Last night, I had great difficulty falling asleep. My brain couldn’t stop processing the events of the day; events of which I became aware immediately upon waking and heading over to CBC.ca as part of my regular wake-up routine. A Canadian Forces reserve member had been shot and killed while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. MPs were barricaded behind their caucus room doors after the same gunman shot his way into Centre Block.
It was madness. And while the events were shocking, I would never be able to say they were unsurprising. Canadians are neither naive, nor innocent. It would be best for outsiders to remember this. Yesterday was not our first dance, and it will not be our last dance.
Don’t be fooled by our ability to carry on with business as usual in the aftermath of tragic events. This quality is just one of the things that makes us Canada.
Yesterday was madness. Despite shock, I held tight to the knowledge that we’ve been in dark situations before and we’ve emerged through the other side still being a country where we trust each other; a country that refuses to live in fear. I reminded myself of Moncton, I reminded myself of the October Crisis, I reminded myself of the failed Canada Day bombing attempt on the B.C. Legislature, and many similar events. Each time, after the initial shock was over, we carried on with business as usual.
Yesterday was madness. But I felt safe and secure. I felt my country was safe and secure, despite what foreign armchair commentators were suggesting. However, that changed after Prime Minster Stephen Harper addressed the nation. From that moment, until I listened to him speak in the House of Commons today, I was worried he’d try and pull our nation in a direction that many of us would call un-Canadian; a direction of living in fear and distrust of our neighbours. Even though Mulcair’s speech and Trudeau’s speech were very reassuring and warm, it didn’t help to undo the tone and nature of Harper’s address because Harper has the majority.
Yesterday was madness and dark. Today, the sun came out—even if hidden behind the clouds in my neck of Canada. I listened to Harper speak and for the first time, I wanted to give him a hug. Today, I was proud that he showed genuine warmth and uncharacteristic emotion. He hugged Justin Trudeau. He hugged Thomas Mulcair. He hugged Kevin Vickers. Of course there are some who will say it’s all for show and an attempt to make Canadians forget what he’s really about. After all, this is a man who shakes his children’s hands, instead of giving them hugs; or so legend will have it.
Yesterday was madness and I went to bed at 4am feeling sick, despite reading a number of editorials that brought me comfort. Today, the sun came out and my heart is heavy with sadness and pride. I can’t even look at images or video of Kevin Vickers without something getting into my eyes. He’s a hero but my heart is heavy for him. I can’t image the weight of burden he must be feeling right now because, even though he was doing his duty, I doubt he ever expected the need to run into his office, load his weapon, and kill someone in the course of protecting our nation’s capital. Yes, he was doing his duty. But when you consider that it is extremely rare for peace and police officers in Canada to draw their weapons and kill someone, it’s not a reality we are properly mentally prepared for. While he is humbly accepting praise as a hero, I would not be surprised if he’s also deeply saddened by the reality that he had to take someone else’s life.
My heart is filled with sadness and pride for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for all the RCMP officers, security officers, and Ottawa Police officers who ran towards gunfire. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for all the MPs, out-of-country visitors, members of the press, members of the public, daycare workers and children who just happened to be in the Centre Block at this time. Reading about those events is quite surreal. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for the first responders and citizens who gave CPR to Cpl. Cirillo. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for Cpl. Brandon Stevenson who was also guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and chased after the gunman. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for the CBC reporters who witnessed these events and immediately began live, fact-based, fear-free reporting for hours upon hours. My heart is filled with sadness and pride for all people who spent hours in lockdown, then got up today and carried on with business as usual.
Despite going to bed worried about what Harper would do today, I felt a slight reassurance that we would get through this, too, when it was reported that MPs would be returning to work today, despite rumours that it may be many days that Parliament would be closed for business and to the public. Carrying on: It’s what we do.
Today, I felt pride in my Prime Minister when he sincerely urged people to see their doctor if the stress of yesterday’s events was causing any type of adverse effects on their health. I heard that as being both physical and mental effects. To me, him saying that is basically saying, “There is no shame in having mental injuries from yesterday. It is normal and please get help. We need to be healthy to keep calm and carry on.”
Today I felt pride in my country as I saw even more people tell outsiders that you cannot bring us down. We will continue to stand united. Today I feel sadness that we have to be extra-vigilante in reminding ourselves and others that Canada has not and will not change; Canada is not going anywhere.
Yesterday was madness. Today is more hopeful. I’m still in the process of unpacking the events of the last two days. I’m still in the process of allowing myself permission to breathe a sigh of relief and feel a little vindicated for not believing foreign media when they said the gunman was on a watchlist and had his passport revokes; for believing he was a lone wolf, perhaps feeling inspired by Monday’s hit-and-run/murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Perhaps, there may even be a little bit of smugness in my heart today because as a nation we are winning because we refuse to sow hatred and distrust in our hearts.
Because I’m still in the process of unpacking, I’m unable to properly articulate my thoughts and feelings of sadness and pride I currently feel for the institutes and people that make Canada the True North: Strong and Free.
I’m filled with pride because so many people still want Parliament to be the place that has yoga on the lawns.
Before I sign of and curl up with some television to help me further unpack these events, please take the time to read and watch the following things I’ve shared over the last day, that I think help exemplify what Canada is about as a nation and as a people.
This is not our first dance, and it will not be our last dance. Each time, we will carry on; being more united than the day before.
From The Globe and Mail: “After the Attacks, We’re Still Canada”
From Maclean’s: “Parliament will carry on. And please let there be yoga again on the lawn”
From Maclean’s: “Parliament Hill under siege”
From Maclean’s: “We need less security, not more“