points internationally or allow him to win a local popularity contest.
According to the polls, most Canadians want to stay away from these attacks that usually end up killing and injuring civilians while inflaming the burning desire for revenge from the terrorist groups. The proof is in the pudding in the US where terrorist’ attacks are usually to retaliate against the US presence on what they perceive to be their territory and their own business.
So when gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau dropped out of nowhere and killed a reservist named Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and went on a shooting rampage on Parliament Hill afterwards, it became the perfect opportunity for Harper.
Instead of assessing the situation before jumping to terrorism conclusions, he started right away to use the rhetoric that would serve his purpose. Now he could support his military participation with facts: Canada was attacked by terrorists, so he had to make a bold move.
After realizing there were no accomplices and that Bibeau was a Canadian born and raised in Montreal, you would think that he would have softened his statements, but he did not.
In fact, Zehaf-Bibeau was a man suffering from mental illness and drug addictions. He had no ties to terrorist groups and was not part of the group of 90 citizens being scrutinized by the government because of their suspicious activities. His passport request had been denied, but not because of any criminal behavior. In fact, his criminal record contained two insignificant offences, contrary to what was said in the media. He had turned to the Q’oran because of his paternal roots, but according to his mother, was not ‘radicalized’.
She wrote a letter to the media and revealed that her son was an ‘’unhappy person at odds with the world’ and mentally unbalanced in his final days. He wanted to go to Saudi Arabia to study and thought he would be happier in an Islamic country. He never really fit in and as an outcast, was trying to find his way.
‘’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,’’ she wrote.
He could not get a passport and felt trapped so he was angered at the federal officials. His mother strongly disputes the RCMP’s claims that he wanted to go fight in Syria’s civil war or that he was part of any network. He might have read about the ideology, but was by no mean a ‘convert’ or a martyr.
Before the attack, Bibeau was staying at a homeless shelter where he was preaching the end of the world. Many witnesses saw and heard his rants and realized he was not well. He had earned money working in oil fields out West and purchased an old car to be able to reach the Parliament. His gun was a very old Winchester he had found at an aunt’s cabin.
If he was part of a network, he would have had better weapons, more financial means and a plan. Instead, it was a half-baked attack that he executed on a whim and a prayer. Mentally ill people tend to hook up to a cause, but are by no means great at networking. How many times do you hear schizophrenics saying God talked to them? Does it mean they were converted or radicalized? Of course not.
But Harper did not listen to Bibeau’s mother and totally ignored the facts. He continued on with his bold statements claiming we were attacked on Canadian soil, but considering that the guy lived in the city, how could he say this? His spokesman, Jason MacDonald, reiterated the following to the Canadian Press:
“This was a terrorist attack. He attacked two Canadian institutions – the soldiers standing guard at the War Memorial, and Parliament – he had espoused extremist ideology, and was, as the police have indicated, radicalized.”
Strangely enough, it took a British comedian to come up with the right assessment of the situation.
Luckily, the opposition and Liberal leaders made a very reassuring speech where they completely separated the actions of this lone attacker, from any religious group. They confirmed that Canada was not going to change their ways because of this sad incident. And had no intention to start a fear campaign when there is no basis for it. They did not alarm the population and affirmed their commitment to insure the security of public buildings and of the citizens.
Mubin Shaikh, a police informant who infiltrated the so-called Toronto 18 in 2005, claimed not to be surprised. Western Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have consulted him often in recent months about radicalization. He is a former Islamic activist who was invited to join the al Qaeda copycat plot of the Toronto 18. He turned informant shortly thereafter and helped police in a series of raids.
Shaikh thinks that since a state formed in Iraq and Syria, it restarted a trend of Canadian-born young men being attracted to this extreme ideology and that is now referred to as the “foreign-fighter” phenomenon.
Martin Couture-Rouleau, the man who killed a soldier in a hit and run had his passport confiscated and was an example of radicalization, but he went at it alone without any network.
Canada is keeping an eye on some radicalized candidates and it obviously is a phenomenon we cannot ignore. It is scary to think that a shooter got past security at the Centre Block of Parliament, sending MPs and staff running for their lives. But we cannot fall into this way of thinking every time there is a public incident and must be very discriminatory in our assessment of the situation.
To make this tragedy even more compelling, the media needed a good fairy tale and they served us one: The big bad wolf came in the nice house where the grandmother was resting and killed the hero soldier who was guarding it. But another hero was in the big house and shot the bad wolf who surely had come with his pack. NOT!
Nathan Cirillo was the innocent victim in this story, but he died doing his job. Bibeau was not killed by a hero, but by a group of officers who shot him inside the building in the exercise of their functions.
The Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, who was hailed as Superman and even John Wayne by some, was also a great man simply doing his job as director of security operations. He managed to shoot Bibeau after he had already been riddled with 15 to 30 bullets. But who is counting?
People die every day and horrible incidents happen, but this tragic event had to be turned into a huge saga where the protagonists’ lives, for some reason, were more valued than most.
In October, the US Treasury Department said ISIS made at least $20 million in ransom in 2014 and millions in oil revenues.
It seems that the Islamic State makes $1 million a day from sales of oil seized during battle. Ransom is also a great source of income as well as cash they obtain at gunpoint in the Syrian and Iraqi towns it controls. They also get money from sympathizers through social media.
It comes as no surprise that efforts are made to cut off ISIS funding to stop the bleeding. No money, no power. The department for terrorism and financial intelligence qualifies this mission as harder but easier than when they were fighting al-Qaeda. The military efforts are supposed to hamper its ability to get revenue from oil smuggling.
ISIS is the wealthiest terrorist group because it does not operate underground but seizes control of land, oil fields and lands, unlike al-Qaeda.
ISIS terrorists act like they’re a real state so they have to spend money to get foreign fighters and provide amenities and it complicates their efforts.
Even if the amount of money they have accumulated can sound impressive, it is nothing compared to the $2 billion that the Iraqi was spending annually in the provinces where the terrorists are now operating. So it can become easy to exploit their vulnerabilities.
David Cohen, the US department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence declared “We should not confuse funding with financial strength.’’ “While ISIS today is well-funded, a terrorist group’s overall financial strength turns not just on its income, but also on its expenses and, importantly, the degree to which it can dedicate its resources to violent purposes.”
And while ISIS may despise the American way of life, it does not appear to hold similar views about their money. For the most part, it has access to Iraqi dinars. Cohen was asked what currency ISIS preferred. “I assume the preferred currency of ISIL is the American dollar,” he replied”
So the menace exists and will be controlled or self-destruct, but this is no reason to spread fear and start seeing it in every corner of the room. The Americans want to believe that ISIS is their problem and they want to cut the head of the serpent, but if we ask why terrorists attack North America, we might get the same answer.
This is not about religion, but about intrusion. And killing innocent people on both sides is not the solution. Every action has a reaction as we have witnessed on September 11, 2001.
What happened in Canada, could have been a tentacle of this movement, but turned out to be about a lone wolf lost in the woods. Too bad our own Leader tried to use it as an opportunity to further his agenda. Let’s not forget that nobody can win at this game.
You can click here to read about the concealed facts of the Ottawa shooting.