James West celebrates the CBC’s coverage of Wednesday’s attack on the Canadian Parliament building, especially this segment:
Canadian authorities have released more details about the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Apparently, Zehaf-Bibeau had a criminal record in three cities and planned to travel to Syria, but he was not flagged as a security threat:
Commissioner Bob Paulson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the gunman’s motives remained largely unknown, but the commissioner said he was confident that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had acted alone and had no strong ties to other extremists. The commissioner, the head of Canada’s national police, said that much remained a mystery about the shooting frenzy that led to Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s death, trapped thousands of people in downtown Ottawa and, at one point, left Prime Minister Stephen Harper without bodyguards and separated only by a wooden door from a gunfight.
“The R.C.M.P. did not even know Mr. Zehaf was in Ottawa,” Commissioner Paulson said during the lengthy news conference.
“We need to look at all operations to deal with this difficult and hard-to-understand threat.” The police, he said, had only learned about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s Syrian travel plans from his mother after his death. Nor was he among the 93 people that the national police forces monitor as being likely to travel abroad to join organizations recognized as terror groups under Canadian law.
The RCMP has not found any links between Wednesday’s shooting spree and the other attack on Monday by Martin Couture-Rouleau, another convert to Islam who ran over two Canadian soldiers with his car near a base south of Montreal before being shot dead. Both men are currently believed to have acted alone. Keating notes that this is the kind of attack ISIS has been urging its supporters in the West to carry out:
Even if the attacks were ISIS-inspired, that probably doesn’t mean ISIS commanders in Syria or Iraq actually ordered them. ISIS has specifically called for “lone-wolf” attacks against Western countries, and it seems entirely possible that Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau, both reportedly active in jihadist web forums, could have hatched these not-particularly-sophisticated plots on their own. This certainly isn’t cause for comfort, though. Self-starting terrorists are a lot more difficult to track than those with direct ties to international networks. The incidents will also raise questions about the seriousness of Canada’s radicalization problem.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells remarks on what these incidents say about the changing nature of jihadist terrorism:
This strain of radicalism, more fury than politics, has always been strong among the Western converts to Islam, but in the ISIS era it has become the movement’s singular face. Alongside its manias, Al Qaeda always had a pedantic, textual side, the Zawahiri influence — at times, as when it excommunicated the group that would become ISIS, it took its own interpretation of the Qu’ran seriously. There was an anti-colonial strain to its politics. ISIS has none of this finickiness, and the stories of its Western recruits that have emerged have looked quite similar to those of Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau. In their lives, Islam can seem almost an opportunistic label, a way to channel and articulate a more basic rage and alienation. ISIS’s genius, in recruiting, has been not to overcomplicate things, to happily play the role of maniac and murderer, of piratic social disease, of simple uncivilized Other. … The alienation and manias of Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau seem more elemental than politics.
Jeremy Keehn considers how these events are likely to influence Canadian politics:
With a federal election slated for November, 2015, political discussion in Canada has focussed on the Conservatives’ economic record and the corruption trial of a Conservative senator that is scheduled for the spring. Suddenly, security is at the fore.
Given my fellow Canadians’ generally deserved reputation for level-headedness, and the fact that the Conservatives won their 2011 mandate with under forty per cent of the popular vote, this seems unlikely to lead to a rally beneath the party’s banner. The federal Liberals, decimated in the 2011 election under Michael Ignatieff, are now led by Pierre Trudeau’s son, Justin, which will, as 2015 approaches, inevitably place the father’s vision of the country in a certain relief. But in the short term, as questions are put to the government about the attacks and what Canada will become in response, it may be Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the social-democratic New Democratic Party, the country’s Official Opposition, who takes the lead role in arguing for an alternative. Mulcair has a temper, but his finest moments on the floor of Parliament, interrogating the prime minister during Question Period, have been, at their best, awesome displays of focus and restraint. These are the very qualities that Canadians might hope for their government to exhibit in response to two terrible crimes.
Adam Taylor highlights the gun-control angle:
For some Americans, the fact that the relatively gun-free Canada had a gun-related incident is a sign that gun control doesn’t work. In Canada, however, the debate may be more nuanced: Many of the country’s gun laws are shaped by another public shooting, the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre, in which a 25-year-old man shot dead 14 women with a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle. It’s possible that in the coming days the focus on gun-control legislation will return.
A representative of Canada’s Coalition for Gun Control was hesitant to speak about how the gun-control debate might change after the Ottawa shooting until more information came out. However, the representative did note that gun control laws had been weakened since 2012 and that the Canadian Parliament had been due to debate another law that would liberalize gun control in the country when the shooting occurred.
Meanwhile, Shane Harris and Reid Standish wonder if the shooting will prompt Canada to adopt NSA-style surveillance:
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed members in Canada’s House of Commons, mere yards from where the gunman was shot dead by authorities the day before, and promised to push even harder for previously proposed enhancements to Canada’s surveillance and detention laws for suspected terrorists.
The amendments would make it easier for Canada to monitor its citizens abroad and to share information with other countries’ spy agencies, particularly the U.S. National Security Agency, which runs a vastly larger and more sophisticated intelligence-gathering apparatus than its counterpart to the north. The proposals have been hotly debated in Canada for the past week, and passage isn’t a foregone conclusion. But the shooting may have given Harper’s conservative government, which holds a majority of seats in parliament, the final push it needs to get them turned into law.