Terrorism vs. “Mischief”: Canada’s Double Standard
On October 22, 2014, a young Canadian named Michael Zahaf Bibeau attacked Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa. He managed to evade the (very light) security controlling access to the building and entered it, carrying a shotgun. Fortunately, he was shot and killed by security forces before he managed to reach the rooms where Canada’s ruling party, the Conservatives, as well as the opposition New Democratic Party were holding their caucuses. Had he entered the building an hour later, he might have been able to kill the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, or members of Cabinet or ordinary Members of Parliament as they left their caucus room.
Before reaching Parliament, Zahaf Bibeau approached the National War Memorial just outside it. There he shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, one of the unarmed soldiers standing guard over the memorial.
Corporal Cirillo became the country’s symbol of grief over what many people considered a terrorist attack. The murderer’s name suggested his origins were Arabic and French-Canadian. H
e had tried to
obtain a Libyan passport (his father was from Libya) shortly before the attack
on Parliament but had been refused. He identified as a Muslim and had made a
video shortly before the attack, mentioning Allah. But other Muslims considered
him dangerous and a mosque in Vancouver which he had once attended had had its
locks changed to keep him out.
|The late Nathan Cirillo, taken from Cirillio instegram account|
This was enough evidence for many people to decide the attack was terrorism. Two days earlier, one Martin Couture-Rouleau, a convert to Islam, had attacked two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu near Montreal, killing one. He was then shot dead by police. It appeared he had been “radicalized’ during his conversion. Many Canadians, including me, wondered if the two events had been co-ordinated, especially as the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) in Iraq had threatened Canada a short while earlier.
But now it seems that both these attacks were the work of mentally disturbed Canadians. Indeed this was the position of the level-headed leader of the New Democratic Party, Tom Mulcair. It’s also my position. Had they been around twenty years earlier, these two men might have become neo-Nazis, or crazed survivalists, or they might have murdered for incomprehensible reasons, like the young man who murdered twenty schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, before committing suicide (and after killing his own mother).
Corporal Cirillo was from Hamilton, Ontario, where I live, and was buried there on October 29. It was a national event, with the Prime Minister in attendance. It was also front-page news in my local newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator. There was much talk of how he was the victim of a terrorist attack.
|Hamilton’s Hindu Saraj Temple after the attack, wiki commons|
My question is, why wasn’t the firebombing of Hamilton’s Hindu Temple considered a terrorist act? Perhaps Canada’s terrorism laws do not apply retroactively to crimes committed on September 15, 2001. I am sure, nevertheless, that members of the temple must have felt terrorized. According to a victim impact statement read by one of its members at the trial of Pollard and Marsh, the firebombing was “our very own 9/11.” She continued, “The message that this hate crime spoke in volumes was ‘you do not belong here’ and ‘This is not your place.” (Molly Hayes, The Hamilton Spectator, October 29, 2014, p. A5)
Why is it merely mischief when three white men bomb a Hindu temple, burning
it to the ground? If three stupid, drunk
young Muslim Canadians (yes, some Muslims do drink) had firebombed a Christian
church in Hamilton on September 15, 2001 and then got away with it for 12 years
before being caught, would they now be convicted merely of mischief?
|Tom Mulcair, wiki commons|
Or would they be considered proof of a deep and long-lasting conspiracy against their own country?