The180

Is 'terror' the right word to describe attacks in Ottawa and Quebec?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear from the start that he believes the recent attacks in Ottawa and Quebec were not isolated acts of violence. But now Opposition leader Tom Mulcair says he believes terror is the wrong word to describe the attacks....

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear from the start that he believes the recent attacks in Ottawa and Quebec were not isolated acts of violence. But now Opposition leader Tom Mulcair says he believes terror is the wrong word to describe the attacks.

"I don't think we have enough evidence to use that word. I think that when you look at the history of the individual involved...I think we're not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it."

On the same day of the Ottawa shooting, Harper linked the event to global terror.

"This week's events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the kind of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world."

But questions about the mental health of the attackers, and the depth of their connection to the jihadist groups that incited them, began to emerge.

The 180's Jim Brown heard from two sides of this debate with parliamentary journalist Justin Ling and cultural critic Jeet Heer.

Ling argues there's no ambiguity about what happened in Ottawa.

"Not only is it an appropriate word, I think it is about the only word we can use. What happened last week was a targeted attack against members of the Canadian Forces, against the embodiment of our state, for the express purpose of creating fear and terror in the population."

But Jeet Heer says the word does little to help us understand events and can be used as a political tool.

"I feel that the word terrorism is not appropriate here, and more broadly I would actually take the more radical step that I think actually we should stop using the word terrorist altogether...the word terrorist is so loaded and has been used in so many different contexts in a very politicized and charged way that I don't think it's a very useful word."

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