Aaron Driver's death reignites debate over peace bonds
After the death of Aaron Driver, Canadians are debating whether peace bonds and changes to the Anti-Terrorism Act known as Bill C-51 are the right tools to prevent home-grown extremism.
Driver died in a confrontation with police Wednesday in Strathroy, Ont., after a tip from the FBI.
Driver had been placed on a peace bond in February at the request of the RCMP, but the restrictions on his civil liberties were not enough to stop him from making bombs and planning a terror attack.
The peace bond restricted Driver’s freedoms after a judge agreed there were reasonable grounds to fear that Driver would "participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, the activity of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity."
Driver had repeatedly supported ISIS on social media, was in contact with members of ISIS overseas, and had a recipe for homemade bombs on his computer when police raided his Winnipeg home in June 2015. He moved to Strathroy a few months later.
Under the terms of his peace bond, Driver was prohibited from using a computer or cellphone and was required to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet -- conditions that would have ended in late August.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Thursday that although peace bonds can be beneficial, there is “no perfect tool.”
“The peace bonds typically say, ‘You can't do this and you can't do that and you can’t do this other thing,’” Goodale told reporters in Regina.
“That raises the question then, with those negative influences taken away, what is the positive influence that you try and inject in that person’s circumstances and living conditions that would have a moderating influence?”
“What the peace bonds do not provide, at this stage, is an interconnection with some kind of intervenor who can make a difference in that person’s behaviour,” Goodale went on.
Goodale said the government’s promised Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator will help overcome this shortcoming.
Nawaz Tahir, a spokesperson for the London Muslim Mosque that Driver had attended in recent months, told CTV News Channel Thursday that the community had tried “to engage him.”
He said the community tried to “keep him in touch with people who could … teach him about the true meaning of Islam, the peaceful way of Islam.”
Driver’s father, Wayne Driver, told CTV News that he reached out to a mosque in Winnipeg last year requesting help, but a counsellor there was also unable to de-radicalize his son.
Goodale was asked whether recent incidents like Driver’s plot will change the Liberals’ position that they will repeal and replace the Conservative 2015 changes to the Anti-Terrorism Act, known as Bill C-51.
He said the Liberals remain committed to make changes that allow “police and security agencies (to be) effective in keeping Canadians safe” and safeguard “Canadian values, our rights and freedoms and the open democratic nature of our country.”
Bill C-51 has come under fire from civil liberty groups for making it easier for police to get peace bonds and for lengthening the amount of time someone can be held without being charge.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group states that “C-51 substantially broadens the state’s ability to control an individual’s liberty without any criminal charge or conviction, and with minimal evidence of any criminal plan or intention by lowering the threshold for a preventive arrest from ‘will commit’ a crime to ‘may commit’ a crime.”
Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo terrorism export who interviewed Driver when RCMP sought a peace bond, told CTV News Channel he suspects the peace bond may have made things worse.
“I suspect the peace bond caused him to feel cut off from support … so ironically in isolation he might have been drawn back to jihad to give purpose to his life,” he said Thursday.
Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said that although C-51 was portrayed as “ominous” before last year’s election, he believes it offers “balance between allowing the free society we all enjoy and security provisions” and says there is “court monitoring of all of them.”
“What concerns me is the Liberal government that voted for C-51 but then promises to amend it,” he said. “The minister yesterday said he’s going to amend it but he hasn’t mentioned what,” O’Toole went on.
“Law enforcement are using these tools in some cases averting attacks at the 11th hour,” O’Toole added. “So they’ve got to start being honest with Canadians about public safety.”
With a report from CTV News Parliament Hill Correspondent Glen McGregor