CANADA LOSES ITS INNOCENCE, BUT SHOULDN’T OVER-REACT
By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).
I’m writing this from Ottawa, Canada’s capitol, a couple days after a shooter killed a soldier next to a war memorial and then attacked the Canadian Parliament buildings. Many have said this is when Canada has lost its innocence.
I don’t often write about politics (although I sometimes comment about social effects), preferring to try and change things through music and art. Understandably, Canadians are still in shock and upset. And as when it happened in the U.S. with 9/11, people are reacting emotionally, waving flags, and calling for more security and surveillance. And like then, there will be politicians waiting to exploit this upset.
But as, perhaps in the Ebola scare, (where doctors have now said the biggest fear is fear itself), things must be kept in perspective. Some have tried to characterize the shooter, for example, as a Muslim extremist (he was a convert to Islam, but was born in Canada). But more information is becoming available about him: He was also a cocaine and heavy heroin addict and had several criminal offenses. At one point, he even tried to rob a McDonalds in Vancouver with only a stick so he’d get put in jail, he had said then, to force himself to kick his drug habit. He clearly was a very disturbed person and a portrait is emerging, more of a loner, with a history of problems, closer perhaps to several of the school shooters in the U.S. He also, as far we can tell, came from a good home; his mother worked in a high-level Canadian Immigration job, and he came from a decent family, although his parents divorced. His mother hadn’t seen him for 5 years, except the week before the tragic event, for lunch.
There had been a hit and run killing of a Canadian soldier in Quebec, a couple days earlier, by a Muslim sympathizer, so some are trying to connect the two. But people, who had talked with the Parliament attacker at a homeless shelter where he had stayed in Ottawa the past couple weeks, said he told them he was in Ottawa, from Vancouver, to try and get a passport to go Syria or maybe Lbyia, where his father had been from. In fact, the Canadian government had been holding up his passport, because they wondered if he might have been a security risk. So the Canadian authorities already knew about him (although they didn’t think he was dangerous). And he may have resorted to this desperate act partly, out of anger, over that.
He might well have just been, as one former FBI profiler described it, a misfit and copycat killer, who had latched on to radical religion, to try and justify his drug habit and personal problems. We will probably never know, as with so many of these mentally-confused people, what exactly were their motivations, if any. We can’t understand irrational individuals and acts, so we too often look for re-assuring simple answers.
But that’s not the picture, the media and politicians are presenting to an insecure public. Like in the U.S., there are calls for more guns and guards and giving the intelligence services more far-reaching eavesdropping powers. He was killed by an armed guard at the Parliament buildings, who bravely, defended the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament and staff. The soldier, who sadly died, was ceremoniously guarding the War Memorial, but had been unarmed. But more guns and security even may not prevent someone, clearly bent on the destruction of others or himself, from carrying out these kind of attacks. The U.S. White House, has been breached already 7 times this year alone, despite being one of the most guarded places.
The present Canadian Conservative government will, no doubt, try to use this latest incident to push through legislation for tougher security and surveillance. The Conservatives, had right before this, because of their majority status, been able to send Canadian warplanes to join in the fight against ISIS in Iraq (although it’s unclear whether most Canadians really wanted that). Canada has been long known throughout its history for it’s peace-keeping efforts to help keep conflicting parties apart. The Conservatives had sent soldiers to Afganistan despite the earlier Liberal government not sending Canadian troops to Iraq. Obama (despite not intervening in Syria and saying he wouldn’t allow chemical weapons- and we don’t hear much about if Assad is really complying or not, in the media these days), and now Canada too, is back in that quagmire. It will be hard for even the opposition parties in Canada to resist in this mood of fear. In 1970, the so-called “hippie” Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau put through the War Measures Act and declared martial law and, along with Montreal Mayor Drapeau ( the Canadian version of Mayor Daly of Chicago) used it to stifle their political opponents during the Quebec Crisis. And Canadian politicians ( with one brave exception, Tommy Douglas) and the unquestioning Canadian public went right along with it. Something, which if Nixon had tried it in the U.S., would have led to massive demonstrations. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle blowers than any previous President. So politicians, no matter what their leanings, will use public fear for their own advantage.
Canadian Remembrance Day for war veterans is coming up November 11 and there will be calls for supporting soldiers and the military, much as there was for the First Responders and U.S. military after 9/11. George Bush exploited that mood in America, and intelligence budgets blossomed and privacy rights were lessened. Edward Snowden revealed that at one time, the NSA wanted every device sold to the public, to be secretly outfitted with eavesdropping capabilities (and they almost got it!).
So things, as I say, should be kept in perspective. This killer, appears to have been more of a disturbed lone gunman, more influenced by personal demons, with religious leanings, and there could well be more copycat attempts, as there was after the school shootings ( there were two NYC policemen attacked with a hatchet, shortly after the Canadian incident and some authorities had labeled it “terrorism”, but the man’s friends said he just hated police and whites, so we have to be careful not to label these copycat ‘lone wolfs’ as “terrorist”).
But all the emotional calls for more guns and tougher public surveillance laws should be tempered in an atmosphere of public unease. The media’s and politicians’ own agendas should be examined too. And all the flag waving and understandable emotional outpourings, now in Canada too, brought up by this senseless act, aren’t necessarily going to solve the problem.
The central structure in the Canadian Parliament buildings is named the PEACE TOWER, and we shouldn’t let a madman or our over-reactions change that.
But in that sense, yes, Canada has lost its innocence.
“IMAGINE” by John Lennon
Imagine there’s no countries
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living Life in Peace
You may say I’m A Dreamer
But I’m Not the only one
Lennon’s words of wisdom on how to respond to violence: