— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 23, 2014
As the headline from NBC suggests, the United States — or at least its media — can’t help but pat its northern neighbor on the head, treating it as a civic child.
That’s why today’s editorial in the Globe and Mail on yesterday’s terrible attack in Ottawa seems almost as aimed at us as Canadians.
But Canada is no country of naïfs and innocents. Canada isn’t Hobbiton. We understand that there are threats, and always have been. We understand that we live in a dangerous, bloody world – and always have.
We fought two world wars; more than 110,000 Canadians gave their lives. We have contended with terrorists bent on political murder before – from the killing of Father of Confederation Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Canadian history’s only federal political assasination, to the October Crisis and the FLQ’s murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte.
And in recent years, it has been well understood that Parliament, home and symbol of our democracy, would be Target no. 1 for fanatical men wishing us ill. In 1989, a man hijacked a Greyhound bus and had it driven to Parliament’s front lawn, demanding the release of political prisoners in the Middle East.
And less than a decade ago, a group of men were arrested and convicted of plotting numerous acts of mass murder, including a plan to storm Parliament Hill, take hostages and behead the prime minister.
There will need to be changes in the country, the editorial acknowledged. But it seemed to carry this warning: Don’t be the United States.
In light of this week, Canada may have to change. But whatever changes we choose to make should be done carefully and calmly, with an understanding of the limited scale of the threat, and the nature of the tradeoffs between freedom and safety.
Any changes made, from security at public buildings to a long-standing system of laws that criminalize action but not thought, should be done only for the benefit of millions of law-abiding Canadians – and not as a panicky reaction to a very small number of men who, unlike some dangers that Canada has faced before, pose no threat whatsoever to the survival of Canada.
They are murderers, but their delusions are shared by few. They are not an existential threat to the Canada we cherish. They cannot destroy our society. Let us take the true measure of the danger and respond appropriately.
As news of the attack on Parliament came out on Wednesday morning, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen tweeted, “When Canada goes, it’s all over.” That provoked a backlash – a very Canadian backlash – on Twitter. A backlash against exaggeration, hysteria and despair. A backlash against overreaction and in favour of calming the hell down.
Canada isn’t going anywhere. Nothing about what makes us, us, is “over.” We have had a bad week. There is much loss to mourn. But we are still here. We are still standing. The True North remains, strong and free.