Hurry up culture does not help understand terrorism or acts of mass violence

The reason for the cowardly attack in London (ON) on June 6 is yet to be determined; calling it terrorism prematurely is not helpful

We are an impatient lot, aren’t we?

Wait in line for a coffee? No way! Watch a Netflix episode all the way to the end? Never! Listen to a whole podcast before jumping to conclusions? Are you kidding me??

It has not even been 48 hours since a 20-year old London (ON) deliberately (it appears) ran over a family out for an evening walk in my hometown, killing four and injuring one. The man targeted Muslims, according to police, and this act is thus seen so far as a possible hate crime. Some are calling vehemently for it to be labelled an act of terrorism, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already done.

Hold the phone.

In the absence of a full, publicly available confession or a detailed manifesto written by the perpetrator, there is no way on heaven or earth that ANYONE, with the possible exception of the law enforcement team charged with carrying out the investigation, can know this. Not yet.

Phil Gurski joins CBC’s Ginella Massa to discuss the latest news about the Muslim family killed in targeted hit and run in London, Ontario.

When it comes to the terrorism statement let’s go back to first principles. Terrorism is succinctly defined in Canadian law as:

an act that is committed
  • (A) in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and
  • (B) in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public
that intentionally
  • (A) causes death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence,
  • (B) endangers a person’s life

and so on.

All we know at this juncture is that four people are dead. We do NOT know the motivation behind the killer nor his intent. Was he inspired by an ideology? We don’t know. Did he intend to intimidate the public? We don’t know. There is so much we do NOT know that any definitive pronouncement is speculative at best and harmful at worst.

Phil Gurski unpacks murder, hate crime and terrorism under Canadian law as he discusses this cowardly act of violence.
Investigations take time

The bottom line is that we have to allow law enforcement agencies and their partners the required time to do their jobs, i.e. gather evidence that sheds light on this horrific, cowardly act. Investigations take time. We don’t like that. We want answers and we want them NOW!

Already there are those comparing what happened on Sunday to what happened in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. And to Canada’s residential schools system (the latest discovery of mass graves at one such school is heartrending). And to Canada as an inherently racist, intolerant country.

All without a speck of evidence.

Someone wrote to me that the perpetrator’s name looks Dutch and, as such, he is tied to Dutch Christians in Canada who all follow Ezra Levant and believe in the Great Replacement Theory.

All without a speck of evidence

Some say it all smacks of right wing extremism and that the government of Canada was right to list the Proud Boys as a terrorist group since these guys are at the root of all this (despite my finding that security agencies were pressured to list this bunch in the absence of any actual data).

All without a speck of evidence

Here is what we DO know. Four people are dead and a fifth was gravely wounded. Police believe the act was premeditated and that the victims were not chosen at random. This suggests strongly a first degree murder charge and perhaps a hate crime one as well. Nothing to date supports the terrorism allegation.


I beg you to be patient. Let the facts get gathered before you make up your minds. Five years ago a Muslim shot up Danforth Street in Toronto, killing two, and EVERYONE yelled ‘terrorism’! (probably because the shooter was Muslim). A subsequent one-year investigation failed to turn up a motive – ergo no terrorism found.


Look, there are problems that need fixing in Canada, and racism is one of them. Was this act that of a racist? Perhaps. Maybe we will make that determination. Before then, keep your theories and your cocksure attitude to yourself.

Phil Gurski tells Rob Snow not enough information is available yet to say with certainty the allegedly hate-motivated London vehicle attack was an act of terrorism.
That includes you PM Trudeau

As of this point there are many, many possibilities to describe what happened, including:

  • a random act of violence;
  • an anti-Muslim attack;
  • an anti-immigrant attack;
  • a mass killing by someone seeking attention;
  • the act of a mentally disturbed individual;
  • an act of terrorism.

Until we learn more, all these are on the table. Best to remember that.

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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