When a Canadian soldier crashed his truck through security gates around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s home and prowled the grounds with three loaded guns, he said he hoped to provoke “a wake-up call and a turning point” for the country, revealing political intent behind the violence that is “quite singular in the Canadian context,” court heard Tuesday.
The overtly political message of Corey Hurren’s attack — to complain about gun control, COVID-19 restrictions and a perceived government policy of communism — requires a strong denunciation from the court, Crown prosecutor Meaghan Cunningham told court.
“Corey Hurren was prepared to die for his cause. He believed his message was that important,” she told Judge Robert Wadden. “The motive behind his actions was not suicide. He wasn’t doing this in order to die, he simply recognized that being killed might be an unavoidable consequence of his actions.
“Mr. Hurren’s motive is clear. It was to send a political message.
“It strikes at the very core of our sense of safety and security when our symbols and places of government and democracy are breached by people who pose a risk to public safety in the name of making a political statement. No responsible democracy can tolerate this,” she said.
The unusual circumstances behind the storming of Rideau Hall made it hard for lawyers to find legal precedence on an appropriate punishment.
Hurren, 46, of Bowsman in northern Manitoba, was a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces at the time of his attack last summer at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General and where Trudeau lives with his family.
He brought five loaded guns with him on the long drive from his home to Ottawa and carried three long guns, including a prohibited semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity magazine, with him as he walked towards the prime minister’s home. Trudeau was not home at the time.
Hurren was arrested after a 90-minute stand-off with police without shots being fired. He was originally charged with threatening Trudeau and 21 weapons charges. Earlier this month he pleaded guilty to seven charges related to possession of prohibited or restricted firearms, and a mischief charge for the more than $100,000 damage to the gate.
Cunningham asked for a six-year prison sentence for Hurren, along with a lifetime firearm prohibition and forfeiture of his guns.
“Mr. Hurren has said that he didn’t really have a plan when he set off on foot on the grounds of Rideau Hall. He also said that he wanted to make a statement, possibly interrupt the prime minister’s news conference or try to place him under arrest,” Cunningham said.
“Mr. Hurren intended that a confrontation of some kind would take place.
“It is also clear that Mr. Hurren wanted his statement to have a big impact. In his note, the one he sent photos of to his friends and family before crashing through those gates in Rideau Hall, he says ‘I hope this is a wake-up call and a turning point,’” Cunningham said of a hand-written note Hurren left in his disabled truck after it rammed the gates.
“In my submission, only something big could represent a wake-up call and a turning point for the entire country,” she said.
However, the Crown has no evidence Hurren intended to shoot Trudeau or anyone else that day, or he would be facing more serious charges, she said.
His note reveals Hurren thought he might not survive his attack. He left contact information for his family.
He also wrote he “hopes it hasn’t all been for nothing,” hopes he will “be forgiven” and that people understand why he did it.
Hurren sat silently in court, wearing a black T-shirt with a grey Canada flag on the front, a design sold online as a “Canada Flag Military Tactical T-shirt,” and a medical mask over his beard. His hair was a classic mullet, long at the back, short at the front.
He declined to address the court, both at the end, when Wadden gave him an opportunity to speak, and at the start, when the court tried to confirm his identity. Hurren did stand respectfully when the judge entered and left.
His lawyer, Michael Davies, asked for a sentence of three years for Hurren.
Davies said Hurren was suffering from depression before and during the attack and submitted a doctor’s report on his mental health.
Hurren is married and has two children, but his marriage was struggling before his arrest. Hurren’s wife recently commenced divorce proceedings, Davies said.
Hurren suffered chronic pain and lost his day job in 2019. But he had positives: a fledgling sausage business, he was a Master Corporal with the Canadian Rangers, and he was an active member of the Lion’s Club.
“Then came COVID,” Davies said.
“He seems to be coping with these different stressors but once COVID came along, it really took away the positive things in his life that were enabling him to cope with his stresses. It took away the Rangers, it took away the Lion’s Club, it took away the business.”
Court heard that the military was in the process of discharging Hurren from service.