The last couple of days have been quite emotional. The recent attack in Ottawa has had me battling the tears that often come unbidden. Ottawa was where I grew up. I practically lived downtown. I’ve spent many hours at Rideau Centre, studied at University of Ottawa/l’Université d’Ottawa, sat down at many coffee shops along Metcalfe and Slater. Although I’m currently living in Hamilton because of school, Ottawa will always be my home. So when I saw the images of violence that ravaged my home town, it affected me in a way that I never thought would affect me. Suddenly, the violence was personal. It’s hard not to take it personally. I kept thinking that if I was in Ottawa, I would be in the downtown area. I was sitting down, chatting with friends, last week at Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill was this place that you can go and relax. Its open space is so inviting. It practically beckons you to come and sit down, look at the amazing Parliament buildings, and be thankful you live in a country like Canada.
I once was invited to speak at the Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship. I remember feeling so honoured and humbled that I was able to speak about God within the hallowed halls of the Parliament building. There’s a certain majesty that you feel as you pass by the pillars that have seen so much Canadian history over the years. It was, for a lack of a better word, so inspiring. Most of my academic research deals with violence and oppression in church history. It was humbling to know that I could speak the Word of God in such a place without fear of reprisal or persecution. It was a beautiful feeling.
It was this sense of peace and calm that the shooting at Parliament Hill and the War Memorial tried to shake. Perhaps, that was what Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was attempting to do as he murdered Nathan Cirillo in cold blood and proceeded to attack Parliament Hill with a barrage of gun fire. However, he did not succeed. As MP Thomas Mulcair said in his speech, “It was intended to make us more fearful of our neighbours and less confident in ourselves.But it has failed. Today’s events have instead only succeeded in drawing us closer, in making us stronger.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper was clear that horrible acts like that visited upon us in Ottawa or the incident in Quebec, “we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.” MP Justin Trudeau mentioned how “(i)n the days that follow, there will be questions, anger, and perhaps confusion. This is natural, but we cannot let it get the better of us. Losing ourselves to fear and speculation is the intention of those who commit these heinous acts. They mean to shake us. We will remain resolved.” It is clear that this act of cowardice, intended to incite fear within our hearts, have failed. Instead, our country spoke with one voice that we shall not let the actions of criminals change the way we live our lives.
I am thankful for the brave men and women who, in the face of danger, run towards it rather than away from it. To the various security personnel from all branches of the government who commit their lives in ensuring the protection of all Canadian citizens, thank you. To the men and women in the uniform, who through their valiant acts make sure that we live in a country free of fear and violence, thank you. To the family, friends, and loved ones of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent, we mourn with you. We are so sorry for your loss. To Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, thank you for valiantly protecting those under your care.
God keep our land, glorious and free.