We all watched with horror as events unfolded yesterday in the Canadian Capital of Ottawa. A soldier fatally shot whilst ceremonially guarding the city’s war memorial and an attempt to storm the sitting Canadian Parliament stopped dead by the brave actions of the Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers and others. As shots rang out members of the House of Commons and Senate barricaded the doors with any furniture they could find.
We now know that the gunman was 32 year old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian citizen most likely ‘inspired’ by Islamic militants to carry out an attack on those who had not long since decided to join the military operation in Iraq against IS. It is also logical to conclude that his aim was to get further into the building and indiscriminately kill more people than poor Cpl Nathan Cirillo, remarkably the only fatality from yesterday who leaves a broken family and young son.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has nobly stated that ‘Canada will not be intimidated’. But, the finger pointing is sure to follow. As is often the case, the authorities knew of and were watching Zehaf-Bibeau. It is reported that he was considered high-risk and his passport had been suspended.
I understand why we don’t want radicalised people from countries such as the UK, America, France and Canada joining the fight in Iraq and Syria but stopping them at the borders and confiscating passports does not mean they are less radicalized; the only difference is they are even more frustrated and residing amongst us. The militants know this and are reaching out to their supporters, asking them to take up arms; so far two have done so, with a soldier killed in Quebec three days ago. How many will follow their lead?
What’s the answer? It’s the toughest question facing the western world. Not only how do we take on Islamic Militants overseas but also how we properly tackle the enemy within wishing to show loyalty to its aims.
Since the UK Parliament voted to join the airstrikes against IS the news has seen a steady trickle of stories about arrests, raids and charges of terrorism-related offences. For public confidence, this is good to see and it feels somewhat tougher than the actions promised after the killing of Lee Rigby outside his army barracks by converted British Muslim extremists.
The majority view in the UK supports taking action against IS. I would guess that those same people, even in times of austerity, would support a review of government budgets with money diverted into those agencies charged with our protection.
Why? So they can research more suspects, monitor our borders, hire the best people, remove the hate preachers, inspect our education establishments, buy state of the art equipment to track digital footprints, infiltrate groups, get through the courts quicker and bring more arrests that stick and make us safer.
Lorraine Hill-Scott - Managing Editor