Diverted flights and a highjacked ceremony

It would seem there's a threat on every horizon here in Canada

In less than one week a total of six bomb threats targeted Canadian flights, including five WestJet and one Air Canada flight. (WestJet)

In less than one week a total of six bomb threats targeted Canadian flights, including five WestJet and one Air Canada flight. (WestJet)

By Scott Taylor

To the casual observer, it would appear that Canada is facing an ever-increasing domestic terror threat.

In less than one week, a total of six flights — five WestJet, one Air Canada — had to be diverted due to bomb threats. Following one of these emergency landings, six passengers suffered physical injuries on the rush to exit the allegedly targeted aircraft.

Bomb disposal units were deployed, thousands of passengers were affected by the diversions and delays, and the bomb threats garnered headlines.

Some passengers described their experience as terrifying.

Thankfully, all the threats have proven to be hoaxes and no explosives were employed. Of course, unlike the old fable about the boy who cried wolf, airlines are not in a position to simply ignore future bomb threats, regardless of how many false alarms have been called in, for the simple reason that they cannot afford to take that risk with passenger safety.

That is, of course, the basic tactic of a terror campaign, wherein you frighten the public beyond all logical proportion to the actual threat.

For instance, we now have two men, Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier, convicted of plotting a terror attack to derail a Via train in 2013. In actual fact, at no time did this bungling duo ever possess the means necessary to achieve their objective, and it was revealed during court proceedings that they had mistakenly reconnoitred a rail bridge on the wrong side of Toronto.

Ditto for the couple convicted of plotting a terror attack on the British Columbia legislature buildings in Victoria on Canada Day in 2013. While they may have believed the RCMP agent who coached them on how to build pressure cooker bombs, the truth is that at no time did Amanda Korody and John Nuttall possess real explosives. The RCMP sting operation made sure they were given inert material to simulate bomb-making equipment.

Like the Via Rail plot, no lives were ever in danger at the B.C. legislature because the plotters had no real means of achieving their objective. Of course, the little added extra for the B.C. RCMP sting operation was the inclusion of pressure cookers.

This was, of course, the container of choice for Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers who targeted the 2013 Boston Marathon with shrapnel bombs. Since that attack, “pressure cooker bomb” has become synonymous with “weapon of mass destruction” when, in reality, it is simply a kitchen device.

Similar irrational fears were generated by Richard Reid on Dec. 22, 2001, when he attempted to detonate explosives hidden in the heel of his shoe while on a plane. Reid never actually had a detonator for his 10 ounces of plastic explosive so at best, had he successfully lit the shoe, he would have started a small fire, not an explosion.

Nevertheless, a mentally unstable Reid pleaded guilty to — of all things — possessing a weapon of mass destruction. While no one was even injured in the 2001 attempted attack, to this day all airline passengers passing through United States airports are required to remove their shoes as part of standard airline security screenings.

Likewise, on Christmas Day 2009, young Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab waited until his Delta Airlines flight was descending into Detroit airport before trying to ignite a bottle of flammable fluid. Abdulmutallab did manage to create a fire, but the only thing he burned was his genitals. The legacy of this failed attack is that passengers worldwide are now prohibited from bringing containers of liquid in excess of 100 millilitres aboard flights.

On the flip side of scaring the bejesus out of the public over the threat of terrorist attacks, the Conservative government continues to present itself as Canadians’ best protection from the evildoers.

Last week, there was a public outcry in Ottawa when the RCMP emergency response team staged a demo before the world-famous musical ride. In what was admittedly a rather corny display, the camouflage-clad RCMP operatives threw smoke grenades and thunder flashes as they pretended to apprehend a pair of suspected terrorists. Many of the onlookers were families who had brought their young children to watch the gentle majesty of the serge-coated Mounties demonstrating precision horsemanship.

One spectator, Frank Koller, a retired CBC broadcaster and blogger, wrote concerning the SWAT team demo: “Is there no place now where Canadians can be spared the Conservative government’s jingoistic, militaristic bleating, with its conjured up images of danger lurking around every corner, nurturing the fear that ‘others’ are out to rob us of our freedoms?”

Apparently not, Frank.