Another example of ‘if I cannot be a terrorist there I’ll be one here’ – and a good day for Canadian justice

Writing as an old spy, I have despaired of late on how the Canadian justice system has dealt with national security cases, and more specifically terrorism cases. The BC loser couple John Nuttall and Amanda Korody had their jury guilty verdict overturned twice on appeal after they placed pressure cooker bombs on the grounds of the BC Legislature in July 2013. A Montreal teen couple were acquitted of seeking to leave Canada to join Islamic State (IS) in 2015. A Toronto jury found a man not guilty on grounds of mental illness for his knife attack on a Canadian Armed Forces recruiting centre in Markham in May 2016. All bad decisions in my view, although others would argue that justice had been served.

So yesterday’s surprisingly quick verdict in the Rehab Dughmosh case was a pleasant surprise. She was the IS wannabe who went into a Canadian Tire in Scarborough back in 2017 and swung a golf club and knife at employees in a terrorist attack: thankfully no one was hurt. The jury deliberated for only an hour before finding her guilty on four counts: three weapons-related charges and a fourth tied to leaving Canada to commit an offence. The fact that Ms.Dughmosh elected to represent herself – more on this in a bit – turned out to be a bad move.

The verdict was not only correct – it was the only possible one. Ms. Dughmosh saw herself as an IS terrorist. She put on an IS ‘bandana’ and wrapped herself in an IS ‘banner’ before her attack and she clearly said ‘This is for ISIS’ while swinging a nine iron and a butcher knife. When those failed to do any damage (thank God!) she proceeded to bite one of the Canadian Tire staff.

There are several interesting aspects to this case I’d like to briefly touch on:

  • people may be surprised that a woman was behind a terrorist attack. As my friend and former CSIS colleague Jessica Davis has often said and written, women are the understated phenomenon in Islamist extremism (and you really should get her book Women in Modern Terrorism!);
  • Ms. Dughmosh is an example of the ‘if I can’t do it there I’ll do it here’ brigade. She tried to join IS, was turned back in 2016 by Turkish authorities, then decided she could support the group by carrying out an attack in Canada. Similar cases where Canadians tried, but failed, to leave the country to join jihadi groups include Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Aaron Driver. Those whose travel plans are thwarted can become even more intent to act and see Canada as the one to blame for preventing their attempts to become a terrorist ‘star’. And it takes enormous resources to identify and follow them all;
  • It appears that Ms. Dughmosh planned her attack about a year after her forced return from Turkey. She undoubtedly stewed about her failed attempt to join IS and was always intent on doing something. This demonstrates that many (most?) jihadis do not take defeat as the end of their desire to maim and kill; and
  • Ms. Dughmosh’s behaviour in court was very typical of Islamist extremists. Her refusal to enter a plea, accept a lawyer, and even recognise the authority of the court are all signs of the utter contempt jihadis have for our society and its systems. These are NOT signs of mental illness! Thank God the jury did not fall for that unfortunate – and almost always wrong – canard (in fact she was examined and it was determined she was mentally fit to stand trial).

All in all a good day for Canadian justice. Ms. Dughmosh may not have been the ‘A team’ of terrorism – most aren’t by the way – but she still could have killed people if she had gotten a little luckier. Here’s hoping the judge issues a lengthy sentence to send a message that we see terrorism and terrorists as a serious affair – even the amateur ones like Ms. Dughmosh.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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