An ugly side to Canada that does nothing to make us safer

This piece appeared in The Hill Times on August 6, 2018

Well, it has been a week since the mass shooting in Toronto’s Greektown and we have been subject to countless voices in the media as to what happened, what could have been done (if anything) to prevent it, and what it all means to Canada and Canadians.  In all honesty, I was one of those voices, having delivered a variety of interviews to radio, TV and print media.  Some of my colleagues in the national security space also chimed in, as well as some people I have never heard of. This is not to imply that these ‘newbies’ had nothing of interest to say but it does lead to the question of who is considered an ‘expert’ and why.

A part of this response was the usual ‘how tragic’ and a call for support for the communities affected (in truth all events of this nature are tragic but the death of a ten-year old girl in this shooting spree was particularly awful)  Then came the hand-wringing over guns and easy access to them, followed by the ‘we need more money devoted to mental health’ parade.  Both of which are true but it is far from clear that more attention to either problem would have stopped the gunman from carrying out his action.

And then, once it was announced that the perpetrator was a Muslim came the ‘he was a terrorist!’ chorus.  This reaction is so predictable as to be banal: all it takes is for a criminal to have a Middle Eastern-sounding name and he suddenly is transformed into the Canadian equivalent of Usama bin Laden.  When one unconfirmed source stated that Faisal Hussain – the shooter – liked/visited/posted to Web pages linked to Islamic State, they case was over: of course there was a terrorism link!

But one week later we have the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, saying repeatedly that there is no ‘national security nexus’ to the case.  Translation: the killer was either not known to CSIS or the RCMP in connection with terrorism or, if he had been, he was assessed as not a significant threat to public safety.  Even this is not enough for the hoi polloi who smell a cover up or simply conclude that the Trudeau government is ‘soft on terror’.

I have no idea what Web sites Mr. Hussain visited and I bet you don’t either.  As for the ‘unnamed police source’ cited by some media, who is this guy?  If he is RCMP he is talking out of turn: if he is local police there is little likelihood that he knows anything about Mr. Hussain’s browsing habits as national security files are not the purview of local police.

There were two things that bothered me especially in the morass of press and public reaction to the events of July 22  The first was the series of posts and articles by The Rebel’s Ezra Levant that there was a massive conspiracy afoot between the family of Mr. Hussain and a CBC reporter, whose name suggests she may be Muslim, to hide the obvious terrorist connections to this attack. The second was a cowardly attack by a 50-year old man in a red Hawaiian shirt who yelled at and threatened a Muslim family waiting to board a ferry at the Toronto waterfront.  When the family asked him to stop he allegedly screamed “You don’t tell me what to do in my province.  You don’t ask me a f–king question.  It’s my f–king province.”

I do not know if the latter outburst was tied to the shootings on The Danforth: I do know that Mr. Levant’s weird theories were.  In the end they are both unhelpful and, I would add, unCanadian.  Yes, we need to address the very real threat of terrorism in this country.  It does occur but it does occur rarely.  That is a fact.

In closing, the American racist commentator Ann Coulter famously said “Not all terrorists are Muslims but all Muslims are terrorists”.  This is a profoundly ignorant and insipid remark but at least it was said by an American.   This kind of ignorance we do not need in Canada.

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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