EDITORIAL: A reader’s digest of the Ottawa ordeal

By Chris Marchand

Now a week distant, the frightening events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, and then in Ottawa at the National War Memorial and in Parliament’s Centre Block were a difficult test of our nation’s resolve and reflection of our collective cultural identity that we should be proud of.

There were a number of devastatingly powerful things said that revealed much about Canadian character and temperament — just a few of which I will share.

“I told him you are loved. You are brave. You are good.” — Barbara Winters, citizen who rushed to the aid of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, comforting him in his last moments.

Indeed, the images of first responders trying to revive Cpl. Cirillo set the tone for how the incident was handled with a firm focus on the humanity and the heroism that a few demonstrated.

I believe some of the more important comments made came via Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, a subtle and important reminder that events such as these are often used by to make sweeping changes to our civil liberties.

“We have heard about a loss of innocence in Canada. This is inaccurate. Canada is not innocent to the threats we face, and we know that we are not immune. What is true is that we have not let those threats shape us, and we have never bowed to those who mean to undermine our values and way of life… Criminals cannot and will not dictate to us how we act as a nation, how we govern ourselves, or how we treat each other. They cannot and will not dictate our values. And they do not get to decide how we use our shared public spaces.” — Justin Trudeau, Liberal Leader.

I too bristled at the suggestion in online and tabloidy news sources that Canada somehow had ‘lost its innocence’. That assertion seemed to diminish the ultimate sacrifice made by 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during Canada’s 10 year involvement in the Afghanistan conflict.

It’s hard to throw too much criticism at the national media for their treatment of the event, which quite rightly earned accolades of media watchers worldwide for their admirable restraint.

We’ve all seen the wildly speculative US cable news channels sowing fear and uncertainty while lavishing celebrity upon the misguided people at the root of the event.

The coverage I saw remained factual and cultivated the kind of stoic concern that appealed to the best parts of ourselves — our capacity for solidarity and courage. It was coverage that made us all concerned for our fellow countrymen, not scared or angry for ourselves.

“Today was not the killer’s — let us not name him. Instead it produced a master counter-example, the Sgt. At Arms Kevin Vickers. Mr. Vickers, the whole country is unaminous. In all the matters that count — bravery, duty, selflessness — you are as good as they get. The office of Sgt. At Arms can never have been better filled. So as we mourn the soldier, Corporal Cirillo, let us honour the sergeant, Mr. Vicker. They encompass between them, so much of what Canadians choose to admire and love.” — Rex Murphy, CBC’s Point of View broadcast.

And yet when fear did find its foothold among the weakminded, there were others who circled the innocent protectively.

“You ARE home,” — sign posted at Cold Lake Mosque after local residents rallied to fix smashed windows and spraypainted phrase, “Go Home”.

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