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Today in Terrorism

March 12, 1985 | Attack on Turkish Embassy in Ottawa

On this day in 1985 three well-armed men driving a rented moving truck arrived at the Turkish Embassy and proceeded to shoot dead a 31-year old security guard.

Canada is rarely cursed with terrorism but its multi-ethnic make up does allow for some groups to seek to resolve longstanding grievances.

OTTAWA, CANADA — There is little doubt that Canada more or less deserves the nickname often conferred on it: the peaceable kingdom. This is not to suggest that nothing bad ever happens in my country: quite the contrary. To illustrate that not all is sugar and spice in the land above the 49th parallel check out Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination, and Suicide.

Death in the Peaceable Kingdom

Nevertheless Canada is indeed a relatively safe country. And this extends to terrorism. As I noted in a recent podcast, we have suffered from very few successful terrorist attacks in our 153-year history (around 20, depending on how you count). 20 deaths from terrorism is a typical Monday morning in Afghanistan unfortunately.

One factor that has led to some acts of terrorism is Canada’s ethnic diversity. We are proudly a multinational country: upwards of 300,000 immigrants from the proverbial four corners of the world elect to move here every year. I too am the grandson of Eastern European grandparents.

But on occasion the trials and tribulations of conflicts ‘over there’ come to haunt us ‘over here’. That this occurs should surprise no one. Immigrants with grievances can more easily raise money and avoid state security scrutiny in Canada than in their homelands. Some turn to terrorism to make their point and target individuals or institutions associated with their homelands.

On this day in 1985 three well-armed men driving a rented moving truck arrived at the Turkish Embassy and proceeded to shoot dead a 31-year old security guard.

Today’s featured attack is one of those. On this day in 1985 three well-armed men driving a rented moving truck arrived at the gate of the Turkish Embassy located in a tony Ottawa neighbourgood and proceeded to shoot dead a 31-year old security guard. They stormed the building and took hostages: the Turkish ambassador fled by leaping out a second floor window.

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The Turkish embassy in Ottawa (photo: CBC)
‘Make Turkey pay for the 1915 Armenian genocide’

The ‘siege’ lasted a few hours before the assailants surrendered. They claimed to be members of the Armenian Revolutionary Army and had attacked the embassy to ‘make Turkey pay for the 1915 Armenian genocide’ (accusations that the Ottoman government killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians between 1914 and 1923).

When all this went down I was a very new SIGINT (signals intelligence) analyst at CSE (Communications Security Establishment) and this act of terrorism struck me as incongruous. I later learned from one of my first bosses at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which I joined from CSE in 2001) that there was real concern over Armenian extremism in Canada in the 1980s. That threat seems, at least to me, to have dissipated somewhat over time.

All in all Canada is still a ‘peaceable kingdom’, warts and all. I can think of no better place to live (although I admit to being a tad biased!).

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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