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Ottawa shooting – Loss of more than just innocence…

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It was during a Diwali cards party in Mumbai a delightful young playback singer and I were discussing her upcoming North American tour. And then she said:

“Have you heard about the shootings in Ottawa?” Huh?!

“In the Parliament?” Whaaaat?!

I was stunned. And days later it is still taking time to digest…

During the tragedy of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I drove through chaos, confusion, thousands gathering around the sobering and nerve-wracking sight of the exploded taxi in Ville Parle on my way home… while hearing updates about a friend trapped in the Oberoi Hotel. She didn’t make it…

And yet I still retained a naïve belief that Canada remains by and large a peaceful nation, unlikely to attract such attention either from within or without.

In India, we are inured to airport-type security checks to get into malls, hotels… basically any public place. Having convoys with traffic stopped to accommodate some ‘important’ person is common. Armed guards normal.

And yet I still harboured a rosy notion of Canada being a fair, sensible and considerate place. Unlike our neighbours to the south, we have prided ourselves with being a kinder, gentler, humane and open-minded nation. A home that celebrates being multi-cultural, safe, polite, considerate, generous and cares for its people, even when troubled…

Until I started thinking, is Canada still the country I knew?

  • The Canada I knew had left of centre politics and defined itself partly by always being far more liberal than it’s friends south of the border.
  • The Canada I knew was an early adopter of socialist medicine, believing everyone has a right to basic health care.
  • The Canada I knew funded the arts, supported on national TV and radio creative off-beat programming, welcomed artistic debate and plurality of expression.
  • The Canada I knew had the largest undefended border in the world – where virtually any kind of ID was sufficient to cross.
  • The Canada I knew believed in education and second chances – if life dealt you a few hard knocks, you didn’t even finish high school but wanted to turn your life around? Why not try University as ‘mature student’… oh and there is modest funding too…
  • The Canada I knew was slightly more welcoming than many other countries to those from far away lands – particularly those experiencing strife. And funded initiatives to support adjustment for individuals and families in their new home…
  • The Canada I knew championed fair labour policies and employment insurance went to help out those in need.
  • The Canada I knew had a military only engaged in peace-keeping operations overseas – never combat.

But is this the same Canada I return to visit?

The Canada I see today has systematically dismantled or radically altered one after another many of the very policies, programs and initiatives that enabled it to be a kinder, gentler, more open-minded and humane society.

So is it any wonder the Canada of today is no longer a stranger to violence in the heart of its capital?

It doesn’t make me any less upset, disappointed and saddened by the news. I feel for the families and hope something positive not reactive will come from what has happened.

However perhaps it is time to let go of my rose-tinted glasses…

Is it time to change my old rose-tinted glasses?

Is it time to change my old rose-tinted glasses?

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28 Comments

  1. gkm2011 says:

    Please don’t take them off – just tune them differently!

    • Haha! Well put my friend, well put! I’ll get my usual faith in the goodness of all back again… It just troubles me the anti-islamic sentiment that seems to be brewing… not a healthy happy concoction..

      • gkm2011 says:

        I agree, the trend is frightening for sure. Being aware is the first step.

        • Alas the awareness isn’t necessarily with those who grasp onto an ‘easy enemy’ and then permit prejudice to drive decisions.

          With all the ISIS media hysteria, an Australian dance troop was going to pull out of an arts festival in Indonesia… Just because it is a Muslim nation and the dancers feared for their safety.

          Complete rubbish and ignorance….

  2. brothervern says:

    I too, was stunned at the shooting incident. Sadly though, as a citizen of the U.S., I have slowly become injured to the ongoing violence in the world. Very depressing.

  3. There’s nutters everywhere. Can’t safeguard against that, no matter what the politics/policies are in any given country.

    The way I see it, the world has but two problems: Disease and young men with nothing to do and little to lose. No evil mastermind warlord/dictator would get anywhere without a plentiful helping of the latter.

  4. NancyTex says:

    I’m not sure I agree with you. Canada is still all the things you remember. It’s also susceptible to all the dangers and evils present in other parts of the world. As more information becomes available about both the shooter in Ottawa and the driver in Montreal – the story becomes a little blurrier. What appeared at first to be two acts of terrorism by radical extremists now seems to be the work of two men battling mental illness. If Canada can be faulted for anything it is the lack of focus on treating and supporting those with mental illness.

    Carissa, I wish you could have been in southwestern Ontario yesterday. The cortege bringing home Cpl. Nathan Cirillo from Ottawa to his hometown of Hamilton was met with 10’s of thousands of people standing at every highway overpass for 500+ kms. In many cases people waited 2-3 hours to ensure they would be there to pay respects when the hearse carrying his body passed by. I am so glad that I was able to grab a spot on the overpass near my home. 90 minutes before the procession came through, the bridge was full (I was on the end). Over the next hour and a half the crowds grew to the point we were squished together, standing shoulder to shoulder and 4-deep (the entire width of the sidewalk). We waved flags, we sang O Canada, and we honoured our fallen soldier. As I took to Twitter to see if I could track the arrival of the cortege to my location I saw that this was the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Picture after picture of Canadians lined up at every bridge between Ottawa and Hamilton. We Stand On Guard for Thee!

    I’ve never been more proud to be Canadian.

    p.s. Parliament Hill also officially reopened to the public, a statement to the world that we will not change our open and accepting ways because of one random incident.

  5. Wow Nancy’s comment brought tears to my eyes. It just goes to show you Canada still is a caring nation and a few incidents will make us pull together and bring out the best in people. Canada is still what you remembered and if we begin to doubt that than we have lost hope. We cannot be naive, but be aware and be safe.

    • Yes – Nancy’s reminder of this was very moving. After more than a decade away, the picture can get a bit distorted. Always good to have the perspective re-adjusted. 🙂

      • Yes feels like so much changes when you are away.

          • how often do you get back? This is our 5th year and we get back at least once a year. Even in that time a lot changes.

            • Good you manage to get back once a year. I haven’t quite managed that. Since I left in 2003, have been back 5 times. So… Sometimes its once a year. Sometimes every 2nd year or so.

              I had originally intended to go back end April this year but had the accident so couldn’t.

              Current plan is June 2015 – its my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary so can’t miss! The length and route of the trip will depend on whether and where I’m doing project work (or not!) at the time… Let’s see!

            • It is hard to be away for big family events. I hope you get back 🙂
              This is our last year and I need to tell them next week if I am renewing or not. It is a job and would be good to stay, but I think time to go home and try something new. I have had a health scare this week and the thought of hospital and operations here is scary. More so because family is so far away…. and to have to go through it alone. Co-workers have been great and offered support, help and even sleeping on my sofa. I feel very blessed for that.

            • Hope we get back too. Let’s see! The challenge with being an independent consultant is that the client is the real ‘boss’ and also when projects come along, that has to be the priority. 🙂

              All the best with your big decision to stick on longer in China or move on to a new place… Will look forward to an update once you’ve figured things out!

            • We have decided to head home. Last year we were unsure, but this year we are ready to go back. We’ll see what happens when I go to speak to the management 😉 I have been saying we are heading home and it has helped me prepare.

            • You know when it’s “time”… in my case it wasn’t a move to my 1st home (Canada) but finding ways to take regular breaks from my 2nd home (India) with short project around the region. Regardless – all the best!!

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