This week has tested the moral fiber of Canadians, and placed them in the center of the recent conversation of residents who aspire to travel to the Middle East with the intent of joining deadly terrorist groups.
On Monday, one Canadian solider was run down by a vehicle, and then later in the week the halls of Canadian parliament were filled with gunfire and terror, causing the seat of national government to be shut down for the majority of the day and evening. Before storming parliament, the gunman viciously shot an unarmed solider at the National War Memorial. The perpetrators in both of these cases had recently been unable to obtain travel documents to the Middle East, as the Canadian government feared they might be attempting to join the Islamic State.
In the aftermath of these acts of violence that shocked the Canadian community, the Canadian government should stress resilience and determination and not let these attacks lead them towards hesitation or impact their determination in combating international terrorists.
When I was working in the United States embassy in Ottawa this summer, I would have never predicted that it would soon be the scene of terror and murder. I lived in the Byward market area, a short walk away from both parliament hill and the national war memorial. During my walks to and from the embassy, I never once felt threatened or unsafe but rather comforted by the polite dispositions I encountered by the local staff. This is something Canada has to strive to protect and continue in the wake of these terrible acts. In a country where public figures move about like normal citizens, often without police escorts or armed guards, the country must calmly adjust their security measures as to not negatively impact the millions of law abiding citizens.
The attitude of the nation was best summarized by Prime Minister Harper on Wednesday, as he said, “Attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, but let there be no misunderstanding. We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated. In fact this will lead us to strengthen our resolve.”
The attack on parliament comes just two days after a uniformed Canadian soldier, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, was killed by a hit and run in Quebec. The attacker, Martin Couture-Rouleau, was shot to death by police, and like the shooter in Ottawa had recently been labeled as a “high-risk traveler,” and had his passport confiscated by authorities.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the individual shot down in the halls of parliament, was described as a man who had had a religious awakening and recently had become mentally unstable. He first spoke of traveling back to the Middle East six weeks ago in a Vancouver-area mosque. Mr. Zahaf-Bibeau was unable to fulfill those plans, as he was not able to secure valid travel documentation. While he stated he desired to travel to Libya to study, the federal officials denied him on the grounds of preventing Canadians from joining extremists overseas.
I applaud Canada and their security officials for their response to the gunman storming parliament. They showed an institutional response that was both calm and efficient, while new outlets covered the events with restraint and a delicate touch. Unlike news outlets in the United States, they did not jump to conclusions or resort to fear mongering. This is the essence of Canada and I feel that in the current climate of international security, we could all learn a lesson or two on how to handle this horrific events.