Thoughts on Canada, democracy and tragedy

Source: CBC News
Source: CBC News

We interrupt our usual programming to bring some reflections on what happened on Canadian soil and at the heart of our parliamentary democracy this week.

On Monday, a man attempted to run down two soldiers with his vehicle. One soldier died, the murderer, a self-radicalized Muslim convert, was slain.

On Wednesday, a man shot and murdered a reservist, serving his country by standing guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. That man then got in his car drove to the Parliament Buildings and entered with the same weapon he used minutes earlier. He was gunned down as bullets ricocheted in the Hall of Honour separating the east and west blocks of the building.

Two soldiers slain. Two gunmen killed. Both gunmen known to police; both had their passports taken away as a result of their jihadist affiliations.

This is Canada, folks. A huge country with a small population. A country that has shared the enormous burden of two world wars and the Korean War. A country with a reputation as peacemakers. A country that sends troops on NATO missions, and heeds the call when coalitions are formed such as those in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. We try to punch above our weight. A people who are as multi-cultured as you can imagine. We take pride in our calm, modest behaviour. We take pride in standing up for human rights, for the downtrodden, for those less fortunate.

Our democracy works – occasionally a bit strained at the edges. We have our share of internal squabbles but for the most part, our country of 10 provinces and 3 territories gets along. A historian once described our country as the ‘peaceable kingdom’.

The happenings of Monday and Wednesday will not weaken us. We will be strong and carry on.

Headlines in The Globe and Mail – one of our national newspapers – are striking:


We Canadians are steadfast and a bit phlegmatic. These are among our finest traits. We don’t get that excited, and we won’t be cowed into giving up our freedoms. Also, we can shoot to kill. So long as we retain these virtues, the terrorists don’t have a chance.


It was said Wednesday, in haste, that the drama and tragedy in Ottawa represented the ‘end of innocence’ for Canada. If so, it was the end only for the remaining innocents among us, because the struggle against militant Islam, which is an outgrowth of a much wider and deeper struggle within Islam itself, has been and will be with us for a very long time.


In light of this week, Canada may have to change. But whatever changes we choose to make should be done carefully and calmly, with an understanding of the limited scale of the threat, and the nature of tradeoffs between freedom and safety.

This morning our Members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister and leaders of our other two major parties, and our Senators went to the war memorial where the reservist was slain to lay wreaths and pay their respects. Afterwards, they sang our national anthem.

Canada, eh?