This image from today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald captures how I and many Canadians are feeling today.   In the four days since I posted a picture of my visit to the Ottawa War Memorial, there have been two attacks on Canadian Armed Forces personnel.   On Monday a Regular Force RCAF Warrant Officer was killed in a Montreal parking lot by a by would be jihadist who mowed him down with his car, and yesterday an Army Reservist was shot and mortally wounded while part of the ceremonial guard mount at one of our country’s most honoured (and, in a secular sense of the word) sacred places.   The gunman then went on to Parliament Hill, and in a video that I still find surreal, died in a gun battle, shot by our Parliament’s Sergeant of Arms, an ex-RCMP officer, who is today an undisputed national hero.  

What to make of this?   It’s too early to say, but members of the Canadian Armed Forces, still enjoying the public approval from their role in Afghanistan, will be struggling (as I am) with the perceived loss of pride and identity in being told not to wear their uniforms in public.   Hopefully that order will be lifted by Remembrance Day, and we can pay our respects to the old and newly fallen as we should, but we now have to think about security issues in our own country.  In that sense, while there is some in his piece yesterday that I disagree with, journalist Glenn Greenwald does make a good point.  Canada has been at war for thirteen years, ever since our troops first went to Tora Bora in Afghanistan, and while we’ve refurbished our military prestige and pride following the dark years and moral failures of the 1990s, we have been complacent.  We never thought that our enemies would strike us here.  We assumed that either we were too small to be an important target to Bin Laden and his followers, or that if homegrown extremists tried, then our security services would catch them, because they all seemed pretty inept.   Now, in three days, we can’t afford those misguided assumptions.  

I hope we don’t slide into a security state mentality like our southern neighbours have.   Their post 9/11 habit of replacing that lovely and historic word of liberty, “America”, with “Homeland”, which to my mind hearkens back to 19th century European “blood and volk” nationalism, is unfortunate, but that’s just my opinion.   I hope that Parliament will reopen to visitors soon, although I suspect that visitors will have to go through metal detectors and other security measures.  It’s still our Parliament, and should remain so.   The National War Memorial will take on a new significance, to be sure, and there will be new resolve to fight against ISIS and forces like it, even if it’s still unclear whether these attacks of the last tree days were jihadist ordered, jihadist inspired, or just copycat violence by mentally fragile and angry loners.  As a former Commanding Officer of mine said yesterday, if we were complacent and ambiguous about the Syria deployment last week, now Canadians will be resolved, and military history shows that when we are angry, we punch above our weight.   

The most encouraging thing for me yesterday was hearing that the Ottawa Police, with parts of the capital still in lockdown, sent this message out to the city’s Muslim community.  If you feel unsafe, or threatened, let us know and we’ll protect you.   If that virtue of Canadian solidarity and tolerance makes it through the days to come unscathed, then we’ll be alright.

God bless and protect all those who serve and protect our country, whatever uniform they wear.





0 Responses

  1. That message of openness and tolerance is indeed the most important aspect of all this. We Swedes have troops in A-stan and we are sending troops to Mali. Both missions will involve combat with islamists. These islamists have allies that were born in Sweden. There WILL be similar attacks over here, without a doubt and when that happens, we need to remember that most victims of IS/islamist violence are other muslims.
    This is NOT RaHoWa, people. This is decent folks of all creeds against nutters.

  2. Well said Thomas. It's worth noting that Scandinavia's commitment to pluralism (I almost wrote tolerance but I find that an unlovely and niggardly word – people deserve more than to be tolerated) has been tested, bloodily, by nutters from the right and has survived.
    As a Canadian journalist said today, what happened in Ottawa yesterday was certainly death by cop in a famous place. It wasn't the start of WW3.

  3. American here.

    The message of solidarity and reaching out to protect is an important take away here. My country has lost its way, and I'm not sure what it'll take to find its way back. Here's hoping yours doesn't go down our road, because quite frankly this homeland security nonsense ducks and needs to stop.

  4. Thank you for posting this. While I have not traveled to your capital, I have spent a lot of time on both the east and west coasts of Canada. It is a beautiful and open country. I am saddened as a veteran that this has to happen at all, least of which it is happening in Canada.

    I have felt safe on the streets of your cities (Vancouver and Halifax) and find that the best way to be secure is to keep your eyes and ears open. Extra security fences do not make much improvement.

    One minor point and this is as a historian, do you know if the War Memorial was damaged?

    Thank you

  5. As always Padre, well said. You are right about us in the US losing our way. I hope we can return from where we've gone. We may poke at Canadians about being so polite, but anyone who's read their history knows: Don't make you guys mad.

    On a separate note, consider your comment about pluralism versus tolerance stolen for use south of the Canadian border.

  6. Thank you all for your comments and warm wishes. Jon, to my knowledge the War Memorial has not sustained any manage, though there has been no official word on that. As far as I know there were only two shots there, both of which seem to have hit Cpl. Ciriillo. It's more likely that there was some damage inside the Parliament Building, saw there were at least twenty shots fired there, but again, nothing official on that.

  7. I agree with almost everything you've written, old friend. Well written – as usual – and I'll likely steal some of your phrasing. However, as for Greenwald, I found it hard to stomach his screed – overblown, bombastic (sorry, I think that's a redundancy), and tendentious. Steve Saideman wrote a response fairly demolishing Greenwald ( That said your point (generously stated, if I may use such an expression) regarding our complacency as a nation is nonetheless true.

  8. A good and well-considered post, Mike. I think you and I are pretty much in step regarding this sad event. As you state, we were involved in a military mission for over a decade so we should not be too surprised that this would happen. This being said I too do not wish to see our beautiful capital develop into a city overrun with obtrusive security personnel and barriers to our wonderful (if sometimes dysfunctional) seat of government. If we succumb to this armed mentality it will merely mean that they have won.