Shock, sadness expressed at death of terror threat suspect Aaron Driver

People in Winnipeg who once had contact with terror threat suspect Aaron Driver are expressing a mix of shock and sadness at learning he was killed in a confrontation with police in Strathroy, Ont.

'It's too bad it came to this,' says head of Islamic Social Services Agency

Aaron Driver outside provincial court in Winnipeg in 2016. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

People in Winnipeg who once had contact with terror threat suspect Aaron Driver are expressing a mix of shock and sadness at learning he was killed in a confrontation with police in Strathroy, Ont.

"It's shocking. Absolutely shocking, actually," said Leonard Tailleur, Driver's former lawyer. "It's very shocking news."

Meanwhile, the head of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg, Shahina Siddiqui, says her thoughts are with Driver's family. The agency works with families to help them rehabilitate children from extremist views. 

"It's too bad that this, it came to this," she said. "It's tragic whenever a young human life is lost, it's always sad."

Shahina Siddiqui on the death of terror threat suspect Aaron Driver

5 years ago
Duration 1:39
Shahina Siddiqui, head of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg, hoped the outcome could have been different for Aaron Driver. She says her organization reached out to Driver and his family when he was in trouble in Winnipeg last year. 1:39

Siddiqui said her organization reached out to Driver and his family last year, but they lost touch when he moved to Ontario. 

"We were hoping that, you know, he could be helped," she said. "Right now … my thoughts are with the family."

Most of the agency's contact was with Driver's father, trying to assist, said Siddiqui.

On Wednesday, RCMP descended on the residential southwestern Ontario town of Strathroy after it said credible information of a potential terrorist act was received earlier in the day. A memo circulated among National Defence personnel warned of a terrorist threat.

CBC News later learned that Driver's family was told by the RCMP that police shot Driver after he detonated a device that injured himself and another person. The family was also told Driver had another device that he was going to detonate.

On Thursday RCMP said Driver died in an altercation with police but it was unclear whether his death was a result of the explosive or from police fire.

The incident in Strathroy prompted RCMP to warn the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit, about a security threat. There was an increased police presence at Union Station on Wednesday night.

Was considered low-risk, says lawyer

Tailleur represented Driver during a peace bond process imposed in February, after authorities feared he might get involved in terrorist activity.

Tailleur said his former client was very passive and "generally was looked to be low-risk."

"I did not think that that would be the next actual thing, that that he actually allegedly takes a step to create any device or explosive device like that. That's quite surprising," Tailleur said.

We were hoping that, you know, he could be helped.- Shahina Siddiqui, Islamic Social Services Agency 

Driver moved to Winnipeg around 2011 and by 2014 was on the radar of CSIS, Canada's spy agency, for his online activities, tweeting support for ISIS.

In June 2015, Driver was arrested and RCMP obtained a peace bond, saying they considered him a terror threat. When he agreed to the peace bond in February 2016, he was subjected to conditions that, among other things, required him to live at a specified address in Strathroy and notify a specified RCMP sergeant of any changes in address.

"They're still monitoring very closely, there's no doubt about it. I guess that end result [of] that monitoring gave them some information and here we are today," Tailleur said.

Aaron Driver, pictured here in 2015, was killed in a confrontation with police, CBC News has learned. (Facebook)

'I feel very sorry for his dad'

Tailleur said Driver never discussed allegiance to extremist groups like ISIS, but he believes his former client's bitterness against Christianity and the West grew following the death of his mother years earlier.

"I feel very sorry for his dad," Tailleur said.

"I mean, his dad was really broken up about the relationship that happened between him and his son and because of the death of his mother ... Aaron sort of held that against the father."

Driver's father told CBC News in March 2015 that he was worried his son had become a radical extremist.

But the move from posting support online to allegedly acting out terrorism was something Tailleur said he never expected from Driver.

"I would never have thought that he, allegedly, would've gone that extra step there. There was nothing to me that would indicate that," he said. "But that's just the way it is sometimes."

Tailleur was Driver's counsel for more than a year during the peace bond process, but he said he had not spoken with his former client since February.

The lawyer said he has represented clients over the last 25 years and Driver was probably "one of [his] best."

"He was just very easy to deal with. He took instructions well. If I took a particular position about resolving the case, for example, he was prepared to go along with it," Tailleur said, adding that Driver read his Qur'an in court.

"There's nothing to me, outwardly, where you would say that he was ruminating inside about actually going to do anything that was going to be problematic at all."

With files from Erin Brohman, Kelly Malone and Meaghan Ketcheson