COLUMN: Terror plot shows need for security

Two Surrey residents charged with terrorism-related activities after Canada Day plot foiled.

Two Surrey residents are charged with terrorism-related activities, in relation to Canada Day festivities in Victoria on the lawns of the Parliament Buildings.

Officials allege would-be terrorists were apparently motivated by the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April of this year, in which two extremists placed nails in pressure cookers and set them off near the finish line, while hordes of people were nearby.

Unlike the two Boston bombers, these individuals were apparently not motivated by any religious or political movement. Rather, they wanted to cause terror and havoc in a very public place. Police describe them as “self-radicalized.”

It is also important to note that these are allegations made at an RCMP news conference at E Division headquarters in Surrey, and have yet to be proven in court.

However, as Premier Christy Clark noted in a statement at the legislature, most B.C. residents are pleased and relieved that the RCMP and other agencies nipped this particular plot in the bud.

Surrey needs to take this incident to heart, because it is entirely possible that such an incident could take place here. Our own Canada Day celebration at Cloverdale Millennium Park attracted a huge crowd and had many great attractions, including several popular music acts. I was there Monday afternoon to see the Surrey band Good For Grapes, a young up and coming band that is going places.

When our group went onto the grounds, there were no security checks.

There were multiple entrances, and while there were lots of police, both auxiliary and regular members (including some in their red serge), it would have been very easy to bring something untoward onto the grounds.

On May 24, a huge crowd of 25,000 fans packed Holland Park to see Mumford and Sons. As it was a ticketed event, there was security, as there needs to be at an event of that nature.

The Fusion Festival is coming up at Holland Park on July 20 and 21, and it, too, attracts a large crowd.

As it is free and does not require tickets, many people want to take part.

This is great, and I applaud the city for sponsoring these free events, but security cannot take a back seat. The arrests of the two Surrey residents proves that.

The Olympic events in 2010 and the Stanley Cup informal street gatherings in 2011 attracted large crowds in Surrey, but things were peaceful. The Vaisakhi parade, the largest single event in Surrey, has also been peaceful thus far.

As we saw, that wasn’t the case in downtown Vancouver on the night of the Stanley Cup final game.

We live in an age where reports of terrorism get plenty of attention in both mainstream media and on the Internet. The Internet and social media make it easier than ever for copycats to emulate others who create mischief, and to attract a crowd in a hurry.

Many of the Surrey residents at the Canada Day event come from other countries where terrorism is far more prevalent. A few days earlier, I spoke with a man who moved here from Iraq, which has seen more than its share of suicide bombings, attacks on police and sectarian violence.

He is glad to be in Canada and was marking Canada Day with his family at a large public event.

Almost all immigrants come here, at least in part, to get away from this type of thing. They value Canada for its peace and tranquility, and its many opportunities.

However, the things that attract people here also make this country a target for a few “radicalized” people, and we have had no shortage of terrorism attempts in Canada over the past six or seven years. We must be vigilant, and in particular we must do all we can to ensure that large events are safe, and stay that way.

We don’t want to stop celebrating Canada Day and hearing great music at events like Fusion Festival. But we do want to celebrate in a peaceful way.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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