George Petrolekas is on the Board of Directors of the CDA Institute and co-author of the 2013 and 2014 Strategic Outlook for Canada. Mr. Petrolekas served with NATO, in Bosnia, and Afghanistan and as an advisor to senior NATO commanders.
Islamic States's new video, featuring former Ottawa student John Maguire, otherwise known as Abu Anwar al Canadi, should come as no surprise.
Seeking media advantage is what IS does, and effectively.
IS (also known as ISIS and ISIL) called for acts against several countries, including Canada, which spurred actual or apprehended attacks in the past. In part, it led to Canada's participation in the coalition battling the Islamic State.
In recounting his upbringing, of hockey rinks, guitar playing or scholastic achievement, al Canadi sought to say, "If I could do this and be a fighter, you can too."
It was a call to the confused, the disenfranchised and the rudderless that if someone who could be your neighbour could become a jihadi, so could anyone else without having to travel to Syria.
He was opening the floodgate of fantasy and possibilities within the mind, a place where security services cannot reach.
What was once done by leaflets, posters, and graffiti in the dark of night, is done by social media in the light of day.
In response, many solutions have dominated the airwaves: tighter controls on the internet; new powers for security services; better community policing; and active involvement by families and the Muslim community. And yet, many of these things are already happening even though they are not well known or publicized.
The attacker who ran down Patrice Vincent had been identified by his family, the police and his mosque. A 15-year-old charged with a terrorist related offence because he robbed a store to finance his ticket to Syria was turned in by his father. Not everyone will be identified or stopped.
Nevertheless, there is a Kafkaesque quality to the reaction of some akin to McCarthyism's fear of a red under every bed. We were wise to turn away from that then and should do so again. Most Canadians will accept a reasonable reaction from security forces, but not to the point that we resemble a police state – that is not who we are.
Violent attacks against society have existed for decades. Anarchists, from 1910 on bombed the U.S. Stock Exchange and schools. Bolshevik revolts in the 1918 period were felt in Western Europe and the United States. Remember the Unabomber or the Branch Davidians – or the actions of the IRA? This is not a new phenomenon.
In Canada, such acts have been a reality since the founding of our country where Lincoln's assassin had a Canadian bank draft in his possession.
Between 1966 and 1980, Cuban interests in Canada were bombed no less than 10 times. Sikh extremists conducted assassinations or bombings six times, the worst being the Air India bombing that killed 328. The FLQ planted multiple bombs or kidnapped people. The list includes the apprehended Toronto 18, and unsolved bombings such as Canadian Pacific flight 21, which killed 52.
Terrorists, bombers, anarchists, revolutionaries, freedom fighters, whatever the appellation – have been with us for decades. The use of a homemade bomb – or other means, to "transmit a message" or to target others for political reasons, has been a function of life since gunpowder was invented and Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the UK Parliament.
None of these acts of violence have presented a strategic danger to us, or our way of life. In and of themselves terrorists only have traction in locales where governance and social cohesion is weak. That is not Canada.
Acts which overthrow or intimidate governments only succeed in the context of wider social upheaval.
Canadians are more likely to be affected by the flu, drunk drivers or cancer than anything a radicalized individual might do, though the latter garners headlines. And so, our reaction should be commensurate to the menace radicals represent.
In Canada, with a well-developed system of governance and the primacy of the rule of law – unlike where IS has taken hold – such videos represent a minimal threat to us. We live in a nation that overwhelmingly rejects such acts – they are truly outliers and should treat them as such.
Will there be other al Canadi's or Rouleaus or Bibeau's – most certainly. Nor will they all be stopped. But their effect will not alter who we are.
In the aftermath of the Ottawa attack – our government met the next day, with all political parties united, regardless of their divisions in the House of Commons. We resisted a closing of our Parliament while honouring the victims and those that reacted on our behalf.
We are stronger than any video IS can produce.