A new type of war has begun for Canadians. Terrorist attacks are now happening within our own borders. In recent days, two Canadian soldiers were run over by a radicalized Canadian named Martin Ahmad Rouleau. Unfortunately, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed in the attack. He was 53 years old.
This happened right in a Service Canada governmental building parking lot near the Canadian Force Base in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, where recruits and future officers are trained. Rouleau waited for more than two hours for a possible target.
Our very own Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is severely lacking the budget to be able to closely monitor all possible terrorist threats. As a matter of fact, Rouleau was on a watch list and even got his passport revoked, so he was unable to fly abroad and join ISIS. Fortunately for Canadians, the CSIS relies heavily on the Five Eyes Intelligence Network. That being said, I have to say that our CSIS analysts and operatives are doing a great job with the budget they have.
This whole situation raised a question about Canada’s readiness against terrorist attacks. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and CSIS are more than capable of conducting intelligence operations. The fact that Canadians are willingly reporting possible threats really helps these two organizations. Unfortunately, they can’t monitor every possible terrorist threat due to the lack of budget.
Since 2001, Canada has been an active player in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and deployed forces to Afghanistan, Libya, and now, Iraq. As an active partner in the coalition against terrorism, the Canadian government knows about possible domestic attacks.
The resources are scarce and the manpower is low. However, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney recently announced new powers for CSIS including:
- Allowing CSIS to obtain information on Canadians fighting abroad with terrorist groups through the “Five Eyes” spy network, which includes Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
- Letting CSIS more easily track Canadians engaging in terrorist activities abroad, and similarly helping a Five Eyes country track its nationals working with terrorist groups in Canada.
- Giving CSIS informants the same anonymity accorded to police sources.
Having said all of that, it doesn’t take an established spy network to identify one of the core instruments at work to develop these homegrown terrorists: simple, ubiquitous social media. The new tool for ISIS’ propaganda.
Rouleau’s action is a pure example of what social media can do. Approximately a year ago, he started looking at propaganda videos and decided to convert to Islam because of them. His friends knew him as a very outgoing guy, but he quickly changed when he started watching those videos. He was also a father, but lost custody of his child due to his conversion to radical Islam.
As with anything of this nature, a lot of speculation has revolved around Rouleau. Supposedly, he was part of a terrorist sleeper cell (I hate this term, but I have to include it) here in Quebec, Canada. He also had a profile on ummaland, a social network website for muslims. In one of his posts on Facebook, he circulated a quotation: “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” His Facebook cover picture was a black ISIS flag.
Many types of people live in and visit our country, which is great. But diversity doesn’t negate the fact that there are those out there who simply give off a bad vibe, a vibe that even citizens should be in tune to. Not long ago, I came across someone who raised a lot of suspicion while I was on vacation with my wife and two kids.
We took a cab to get from one museum to another. As I was about to pay, I asked him where he was from. When he told me he was from Iraq, I started saying how unfortunate the situation was with ISIL. He quickly responded that ISIL was the best thing that could happen to Iraq and they would kill Americans and their allies. Canada is one of those allies, I thought. I didn’t say anything; I was too pissed off. This situation was reported to the RCMP a few days later.
Many people are arguing that Rouleau wasn’t a terrorist. In fact, in Canada, section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective, or cause, with the intention of intimidating the public with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government, or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”
Another terrorist hit us two days after Rouleau ran over the two Canadian soldiers. In fact, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian native who was raised in Montreal, killed a Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, while he was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here in Ottawa. Quickly after that, he was able to enter the Canadian Parliament, but was taken down by Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers after a quick firefight. We can consider ourselves lucky that he didn’t knew the building, because he was a few steps from the Prime Minister, who was in a conservative caucus. Had he known, Zehaf-bibeau could’ve performed a true massacre.
This terrorist attacks locked down the entire Ottawa downtown area as the RCMP ERT, alongside some operators from CANSOFCOM and Ottawa police SWAT, tried to find a nonexistent second shooter. With all the confusion, some believed there were more than four shooters spread out around the parliament area.
Terrorist attacks create confusion, and social media quickly boosted that. Reports from unknown sources were tweeted every minute and were spreading like wildfire. Fortunately, the journalists present in the streets didn’t tweet nor say where the agents were and what they were doing. The Canadian press did a marvelous job while keeping their calm.
So Canada was confronted with two terrorist attacks in a matter of three days. We now know that both Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau had their passports revoked when they tried to fly to Turkey to join ISIS. Unconfirmed sources are even trying to link both together by pretending they were in communication in the days before both attacks.
I have to add that ISIS told their followers to do some lone wolf attacks with knives and rifles. I guess they want to create as much confusion as possible, as it’s harder to track those lone wolves who have been radicalized than a homegrown terrorist cell.
Is it time for the Canadian government to raise our very own intelligence service budget? I think this week’s events clearly tell us yes.