Three key questions emerge after the Oct. 22 attacks in Ottawa

In the aftermath on Parliament Hill, three key questions

Laws to pass, ‘lone wolves’ to combat, and innocence long lost

A RCMP officer looks at floral tributes to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Police continue to investigate in the aftermath of a shooting in Ottawa, where a soldier murdered at the War Memorial and a gun battle in Parliament killed the alleged gun man. in Ottawa. October 23, 2014.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

A RCMP officer looks at floral tributes to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

The soul-searching and policy-reviewing that must happen in the aftermath of the Oct. 22 trauma at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill will continue for weeks. Themes are only now coming into focus, but here are three that demand attention:

Will swift action get careful scrutiny? Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has suggested that the government will change the law to make it easier to arrest those suspected of contemplating terrorist attacks. No doubt, many Canadians will support this sort of measure. We’ve been down this road before. The government moved quickly to pass its Combatting Terrorism Act shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing in the spring of 2013. Elements of that controversial bill dated back to laws the Liberal government drafted in a hurry after the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Those police powers had “sunsetted,” but the Tories revived them when the public mood seemed right. The pressure, again, to act fast now shouldn’t mean caution is discarded.

How can we combat lone wolves and solo runners? These are two quite separate factors, but now linked. The term “lone wolf” is used to refer to isolated, troubled individuals, usually young men, who pick up radical ideas, then act violently on them. The idea that a single individual running toward an iconic public building can be surprisingly hard to stop has arisen after recent cases, such as the men who have jumped the fence at the White House and, of course, this week’s Parliament Hill attacker. Put together, the rise of Islamic State-inspired lone wolves, and the realization that a solo sprinter can often breach security, and you’ve got a potent, troubling mix for police to ponder.

Innocence lost, or lessons re-learned? No sooner had some commentators declared the loss of Canadian innocence this week than others were protesting that we’ve long since crossed that threshold. The FLQ crisis of 1970 brought soldiers into the streets, not just of Montreal, but in Ottawa, too. The bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985 brought home for many Canadians that their country wasn’t insulated from international terrorism. I thought Paul Dewar, the NDP MP from Ottawa, had it right when he pinpointed the difference this time as the symbolic importance of the two sites violated. That matters: I, personally, find the invasion of those places deeply saddening. Yet Canadians need to find a way to talk about this week’s attacks that doesn’t pretend it’s the first or worst event in our recent history that falls under the the broad heading of violent extremism.


In the aftermath on Parliament Hill, three key questions

  1. So what laws are needed to have stopped what happened this past tragic week? In the first instant the killer was more than known to police, they had spoken with him not much more than two weeks ago. Obviously he was of minor interest and no percieved threat to them. What laws would we need to have stopped him that wouldn’t be used to stop others for lesser ‘offenses’ – he had, we have to remember not committed any indictable offenses.

    And the second killer. A bolt from the blue to not only the authorities. What new legislation would have stopped him? A firearms registry? A revised gun permit statute. The man lived in a hostel and yet he had access to a hunting gun and ammunition. What law would have stopped his mad dash through the streets of Ottawa and into the House of Commons? Even passers-by seemed taken by surprise and the morning traffic didn’t notice at all?

    In practicality there is little legislation than can be passed to ‘make’ a security service know do its job. US security had to furnish us with the assailant’s name. But who can blame them, they have come under an ‘organized’ attack. We thank God have not.

    Our government , sadly, has another agenda – in which the safety of business interests is to be placed ahead of ours. And it is this agenda that the new legislation will empower. It certainly won’t guarantee that what happened last week won’t happen again.

    • Agreed, we already have the laws. Govmint will just use this as an excuse to tax us more, removed more of our rights, liberties, and less freedoms.

      Take Khadr, why not try him for treason to keep him in longer and stop the lawyer profit on insatiable and meaningless appeals?

      Laws are there, just the politcial will to enforce them is not. Might lose some votes to do the right things.

  2. How can we combat lone wolves and solo runners?

    Refraining from provocative bedroom tweets would be a good start.

    • I guess the MP’s driver should have posted one…

  3. A perfect opportunity for the conservatives to alter the bill they were going to introduce which was already controversial and make it even more restrictive with fewer safeguards of Canadians’ rights. I have a question, how does a 32 year old drug addict with mental problems and a criminal record get a semi automatic rifle ? I guess our new gun laws for law abiding Canadians has a few flaws

    • Only Liberals and those with weak minds expect criminals and terrorist to register their guns. All gun controls do is leave peopel defenseless, easier for govmint to run dictatorial in times of disaster. As if a big disaster occurred, isn’t going to be just criminals after your food stores…..

      Unfortunately this will be used for police state mentality. CSIS, CSEC, RCMP never caught this, so raise their budgets and tax out our economic liberty…..yep, “terrorism” security screwing up and gets a Orwellian statism budget. Why solve a problem when you can have more govmint?

    • It wasn’t a semi-automatic rifle, it was an old-fashioned lever-action 30-30 repeater with a tubular magazine (i.e. no changeable clip magazines), a model first manufactured by Winchester in 1894. It wasn’t anything close to “semi-automatic”.

      If you’re hell-bent on inducing maximum casualties, this is one of the last guns you would choose. So it seems that in fact he did have difficulty obtaining a “suitable” weapon, and that may be why we saw only one fatality. He had no firearms licence, and was prohibited from owning a weapon by law, meaning he obtained it illegally somehow. The police are trying to figure that out now.

  4. Ottawa will avoid hitting the problem head on, and in the usual sense pervert i to our losses in rights, freedoms, liberty and democracy.

    After all, hitting the problem head on will lose lobby money and votes.

    • How does one hit this problem head-on? Seems you can’t do much until these guys act out. Within 80 seconds of it starting, the problem in fact was hit head on, and the suspect was dead.