For the most part, I have been a proud Canadian this week. When terror-like violence – albeit on a very small scale- arrived in Quebec and Ottawa, our security and police forces responded quickly, effectively and, it appears, appropriately.
Likewise the majority of our major media responded with balanced and fair reporting, reporting designed to calm fears, provide pertinent information and to stick to known facts. Compared to the media response of our American friends there was an astonishing lack of conclusion-leaping, political soapboxing and crisis fuelling. Even now as the lives of the killers are being picked apart there are more “disturbed” descriptions out there than “extremist” labels.
And across our land, while there has no doubt been xenophobic muttering in some quarters, interesting since both young men were Canadians, there has been a refreshing lack of violent or crude response, though I mourn that the Cold Lake mosque was defaced with graffiti. And yet even here is cause for pride as the people of Cold Lake turned out in numbers to clean up the walls and stick up posters reading “You are home” and “Love your neighbour”. As Journal columnist Paula Simons tweeted Saturday, “Thank you, Cold Lake, for redeeming our faith in Alberta and Albertans. Today, you are the most beautiful city in Canada.”
Our calm and restraint has made me proud.
I grieve mightily for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo their families and colleagues, and I celebrate the bold actions of Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms who has become the poster boy for, “Just doing my job.” I wish he didn’t have to do that job, but he did it calmly and well. He likely saved lives.
Others did their jobs as well, not the ones they are paid to do, but the ones that are part of the job description of ‘citizen’ and ‘human being’. The citizens of Cold Lake are one example. But for me the iconic image of this week will not be bullet holes in Parliament, but the photo of crowd of people who rushed towards the gunfire to give Cpl Cirillo first aid in his last minutes. Among them was Barbara Winters who held him telling him he was loved, he was brave and that his family was proud of him.
How can we fail to be proud of those fellow Canadians?
Some commentators have talked about a loss of innocence in this land last Wednesday, but that’s nonsense. We all knew it was possible, and many thought something was inevitable. We have seen our share of mass murders and hate crimes before. We have seen our deranged killers. Each claimed to be serving some kind of perverted purpose. This isn’t as new as it looks. So when the time came, citizens and security forces alike knew just what to do.
Our first response was something of which we can all be proud.
But I do fear what comes next. I fear exploitation of these dramatic, but ultimately – to all except families and friends- insignificant acts. I fear what Mr. Harper and his government might do. The fact is, our security measures by and large worked. The violence was limited to the kinds of acts that could not realistically have been prevented no matter how large and intrusive our security services. True, the hit and run driver was on a watch list. The gunman was not. It is likely we will have to step up security to a degree, but the question that concerns me is to what degree?
Mr. Harper is now fast tracking a bill to increase the powers of our security services, powers that would give CSIS, for example, the ability to arrest and detain, It is not a power they currently have. I am troubled by that. I worry about oversight and boundaries of power.
I fear this will become the fulcrum for the erosion of our rights and freedoms to an inappropriate degree, to a degree that the incidents themselves do not warrant.
And that will not leave me feeling very proud at all.