Last year in Canada, 381,000 people were victims of a violent crime. That included 604 murders, 774 attempted murders and 219,000 assaults. According to Statistics Canada, there were also 1,154,000 crimes against property, including more than 159,000 break and enters, nearly 79,000 motor vehicle thefts, and 72,000 cases of impaired driving.
In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1,834 Canadians died in car accidents. Nearly 150,000 were injured. Among those killed by cars were 35 people riding their bicycles, and 288 people who decided to go for a walk. Car accidents also killed 17 babies and toddlers.
How many people were killed by terrorists in Canada last year?
According to the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database, over the past two decades, Canada has had between five and zero terrorist incidents per year. In 2015, the database recorded five individual acts of terrorism in Canada. They resulted in two injuries and no deaths.
In May, a juice bar in Montreal's St-Henri neighbourhood was attacked by a group of people armed with pepper spray and smoke bombs. The assailants were wearing black clothing and masks and appeared to be connected to protests against gentrification. One person was injured.
In June, incendiary devices damaged two trucks belong to Harland Laboratories in Mississauga, Ont. The company supplies animals for laboratory research. The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the incident. No one was injured.
In August, an explosive device set off a small fire at a water treatment plant in Barrie, Ont. A second unexploded device was also found. No group claimed responsibility. There were no injuries.
In November, somebody set a fire at the Al-Salaam mosque in Peterborough, Ont., causing $80,000 in damage. Nobody claimed responsibility and there were no injuries.
Also in November, a woman wearing a hijab was assaulted by two men in Toronto, as she walked to pick up her child from school. She appeared to have been targeted because she is Muslim.
Even giving the term "terrorism" the broadest meaning possible, as the Global Terrorism Database does, it says Canada experienced just five terrorist attacks in 2015. And though each incident on their list is likely criminal, each stretches the definition of terrorism. When Canadians worry about terror attacks, these are not what they have in mind. By any reasonable count, the number of terrorist attacks in Canada in 2015 was zero, or close to zero.
If you go out for a stroll this evening, it is highly unlikely that you will be run over by a car. But your slim odds of ending up dead under the wheels of a motor vehicle have for many years been far, far higher than your odds of becoming the victim of a terrorist attack. There's no guarantee these odds won't change. As the mutual fund industry disclaimer goes, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. But so far, terrorist incidents in Canada have remained extremely rare.
It's worth keeping that in mind, as Canadians consider whether there should be legal, policing and policy changes, in response to the attack the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intercepted and stopped on Thursday. The intended perpetrator, Aaron Driver, was well-known by police. He had been placed under a peace bond precisely because of the belief that he might be a ticking time bomb. And yet on Thursday, the police say he nearly carried out precisely the type of attack that got the authorities interested in him.
Mr. Driver was identified as a threat, but it appears that nothing else was done. He was not given round-the-clock surveillance – the RCMP said on Thursday it does not have the resources to monitor every potential criminal. He was also not given counselling. No attempt was made to de-radicalize him – to try to defuse the ticking bomb in his brain. If there are to be more resources put into policing terrorism in Canada, one of the first steps should be moving from identifying potential threats, to attempting to change the minds and lives of those identified.
There will also surely be calls to change the law to give the government greater powers of preventive detention. This will not be an easy decision for Canadians – because there are no pat answers. It's a question of balance and proportionality.
A person in Canada willing to carry out a terror attack in the name of IS is an exceedingly rare thing, like a needle in a haystack with 35 million pieces of benign straw. It's going to be very difficult to entirely eliminate the possibility of a terrorist attack, particularly without infringing on some fundamental civil and legal rights. We must honestly take the measure of the danger, keeping our response proportionate to its nature and scope.
Radical Islamist terrorism, whose few attacks in Canada have been carried out by home-grown jihadis knowing little or nothing about Islam, is a threat to the life and security of individual Canadians. But the IS-inspired terrorism virus is not an existential threat to the existence of Canada. We have faced greater threats – Nazism, Soviet communism – and overcome them without losing our civil liberties.
In the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union and the communist ideology were potentially mortal threats to Canada and the West. Stalin was a madman who had murdered millions and enslaved hundreds of millions, yet he had many willing dupes in the West.
In facing this danger, there were mistakes and excesses, as there have been in the war on terror. There were Red scares and blacklists and McCarthyism. But we succeeded against the threat from without, the threat from within, and our own threat of overreaction. We won, and we did it without allowing our fear to lead us to sell out our values. That's the balance we must continue to strive for as we face and defeat the few – the very few – Aaron Drivers among us.