MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - The attack in the Canadian capital of Ottawa “has really caused a lot of soul-searching and very intense discussion about the safety of [Canadian] politicians and … cities, as well as gun control” in a country with a “culture of safety” and low level of gun violence, Paul Tadich, Radio VR's correspondent in Canada, pointed out.
Early on Wednesday, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, a Canadian-born Islam convert with a criminal record, fatally shot Cpl Nathan Cirillo, 24, a reserve infantryman, at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, according to the Telegraph. The gunman was later killed by Kevin Vickers, the sergeant at arms, after firing shots in the country’s parliament, located nearby. Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, was present in the building at the time of the attack but was unharmed.
Two days prior to the Wednesday incident another attack took place in Quebec, near Montreal. Martin Couture-Rouleau, a 25-year old, who recently converted to Islam and was radicalized, struck two Canadian soldiers with a car, causing fatal injuries to one of them. The attacker, one of the 90 suspected Canadian extremists tracked by the police, was later killed by the police, International Business Times reported.
The brutal attacks have left the Canadian nation, not used to such incidents, in the state of shock and dismay, Tadich said. “Parliament in Ottawa has always been considered a safe place. Access by the public to the main parliament buildings is relatively unrestricted,” he explained. “Traffic is allowed to travel in very close proximity to the main parliament buildings.”
“Ottawa is known to be a very safe city, a very quiet. It is a government city. At the end of the day, at 5 p.m. people go home and that’s it for the night,” Alison Sandor, a reporter at CFRA, Ottawa's local radio news center, told Radio VR. “So this is something that is very much out of the ordinary,” she added.
“Because of the scale of the attack, because it is believed that more than one gunman is involved, it is looking more and more as some type of a coordinated attack,” Paul Tadich asserted. Alison Sandor expressed the same sentiment: “It seems too elaborate to have been somebody, who just walked up and started shooting. It seems that there may have been some sort of plan.”
Both attacks put the Muslim community of Canada into the spotlight. The country has a large Muslim population, exceeding 1 million (more than 3 percent of the population) and rapidly growing, according to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). Unlike many European countries, Canada is often perceived as a nation where multiculturalism (successful integration of foreigners into a society) works. “A suburb of Toronto, known as Brampton, has recently been profiled in many international magazines as being a very good example of integration of Muslim communities in Canada,” Tadich said. “It is one of the largest growing Muslim communities outside the Middle East,” he added.
“Generally the discussions [in connection with Muslims in Canada] have been more along the lines of civic matters rather than issues relating to terrorism,” Tadich stated. However, considering the latest events, this is likely to change. “I think there is the knowledge that Canadians have been radicalized by ISIS. We know that there are Canadian citizens that are fighting under the ISIS banner in Iraq at the moment. We are definitely going to see the discussion shift towards that topic if we do find that this attack was related to Islamic extremism,” the correspondent said.
It is believed that 30 Canadian citizens are fighting in the Middle East along the Islamic State, a radical Sunni group, controlling large swathes of Iraq and Syria, the Independent reported, citing Harper’s government. The group is also known as ISIS.
The attacks came after Canada announced that it intends to send fighter jets to assist the US-led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. Tadich doubts that the deadly incidents will affect Canada’s commitment in the Middle East. “Given Steven Harper’s rhetoric in the past about ISIS, there is no doubt that the operation will continue,” the journalist said.
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