A Toronto man who allegedly tried to carry a meat cleaver onto Parliament Hill is to undergo a psychiatric assessment.
A lawyer for Yasin Ali asked for the assessment in court Wednesday after the 56-year-old appeared by video from the courthouse cellblock on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. He will remain in jail until his next appearance on Friday, when he is to appear in court in person.
A man had a ticket to visit the Peace Tower, and was in line to go through the visitors’ entrance at about 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday when a House of Commons security guard asked him to open his coat. The guard found the man was concealing a large cleaver with an approximately six-inch-long blade. The man never made it as far as the metal detectors.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told reporters that Ali is known to authorities, but “not in the sort of counter-terrorism context.”
In fact, Paulson does not believe that the man’s actions were politically motivated or an act of terror.
“I understand it is less a concern around so-called national security considerations as it is a mental health issue,” he said. “There is a history of behaviours that are odd.””
Paulson added that he was “very pleased with the response of the security service. That’s exactly what they are supposed to do. They did that. They did it well.”
Ali’s court appearance Wednesday was slightly delayed after it became apparent he might need the assistance of an interpreter as he speaks Somali Arabic.
It is not known why he was in Ottawa or on Parliament Hill.
Court records indicate Ali’s most recent address was at the Salvation Army’s Maxwell Meighen Centre homeless shelter on Sherbourne Street in Toronto in 2012. He also appears to have lived in western Toronto on Dixon Road in the 1990s.
He was convicted of impaired driving in 1998 and given a $300 fine, three months’ probation and a one-year driving prohibition. His only other contact with the courts appear to be provincial offences or bylaw infractions, according to court records.
It was a just over a year ago that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial, and in a few moments made his way from there through the front door of the Centre Block with a loaded rifle. He wounded a Commons security guard who wrestled with him after he burst through the front door, then died in a gun battle with security forces outside the Library of Parliament, at the end of the Hall of Honour.
The shooting took place metres from caucus rooms filled with Conservative and NDP MPs.
Since then, security has been tightened and revamped, with the integration of the three security forces that police Parliament Hill: the House of Commons Security Services, the Senate Protective Service and the RCMP.
And security forces across the country have said that they are on heightened alert since the Paris bombings of last Friday. For example, the RCMP has stepped up security at the French Embassy and increased its presence on the Hill.
© Radio Dalsan