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Family Life and History of Shooting Suspect Zehaf-Bibeau

The Canadian Parliament shooting suspect, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, has an interesting background.

His mother, Susan Bibeau, is the head of Canada's immigration division. She has a law degree, a masters of business administration degree and has worked her way up in the Division for the past 24 years, to become Director General (the position is now called Deputy Chairperson.)

His father (or stepfather, it's not clear which) Bulgasem Zehaf, is a Libyan businessman who once owned a restaurant in Montreal. He and Susan Zehaf divorced in 1999. In 2011, he fought with the rebels (not terrorists)in Libya in Zawiyah. He was detained for a month, and then returned to Montreal, where he gave the interview. [More...]

"There is a disaster in Zawiyah. All the buildings have been damaged; residents have been killed in their homes,” said Belgasem Zahef, a Zawiyah native who recently returned to his home in Montreal after spending over a month in detention. He was arrested in Zawiyah where he had gone to fight alongside the rebels.

Mr. Zahaf said the main prison in the city was overflowing with inmates who were forced to live in sub-human conditions and routinely tortured by their captors.

...NATO has kept up its attack around Tripoli adding to the anxiety of residents who fear getting caught in the cross-fire.

“In Tripoli people are scared because of NATO bombings,” said Mr. Zahef, who has been urging his family to leave the city. People are fleeing by using back lanes and farm roads, he added.

The rebels, like NATO, were fighting the Ghadhafi regime.

Michael was a Muslim convert, with mental health issues and some minor criminal history, mostly drug use convictions. The mosque he attended recently asked him to stop attending prayers. Before that, he once called the police from the mosque to confess to a crime he had committed years earlier. He wanted to go to Syria, but was denied travel documents. The Globe and Mail reports unnamed sources saying:

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and was unable to secure the appropriate travel documentation, thus blocking his attempt to travel abroad.

Predictably, his mother is already being denigrated on Twitter and blogs. A few news sites have republished tweets from unofficial sources claiming there is an arrest warrant out for her and going so far as to publish the license plate numbers of her two vehicles. Just what Canada needs, some vigilante going out to find her and taking matters into his own hands.

Why does the public always assume the worst -- that the mother did something wrong -- instead of the innocent and more probable explanation, given her history: She's as horrified by what happened as everyone else, she just lost her son in an unimaginable tragedy, and she's plagued by doubts as to whether she could have done more to help him. On top of that, her name and background are being discussed by publications and broadcast media all over the world, and her career, that she spent 24 years building, might be over.

Maybe she's not ready to talk to the police yet. I don't know Canada's legal system, but if it's like ours, she has every right not to answer questions. Maybe she needs some time to get her head together. Maybe she's grieving. It's not like her son can commit any more crimes and they need to get information out of her right this second.

Since neither scenario has been confirmed or refuted by officials, if the public feels the need to opine, why not adopt the innocent scenario? Why is it so hard for the public to show empathy instead of their gladiator teeth?

Instead of hundreds of tweets spreading rumors that she did something wrong, I'd like to see a few asking if she's okay and offering her some support.

As to his father, there are reports online calling him a "jihadist." He was fighting with rebels, not jihadists. Rebels are not synonymous with terrorists. Rebels are fighting against an oppressive regime -- like the ones in Syria the U.S. has been hoping to partner with to fight ISIS. To label his father a terrorist and jihadist and equate him with al Qaida or ISIS, based on his having fought with the rebels in Libya against Gadhafi is just irresponsible.

Also predictably, there are calls for enhanced surveillance and anti-terror laws. That's another red herring. From his legal background, which includes a court directive that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and the statements of a father and son who knew him that he was mentally ill and preoccupied with the idea that he was being chased by the devil, calls for increased mental health treatment seem more appropriate. And it's not just Canada considering this.

In Britain, the Home Secretary has already announced she will be seeking “Extremist Disruption Orders” – a new legal power to muzzle suspected extremists and prevent them from speaking out in public or on the Internet.

Similar “foreign fighter” legislation now being contemplated in Australia has led Human Rights Watch to complain this week that this package “risks criminalizing free speech” and preventing citizens’ legitimate travel to war zones.

The Guardian reports that security at Parliament was not up to par. Canada should take care of that problem before considering authorizing more surveillance powers.

Canadian officials said tonight there was only one shooter and he acted alone. They have not connected him to a terror group, despite his photo being published by a Twitter account associated with ISIS. They have confirmed he was on their "radar."

Recently, they confiscated his passport after learning of his plans to go fight overseas, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

Finally, I don't get people who jump to the conclusion that someone with mental health issues is "evil." Or that they can't have had a caring, loving mother. Many hears ago , as a new lawyer. I was trying a federal drug case, and I was basing my defense of reasonable doubt and not putting on witnesses of my own. When it was over (my client lost), the judge asked me why I didn't put on a witness to say something good about my client. I said I couldn't find such a witness. He said, "Why not put his mother on, just to say she loved him? He said, "Every person has something good about them, even if it's only that their mother loves him." It was a great idea.
< Canadian Shooting Suspect Zehaf-Bibeau 's Background
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