7 unanswered questions about the Michael Zehaf Bibeau video

WATCH ABOVE: A video message from gunman Michael Zehaf Bibeau spells out why he carried out the attack and who he blamed. Mike Le Couteur has the details.

OTTAWA — More than four months after the Oct. 22 shooting on Parliament Hill, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared in front of the public safety committee to show a video made by Michael Zehaf Bibeau a few minutes before he took a soldier’s life, and stormed Centre Block to his own death.

Paulson was unequivocal: Zehaf Bibeau was a terrorist, and had he lived, he would have been charged with terrorism offences.

But while the video recorded as Zehaf Bibeau sat in his car in a downtown Ottawa parking lot was able to explain some of his motives — such as retaliation for Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to send troops to Iraq — more than a few questions remain.

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WATCH: RCMP release video Michael Zehaf Bibeau made before attack on Ottawa

Here we parse what is, and isn’t known, about the unprecedented attack on Parliament Hill.

Why didn’t the RCMP release the video right away?

Paulson said he learned of the video on Sunday after the Wednesday attack, and when he did, the RCMP issued a press release that day. While he wanted to release it, there were “dynamic discussions” about its value as evidence — not only in the Zehaf Bibeau investigation, but others.

The RCMP also considered that the video could be used to radicalize and facilitate terrorist recruitment, financing and action. “But as one of my officers put to me: ‘If not us, then who? We have the video.’ It’s a fair question,” Paulson said.

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After Parliament invited him to show it, he informed the committee on Tuesday he would present the video at the end of the week.

What’s missing from the video?

There are 18 seconds of footage missing from Zehaf Bibeau’s grainy cellphone video — 13 from the beginning, and five from the end. Paulson testified that he originally wanted to reveal the entire thing, but was persuaded by the “operational decision-makers” in the investigation to hold back.

As for why, Paulson remained tight-lipped. “Unfortunately, for the very same reasons we have edited the video, I cannot explain to you at this point why we have done so,” he said.

Did Zehalf-Bibeau act alone?

Paulson confirmed that Zehaf-Bibeau filmed the video alone. But the RCMP believes there were others involved in at least convincing him to pursue the attack. “I am persuaded that Zehaf-Bibeau didn’t come to this act alone,” Paulson told committee.

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He described a “broader network” that may have been involved; but stopped short of naming specific groups or individuals as the investigation continues. Paulson told committee that terrorism, in general, is a growing threat in Canada.

Was Zehaf Bibeau mentally ill?

Much has been made of Zehaf Bibeau’s mental state at the time of the killing. With a known history of drug addiction and mental illness, it was initially unclear whether mental illness, terrorist ideology or a combination of various factors led to his decision to kill Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and storm the Parliament buildings.

While Paulson alluded to Zehaf Bibeau’s mental state, he said that’s not an avenue the RCMP was pursuing in its investigation. Toxicology reports showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Zehaf Bibeau’s body at the time of his death.

Where did he get the gun?

The Mounties still don’t know where Zehaf Bibeau got his rarely-used weapon – a Winchester 30-30 rifle. The day before the attack, he bought a used car with cash and drove to Mont Tremblant, Quebec to visit a relative.

Very early in the morning on Oct. 22, a witness saw him place the rifle in the trunk of his car. The RCMP did not find any other guns or weapons in his car, but said he had a long knife tied to his wrist when he was killed.

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“We have not been able to confirm the origins of the gun. We are releasing a photo of the gun, which seems unique, in the hopes that someone might recognize it,” Paulson said.

Could anyone have stopped him?

Paulson alluded to the fact that there were those who were close to Zehaf Bibeau and could have reported his activities to police. He stressed the importance of recognizing suspicious activity and informing the police as soon as possible if any warning signs, such as sudden and extreme conversion to religion, are observed.

The RCMP has so far interviewed 400 people who may have crossed paths with Zehaf Bibeau in the last few years, and on his travels as he hitchhiked and rode a Greyhound bus from British Columbia to Ottawa.

Will the Conservatives’ Bill C-51 help prevent terrorists such as Zehaf-Bibeau?

Paulson was quick to stress that the release of the video has nothing to do with the government’s legislation, which is set to be studied by the same Parliamentary committee next week. “The release of this video at this time could be seen as seeking to influence that process. I assure you I have no such motive. The video speaks for itself. It is what it is,” he said.

Both the Conservatives and Liberals say the legislation will help prevent such attacks, because it encourages information-sharing among security agencies.

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Following committee, Paulson said he’s advocated for a lower threshold with respect to peace bonds – a court process that could limit someone’s movement or ability to carry weapons. He said it’s “not terribly unreasonable in terms of demonstrating a person’s radical, sort of abhorrent behaviour, and saying that we need to put conditions on this person’s movements, and then supporting that with proper oversight.”

When asked by the NDP, which does not support the government’s bill, if there were any current “statutory limitations” to charging someone like Bibeau, Paulson said no.

In fact, he pointed to court delays as a major problem in pursuing terrorism cases. “I think we need to rethink in this country how we manage the courts, frankly,” Paulson told the committee.

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