It has been a tough week. As a preacher and pastor I recognize the chaotic events of last week in St. Jean, Quebec and in Ottawa have affected us all. I find myself torn between horror and a desire for revenge.
Neither are especially helpful.
When I heard the news of the shooting of a soldier at the National War Memorial, I was truly shocked. I was born in Ottawa. I spent my early years in an around Ottawa. I have family, living and dead in Ottawa. I felt as if my home neighbourhood had been violated.
I was mad. That should not be happening in Canada. That’s not our way.
But it has happened, and we can not change history.
We can, however, decide how we will respond.
For myself, on Thursday I stopped for a few minutes at the Cenotaph in Owen Sound, on my way to work. I reflected briefly on the events of the week, offered a prayer and went on to my office.
I wasn’t alone. Others were there, too. There was already a small pile of flowers at the foot of the Cenotaph, in front of the pool.
In the longer term, Canadians have some thinking to do. Serious thinking.
Our responses have to be measured, not based in reaction to events, but rooted in our deepest principles as a country and people. We value rule of law, peace and decency. We don’t exact revenge, we seek justice and ensure it is done.
The events of the week of October 20 are abhorrent, unusual and intended to defocus us from who we are and what we stand for. We won’t let that happen.
Our principles come with a cost, though. A very real human cost.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent are just two.
In the events of last week we have seen the best in Canadians. The actions of House Sergeant at Arms Keith Vickers showed a strong determination to protect our parliament from mayhem. He was not alone.
Last Thursday, our MP’s gathered at the National War Memorial to pay respects to the fallen soldier, to sing O Canada and to lay flowers at what was still a crime scene. But the last words were from MP Charlie Angus, "Let’s get back to work."
We do that. That is Canada. It has a cost, but as a grounded, practical people, we do what has to be done.
One of the best comments I have seen was from Brian Har, a retired soldier and moderator of a Facebook page called "Send Up The Count", a gathering place for soldiers with PTSD and their family and friends.
Har said, "I'm still nervous about what this means for Canada- how we're going to act, what we might do out of fear, hate, etc. But I also think that we're going to impress ourselves with our resilience."
I think we will, too. The events of last week will not deter us. We have been here before. Domestic terror events like in Canada this are not new. We know what to do.
As you read this, it’s municipal election day in Ontario. If you want to do something to respond to last week, something real, tangible, creative and positive, go and vote. It is one expression of our freedom and values we can do today. It is saying to the face of those who wish to destabilize us, that we value freedom and democracy and our right to choose. And it is something no one can take away from us. Because we will not let anyone do that. Not ever.
Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County