On October 22, just days after Warrant Office Patrice Vincent was the victim of a targeted hit and run, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while serving as an honour guard at the National War Memorial in our Nation’s capital. The events in Ottawa and those individuals involved will not be forgotten, as above all else it was shocking. The perversion of killing an unarmed soldier at the very monument celebrating sacrifices such as his is shocking. The stark reality of the shooter’s motivations, whether extremist or mental in nature, is shocking. The idea that Canada is more vulnerable than our usually uneventful record of homeland attacks would have us believe, is shocking.
What’s also troubling are the reactions that these events garnered from some who surely should have known better. Radio/TV personality and islamophobe Michael Coren tweeted shortly after the event, “I wish to the bottom of my heart I had been wrong when I said there would be more attacks”. Not only was this tactlessly self-agrandizing given the events had little to do with him, it was also assumptive, given that at the time there was no confirmation that the shooter was acting as an Islamic extremist. What’s far worse is that the tweet included a link promoting his latest book. In a somewhat similar fashion, St. Catharines’ own Peter Secord, while running for mayor, tweeted a sentiment about the events, but not without including a #SecordforMayor hashtag.
Both men claim that the tasteless add-ons to their tweets were the result of an automatic function built into their Twitter apps (that have yet to be substantiated).While, yes, the Twitter app may suggest hashtags once you’ve entered the “#” symbol, and yes, there could possibly be one that goes so far as to add a link to your book, in both cases a simple reread of the message prior to hitting SEND would have been prudent. Unfortunately, it’s simply easier to believe that the two of them saw this as a chance for gain, no matter how slight or inappropriate. I’d think that if I was tweeting on such a sensitive issue (and heaven forbid you give more than 140 characters in the first place), I’d give it a look over before rushing it out to my followers.
At the same time, it’s encouraging to note the positive and in some cases inspiring actions of some involved with the tragedy in Ottawa. In a cursory search of the news coverage, you can find testimony from those who first responded to Cpl. Cirillo after shots were fired, and by all accounts they acted admirably. It’s also been noted that CBC’s live coverage, headed by Peter Mansbridge, wasn’t sensationalized or alarmist, instead reporting only confirmed facts and promoting calm and responsible behaviour throughout the ordeal. Lastly, Kevin Vickers is likely a household name at this point given his role in maintaining the security of the Parliament building. As Sergeant-at-Arms, he acted quickly and effectively to neutralize the threat, for which he will long be honoured.
In the aftermath, a mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta was defaced with xenophobic messages, a predictable and disappointing response. Encouragingly, just hours later the graffiti was cleaned up by local residents who quickly volunteered to help out.
For as long as I can remember I’ve grown up with a pride in Canada’s multiculturalism, freedom and, honestly, stereotypical politeness. I refuse to believe that one troubled man can change that. Hopefully, Canada won’t have to give up more than the lives of Vincent and Cirillo because of this attack.
The cenotaph at the National War Memorial which Cirillo guarded is known as “The Response”; unlike some who sought to gain from this, or to turn on other Canadians because of who they are, we should all be mindful of our response in the fallout. It will undoubtedly endure as a defining moment for our country for years to come.