Manitoba

MP James Bezan wants Aaron Driver charged for inciting terrorism

A Manitoba MP believes Aaron Driver should be charged for inciting terrorism after comments made to CBC News, but a human rights group says it's not up to politicians to charge someone with a crime.

'He should be charged again for promoting attacks against Canadian members of the armed forces'

A Manitoba MP believes Aaron Driver should be charged for inciting terrorism after comments made to CBC News, but a human rights group says it's not up to politicians to charge someone with a crime 2:36

A Manitoba MP believes Aaron Driver should be charged for inciting terrorism after comments made to CBC News, but a human rights group says it's not up to politicians to charge someone with a crime.

James Bezan, Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake, and Canada's parliamentary secretary of defence, said the 23-year-old Winnipeg-based ISIS supporter made detestable comments in an interview.

"I believe that he should be charged again for promoting attacks against Canadian members of the armed forces, as well as against our police officers," Bezan said.

"I think that's despicable. You've got to remember we're in Canada here and I would be shocked to see someone actually promote that type of criminal behaviour. And that's exactly what Aaron Driver is doing."

In the interview, Driver told CBC that Canada deserved to be targeted by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau for its role in war in the Middle East.

On Oct. 22, Zehaf-Bibeau shot dead Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, then charged into Parliament Hill in Ottawa before he was gunned down.

Driver made the remarks after he was arrested, then released on bail, earlier this month. He has not been charged with anything at this time, but RCMP are seeking a peace bond so they can restrict and monitor his activities. Driver said he will fight the RCMP's application for the peace bond.

Bezan wants police to review Driver's comments and lay criminal charges against him.​

Aaron Driver first caught the attention of CSIS in October 2014 when he was tweeting his support for ISIS. (Facebook)
But Corey Shefman, who speaks for the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties, says police — not members of Parliament — have the power to have people charged with conspiracy to incite violence, provided they have proper evidence.

"If Mr. Bezan has some information that the police don't have about the activities that Mr. Driver has been undergoing, then he should tell the police and maybe that will lead to a charge. But until that time, Mr. Driver should be treated like every other Canadian," Shefman said.

"In Canada, a Canadian citizen who has not committed a violent act and who hasn't yet been accused or charged with inciting violence needs to have his rights protected just like ours."

Watched by CSIS

Driver caught the attention of CSIS, Canada's spy agency, in October 2014 when he was tweeting his support for ISIS under the alias Harun Abdurahman.

That activity landed him on a watch list.

Driver regularly shared his pro-ISIS views on social media and was regularly shut down by Twitter for doing so. He was arrested by RCMP on June 4 and investigators searched his home, removing what appeared to be computer towers.

After eight days in custody, Driver was released on bail under 25 strict conditions, including surrendering his passport, obeying a curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and being prohibited from using a computer or smartphone or logging into social media accounts, and undergoing "religious counselling."

Threat or no threat?

Mubin Shaikh, a former counter terrorism operative for CSIS, says Driver is someone to be very concerned about.

Driver states he is not a threat but then he talks about why he thinks it's justified to target non-Muslims for attack. That proves he is still very much a threat, Shaikh said.

"He is most definitely a threat, what he's suggested actually is a very well-rehearsed recruiting line. This is something that is shared across the board," Shaikh said.

"He is re-enforcing and regurgitating the recruitment narratives that make individuals commit these attacks."

Shaikh said police are justified in monitoring Driver because of that.

However, another expert on terror threats has had researchers monitor Driver's online activity and does not see him as an immediate threat.

"Driver explicitly stated that he is not a threat and he does not intend to get involved with any action. On the face of it, that's a credible claim," said Lorne Dawson, a professor of at the University of Waterloo and co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

Research into radicalized individuals shows they rarely move beyond just talking about it, he said.

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