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opinion

Last December, an Edmonton man took his own life after killing eight people. It was the city's worst mass murder.

In Halifax recently, police acting on a tip arrested two people (another killed himself before he could be apprehended) who seemed intent on killing whomever they could at a shopping mall. One had flown in from the United States for the assault. Had they succeeded, the carnage would have been terrible. They seemingly had no agenda other than killing.

In 2006, eight men associated with a motorcycle club were found murdered on an Ontario farm. In 1989, Marc Lépine murdered 14 women and wounded another 10 women and four men at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.

In 1985, a bomb exploded on an Air-India plane over the Atlantic after departing Montreal. It killed all 329 people on board. In 1996, Mark Chahal slayed his estranged wife and eight other people in Vernon, B.C., then killed himself.

And can we ever forget serial killers Robert Pickton and Paul Bernardo?

In the United States, remember the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the Columbine school massacre, various mass killings by deranged or ideologically motivated people with weapons, cult pacts and the regular drumbeat of murders in troubled parts of certain U.S. cities.

What's the point of remembering these grisly events? To recall that none of them had anything to do with Islamic terrorism. Put another way, with the huge exception of the 9/11 attacks, more North Americans have been killed by far in mass killings by the mentally erratic or those with fringe causes than fanatical Islam.

Wackos and psychopaths and organized crime have always been with us, but global jihadi terror has only arrived in the past couple of decades, linked by the Internet, mass communications and the worming of murderous militancy and chiliasm into fragments of Islam.

We do not know, we cannot know, how many jihadi plots have been disrupted, because police and intelligence officials rightly wish to keep aspects of their work secret to protect sources.

We likely underestimate the number and seriousness of threats based on what is publicly known, such as in last fall's murders of two Canadian soldiers, the plot to blow up a Via Rail train, and the man apprehended at the Canada-U.S. border who intended to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.

Obviously, no government of any political stripe can ignore this threat, especially not when a few young people in Canada (not all of them Muslims) get transfixed by jihadi terror and want to be part of the action, either here or abroad.

But some perspective is in order, given that the threats to Canadians at home, as the record shows, can come from many sources. So if, as the commissioner of the RCMP had argued, he has to redeploy hundreds of officers to beef up the "war on terror," he will have fewer officers to deal with other threats. Organized crime must be delighted.

That is, unless the commissioner gets more resources from this "tough on crime" government. The RCMP has actually been losing resources in recent years; a glance at the force's budgets points to this gap between rhetoric and reality, so often observed in Ottawa today.

Full-time equivalent positions in the force dropped from 2012 to 2015. The international policy operations budget fell from $79-million to $59-million. The police operations budget declined. So did the RCMP's overall budget. In some public documents, the government bragged about the "savings."

All terror, all the time distorts the threats facing Canada. A better approach, although one with less political appeal, would view jihadi terror as one threat among many, an approach that would require more resources, balance and nonpartisanship, since the country's internal security belongs to no single party.

In Britain's Parliament, intelligence matters are considered to be strictly nonpartisan and are not politicized. Could we not learn from a country that has suffered more from terror – think of the bad old Irish Republican Army days, long before jihadi terror – than Canada?