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October 23, 2014

Ottawa shooting leaves unanswered questions

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Many questions remain following a shooting in Ottawa, Canada that left two people dead and several wounded.

The gunman, who has been identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, began the attack at the National War Memorial, where he shot a soldier guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier. Canadian police began receiving emergency calls to report the shooting at 9:52 am. The soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, died later at a hospital.

Zehaf-Bibeau then ran to the nearby Parliament building, prompting a response by Ottawa police and security guards.

Zehaf-Bibeau entered the Parliament building and ran past a room containing Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as other lawmakers. Meanwhile, parts of the city went on lockdown while Parliament security guards pursued the shooter.

At least two other people were wounded in the attack. Ottawa officials say the gunman, who is now dead, appears to have acted alone.

The incident follows an earlier attack this week on two Canadian soldiers by a man who recently converted to Islam and whose Facebook postings praised Islamic State violence.

This week, Canada sent fighter jets to help the United States in its campaign against the Islamic State, the Sunni militant group known as ISIS and ISIL.

Canada raised the national threat level from low to medium in response to that event, marking the first time it has raised the threat level since 2010.

Canada has closed public access to its bases and officials are continuing to investigate the gunman’s motivations for the attack.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Ottawa, Canada?
  2. What is a mass shooting? Where have you heard this term used before?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why do you think the Canadian police are hesitant to make any definitive statements about the event? If you were faced with a crisis and had to report information to the public, what steps might you take to ensure responsible delivery of the news?
  2. Do you think the Canadian police did a good job in stopping the shooter? What evidence would you base your answer on? What could you compare this incident to?
  3. In the past, Canada has tried to position itself outside of military conflicts and taken on more humanitarian support roles. How do governments decide whether to take part in international military action against threats such as Islamic State?
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