Even if acts of violence seem to be obviously terrorist in nature sometimes courts disagree.
TORONTO, CANADA — Canada has an advantage when it comes to terrorism. That advantage: it is a rare event here. If we count ALL the attacks and deaths from terrorist acts since this nation was founded on July 1, 1867, and use as broad a definition of terrorism as possible, we come up with 30 deaths more or less (NB I am NOT counting the Air India attack in 1985 since, although it was planned in Canada, it occurred outside our national borders).
30 deaths in 153 years, i.e. one death every five years. Not bad, eh?
This could of course change and there are legitimate, albeit exaggerated, warnings of the scourge of the ‘far right’ in Canada. In addition, thanks to our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies (i.e. CSIS and the RCMP), plots that could have greatly multiplied the death toll were foiled.
To date, however, we have been spared the all too regular scenes of carnage that many of our allies, not to mention nations in Asia and Africa, witness on a monthly (or even weekly or, yikes!, daily) basis.
On this day in 2016, a man was arrested after walking into a Canadian Forces recruiting office in Toronto and allegedly stabbing two Forces members.
Hence, we have not developed a solid way to prosecute individuals brought to court on terrorism charges. Yes, we have had some successful cases wherein we have obtained guilty verdicts, but we have also failed in others and terrorists have walked away. So far, so good: none of the ‘acquitted’ have gone on to do anything nasty but…
2016 Canadian Forces Toronto stagbbing
Today’s featured attack in a good example. On this day in 2016 a man was arrested after walking into a Canadian Forces recruiting office in Toronto armed with a knife and allegedly stabbing two Forces members in an incident that later bore all the hallmarks of a terrorist act. Ayanle Hassan Ali told police that he was acting on orders from “Allah” (“Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to kill people.”). He was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possessing a dangerous weapon. Terrorism charges came later.
In May 2018 Ali was acquitted of terror charges and found not criminally responsible. Judge Ian MacDonnell says his actions did not fit the intended scope of Canadian terrorism laws. The defence had successfully shown that Ali suffered from schizophrenia.
The ‘not criminally responsible’ part I get. It is the other part I don’t. The judge erred egregiously when he ruled that as there was no evidence of any connection between Ali and any other person or group in relation to the attack, Canada’s anti-terror laws were not intended for “lone wolf acts.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The Canadian Criminal Code says nothing about the need for membership in a group in the section on terrorism. It speaks of motivation (political, ideological or religious) and a serious act of violence. I have no idea where Judge MacDonnell got his interpretation from.
I do not know where all this goes next. I read where the Trudeau government wants the Justice Department to get better at terrorism prosecutions, as rare as they are.
Fingers crossed they get this done.