Leah West, a former national security lawyer with the Ministry of justice. She teaches national security law and terrorism at the school of international relations, Norman Paterson at Carleton University.
July 2, Corey Hurren allegedly rammed his truck into the gates to Rideau Hall and, with a loaded weapon, advancing on the area where both the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Payette Governor-General Julie reside with their families.
The RCMP quickly caught Mr Hurren. It is reported that he threatened Prime Minister, but never picks up a weapon in the two hours between leaving his vehicle and his arrest. In his truck, RCMP said that the discovered additional firearms and a two-page note of apology for undefined actions it is going to take. Specialized unit for combating terrorism Forces, national security, law enforcement team continues to investigate, while further reporting paints a picture of a man with grievances and interest in online anti-government conspiracy theories.
And he only was charged with numerous firearms offences and uttering threats – and not to the shock of some, terrorism.
In Canada, a terrorist activity is specifically defined in the Criminal code, and Mr. Hurren in the face of such charges, the RCMP and Federal prosecutors must believe that there is enough evidence to convince the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt of three things. First, that Mr. Hurren with the intent to endanger the lives of others; second, that his actions were meant to force Mr. Trudeau to do or not to do something; and third, that he was summoned to take these actions in whole or in part, for political or ideological reasons.
This definition creates a high bar, and rightly so. The stigma and consequences that arise from condemnation of terrorism is much broader than just imprisonment.
Not least, “I know it when I see it” approach to defining terrorism is dangerous. Description the President of the United States Donald trump of Antifa and anti-racist protesters as “terrorists” shows how powerful can quickly expand this label to discredit and criminalize their critics.
However, the canadian government has historically been much faster, “know and see” terrorism, when the motives of the person similar to the “al-Qaeda” or “Islamic state”. There’s a reason for that: the Parliament added the offences of terrorism and related law enforcement powers in the criminal code in response to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Later amendments were prepared to the 2014 attack on Parliament hill and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC., and the phenomenon of foreign fighters. This story is why terrorist offences to align neatly with the behavior and methods used by the adherents of the violent jihadist extremism; indeed, 56 of 58 people charged with terrorism offences in Canada since 2001 were linked to Islamic extremism.
In one sense, this statistic is cause for concern. In recent years, fatal cases – such as Toronto van of the attack, which killed 10 and Quebec mosque shooting that left six dead – not lead to terrorism charges, even if the defendant meets the definition is so clear that even the canadian security intelligence service (CSIS) refers to the events as such. However, it also reflects the instinct of Canadians to do to eliminate political discontent in a democratic and peaceful way, not through violence. As a consequence, acts of civil disobedience, when they occur, are rarely life threatening. But the alleged actions of Mr. Hurren can mean a dangerous shift in the political and Canada’s national security landscape.
Indeed, economic and political measures to combat the pandemic even more strengthened the conspiracy-theory groups, such as QAnon who prey on the legitimate grievances of the people and fears. As Canadians are faced with increasing personal strain, these theories threaten to damage the perception people reality and lead them to violent action.
This new threat presents a number of challenges to the security of Canada. For starters, they have to decide whether violence on the grounds of QAnon-type conspiracy theory is terrorism. CSIS may only investigate terrorism, and a preventive criminal and administrative tools are only available if linked to terrorist activities. If these resources can be deployed, it will require time and resources to re-equip them to meet this new threat. Perhaps the most difficult task will be how the Agency will determine who poses a real threat; conducting a conspiratorial view of government or resentment is not a crime, and this is clearly linked to any specific demographic or region in Canada.
Reducing the threat, what we call it, ultimately, require the participation of wide layers of the population: a challenge to the fears and stories at the heart of these conspiracy theories, and providing education on how to identify persons who may be radicaliser to violence. It may seem easy to dismiss such of the Canadians as psychos, outcasts. But to be offended – and removing them will only further strengthen the institutional mistrust that the core of the problem.
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