A lengthy trial which began Monday will provide a window into what is likely to be one of the top issues in Canada this year – homegrown terrorism.
John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, who lived in Surrey, are charged with making or possessing an explosive device, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and knowingly facilitating terrorist activity. The charges relate to homemade pressure-cooker bombs which were planted outside the B.C. legislature on July 1, 2013. They were to go off and kill or injure people celebrating Canada Day.
The trial, which is expected to last about 18 weeks, is occurring at the same time a trial in Ontario is getting underway. That involves two men who planned to damage a railway bridge as a Via Rail passenger train was passing by. According to prosecutors, they wanted there to be significant casualties from the destruction. Court in Toronto heard they were allegedly motivated by Muslim extremism.
Nuttall and Korody were allegedly also motivated by Islamic extremism . However, Nuttall’s mother said outside court on Monday that the pair were incapable of committing any terrorist acts.
Their guilt or innocence will be determined by the jury.
On Friday, the federal government announced it would bring in legislation to give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to monitor Canadian residents whom it believes may be susceptible to influence from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. The proposed new powers are already proving controversial, with a number of civil liberties groups speaking against allowing the agency more power without more outside oversight.
The tragic incidents of last fall, in particular the running down of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Quebec, had links to the radical view of Islam being trumpeted by ISIS, and brought homegrown terrorism into sharp focus for many Canadians. The attacks on Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and on Parliament may have been the act of a mentally ill man, but ISIS was quick to praise them and call for more attacks on Canadians.
The incidents which are now subjects of the two trials had not brought the issue to the forefront, likely because neither of them was successful.
The federal government is also under some pressure in Parliament over the role played by Canadian troops in Iraq, but to most Canadians, the parliamentary debates are merely splitting hairs. They recognize quite instinctively that there are people who do not like the way of life we have in Canada. When they find out that some of them are Canadian citizens who have grown up here, but would now rather be in Syria or Iraq killing civilians and taking part in horrible brutalities, they are quite ready to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
As this is an election year, this topic will likely be top of mind for most of 2015. The two trials and the ongoing brutality of ISIS ensure that the issue will stay on the front burner.
Canadians need to be aware that, in an era where it is just as easy to send a message to someone on the other side of the world as it is to speak to someone in the next room, there are some young people who are at risk of being caught up in an inexplicable enthusiasm for terrorism.
This issue will be with us for some time. It has nothing to do with the election, but politicians will bring it into the equation. However, it does have a great deal to do with our way of life, with the actions our military are called to undertake and with the peace and stability that we in Canada cherish – and far too often take for granted.
Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.