When faced with tragedy, it is understandable for Canadian citizens to want the government to put aside the daily divisions of internal politics and focus on national security.
This past week, Canada was reeling in shock when two members of the Canadian Forces were killed in what appear to be ideologically-motivated attacks. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and another soldier were struck in a hit-and-run in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Vincent died from his wounds in hospital. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot while posted as a ceremonial guard at the Canadian National War Memorial. Wednesday’s Parliament Hill shooting sparked nationwide outrage with statements given by Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau.
Following the attack, spokespeople from the RCMP, CSIS and the Canadian Forces as well as some Canadians on social media and multiple politicians, drew immediate connections between the attacks and the religious backgrounds of both Michael Zihaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau. Harper labelled Vincent’s murderer “an ISIL-inspired terrorist.” This was followed by an outburst of social media posts and commentary in fear that Harper might use these presumptuous connections as a reason to engage in further conflict, to restrict immigration, or even to infringe on citizens’ personal freedoms.
The immense emphasis placed on the criticism of the reactions of our politicians in social media takes away from the greater issue at hand. This isn’t a time for a political divide, it is a time for nationwide unity. We should expect the government to focus on protection and prevention of any further potential threats on Canadian soil and concerns with being politically correct should come second. If there is ever a time when safety comes second, even to political correctness, we would be taking a gamble with maintaining our enjoyed sense of security.
In Canada, we are privileged to live peacefully, exercising our rights and freedoms every day. It should make us angry when there is any sort of threat to those rights and freedoms. Both soldiers dedicated their lives to upholding these rights and freedoms and that is, in essence, what members of the Canadian Forces do everyday. An attack on them is an attack on all of us.
It’s almost easy to forget the privileges we experience just by living in Canada. We are not a nation that has experienced consistent violence or terrorism on our own soil. We have become accustomed to feeling relatively safe and secure living our daily lives. People of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and ideologies are able to function with relative cohesion regardless of these individual differences. These privileges are not always given in all countries and should not be taken for granted.
Canada upholds values and an identity that reflect acceptance and freedoms to which Trudeau and Harper eloquently reminded us of in their public statements. In Trudeau’s address, he reminded Canadians that “We are a proud democracy, a welcoming and peaceful nation and a country of open arms and open hearts.” Harper spoke to our resilience as a nation, saying that we will never be intimidated and that we will only increase our attention to national security.
In the days following the upsetting events of these acts of domestic terrorism, we should not be caught up in releasing pent up criticisms of our government. Instead, we should be focusing on protecting the safe and free environment that we live in, regardless of whether we have previously appreciated these aspects of the Canadian experience.