In the wake of last week’s killings of military servicepeople in two separate incidents on Canadian soil, it would take some event or series of events of unparalleled severity for a word other than the term “radicalized” to be named Canada’s most important new word of the year. From being virtually non-existent in the mainstream media a few weeks ago to featuring prominently in lead-off paragraphs of countless news articles, the word has now become part of our day-to-day lexicon.
And discussion has begun in Parliament about how most effectively to assist police and Canada’s intelligence services in locating and restricting the activities of those who have become so-called “radicalized.”
Commentaries about last week’s attacks — particularly the shooting of a reservist at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, but also the running-down of a 53 year-old Warrant Officer in a Montreal-area parking lot — consistently concluded that Canada has changed. And it has. As Journal Argus columnist and former Ottawa resident Andrea Macko so accurately points out in this week’s edition, “Our pride in the safety and openness of our country and its institutions has been shaken.”
Measures to protect the safety of those inside Parliament may be relatively simple to achieve. But when it comes to avoiding future atrocities by “radicalized” individuals, the problem may be that, though things change, things also stay the same.
Canada may have changed as a result of the attack on Parliament that followed the gunning down of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. But, despite the crossing-the-floor Prime Ministerial hugs and similarly-themed expressions of grief and gratitude by all three federal party leaders in the wake of last Wednesday’s events, it may not be so certain that Parliament has changed.
There are differing views on how to react to the “radicalized.” Overseas Islamic militant groups have been targetted in an effort to strike at what some western political leaders believe to be the source of threat. Some want recent converts to Islam to be monitored; if suspicious activities or communications are detected, it’s suggested they should be detained.
Police and intelligence service representatives have told Canadians it’s too difficult to keep track of all possibilities. But in the case of both recent military murders, the rights of the suspects — in the form of withheld passports — have been restricted. Given enough resources, many possible offenders COULD be detained.
Other Parliamentarians will argue that the source of the threat lies, to a much greater degree, in disaffected young Canadians or at-risk individuals suffering from a combination of mental health conditions and other challenges. Simply restricting their rights, it will be argued, won’t eliminate the risk.
With a Parliament that has, over the years of Prime Minister Harper’s rule, become increasingly polarized, it’s difficult to see how these disperse points of view can be rationalized into one effective strategy. It will be a failure of Canadians if a strong, effective strategy doesn’t arise from last Wednesday’s dramatic events. But it won’t be a surprise.