OTTAWA (Reuters) – The head of Canada’s national police told a parliamentary committee on Monday the government must do more to stop homegrown radicals, such as those who killed two soldiers on home soil last week, from going overseas for militant training.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said last week’s killings in Ottawa and outside Montreal, which he said appeared to be carried out with minimal planning or preparation, show the nation faces a “serious” threat.
“While we are facing this threat at home, we must focus our efforts on preventing individuals travelling abroad to commit acts of terrorism,” Paulson said. “Preventing the individuals from traveling is critical. If these individuals return with training and/or battle experience, they pose an even greater threat to Canada and our allies.”
Paulson’s remarks followed the fatal shooting on Wednesday of a Canadian soldier standing guard at an Ottawa war memorial by a man who then charged into the Parliament building. Two days earlier, another man rammed two soldiers with his car near Montreal, killing one.
“The magnitude of the threat is perhaps best characterised as serious,” Paulson told a Senate committee.
The attacks in Ottawa and outside Montreal came during a week in which Canada sent warplanes to the Middle East to take part in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Canadian officials vowed their involvement would not be influenced by the attacks.
Paulson spoke a day after the RCMP said the Ottawa gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, had made a video of himself just before the Wednesday attack, and that it contained evidence that he was driven by ideological and political motives.
“He was quite lucid and was quite purposeful in articulating the basis for his actions,” Paulson told reporters after testifying. “They were in respect broadly to Canada’s foreign policy, and also in respect to his religious beliefs.”
Lawmakers could help security agencies track suspected militants by making it easier for courts to limit suspects’ right to travel, Paulson said. Lawmakers could also make it easier for investigators to get hold of suspects’ Internet and phone records to allow monitoring of their communications, he added.