I live in Ottawa. It is our Nation’s Capital and that is important.
More importantly it is the city where my wife and have chosen to raise our family and make our home.
Today someone decided to kill a soldier and attack Parliament Hill – the seat of our democracy. Some are suggesting that he was radicalized and acting at the behest of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq. Some news outlets are reporting his name and indicating that he was Canadian-born and had converted to Islam. Before I go further I have a few thoughts on that.
- There is no Islamic State. There are just a bunch of people trying to take power through brutal violence in a part of the middle east. It is neither a state nor Islamic. The majority of the people they are killing are Muslims.
Neither today’s killer or the one who drove into two military personnel earlier this week were Muslims. They may have thought they were converting to Islam or somehow fighting for Islam. They were not. They were deceived and used by those using Islam as a cover for their drive for political power.
The fact that both of these murderers were Canadian-born does not make this issue of radicalization better or worse. Whether they were born here or immigrated here, they were clearly not satisfied with their lot in life and were searching for meaning in their life. We as a society should be on the look out for people who are facing these kinds of struggles and seeking opportunities to help connect them to something that will give them meaning in a productive way.
Regardless of whom he was or his motives, he did succeed in scaring people and raising the anxiety level in my city.
Some are already suggesting that we should beef up security on Parliament Hill. Schools across Ottawa were locked down across the city along with government offices in Ottawa and apparently in some other parts of the country. Canadian Forces Bases were also locked down and military personnel apparently ordered not to wear their uniforms when off base.
This is my plea for perspective.
This murderer and the one who drove into a couple of soldiers in Quebec earlier this week may have been motivated by the same cause. They may not. Either way we need to be clear, two people were killed and as I understand it three or four were injured by these two men who were themselves killed by police or security personnel. This is terrible and sad for the people killed and injured as well as their families. This is not a crisis or a reason for a paranoid response. There were probably more people killed and injured in traffic collisions in Ontario today.
Terrorism only works if we let it work. Ottawa and Canada are no more dangerous today than they were yesterday or last week. My risk and the risk of my fellow Canadians, including military personnel is no greater today because of the acts of these two killers. This not the first time Canadians have been subject to acts of terrorism.
- In 1985 Air India Flight 182 was blown out of the sky along with 329 passengers, the majority of whom were Canadians.
- In 1989 a killer shot and killed 14 women at the University of Montreal simply because they were women.
- In the 1960’s the Front de libération du Québec waged a bombing campaign against Anglo businesses and kidnapped and killed Pierre Laporte, a minister in the Quebec Government.
- 1868 Thomas Darcy McGee (a Father of Confederation and MP) was assassinated on the street in Ottawa – Likely by Fenian terrorists although probably not by the man convicted in his murder.
- I could also make a case that gangs who kill shopkeepers who don’t pay into protection rackets are also terrorists since they are killing or injuring to strike fear.
Other than the gang-related killings, there have been fewer than 1000 people killed in terrorist acts in Canada – since confederation.
We need to keep today’s attack in perspective. Every day we take risks. It can be overwhelming if we actually stop to consider all the ways in which we could be killed or injured in a day and for all those who already live with anxiety I won’t list the ones that come to mind. Suffice to say that being killed or injured in a terrorist attack is pretty far down that list. I’m not going to do the research and compare numbers for Canada, however, here is one with US numbers.
I am not going to change a single thing about how I live my life as a result of what happened today. I also don’t want to see any restrictions placed on our civil liberties or see access to Parliament Hill restricted any further. We do not need to be afraid of these people. That is what they want. Their purpose is to inspire fear. If we give into that, then they win.
I am sure that our politicians are now thinking about ways to be seen to be doing something to keep us all safe and likely that will result in announcements being made to increase screenings and spend more money on security. I think it would be a better investment to put that money into poverty reduction or mental health supports for military personnel.
Helping military and other service personnel suffering with PTSD and reducing their suicide rate will have greater impact on the risks to their lives than bullet proof vests for ceremonial guards. Reducing poverty will have a greater impact on reducing crime and mental health challenges that are exacerbated by poverty.
We should show our defiance to terrorism through our compassion for and trust in one another. Retaliation and attacks on our own freedoms is not the answer to this attack on my city.