Was Parliament gunman a terrorist? Mulcair says 'criminal,' igniting debate
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks with the media on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday Oct. 29, 2014. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, October 29, 2014 7:08PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 29, 2014 8:00PM EDT
A debate has emerged among MPs and party leaders about whether the deadly shooting in Ottawa one week ago should be deemed an act of terrorism.
MPs held their regular weekly caucus meetings on Wednesday, one week after the Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo before storming Parliament Hill. He was killed in a shootout with security officers in the Hall of Honour, just steps from where NDP and Conservative MPs were holding their weekly caucus meetings.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was criticized Wednesday for saying that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was a criminal, not a terrorist.
"I don't think we have enough evidence to use that word," Mulcair said. "When you look at the history of the individual involved, you see a criminal act, of course. But . . . I think that we're not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it."
Conservative MP Peter Kent called Mulcair’s comment “ridiculous.”
"It was clearly an act of terror (based on) his background and motivation. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's remarks about his motivation I think are very clear," Kent said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also said the RCMP has made it “clear” that the attack was an act of terrorism.
NDP MP Jinny Sims said that she is prepared to let the RCMP investigation into Zehaf-Bibeau run its course.
“They are the experts and right now I don’t want to jump to too many conclusions,” Sims said on CTV’s Power Play.
Though she called the shooter’s actions “unacceptable” regardless of the motivation, Sims said that many reports pointed to Zehaf-Bibeau as a “person who is very mentally disturbed, a person who tried to get help, but it wasn’t made available to him.”
Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said on Power Play that he stands behind the terrorist act label, both in the case of Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, who struck two soldiers with his car in a Quebec town on Oct. 20, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in what is believed to be a targeted attack.
“Warrant Officer Vincent and Nathan Cirillo weren’t attacked for who they were, they were attacked for what their uniform represented, so inherently that’s terrorism,” O’Toole said.
The RCMP has called the shootings in Ottawa a terrorist act. On Sunday, they issued a statement saying that Zehaf-Bibeau had recorded a video prior to the attack on Parliament Hill, and that they had identified “persuasive evidence” that shows his attack was “driven by ideological and political motives.”
Liberal MP Sean Casey, a lawyer by profession, said that the terrorism label would hold up in a court of law.
“Quite simply, the RCMP has said that he’s a terrorist or that was this was an act of terrorism,” Casey said. “We trust their judgement, so at a political level I don’t think it needs to go further than that.”