Canadian Shooting Suspect Zehaf-Bibeau 's Background

Update: Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf have made a statement expressing their devastation at their son's actions and their sorrow for the victim, his family and people of Canada. His mother says she grieves for the people, not her son. She spoke with him last week, for the first time in five years.

Susan Bibeau said she was devastated for the victims of the attack. "If I'm crying it's for the people," she said, struggling to hold back tears. "Not for my son."

...."I am mad at my son, I don't understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time."

She said he seemed lost and "and did not fit in."
"I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that...."So I have very little insight to offer."


Original Post:

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 be Director General of the Immigration Division (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 Ghadafi 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. It's not clear why, but 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 find the car and take matters into his own hands. (two news sites have now deleted those tweets after complaints, but they are still easily findable from people who put the plate numbers in their own tweets.)

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 of 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 the 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. 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 power.

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.

Update: The full text of the email quoted in the update at the top of this post:

Hi, I am writing this note on behalf of my husband and myself. No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time. We are so sad that a man lost his life. He has lost everything and he leaves behind a family that must feel nothing but pain and sorrow. We send our deepest condolences to them although words seem pretty useless. We are both crying for them.

We also wish to apologize for all the pain, fright and chaos he created. We have no explanation to offer. I am mad at our son, I don't understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time. You write that our son was vulnerable, we don't know, we (he) was lost and did not fit in.

I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that. So I have very little insight to offer. We don't wish to be part of any media circus, we don't think it will add anything to the conversation. Please respect our privacy although many may not feel we deserve any ... Once again we are so sorry.

Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf"

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  • Display: Sort:
    Maybe You Are... (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 11:33:03 AM EST
    ...but I am not fighting anyone.  

    I don't fear Muslims, nor do I fear people who live 10,000+ miles away.  If anything I am fighting the turds who think my privacy and person need to be violated by the same idiots who are actually fighting a war that can not be won.

    Not sure what that has to do with treating one murder any different than another other then playing into their enemies hands...

    Meant as Reply to Slado (none / 0) (#7)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 11:33:45 AM EST
    In post #5.

    In Canada, (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 06:21:47 AM EST
    the Prime Minister of Canada, who nobody has heard of until now, proudly announced that Canada would not be intimidated by terrorists.

    Ottawa was shut down.
    A soldier was killed.
    But he will not be intimidated.

    Hollande in France said, after they chopped off the head of a French national that he, on behalf of La France, would not be intimidated.

    It must feel weird to the families of those who have been killed as a direct result of national policy to hear that someone who is actually immune from danger says that he will not be intimidated.

    This is the way they do.
    They plunge their nations into gang warfare, innocent bystanders are killed, and they say they will not be intimidated.

    What do you want them to say? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by jbindc on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 07:18:13 AM EST
    "Please don't hurt us."  ?

    I want (none / 0) (#3)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 07:41:26 AM EST
    these nobodies not to place us in the line of fire in the first place.

    That's what I want.

    They risk nothing.
    They are protected and insulated and go on forever.
    Their careers are assured.

    It is the people of their countries that they are putting at risk - who have nothing whatsoever to say about it.

    The people have a right to say that this action is stupid and is putting my family in harm's way. But they have no opportunity to say so. Look at our country. Bombsaway Republican McCain on one side, and on the other/same side is our Democratic President.

    And they will not be intimidated. Thanks a bunch.

    I think that the Marx brothers nailed this decades ago in "Duck Soup".
    It's worth watching.


    Why Do They Have... (none / 0) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 09:29:00 AM EST
    ...to make any sort of declaration that is so subjective.  How about "We will investigate, arrest, and prosecute criminals." ?

    It's flamboyant political talk that is based on nothing but bravado, and totally unnecessary, and yes, at times taunting.

    A woman was killed by her coworker in an murder suicide at Ben Taub in Houston.  He apparently was not down with her rejecting his advances. Same number of dead, yet no one is saying at Ben Taub "We will not be intimated" because it would make no sense.  Of course someone getting murdered is going to have some effect, people are going to be scared/intimidated.

    This is a story that happens all the time, all over the county, all over the world, yet no ridiculous declarations.


    The reason is (none / 0) (#5)
    by Slado on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 11:23:06 AM EST
    because we are fighting against an ideology.

    Terrorism is by definition...

    the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims

    Radical Islam has the goal to convert by any means necessary those who do not believe their form of Islam.    

    Now, that said at this point in time I think our reaction to radical Islam has been self defeating.   We have bombed, invaded and done more harm to Muslims then they have even dreamed of doing to us and I think the results show that we really haven't improved our situation when it comes to the spread of this ideology.

    I'd would have preferred a subtler approach (more Cold War if you will) to this threat but hear we are none the less.

    I think you are less concerned about the words of the politician then you are about the military and domestic overreaction to terrorism that we've seen for the past 13 years.


    The shooter apparently had some internal (none / 0) (#8)
    by ZtoA on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 02:21:14 PM EST
    problems. Not only are the families of those he shot, but the family of the shooter is devastated too. I feel so sorry for his mother.

    That is one thing a gun is more effective at - killing from a distance. However, I think that genie is out of the bottle and guns are here to stay.

    The above photo of him holding a rifle (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 03:13:50 PM EST
    is weird.  Very perilous posture.  And it kind of sort of looks like a lever action.  The old west standard.

    Seeing the people attracted to "overseas" cults makes me wonder about those attracted to America's homebrew cults.  There are patterns in this, but I'm not trained.  I hope somebody is paying attention.


    two things: (none / 0) (#10)
    by cpinva on Thu Oct 23, 2014 at 09:33:23 PM EST
    1. he had mental issues. my suspicion is that all of those attempting to go and join these groups have mental issues, no sane person does this.

    2. a "rebel" is merely a "terrorist" who's on your side.

    you say tomato, I say terrorist.

    so those who fought in the (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Oct 24, 2014 at 12:40:28 AM EST
    Revolutionary war were terrorists?

    Rebels fights against an oppressive government

    Sometimes terrorists fight with the rebels and vice versa, but they are not synonymous.

    Have you noticed that the news, when writing about the Free Syrian Army in Syria uses "rebels" and when writing about ISIS or al Qaida groups uses the term "militants?" There is a distinction.


    Good point (none / 0) (#12)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Oct 24, 2014 at 08:49:29 AM EST
    terrorists are usually the ones who lose.  Rebels write the history.

    Those who fought for George III... (none / 0) (#20)
    by unitron on Sun Oct 26, 2014 at 04:33:42 AM EST
    ...probably called the forces on the other side every disparaging name of which they could think, but apparently the specific terms terrorism and terrorist, used to refer to a specific concept, weren't coined until slightly later during the French Revolution.

    I'm sure they would have been more than willing to apply those labels to the colonial forces and their sympathizers and supporters if it had occurred to them, and would have honestly believed it to be true.

    They certainly didn't consider Washington and them to be on the side of the angels.

    (Since, of course, God being an Englishman meant any disloyalty to the Crown was a sin against Him as well)

    And whether a government is oppressive is somewhat a matter of opinion as well.

    On both the far left and far right here in the U.S. there are people who seem to consider our government more oppressive than it seems to be to me.

    Personally I think use of the term should be restricted to the old "the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize" (with the aim of causing the populace to turn against the then current government which can't protect them from it to their satisfaction, so as to create a power vacuum to be exploited by the 'terrorists') definition, and not slapped on everyone with a religious mania that leads to violence.


    Dear god (none / 0) (#19)
    by Juanita Moreno on Sun Oct 26, 2014 at 01:35:59 AM EST
    Susan Bibeau said she was devastated for the victims of the attack. "If I'm crying it's for the people," she said, struggling to hold back tears. "Not for my son."

    I hope my children grow to be peaceful, loving sensible adults. How awful for this mother to lose her son in such a terrible way.