01/07/2015 04:47 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 10:59 EST

Thomas Mulcair: Paris Shooting Is Terrorism, But Same Can't Be Said Yet Of Ottawa Attack


Thomas Mulcair says the mass shooting at a Paris satirical newspaper that killed at least 12 people Wednesday was a terrorist act, but maintains the same can't yet be said of the attack on Canada's Parliament Hill last October.

On Wednesday morning, Mulcair released a statement calling the attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo a terrorist act and an assault on "democracy and freedom of the press." The newspaper has drawn condemnation from some Muslims for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The NDP leader, who holds dual Canadian and French citizenship, later spoke to reporters from Ottawa's National Press Theatre to show solidarity with journalists on what has been dubbed the "darkest day of the history of the French press."

The NDP leader told reporters the attack was against the press' very ability to tell the truth and urged journalists not to be "cowed" by such actions.

"I think everybody in the world who treasures values like freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly understands the importance of standing up to this," he said.

Global News captured footage of the moment Mulcair was asked by a reporter if he would characterize the Charlie Hebdo shootings as a terrorist act.

"In France, what we've seen is a co-ordinated, concerted action by a group of people seeking to cause harm to others and that would correspond to the generally accepted definition of terrorism," he said. "With regard to Ottawa, as you know, our position has been that we have not been given enough information to come to that conclusion."

Mulcair was both lauded and criticized in late October when he said Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial before storming Parliament Hill, was a criminal, not a terrorist.

"I don't think we have enough evidence to use that word," Mulcair said at the time of the terrorist label, adding that Zehaf-Bibeau had obvious mental health issues and a criminal past.

"I think that we're not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau both labelled the Ottawa attack a terrorist attack. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said at the time that Zehaf-Bibeau was "driven by ideological and political motives." Paulson told a Senate committee the shooter made a video of himself before the attack in which he appeared "lucid" and described Canada's foreign policy and his own religious beliefs as "the basis for his actions."

But a poll in November suggested Canadians are deeply split on whether Zehaf-Bibeau's attack was an act of terrorism or the result of mental illness.

In his statement Wednesday, Harper drew a link between the shootings in Paris and the attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, where Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed in a targeted hit-and-run.

"This barbaric act, along with recent attacks in Sydney, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, is a grim reminder that no country is immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world," he said in the statement.

"Canada and its allies will not be intimidated and will continue to stand firmly together against terrorists who would threaten the peace, freedom and democracy our countries so dearly value. Canadians stand with France on this dark day."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also took to Twitter to condemn the violence in Paris.

But the fact that Trudeau did not explicitly call the attack a terrorist act evidently did not sit well with author, Sun News columnist and broadcaster Tarek Fatah.

French President Francois Hollande called the shootings a terrorist act "of exceptional barbarism."


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With previous files, a file from The Canadian Press