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Canadian innocence

As you are no doubt aware, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot to death as he stood honour guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday. The gunman then burst into the Centre Block Parliment Building and exchanged numerous rounds of gunfire with police and security, before the Sergeant-At-Arms, Kevin M. Vickers shot and killed him. It was reported that Vickers, a former RCMP officer, had never killed anyone before this. The next day, as he solemnly stood to receive the grateful applause of the MPs for over a minute, I wondered what he must be thinking. Twenty-four hours previous, he saved countless lives by killing a man. Understandable if his emotions were somewhat mixed.

On the news broadcasts afterward, several people commented that Canada had lost its innocence with this tragedy, but when was Canada ever innocent? Have we never known the touch of fear or darkness in this country? Have we been so secure that violence has never crossed our borders? Are we so peaceful a people that we have never been troubled by internal strife, homegrown terror? Are we so smug to think these things to be American or Middle Eastern problems?

Just two days prior to the shooting in Ottawa, one uniformed soldier was fatally run down and another wounded in Quebec by a driver seeking to carry out the mandate to deliberately target Canadian soldiers and punish the country for participating in the American-led coalition against ISIS.

In 1984, a corporal in the Canadian army killed three people at the National Assembly in Quebec before another Sergeant-At-Arms, Rene Jalbert talked the man into surrendering.

In 1970, the War Measures Act was invoked as the Canadian government’s dramatic response to the terrorist activities of the Front de Liberation du Quebec.

We’ve not been immune to school shootings either. In 1989, in what would later become known as The Montreal Massacre, 14 women were gunned down at Ecole Polytechnique by a man whose stated motive was hatred of feminists.

And mass murderers, we’ve had our share. I won’t mention their names – they’ve received enough attention already. Suffice it to say that the worst of them may have slaughtered more than 40 women on his pig farm in British Columbia.

No. We lost our innocence a long time ago, but chose to keep the unpleasantness from our collective consciousness. And maybe it’s time to change that, admit that Canadians are no better and no worse than anyone else, put aside our stereotype of the polite and peaceful Canadian and take a realistic look at what we are and what we’re capable of. Then maybe we can come to grips with the problems we share with every other country, and find a way to heal.

If I had been in Parliment the day after the shooting, I too would have risen to my feet and applauded Mr. Vickers for his courage and selflessness. Then I would wish I could put my hand on his shoulder and apologize for the mark his act of heroism will leave on rest of his life, that we wish it hadn’t come to this.

That in spite of our history, somehow we thought it couldn’t happen here.

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  1. kim barry
    Posted October 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    There are no boarders on matters like these, you are so right , we are all in this together, whether we realize it or not. ,Canada is not immune, still part of this big crazy world & we all have a responsibility to it & all the actions that taken…. good & bad. Much respect for your writing Penny-Ann, You are terrific .

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted October 26, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Thanks for reading, Kim! I love this country so much, and I have hope we will find our way to integrity and wholeness.

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