What now – ecoterrorism??

It has been a busy – and rough – time for agencies engaged in counter terrorism of late. We have been focused on Islamist extremism for so long now – and for reasons that have been 100% justified as I have written on many, many occasions – that those agencies have been accused of not doing enough to identify and neutralise the far right-cum-white supremacist-cum-neo-Nazi-cum-anti-immigrant crowd. And as I have tried to argue on many, many occasions it is not as simple as taking resources away from the former and putting them on the latter. We have to do it all and do it all simultaneously. Each threat is serious in itself and requires resources.

Now we have an incident in BC that may, and I really stress MAY, be an example of what has been called environmental or eco-terrorism. The RCMP is reporting that the Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish has been sabotaged by someone (or someones) who cut the wires, causing the cars to crash to the ground. Damage is assessed at $1 million, not to mention future lost revenue, and 200 workers, some of them seasonal, are out of a job.

We have no idea yet who cut the cables. All I know is that they probably did not cut themselves. Maybe it was an asshole who likes to vandalise things. Maybe it was a lone ‘crusader’ who wants to deliver a message about what happens to those who ‘damage’ the environment. Maybe it is someone part of a larger movement and this may be the tip of the iceberg in terms of these kinds of attacks. It is not as if we have never seen analogous events in the past before.

The bottom line is we don’t know yet and may never know. My understanding is that the RCMP is planning to have a press conference later (I later learned that they were not going to do that) to share what they have learned. As I have been pleading with my readership for some time, can we please wait until we actually have some data before pronouncing anything? Please?

If it is in fact an act of eco vandalism would it qualify as ‘terrorism’? Normally we associate terrorism with serious violence against people for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause and involves death or serious injuries. But in addition to death or serious bodily harm or a serious risk to the health or safety of the public the Canadian Criminal Code does state that terrorist activity:

  • causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property or…
  • causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private…

So in theory yes a terrorism charge is possible but these latter two clauses do say that a threat of bodily harm also has to be there. One might think that by carrying out the vandalism at 4 AM the actors wanted to minimise any harm to anyone, but how did he/they know there were no maintenance workers on the site or campers nearby? Serious injury or death may in fact still have been possible.

We will have to wait and see. Stay tuned. If this is indeed a terrorist act things could get interesting. Is it the first salvo in a new campaign? If so, I don’t know where our protectors will get the resources to monitor and disrupt it.

Let’s hope it is just some wanker who likes to wreck shit.

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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