Isolated incident or the first of many terror attacks?
Poppies on a light standard are all that mark the deadly incident in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. (Joe Warmington/Toronto Sun)
It doesn’t look like the war zone it clearly is.
This little city southeast of Montreal is not only home to Canada’s first ISIS-inspired terror attack, but also the war on terror’s first military casualty on Canadian soil.
Do you believe that?
That is the debate that is raging across the country as from Prime Minster Stephen Harper on down mourn the fatal sneak driving attack on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
At Ground Zero of the attack at the hands of one of their own citizens, the debate is on, too.
While people who monitor the radicalization of Islamic youth and of converts were talking of this heinous act being perhaps a retaliatory act for Canada sending six CF-18 hornets to battle terror in Iraq and question just what our security apparatus might have missed, people here seem to be of the opinion it’s more about one fame-seeking man’s breakdown.
“It’s just a crazy guy,” says resident Shaun Hammond. “I think he was a fan of ISIS, but I don’t think he was part of it.”
Hammond equates what he did more with Mark David Chapman killing John Lennon than a homegrown terrorist following instructions to do harm to Canadians.
“People shouldn’t overreact,” he says.
Hammond’s girlfriend, Sabrina Charter agrees, saying it’s not going to stop her from walking where she wants.
Her friends knew Martin Rouleau, too.
“He was always a little strange but then became a crazy man about religion,” she says. “In the end, he was a real fanatic.”
Frankly, I was surprised by the reaction here. Very matter-of-fact considering one of their own was murdered and another hurt.
There are no traditional candles or temporary vigil. If not for some media trucks and a Quebec Provincial Police command centre bus, it would look like a regular Canadian Tim Hortons parking lot — which it is.
It’s a regular Tim Hortons parking lot where a Canadian solider was killed in the line of duty on domestic soil while in uniform.
There was a time in Canada when an attack on one soldier was an attack on us all.
Maybe it’s too early for anger to kick in. Maybe Canadians have just become complacent about the reality of where this terror threat is really at.
While there doesn’t appear to be outrage, there was shock that it could happen at all — and especially here.
“I can’t believe a St. Jean guy would ever do something like that,” said Marie-Eve Belanger, who like so many others does not believe it was part of a vaster operation. “Maybe in his mind he was a terrorist or he wanted to be. But I don’t think he really was.”
Even a veteran, who was shot in Cyprus and served in Lebanon, is skeptical that this event is the beginning of something darker for Canada.
Claude Gomeau, 68, served 30 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and was stationed all over the world — for much of it as part of the famous VanDoos.
“It’s just stupid,” he says. “If he was a real terrorist, he would use a bomb. I think he was in need of his pills.”
It’s the kind of talk and complacency that infuriates Marc Lebuis, of Montreal’s Point de Bascule, a group that monitors people in Quebec who they fear are becoming tied to radical Islam.
“This is horrendous what happened here and the fact is Mr. Rouleau was involved with a local mosque and received the sermons of a Quebec Imam in a Quebec mosque,” he said. “In the summer of 2013 and 2014, Rouleau was in the mosque for 90-minute sessions.”
The fact that he fell through the cracks of RCMP and CSIS monitoring — despite having his passport removed and having a social media footprint of unusual rantings — should be subject of a bigger Canadian inquiry, he says.
Lebuis adds the lack of interest does not surprise him. But it does scare him.
He says gloss it over, sweep it under the rug, down play it, ignore it, turn a blind eye, don’t admit it or try to rationalize it all you want.
“This will not be an isolated incident,” he insists. “We have been warning about this and now it has happened.”
When and where will it happen next?
Reading his Le Journal de Montreal, Mario Campbell says this town was a “quiet place” before this happened and says it will be after.
Frustrated Lebuis says people need to get their heads out of the sand. So far, they don’t seem to be listening here in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.