OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled its first desired weapon to combat homegrown terrorists, and it’s a therapy couch.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, facing scrutiny one week after jihadi sympathizer Aaron Driver was killed by police in Strathroy, Ont., on his way to attack a transit hub, said he wants counter-radicalization counselling mandatory for people under anti-terrorism peace bonds.
Driver, 24, was under a court-ordered peace bond intended to limit his activities but he was able to obtain explosives, plan an attack and film a martyrdom video.
Police got wind of his plans through a tip from the FBI and intercepted him as he was leaving his southwestern Ontario home in a taxi.
There were some ad hoc interventions aimed at helping deradicalize Driver but nothing deliberate and well-organized, Goodale said Wednesday after a speech to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Liberals plan to open a federal office of counter-radicalization to serve as a national focal point for counselling and intervention services.
“We are in the process of recruiting the person that will lead the effort. And we are determined to get this office up and running toward the end of the summer, the beginning of the fall,” Goodale said.
“We need to understand what positive messages can counteract the insidious poison that draws people in, especially young people.”
The government is also back to “examining” and “considering” other changes to monitor terrorists in our midst, but it doesn’t appear to be in any hurry.
Considering Driver was on an anti-terrorist peace bond — as are another dozen or so people across the country — but was not under constant surveillance, the government said it wants to find a way to make peace bonds more effective — perhaps involving community outreach organizations.
“(Driver’s peace bond) is obviously a lesson that one needs to look at very carefully,” Goodale said. “And we are examining very carefully what we need to do to make our police and security activity more effective.”
Goodale said the government would move as rapidly as possible, but he stressed that good laws are not developed “in a panic.”
A federal consultation on national security, to conclude by the end of the year, must happen first, he said.
“I’ve obviously got to do this in a coherent and sensible way, not scribbled down on the back of an envelope.”