Not a National Threat, but Is It Terrorism?

Updated on April 25, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

On Canadian Soil


No Motive Yet - And We Want Answers

It's fair to say that after the van attack that took 10 lives and injured 16 in Toronto on April 23, many of us are still shaken. After all, this is Canada, and we pride ourselves - perhaps a bit naively at times - on being a peaceful nation that's very accepting to everyone. This is not to say violence has not occurred here; if you run a Google search of "terrorism Canada," one of the most recent examples occurred on September 30, 2017, when Abdulahi Sharif struck and stabbed Edmonton police constable Mike Chernyk. There's also the fatal shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on October 20, 2014, who left behind a very young son when he succumbed to his injuries, or the ramming incident two days after that, with Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent dying of his injuries. To be sure, what happened in Toronto on April 23 is probably one of the most horrific incidents to hit Ontario in recent memory, and as those affected by the incident try to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and rebuild, we cannot help but wonder if what happened is the result of terrorism.

We have no answers yet - that's going to take a while, and according to the most recent news reports, no one is using the term terrorism, but let's take a look at some definitions.

If you look up "terrorism definition" in Google, you get the following: "a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims." Strictly speaking, if you were to consider what a terrorist does, you only need to look at the root of the word - terror - in much the same way that if you didn't know what a botanist did, you'd look at the root of the word and work from there. Therefore, we can argue that political aims aside, a terrorist's "job," if you will, is to inflict terror, which is, of course, defined as "extreme fear."

Can we say that extreme fear resulted from yesterday's attack? For God's sake, we're referring to it as an attack, not an incident, so that would be indicative of a high level of violence, which generally results in a whole lot of fear in its aftermath.

We have no idea - yet - what the van driver was thinking in the minutes, hours and days prior to this heinous attack. We have no idea what put him behind the wheel of a van that day and what he was ultimately trying to achieve by killing 10 and wounding 16, irretrievably shattering the lives of those directly affected and those who witnessed what happened in real time.

All of that said, while we don't know if there was any sort of political motivation behind the attack, we can look at the result.

People were - and probably still are - terrified.

People will no doubt be looking at their safety on the streets on an ongoing basis every time they choose to walk somewhere.

These two items alone can lead us to conclude that if we were to look at a terrorist's job strictly as the infliction of terror, the driver of that van is indeed a terrorist.

Invariably, when terror strikes, people end up changing their patterns of behavior, at least in the short term, because they are motivated by fear. Again, a terrorist can look at the result of an attack and if this change in behavior does occur, they can consider at least part of what they hoped to achieve successful.

Who wouldn't be motivated by fear after an attack of this nature? I'd certainly be reconsidering - at least in the short term - going on a leisurely stroll with my family, or letting my two kids go for a walk to the store.

We need to reconsider the overall definition of terrorism without the political connection. Put simply, not everyone is "wired right" in this world, and sometimes, the motivation to strike fear in people is not necessarily political in nature.

If it comes to light that the van driver had no political affiliations, where does that leave our understanding of what happened? If we call it a terrorist attack, we can look at it and say, "Oh, no! Another attack on Canadian soil." If it turns out the driver is not affiliated with a terrorist organization, media outlets will likely refer to it as "senseless violence."

Isn't all violence senseless?

10 people have lost their lives, and 16 people who were injured in this horrific attack are fighting to rebuild. The families and friends in the immediate nexus of these 26 individuals are all trying to make sense of this.

How can we?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • bradmasterOCcal profile image


      2 years ago

      If we categorize terrorism as a mental disorder, than the root cause of these kinds of attacks stems from mental illness.

      This would also unbind the instrument of death, in the Canada killings that was the van. In the Parkland Florida killings it was a gun. But the common denominator was a person. A person with a mental disorder.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)