Aaron Driver was put under a peace bond. Then what?
It is the question that surprises from the case of the Islamic State sympathizer in Strathroy, Ont. Police not only knew who he was, and his terror connections, they had taken steps against him: For more than a year, he was under a court-ordered peace bond restricting his movements and activities.
But he wasn't under surveillance.
The RCMP, Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana said flatly at a press conference, don't have the resources to watch every potential terror threat around the clock. Local police would sometimes drive by his house. When Aaron Driver moved to plan a bombing, it was the FBI in the United States who provided the tip.
The problem isn't that peace bonds are useless. It's that they're limited. Over the past decade, police have increasingly made them an anti-terror tool.
But Mr. Driver's case suggests a need for two things that should go with them – resources for police surveillance, and counterradicalization programs.
Peace bonds are a bit like bail, applied to everyday criminals and terror suspects under similar sections of the Criminal Code to impose restrictions on the movement and activities of someone who might be dangerous. In Mr. Driver's case, he wasn't allowed to go online or have contact with explosives, for example.
Peace bonds can serve as a kind of yellow light, allowing police to arrest someone if they learn the person has broken conditions – but by themselves, they won't stop a determined plotter.
Peace bonds don't mean – probably to the surprise of many Canadians – that a close watch is being kept. The RCMP tries to predict who is more likely to turn violent, and keeps close tabs only on some.
And there is little done in Canada, according to experts, to try to deradicalize those people who are under peace bonds – unlike many other countries.
Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo expert on radicalization who interviewed Mr. Driver during his peace-bond hearings, thinks it's possible that peace-bond conditions are what triggered Mr. Driver's move from extremist views to acts of violence.
"Being a jihadist was a really important way of organizing his identity. He'd had a pretty troublesome and chaotic life, and clearly was a rather fragile individual in some regards," Prof Dawson said.
"And when he converted to Islam, and then talked himself into a more extreme view, he, for whatever reasons, he felt he'd found it. He'd found the thing that would give his life meaning and purpose, order, structure, rigour. … If nothing else, it became his crutch."
The peace-bond conditions cut him off from anyone who shared that view, but there was nothing put in its place, like counselling.
Though his plan was thwarted, it will renew the political discussion about countering terrorism.
On Thursday, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose argued it showed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should backtrack on his plans to repeal parts of the Conservative anti-terror law, Bill C-51, while Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale argued promised amendments will go ahead.
But this is now one in a string of incidents of so-called lone wolves who essentially radicalized themselves over the Internet.
Martin Couture-Rouleau, the 25-year-old who killed a soldier in Quebec two days before the Parliament Hill shooting, had been identified as an extremist, too. The questions around surveillance and counterradicalization programs keep recurring.
The fact that the U.S. tipped the RCMP to the actions of one of their known "suspects" was touted as an example of co-operation Thursday, but it's a sign the RCMP underestimated the threat Mr. Driver posed, or is sorely lacking in surveillance resources.
Experts such as Prof. Dawson say it's not easy to tell who will turn from extremist views to violent act. But it suggests the RCMP needs resources to keep a few more on watch.
And there's a clear problem in the lack of programs for those we know are "radicalized." Mr. Dawson noted that 10 Canadians, nine of them minors, were arrested last year while trying to fly abroad to join IS – he wonders whether anything is being done to try to reach them.
Mr. Goodale noted the Liberals have allotted money for a new centre on radicalization, but it hasn't opened yet. That, at least, will be an overdue start.
The peace bond, in Aaron Driver's case, was a tool for parking a potential threat. But then there wasn't much more.