Yesterday, Canadians were rocked by the situation that unfolded in Ottawa. It was the first time that I can recall our leaders ever referring to a situation as an act of ‘terrorism’, rather than the maniacal assault of a deranged individual. It was the first time that I can recall obsessively watching the news in horror about a situation unfolding on our soil, with an attack on our symbol of government and military presence.
While the situation was nowhere near the depths of 9/11, the feelings I had were something akin to the ones I experienced as I watched the events of that day unfold. Panic spread, not just across Ottawa, but across the nation, with individuals frozen as they waited for what happened next. A barrage of gunfire inside the parliament buildings, and chaos and confusion as the city of Ottawa and military bases across the nation went into lockdown.
I’ve spent the last day trying to process this. As we mourn the loss of one of our soldiers and await answers as to why this happened, and who ultimately was behind it, all I can do is sit in stunned silence and think. I think about where we will go from here, and what the repercussions will be for friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates, fellow Canadians who had nothing to do with this but will be singled out because of ethnicity. I think about the people I have already seen calling on our government to take action against anyone they have ever considered suspicious, calling on the government to stand up and stop ‘letting’ the ‘responsible’ people into our country, forgetting the fact that a number of Canadian-born, Canadian-raised civilians are some of the ones who have abandoned our country for terrorist groups.
I think about what this will mean for us as citizens, and what this will mean for our future. Will we fall quickly into a state of policing, and extreme monitoring? Will we be consumed by fear as rumours fly about whether this is the first in a line of promised terrorist attacks by ISIS? Or will we stand tall, boasting that we are the True North, Strong and Free? Will we be consumed by our emotions, or will we come together, uniting under our flag, under our beautiful, multicultural landscape and show the world that you can try to break us, but we will always stand for what is right, and we will not succumb to fear?
Today I had a close friend ask me if I knew which way our leaders would go on this. I would like to believe that we have elected men and women in charge of our country who are not so foolhardy as to charge forward, utilizing this as a way to start a war. I would like to believe that when they say stand strong, they mean it as a way to unite our country, unite our citizens, to take a stand together, and not against one another. I’d like to believe that they will do what is right.
But I honestly don’t know. I’m sure many Americans wanted to believe the same about Bush, and any other leader who has led them into senseless wars against people and cultures who were not collectively guilty. So all we can do is hope, and wait for answers, wait for more.
As we wait, with bated breath, for answers, for reasons, for something to tell us what happens next, I can only ask one thing. Do not forget who we are. Do not forget that we are white and black, brown and tan. We are Atheists and Agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus. We are natives and immigrants, and we are proud. We are a nation built upon the differences of our peoples. Do not let the senseless acts of a few taint the lives of the rest.
Today, we mourn the loss of two soldiers, killed in senseless acts. Tomorrow, if you are Canadian, if you are a friend to Canadians, I ask you to join myself and countless others in wearing red to mourn our soldiers, to show our gratitude for those who fight for our freedom, and to show the groups and individuals who threaten that freedom that we are strong and we are proud. We are not afraid.