As the family of an accused terrorist mourns his death in a small Ontario city, the RCMP is facing fresh accusations that their operation to thwart an alleged attack almost made a cab driver collateral damage.
ISIS supporter Aaron Driver would have turned 25 today. Instead, the wannabe terrorist, who was killed last week during a standoff with police in Strathroy, Ontario, was laid to rest in a private ceremony, away from prying eyes.
According to a statement sent to VICE News from the London Muslim Mosque, where Driver regularly attended over the last year, his family has chosen to hold a "private 'non-religious affair'" and that they "decided to cremate the body, which as advised would be against Islamic burial rules." Members of the Driver family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Driver's ashes are buried with his mother's grave at the Forest Lawn cemetery in London. His mother, Linda Driver, died in 1999. Staff there said they were placed there this morning. For now, a piece of square-cut earth is the only way to tell his remains are there. There are no flowers, no notes. In the next month or so, a formal marker will be placed on top.
Driver's case has once again thrust the issue of what authorities should do with people who express their support for violent extremism, but when there's not enough evidence to lay formal criminal charges. On Wednesday, public safety minister Ralph Goodale said the government was exploring imposing mandatory religious counselling on terror suspects.
Based on a "martyrdom video" he recorded earlier, it's believed Driver was about to carry out a suicide attack. He got into a cab in front of his sister's house, and detonated a homemade explosive in the backseat just before the RCMP fatally shot him. The driver suffered minor injuries, but has since slammed the police for not protecting him during the standoff, or warn him that they were monitoring the house.
Terry Duffield told the London Free Press that if he hadn't leaned over to pick up a pack of cigarettes in the car, he would have been dead. He blames RCMP for allowing him to get so close to Driver before they intercepted.
"It was that seat and those cigarettes that saved my ass, no cop," Duffield said, adding that anxiety has prevented him from returning to work. His girlfriend launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medications, trauma counselling, and to "repair his life that was shattered that day in a terrorist bomb blast."
An RCMP spokesperson refused to respond to Duffield's statements, telling VICE News on Thursday: "There is still an ongoing investigation and the RCMP will not be providing any additional information/comment on this file."
A week since the incident, the street where it all went down is quiet. Several people in the town of 21,000 say they had seen Driver around, but never had any inkling he was living under an anti-terror peace bond — similar to a restraining order that ostensibly restricted his movements and access to social media — over fears he might participate in a terrorist group, or continue advocating for one.
A spokesperson for the London Muslim Mosque told VICE News that Driver had been attending the mosque as recent as earlier this month. And although mosque officials knew Driver was on a terror peace bond and held "strong views," they didn't turn him away and tried to keep him in the fold to show him the "true tenets of his faith."
After Driver was killed, the mosque offered his family guidance on how to perform an Islamic funeral, which requires the body to be treated a certain way, but said that none of their officials or imams would be directly involved in the proceedings.
Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter