It has been said and repeated ad nauseam that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Difficult to argue the point when the acts of ‘terror’ are limited to a couple of countries, or kept internally, where one faction is hell-bent on convincing a narrow population of a particular point of view. Impossible to maintain a ‘freedom’ perspective once multiple countries are caught in the crosshairs, or when innocent civilians are being shredded to bits while sipping a beverage in a sidewalk café.
Canada has long enjoyed a positive international reputation, and with only a few exceptions, this country has been inoculated against participation in acts of terrorism, the Air India Flight 182 in June, 1985 being the most direct and public level of global terrorism participation.
As Canada continues with its immigration and multicultural policies welcoming tens of thousands each year to enjoy her way of life, and as Canadians themselves become more radicalized to a particular ideology, the threat of more frequent occasions of homegrown plots will undoubtedly challenge the intelligence community to identify and intercept the purveyors of domestic terrorism.
Nonetheless, Canadian citizens have left their shores to train with radical factions of Islam, contributing to worldwide panic and terror. Too, Canada has been abused as a thoroughfare for the transit of people and armaments focused on wreaking havoc on a more prominent international stage. From banking to flying to cyber-attacks, and all points in between, Canada has played a more important, albeit gullible, role in facilitating acts of international terrorism than its citizens would care to admit.
That said, one does not have to venture outside Canada, nor look very far into her past, to find numerous acts of domestic terrorism that created the much anticipated levels of fear, panic, and destabilization desperately sought by the perpetrators of these villainous deeds.
Here is a brief reminder of three notorious moments in Canadian history where homegrown terrorism ruled the news headlines and struck a major blow to the innocence and peace of mind of her conscience.
Aided in their escape from persecution from Tsar Nicolas 1 and the Russian Orthodox Church by the likes of renowned novelist Leo Tolstoy and international Quakers, the Doukhobor (Spirit Wrestlers) emigrated to Canada between 1899 and 1914 to land that is in present day Saskatchewan. Around 1908, some 6000 Doukhobor migrated further west to British Columbia, where they were permitted to live a communal lifestyle, forming a splinter group called Sons of Freedom (later to be known familiarly as the Freedomites).
For the next six decades, the Doukhobor often clashed with provincial and federal authorities over issues such as vital statistics registrations, education of children, and military service. Though claiming to live a life of passiveness and peace, the Doukhobor marched nude in parades, committed acts of arson, and bombed public buildings and railways. Their skirmishes with the British Columbia authorities over registering live births and sending their children to school led to the police seizing the children and holding them in captivity (forcing the provincial curriculum down their throats) for up to six years, while the parents languished in prison.
Stopping short of an apology to the Doukhobor, the British Columbia government issued a ‘statement of regret’ in 2004 for their heavy handed approach in seizing and holding the Doukhobor children.
This is arguably the best known version of Canadian homegrown terrorism.
During the period of 1963 to 1970, the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) was involved in kidnappings, murder, bank robberies, and bombings to further their efforts to separate Quebec from Canada. The FLQ would lay claim to nearly 100 bombings in the Montreal area, most notably the February 13, 1969 bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange where 27 people were injured. The FLQ robbed banks to finance their activities and stole dynamite and explosive materials to construct their bombs.
In what would be known as the October Crisis, the FLQ were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of provincial cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in 1970, and the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross. In response to these acts of domestic terrorism, then-Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, invoked the War Measures Act on October 16, 1970, the one and only use during peacetime this country has been under what is commonly called Martial Law.
There have been numerous incidents of eco terrorism desperately carried out in Canada. Typically these include acts against resource companies such as tree spiking and pipeline sabotage. None, however, rose to the frequency and intensity of those involving Wiebo Ludwig near Hythe, Alberta.
Wiebo Ludwig was the leader of a Christian community called Trickle Creek located in northwestern Alberta. They were a quiet and peaceful group until the 1990’s when conflicts arose between the Trickle Creek community and the oil and gas industry, who were rapidly installing new facilities in the area to extract sour gas.
Ludwig and his followers (mainly extended family members) linked the toxins from nearby oil and gas activities to the sudden onset of birth defects and stillborn deaths of animals and humans, and the poisoning of soil and water on the Trickle Creek farm.
Following peaceful attempts to have the oil and gas conglomerates held responsible for contaminating the environment, acts of sabotage against assets of the polluting companies became more frequent, including bombings of pipelines and distribution sites, some of which Wiebo Ludwig would later be imprisoned.
Interestingly, during one of the trials against Ludwig, the Crown was forced to admit that the RCMP acted as agent provocateurs when the storied police force themselves detonated a bomb at a pipeline facility, with the apparent blessing of the Province of Alberta and the energy company that owned the asset. As intended, the media ate up the story and made veiled or direct links to Ludwig and his followers.
In 1999, adolescents in a pick-up truck took a joy ride out to the Trickle Creek farm and trespassed onto the land, driving in an erratic manner without regard to the well-being of humans or animals. In non-legal terms, they were spinning donuts and frantically racing around the property near some occupied camping sites. Fearing for their safety, some residents of Trickle Creek shot at the pick-up truck. One of the bullets ricocheted, striking and killing one of the joy riding teenagers, Karman Willis.
Wiebo Ludwig died on April 12, 2012.