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EDITOR'S NOTE: Scott Taylor began writing his column for The Chronicle Herald in April 2001. In that timeframe, he only failed to file once, when he was held hostage in Iraq. This column represents a milestone — his thousandth contribution to this newspaper. Thank you, Scott.
In the early hours of Thursday, July 2, there was a bizarre incident in the nation’s capital.
A pickup truck smashed through the security gates at Rideau Hall. The impact disabled the vehicle and the driver continued his intrusion on foot. The RCMP confronted the man, and after a 90-minute negotiation, 46-year-old Corey Hurren was arrested and taken into custody.
Rideau Hall is the official residence of Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette and, since 2015, Rideau cottage, located on the same grounds, has been home to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family.
Neither Payette nor the Trudeau family were at home at the time of the incident.
However, we now know that the attacker was well armed with several weapons.
The accused had intended to send a “wake-up call” to Canadians. Hurren had detailed his troubled thoughts in a two-page letter, the contents of which have subsequently been shared with the media.
In addition to personal financial issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurren felt that Canada was becoming a “communist dictatorship.”
In the letter, Hurren also apologized to his family and friends in advance for the actions he was about to take and noted that he did not want to go on living with the pain. In other words, his letter reads like the final words of a man intent on committing suicide-by-cop.
One can only bet that, had either the governor general or prime minister been on the premises and been endangered by the armed intruder, such would have been the outcome.
What makes Hurren’s case so bizarre is that he is not some run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory whack job; he is, in fact, a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Documents show that from April 1997 until October 2000, Hurren was a reservist with the 10th Field Artillery Regiment based in Regina, Sask. He had been released with the rank of corporal. Last year, Hurren re-enlisted as a member of the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. As part of the CAF effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurren was placed on active duty.
In addition to his service as a Ranger, Hurren ran a sausage business in his hometown of Bowsman, Man. It was this business which Hurren felt would not recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
While none of the weapons or ammunition found on Hurren’s possession at the time of his arrest were CAF property, he did make a point of sending a copy of his two-page letter to his Ranger supervisor prior to the intrusion at Rideau Hall.
That supervisor had the presence of mind to call 911 and was therefore able to assist the RCMP during their prolonged negotiations with the attacker prior to his arrest.
As a serving member of the CAF, Hurren would have taken an oath of loyalty to the Queen of Canada, and therefore it seems incredible that he would have pursued this desperate course of action.
It would also appear that his connection to the Canadian military and respect for the institution were in no way diminished or sullied. Arriving in Ottawa on Canada Day after a 28-hour drive from Bowsman, Hurren’s first order of business was to pay a visit to the Canadian War Museum. Unfortunately for the luckless Hurren, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt him yet another blow as the CWM has been locked down since mid-March.
While this particular incident was resolved in an anticlimactic manner, it could have ended much differently: A serving soldier on active duty assembles a small arsenal of loaded weapons and drives halfway across Canada to deliver a “wake-up call” with an attack on Rideau Hall. That is serious stuff far beyond a simple “mental health” episode.
The RCMP officers involved are to be commended for their poise and patience. I cannot imagine a similar peaceful surrender if someone crashed the gates of the White House, intent on sending a “wake-up call” to Donald Trump.