Most people are familiar with the phrase: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” On March 24, that change manifested itself in the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities across the United States. Although the march was organized by American students to protest against weak American gun laws following a lengthy streak of shootings in American schools, thousands of Canadians marched in solidarity on Saturday. The ability of a group of Florida teenagers to spark a transnational demonstration is courageous, inspiring and a major step toward effecting real change.
We live in an age where mass shootings are normalized in the United States—or at least they were until about six weeks ago. So far this year, there has been an average of more than one school shooting every week in the United States, or a total of 17 shootings in 12 weeks, according to CNN. While Canadians should be proud to support our neighbours to the south in their fight to improve gun control, it’s important to remember we are not immune to the problem in our own country.
There were 13 shootings—two of which were fatal—in Ottawa alone in January 2018, reported CBC News. This equals to 40 per cent of the shootings recorded in the city in all of 2013. Of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, Canada has the fourth highest rate of death by firearm, according to The Globe and Mail. The rate in Canada is more than twice that of Australia and 10 times the rate in Britain.
Effective gun control has been terminated at the federal level, and gun circulation in Canada has amplified. According to The Globe and Mail, the Harper government overruled the RCMP’s ban on military assault weapons, and eliminated the legal requirement that the sale of shotguns and rifles be tracked. Today, people with gun licenses in Canada can buy an unlimited number of unrestricted guns (i.e. shotguns and rifles, among others), and there is no record kept about any of these purchases. Gun owners in Canada can also avoid background checks because of automatic six-month license extensions that kick in if they fail to renew their license on time. Additionally, from 2012 to 2016, the importation of guns to Canada almost doubled compared to the previous four years—increasing from more than one million to just under two million, according to The Globe and Mail.
So while most of the news media turns its attention to the overwhelming number of massacres in the United States, it is undeniable that gun violence and a lack of gun control are problems in Canada as well.
As Canadians, we should be proud to stand against the people who deem corporate greed and political gain more valuable than the innocent lives of children. We should be proud to support anyone who tries to effect positive, peaceful change in a world that seems increasingly polarized and violent. Canadians should take inspiration from the brave voices and powerful words of young Americans, and make sure our own government understands that weak gun control will no longer be tolerated here either. We should all be determined to end gun violence and school shootings.
A school should be a safe space for everyone. It’s where we go to learn, to flourish and to create a future for ourselves. It is outrageous that shooting drills have become as commonplace in schools as fire drills. Parents should not drop their children off at school fearing they’ll never see them again.
Change comes slowly, but we at The Concordian believe it will come. Children are the future, and Saturday’s march was just a taste of the future these courageous young people will build for themselves. The people in charge can not be relied on to protect that future, nor should it be solely their responsibility. As the students of Parkland high school continue to show us, we must become the change we wish to see in our world.
Graphic Alexa Hawksworth