After an attempted terrorist attack by a young Canadian in Strathroy, Ontario, Canada must examine how it will approach countering youth radicalization.
On August 10 the RCMP confronted Aaron Driver, 24, as he was entering a taxi cab on his driveway. Driver then detonated a homemade explosive device in the back of the taxi, slightly injuring the cab driver. Driver was killed by police after exiting the cab with another explosive device and refusing to follow their orders.
Police found a “martyrdom video” while searching Driver’s house, and believed he was planning to attack a major population centre within the next 72 hours.
The RCMP were tipped off about Driver after the FBI discovered his martyrdom video. In the video Driver pledges allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praises the recent attacks in France and Brussels, and promises to bring the violence to Canada.
Driver was already under RCMP surveillance after communicating with some of the most well-known ISIS supporters in the U.K. and U.S. He had been brought up on a peace bond, and was not allowed to own a cell phone or computer until the end of August.
Ralph Goodale, the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, called for more effective counter-radicalization during a press conference following the incident.
“The government of Canada has to get far more proactive on the whole issue of outreach, community engagement, counter-radicalization, [and] determining how, and in what means, the right positive constructive influences can be brought to bear to change what otherwise would be dangerous behavior,” said Goodale.
What brought Driver, who grew up in the open grasslands of Saskatchewan, to the extremes of radicalization, willing to fight and die for an adopted ideology?
In June 2015 Driver participated in a 90-minute phone interview with CBC. He was an avid ISIS supporter who told them he believed Muslims and the west were fundamentally incompatible.
“If a country goes to war with another country or another people or another community, I think that they have to be prepared for things like [the Parliament Hill shooting] to happen,” said Driver.
“And when it does happen, they shouldn’t act surprised. They had it coming for them; they deserved it.”
Driver grew up in a Christian family in Regina. He spent the first few years of his life there with his mother and his father, who was a farmer. His mother died when he was seven, and his father remarried and joined the Canadian Forces. Driver said he never felt connected to his father or step-mother.
Driver’s father told CBC that his son’s behavior had undergone massive changes since his mother’s death, and he was worried he was becoming a radical extremist.
“It was like he turned out the lights and put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door,” said his father.
Driver left home when he was 16 to go live in a halfway house where according to his father they “finished raising him.” Driver returned four years later, telling his father he had cleaned himself up and converted to Islam.
Driver said he spent most of his youth getting himself into trouble until he was 17 and learned his girlfriend was pregnant. That’s when he decided to clean himself up.
“I started reading the Bible, because, you know, I had a lot of responsibility coming