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Two Canadian soldiers murdered. Parliament Hill terrorized. Readers, print and digital, struggle with 'why?'


Jeffrey Simpson's sensible reflections on Wednesday's murderous attack in Ottawa are seriously marred by his dismissal of a politician's earlier references to the "root causes" of terrorism, calling them "maladroit musings" and "puerile" (End Of Innocence? Only For The Innocent – Oct. 23).

Ironically, Mr. Simpson's next paragraph is, in fact, all about root causes. "It would appear," he muses, "that more young Muslims in the Arab world are being attracted by jihadi groups … because it gives them a sense of communal pride against the West and a way to fight what they believe to be Islam's foes …"

Is Mr. Simpson's brief account of the root causes essentially correct? Perhaps it is, but if so, it raises many further questions. Why do these young men find pride in attacking the West and its values rather than in championing them? Why do they regard us as Islam's foes? Are the Canadians who kill our soldiers driven by the same search for communal pride, or are their actions rooted in more personal malice or psychological imbalances?

Mr. Simpson's own musings on the roots of terrorism are welcome, as is his call for a judicial investigation into security arrangements on Parliament Hill. He and we should be encouraging more politicians, academics, and security analysts to join explorations on root causes of terrorism and to elevate them from musings into serious inquiries. As he says, militant Islam "will be with us for a very long time." The way we respond should be informed by a deeper understanding of it.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.


Solutions based on ideology that are not targeted at what is actually going wrong just temporize and mask the underlying problem, to explode another day.

If something goes wrong with your washing machine, do you attempt to fix it by trying to understand what went wrong, or by taking a hammer to the lid?

Manohar Bance, Halifax


Jeffrey Simpson's dig at Justin Trudeau was as "puerile" – to use his terminology for Mr. Trudeau – as the Conservative attack ads which took Mr. Trudeau's comments, made after the Boston Bombings in 2013, out of context.

In answer to the same question, Mr. Trudeau talked about the need to strengthen security, a proper investigation, etc. That is also what I understood from The Globe's excellent editorial (The Day After, We're Still Canada, Oct. 23). I encourage readers to see the full transcript of Mr. Trudeau's response before passing judgment.

Masud Sheikh, Oakville, Ont.


It is important to consider the possibility that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Rouleau-Couture were suffering from a psychotic illness. Each has a history of personality change and increasing paranoia that can be the hallmark of early psychosis. Delusions take on the character of the social milieu, and the current preoccupation with Islamic State would be fertile ground for some young men with these illnesses.

This gives a different picture to the notion that Canada is under threat from a terrorist organization. It may be politically expedient to create alarm to justify going to war, but this, as so many of these tragic incidents are, may well be the work of vulnerable, ill, misguided young men in combination with our impoverished psychiatric services that fail to address their psychiatric needs.

Radicalization needs a broader understanding of its psychological and psychiatric factors. We can then begin to make sense of this latest cult phenomenon, and plan for more effective interventions.

Heather Weir, psychiatrist, Toronto


Justin Trudeau was neither "puerile," nor "maladroit" in his comments after Boston. To understand is not to condone. With regard to this week's events in Ottawa, it is precisely this insight into cause that should shape our collective response.

Erna Paris, Toronto


On Sept. 11, 2001, I positioned the library TV so students in my suburban high school could see the tragic events unfolding at New York's World Trade Center. Some Muslim young men celebrated the attack. I asked them the reason for their jubilation as they watched innocent people die. They responded that the attacks were payback for pro-Israel Western imperialism, long dominate in the Middle East because of oil.

Those late-teens boys (educated in Canada) had deep grievances that were neither heard nor heeded. Since 9/11, I doubt that we have improved upon our ability to listen or alter our Mideast foreign policy as one Mideast war simply folds into another.

Brian Sambourne, Toronto


In response to Jeffrey Simpson, I would simply quote the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson: "We have to understand it, we have to understand how it evolves and we have to be prepared to do what it necessary."

Robert Graham, Claremont, Ont.


How does a lone thug become a terrorist? A man shoots and kills, and those who wish to profit from mayhem embrace him as a symbol. We can't know his "motive."

From reports so far, it seems as though the Parliament Hill shooter's fight was with demons – not democracy or the West. All that we really know at this stage is that he has joined the ranks of the cult of the self-entitled wronged.

Jennifer Ramsay, Toronto


The terrorist narrative is simply too easy, serves too many other agendas, and diverts our attention from the really serious issues, including a woefully inadequate mental-health-care system, and a failing socio-economic system that offers too little hope for a bright future to too many people. It's much easier for governments to instill a fear of "terrorists in our midst" than it is to deal with these seemingly intractable problems.

D. Philip Cameron, Regina


ON REFLECTION Letters to the editor

Markings of heroism

Re Fifteen Minutes Of Terror In The Nation's Capital (Oct. 24): The term "hero" is diminished by frequency of use.

Presence of mind and selfless action in times of danger are markings of heroism. The unarmed guard wounded while trying to wrestle a gun from an unstable man certainly qualifies.

Trish Crowe, Kingston


Heroes, each one

Re 'You Are So Loved': Lawyer Describes Efforts To Save Nathan Cirillo (Oct. 24): A soldier in Ottawa is murdered in cold blood as he stands guard. Willing to put his life on the line to protect our right to peace and democracy, he died a hero.

Seconds after the shots rang out, with the gunman still near, bystanders rush to help. No thought for their own safety. They administer CPR and speak words of loving encouragement to a dying young man. Each one at risk of being shot, they focus on saving a life. Heroes – each one of them.

Ross Reimer, Milton, Ont.


PM's 'shameful' absence

As a Canadian, I was very disappointed that our Prime Minister was completely absent from view for 10 hours during the crisis in Ottawa on Wednesday. A true leader would have managed to address the nation earlier in the day in order to offer reassurance that the situation posed no threat to our government.

His absence was shameful.

Fred Freedman, Toronto


Kudos to Mr. Harper

Canadians have made a national sport of criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper who, yes, is not perfect.

But this week, in those frightening early hours when we thought our country might be undergoing an organized terrorist attack, I took great comfort in knowing the steady hand of Mr. Harper was in charge.

There are times when being resolute and steadfast is of great value. This was such a time. Who better to have been in charge?

Mason Edwards, Fredericton

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