Guest opinion by Garth Staples
I am not amused by the political posturing of NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and third party Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Their obvious attempts to muddy the definition of terrorist and terrorism is obvious. The classical interpretation of the word terrorist is a person or group who commit acts of violence against a civil power. They are often groups or persons with political or religious ideologies. To imply that terrorists are all criminals or suffer mental illness is a bold statement that really doesn’t hold water. To suggest that 40,000 ISIS members in Iraq are mentally ill would be difficult to prove in a Canadian court.
In 1866 the Irish-American-Fenian Brotherhood with political and religious ideologies and a hatred for the British hatched an attack on Canada. It was led by a retired American General. American government officials turned a blind eye. After crossing the border an attack was launched at Ridgeway, Ontario, near Fort Erie. The British Redcoats were far from the area so a newly minted, untrained and ill-equipped Canadian militia, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was rushed via the railroad to the scene.
Was this attack against the civil power (Canadian government) a terrorist attack by criminals and the mentally ill?
In 1868 Canadian MP Darcy McGee from Montreal, a Father of Confederation, was assassinated one late evening on his way from Parliament to his house in Ottawa. Was the assailant of Irish descent in his attack on the civil power a terrorist, criminal or mentally ill?
In 1970 the FLQ, a brotherhood in Quebec, carried out 166 acts of violence in an attempt to disrupt the civil power in its responsibility to provide peace, order and good government. The culmination was the kidnapping of the British Counsel in Montreal and the murder of a Quebec cabinet minister. The then Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called in the Canadian Armed forces via the War Measures Act to protect the civil power. Soldiers with weapons on the ready were in the streets. Were members of the FLQ (some fled to Cuba) criminals, mentally ill or terrorists?
A few years ago in Toronto, 18 people, some of whom were young boys and Islamic extremists, were arrested for plotting against the civil power. Were they terrorists, criminals or mentally ill?
Two weeks ago two young men with ties to Middle East militants attacked and killed two members of the Canadian Army who were tasked to provide aid to the civil power. These young men had become radicalized Islamists according to all reports. Was this attack on soldiers, thus the civil power, an act of terrorism or that by criminals and the mentally ill?
The RCMP and the Government of Canada have deemed it an attack on the civil power. So have the majority of Canadians. These acts of violence against our military and Parliament require more action than a debate about semantics.
Garth E. Staples of Charlottetown is a former deputy minister in the P.E.I. government.