OTTAWA - Opposition parties are questioning the way Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled information on the attack on two soldiers in Quebec and why security forces didn’t do more to deal with “radicalized” Martin Couture-Rouleau.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Harper on Monday took everyone by surprise — including police in Quebec — when he revealed in the Commons the government was monitoring “extremely troubling” reports of a possible terror attack in Quebec. The way Harper unveiled the information — in response to a planted Conservative MP’s question — smacked of political partisanship, Mulcair suggested.
But Harper dismissed the question, saying, “I informed the House of these tragic events as soon I learned of the situation.”
Couture-Rouleau, who recently embraced jihadist thinking after converting to Islam, died after being shot by police in the wake of his hit-and-run car attack on two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. One of the soldiers, 53-year-old Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, died from his injuries.
It emerged Tuesday that Couture-Rouleau was among 90 individuals on an RCMP watch list and that police were well aware of his militant leanings, having spoken to him about it as recently as Oct. 9.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the Conservatives will be under pressure to provide a lot more information about the way the incident unfolded. “I think a lot of Canadians will be asking questions of how this happened and why this happened in the coming days and weeks,” he told reporters.
“And I certainly hope that this government is more forthcoming with answers than it has been in the past, but for today, we’re very much focused on helping the appropriate authorities continue and conclude their investigations.”
In the Commons, Trudeau noted “the government has said several dozen Canadians have become radicalized and could represent a threat to other Canadians — are they all under surveillance?”
Harper didn’t say if all suspected terrorists are being dogged by security personnel. But he said CSIS and the RCMP are watching potential extremists with an eye to bringing charges against them. The government is looking “at the possibilities through which we can give more tools to our security organizations to bring charges as soon as possible,” Harper told MPs.
Last week, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney previewed legislation that would allow CSIS to obtain more information from Canada’s allies on Canadians who join terror groups abroad and that would enhance intelligence-gathering by providing anonymity in court for CSIS informants.
Still, a senior CSIS official told a Senate committee Monday the agency lacks the resources to provide blanket surveillance of all suspected militants. Jeff Yaworski, deputy operations director at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, testified it would be foolish “to say we’ve got all the bases covered.” He added, “We do what we can with the budget that we have.”
Mulcair said, “I’m extremely concerned when CSIS tells us that they don’t have the resources to do the job we’re asking them to do.
“Canadians rely on CSIS to be able to get the information and on the RCMP to be able to do the policing work that comes out of the information that CSIS has gotten. So yeah, all Canadians should be very concerned that CSIS and the RCMP are telling us they don’t have enough financial resources to do the job.”