Prosecutors announced recently that Alexandre Bissonnette will go straight to trial on a slew of charges arising from his attack on a Mosque in Quebec City earlier this year. Despite killing six and wounding 19 in the brazen assault on worshippers, he is not charged with terrorism.
The announcement came on the heels of the Las Vegas massacre where 59 were killed and 527 injured. No terrorism charges there either, even though it meets the Nevada state definition.
No doubt that in both cases people were terrorized. Yet, the terrorism label is sparsely used.
Technically, because there no universally accepted definition, authorities can selectively apply it. Indeed, one person’s terrorist may be another’s criminal or freedom fighter. To many observers, the term appears to be reserved for “others.”
Stephen Paddock was not a terrorist, according to Las Vegas Sheriff, Joe Lombardo, who immediately labelled him a “local individual” and a “lone wolf.” Similarly, Bissonnette may have been “disturbed.” And of course, they were both “sick” and “demented.”
If they were Muslims, they would be “homegrown” terrorists committing “jihad” or “Islamic terrorism.” Mental health or personal issues would not have factored as much.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed, entirely or in part, for political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause that has “the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public with regard to its security.”
There are plenty of reports documenting the Laval political science student’s journey from a moderate conservative to someone with far-right sympathies and connections, though this may not satisfy strict evidentiary requirements.