Where did my Canada go? A year of tragedy

Three senseless attacks have left us saddened, but strong

It has been an unimaginably difficult week for Canadians from coast-to-coast. We have always thought of ourselves as a peaceful country: one where gun violence is rare, and terrorism rarer still. Our politicians walked to work. You could walk into the heart of the country’s government on your daily route. Last week, we lived in a Canada where Parliament’s flag didn’t fly at half-mast.

And then, it was gone. And I didn’t know where my Canada went.

In June, we lost three RCMP officers to a man with a gun in Moncton, N.B. He injured two others, and after a long and gruelling 28-hour manhunt where the country held its breath, he was apprehended in a resident’s backyard. It was not only a horrible tragedy, but it was also Moncton’s first homicide in four years.

Then, last week, we hear of a driver running down two soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. We all hoped it wasn’t deliberate, even as one of the soldiers succumbed to his injuries. Patrice Vincent, the 53-year-old Warrant Officer who was killed, liked making cabinets. He was close to retiring.

And finally, the penultimate tragedy: a gunman killed an unarmed soldier who was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That gunman then entered Parliament, lodging bullets in the walls and doors of our highest institution. Our government officials stacked chairs against doors and grabbed flagpoles as weapons to defend themselves. One parliamentary guard was shot in the foot trying to push the man’s gun down.

One of these events would have been shocking—but all three, in one year? Worse, in six months?

It is not an easy time for our country. In fact, it is a very emotional time—but that does not mean we allow ourselves to be ruled by that emotion. The moment that hate and fear cloud our judgement, we as a country have failed.

The Friday after the attack on Parliament Hill, a mosque leader in Cold Lake, Alta. arrived to find his mosque vandalized. The words “Canada” and “Go Home” were scrawled on the walls in red spray paint. This sort of blind hate—because it is definitely hate, and most definitely blind—is not Canadian. This was proven by the dozens of volunteers who showed up that very same day to scrub those words off the mosque, and placed words of welcome, such as  “Love your neighbour” and “You are home.”

We must not hate fellow Canadians for what they believe. We must resist the urge to name the perpetrators and spread their images on social media, giving them the infamy they clearly desired. It would be unfair to elevate our Sergeant-at-Arms—who took a life—to hero status, when he is struggling under the weight of his deed. And it would be horribly, horribly irresponsible to give the government carte blanche in terms of legislation and debate, simply because we want a quick solution to a complex problem.

What we can do—and should do—is mourn. Mourn for our fallen soldiers and the mentally ill who took their lives.

But don’t mourn for Canada. She might be gone for now—but with luck, she is not forgotten.

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