Anarchists Firebomb Royal Bank in Ottawa (May 18, 2010)

When we think of terrorism we usually associate it with events ‘over there’: sometimes it hits much closer to home.

OTTAWA, CANADA – For those who follow me this may be getting a little old hat. But here it is again anyway. My homeland, Canada, is relatively immune from terrorism. Note that I said ‘relatively’: it is not, of course 100% free of this form of violence.

As a former strategic analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) I never had a day off, in the sense that I would find myself twiddling my thumbs because there was ‘nothing happening’. There was ALWAYS some wanker to follow up on, usually some loser posting brave jihadi posts (I was an Islamist terrorism specialist) from his (it was usually a he) mother’s basement.

We had to look into all this for the simple reason that we could never tell if this particular idiot was the real deal (NB and there NEVER will be a foolproof tool to tease out the wannabes from the actual actors).

You have NO idea how many resources this takes to monitor
You have NO idea how many resources this takes to monitor

Still, sometimes you come across an event that looks to be terrorism in nature but leaves you scratching your head. One such incident took place on this day in 2010. Three to four males were seen running from the scene of a firebombing at a branch of the Royal Bank in Ottawa’s tony Glebe district at 3:30 AM. In a statement issued an hour after the fire, self-styled ‘anarchists’ said they targeted the financial institution because it was a sponsor of the Vancouver Olympics which was held “on stolen indigenous land.” They also vowed to take their protest to the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario later that summer (and there was anarchist violence indeed during both).

This land was never legally ceded to colonial British Columbia. This hasn’t stopped the government from assuming full ownership of the land and its resources for the benefit of its corporate masters and to the detriment of aboriginal peoples, workers and the poor of the province.

Ottawa Police made arrests a month later: in December 2010 a retired federal civil servant, Roger Clement, pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He was a member of the ‘Fighting for Freedom Coalition’: two accomplices had their charges stayed.

Was this terrorism? In my books yes as it was clearly an act of serious violence perpetrated for political and/or ideological reasons. Was it effective? Not at all. The fact that it was carried out in the middle of the night and that no one was hurt speaks either to the terrorists’ incompetence, cowardice or a desire not to hurt anyone. Or all of the above.

There is much about capitalism that warrants criticism. Opponents have every right to protest – peacefully. No one has the right to build and chuck a firebomb – even at 3 AM.

Phil Gurski
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