Close encounter with gunman, scenes from Ottawa shows Canadians’ unique mindset
Last week a certain gunman, who I refuse to name because so as to not immortalize him, found a way to seed fear to a city, a country and the world. First and foremost we was a mentally sick man, as his own mother stated. Clerics have shunned him as well. The gunman adopted his own twisted ideology to exorcise his imaginary demons.
The attack on Canadian symbols challenges the nice Canadian in all of us, especially since two days previously two members of the Canadian Armed Forces were hit on purpose by a car in the parking lot of a commercial plaza in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec. There is a possibility that these cowardly acts of violence could change the Canadian culture irrevocably, perhaps even into a retribution-driven society. In other countries gun sales have increased after similar events. In other countries yew, flag burning demonstrators have marched down noisy streets lined with riot squads.
But despite the extreme emotions of the week, Canadians reacted predictably.
The Canadian Parliament session of October 23, typically a slightly less pugilistic event than a hockey game against Russia, showed Prime Minister Harper hugging the chief of opposition and the leader of the Liberal party, as all three expressed unity in Parliament today against any threats to Canada’s democracy and freedoms.
On October 24 the remains of Corporal Cirillo were taken by motorcade west from Ottawa to Hamilton, some 400 miles away. As I drove eastbound on the same highway from Toronto to Ottawa, I saw thousands of Canadians waiving flags and crowding the overpasses between Ottawa and Toronto. The police presence was unmistakable. Fire trucks, ambulances and news crews lined the way.
On October 26, an Iman spoke for peace at the War Memorial Monument, the site of the senseless shooting of Corporal Cirillo and was then seen hugging spontaneously with a stranger who’d been touched by his words.
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While all of these events are tribute to the levelheadedness of Canadians those who know the culture find predictable comfort in them. But a stronger tribute to our resilience has to do with how the gunman lived the last week of his life in Ottawa as he was living on the street and staying at a homeless shelter as reported by authorities.
Because of this I believe thousands of Ottawa people walked past him. Also I recollect passing someone who might have been the gunman.
I live in Ottawa within 1.5 miles of the Parliament building in a smattering of low rent high rises, century old homes that have been converted to multifamily rentals, ethnic neighbourhoods, schools and single family homes.
Last week, my wife and I took advantage of a hot evening to take walk toward the Parliament building, trekking north on Bank Street. As we walked past Laurier Street, which is flanked by government high rises, we heard a loud bang, which echoed back from the high rises. Walking further north we saw that the noise was from a street person who’d tipped a newspaper box on its side to use it as a seat. There he sat, looking at passerby’s. I noted that his beard and hair were of different colours. He was somewhat stooped, which made him seem more aggressive than the regular panhandlers on Bank Street.
I put my hand protectively on my wife’s elbow to steer her to the far side of the sideway and muttered: “Don’t engage, avoid eye contact.” I had no clue that perhaps I’d seen the gunman until I saw a picture of the man’s face in the Globe and Mail.
Today I walked past Parliament to the War Memorial Monument, which was heavily guarded by police nervously watching teary-eyed people paying their respects. On my way I walked past half a dozen homeless people. It is tribute to the true nature of Canadians that these homeless people are not being rounded up because they may harbour yet another terrorist.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>