October 23, 2014 10:59 am
Updated: October 23, 2014 11:18 am

Ottawa shooting: Was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist or mentally ill?

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WATCH: Clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto Jordan Peterson discusses the mindset behind those who commit acts of terrorism.

TORONTO – Although alleged Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s motive for fatally shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo remains unclear, experts say his mindset prior to the attack may lead to clues.

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“Like the Columbine killers for example, they were fantasizing and planning it for months before they pulled it off,” said Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, during an interview on Global’s The Morning Show.

Peterson said he believes it was a premeditated act. “The guy who shot up Dawson College was the same way. This guy, he planned this.”

READ MORE: Mother of gunman says she’s crying for the victims of Ottawa shooting

Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, appeared to have a history of criminal offenses dating as far back as 2004 for drug possession, weapons offences, breaking parole conditions, and uttering threats.

Born in Canada and raised in Montreal and the surrounding areas, Zehaf-Bibeau also lived and worked in British Columbia for an unspecified amount of time between 2001 and 2011.

Global News confirms he converted to Islam two years ago and attended services at a mosque in Burnaby.

READ MORE: Alleged Ottawa gunman: What we know so far about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

According to media reports, he was also recently designated a “high-risk traveller” and had his passport seized.

The suspect in Monday’s terror-linked attack in Quebec, Martin Couture-Rouleau, also had his passport seized.

He was suspected of being an extremist with possible terrorist links.

“We do know as a correlation that these individuals have been tracked by national security and have been indicated as high-risk travellers,” said Christian Leuprecht, political science professor at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University.

“And that means they have been to some extent motivated by perhaps extremist ideology that inherently takes foot in this sort of circumstances of political instability.”

READ MORE: New ISIS audio recording urges attacks on Canada, other countries

ISIS recently released several online propaganda videos calling for attacks on citizens of Western countries, including Canada.

The Conservative government in October agreed to deploy fighter planes in Iraq to combat the incursion of Islamic State militants.

Leuprecht believes both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau were on the national security radar but that officials lacked sufficient evidence to arrest them.

“They had their passports revoked. It suggests that we already, I think, took the measures within the possible,” he said.

“What apparently there wasn’t sufficient of was evidence to actually detain and charge these individuals with the hope of attaining a conviction.”

VIDEO: RMC and Queen’s University professor Christian Leuprecht explains how Canada may or may not be able to secure itself against terrorist threats.

Peterson cites radicalization as a possible factor behind Zehaf-Bibeau’s actions in Ottawa.

“We don’t know whether this is an issue of radicalization per se or whether it’s an issue of mental illness,” Peterson said.

“People want group belonging but they also want status,” Peterson said. “Status seeking is a prime motivation for this sort of mass shooters.”

In an address to the nation Wednesday night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was firm when he said the country will learn more about the “terrorist and any accomplices he may have had” in the days to come.

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