Ottawa shooter was a 'high-risk traveller,' grew up in Laval and Montreal
Published Wednesday, October 22, 2014 8:32PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 24, 2014 10:02AM EDT
Canadians are learning more about the man who opened fire and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and then opened fire in the Centre Block of Parliament Wednesday.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had been deemed a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government, CTV News has learned.
He was killed in the Centre Block of Parliament after shootings at the War Memorial and inside Parliament.
A source confirmed to CTV News that the federal government had seized Zehaf-Bibeau’s passport.
The source could not provide information on when the suspect had received the “high-risk traveller” designation or when his passport was seized.
Zehaf-Bibeau was born to a Canadian woman named Susan Bibeau. She is a high-level federal staffer who works as the deputy chairperson of the Immigration Committee at the Immigration and Regufee Board of Canada.
Nobody answered the door at her Cartierville home Wednesday evening when CTV Montreal visited. A window was open and a TV was on, possibly suggesting a hasty departure. Police confirmed that nobody was inside the home.
On Thursday Susan Bibeau spoke briefly with The Associated Press by telephone. She said that she did not know what to say to those hurt in the attack.
"Can you ever explain something like this?" she said tearfully. "We are sorry."
His stepfather or adoptive father is a Libyan businessman named Bulgasem Zehaf who once owned Café Bistro Tripol on Crescent St.
Zehaf-Bibeau had a long criminal record for petty crimes. Some of those crimes took place in early 2000s in Montreal, Laval, St-Jerome and Gatineau. He has former addresses in Montreal and Laval.
Zehaf-Bibeau's most serious crime was two-year sentence for robbery and weapons charge in 2003 and the last entry in his criminal record in Quebec was for marijuana possession in 2006.
Janice Parnell, a former neighbour on Louis Payette Ave. in Laval, remembered Zehaf-Bibeau as a teenager, and said he partook in typical teenaged rowdiness; he often played loud music, and they called the police on him once due to the noise.
He attended Mont-De-La Salle, a private high school in Laval with two other boys on the street and appeared to be a single child, a neighbour told CTV Montreal.
The mother and father seemed to be good parents, said the neighbour, adding that Zehaf-Bibeau had every advantage, including nice homes in a nice neighbourhood and a good school.
A nearby neighbour of a large house the family occupied on Guenette – apparently after the parents had split up - told CTV Montreal that loud music and the smell of marijuana frequently emanated from the home.
He also ran into some legal troubles in Vancouver three years ago.
Court records show that a Michael Joseph Zehaf-Bibeau was accused of robbery there in late 2011. He was found guilty of uttering threats, a lesser charge.
Zehaf Bibeau underwent a psychiatric assessment prior to his conviction and was found fit to stand trial, records show.
Unlike Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was behind the attack in St. Jean one day earlier, Zehaf-Bibeau left no trace on social media.
His parents officially changed his name in 1995 when he was aged 13. They divorced four years later. The suspect's father is believed to have fought in Libya in 2011, as a soldier bearing his father's name was quoted in a Washington Times report from the Libyan front.
A man named Dave Bathurst, who said that he knew Zehaf-Bibeau from a Burnaby, B.C. mosque three years ago, told the Globe and Mail that Zehaf-Bibeau frequently talked about Shaytan, an Arabic term for devils and demons. He was barred from the mosque and had been living in an almost-empty one room apartment and was hoping to study Islam in the Middle East, according Bathurst's quotes in the report.
Vancouver police did not provide details on Zehaf-Bibeau’s case but confirmed that they are working with RCMP to assist with the national investigation into the shootings in Ottawa.
Monitoring suspects ‘not enough’
With news that authorities had seized Zehaf-Bibeau’s passport come questions about whether authorities could have prevented Wednesday’s events.
Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy said Thursday that “radicalization has been going on in Canada for a long time,” and an attack “will happen again if we don’t wake up.”
Soharwardy, founder of a group called Muslims Against Terrorism, said communities, governments, security agencies and others must work together to reach out to and de-radicalize suspected extremists.
“Just taking away their passports, just monitoring them, making sure that we monitor their activities is not enough,” Soharwardy told CTV’s Canada AM, adding that law enforcement and security agencies.
“Taking away passports will not stop terrorist attacks from these radicalized, brainwashed hatemongers who were trained to cause harm to Canadians.”
Reacting after a crisis will not protect anyone, Soharwardy said. Law enforcement and security agencies must talk to suspected extremists, their families, and their communities in an effort to de-radicalize and rehabilitate them, he said.
Jocelyn Belanger, a professor of psychology at the Universite de Quebec in Montreal, said that while extremists often have different motives, the “common denominator” among them is “the quest for personal significance.”
When someone feels alienated from society or unimportant in the eyes of their community, Belanger told Canada AM, they are usually spurred to join a group to “assuage the feeling of personal insignificance.”
That can be a good thing, he said, unless that group includes someone who espouses radical ideology.
With files from CTVNews.ca