The arrest of a 70-year-old man who made threats against the B.C. legislature while on a ferry underscores the challenge police face, in the wake of the Ottawa and Quebec attacks on soldiers, to determine if such statements pose real dangers or are merely empty threats.
The day after last Wednesday’s shooting rampage that left an Honour Guard at the National War Memorial dead and sparked a gunfight on Parliament Hill, a man on the 7 a.m. ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay was heard making reference to the Ottawa attacks, followed by threats against the B.C. legislature. The man was not physically violent and did not have any weapons.
B.C. Ferries staff called Sidney/North Saanich RCMP at 8:19 a.m. Thursday and kept the man in a secluded area of the vessel, said Island district RCMP spokesman Cpl. Darren Lagan. Mounties boarded the ferry at 8:35 a.m. and arrested the man. “Throughout the day, investigators undertook a full investigation and assessment of the man’s actions, and determined he posed no threat to public safety,” Lagan said, citing existing mental-health issues as a significant factor.
Lagan said the man was released from police custody later in the day, after mental-health professionals became involved. He will not face any charges.
A second man who was set to meet the older man was also detained and questioned. He co-operated and was released without charge.
While the threats turned out to be unfounded, Lagan said the person who reported the incident did the right thing in notifying the police. “We are mindful that it is not uncommon to see cases such as this, following a major, high-profile incident of violence,” Lagan said. “While we are aware that individuals in follow-up situations often have no actual intent to harm others, we must ensure that a thorough investigation is completed, as was done in this case.”
B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said that, given last week’s events, ferries are on heightened vigilance for security monitoring.
Two incidents of violence against Canadian soldiers last week left Canadians scrambling for answers.
Last Wednesday, Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton who was standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. Zehaf Bibeau then drove to the Centre Block of Parliament Hill and stormed the doors with a rifle in hand. Security officials and RCMP officers ran after the gunman, who was fatally shot by sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.
The Ottawa attack came two days after Martin Couture-Rouleau, a suspected extremist on the RCMP’s security watch list, ran down two Canadian Forces members in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., south of Montreal. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, a 28-year-old veteran who previously served at CFB Esquimalt and CFB Comox, was killed.
Cirillo’s funeral is being held today in Hamilton. A book of condolence for the two soldiers is available at Sands Funeral Chapel in Colwood, Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo, said Julie Evans, managing director at the Colwood site.
The Colwood location also has a book that is going to various locations around the West Shore, Evans said, including Langford City Hall on Wednesday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Colwood City Hall on Thursday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and the Langford Legion on Friday, where it will remain until Remembrance Day. The books will be sent to the soldiers’ families, Evans said.
— With files from Jeff Bell