A nation’s innocence died last week

Mark Allan: Guest columnist

 

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were not the only casualties of terror in Canada this week.

A nation’s innocence died as Canadians unwillingly became part of international terror on our own soil.

Vincent died Monday after Martin (Ahmad) Couture-Rouleau deliberately rammed his vehicle into two Canadian soldiers in the parking lot of a commercial plaza in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal.

In a higher-profile incident, an armed gunman identified as Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot and killed Cirillo as he stood guard Wednesday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.

Bibeau was subsequently shot and killed inside the main Parliament building in the nation’s capital. Couture-Rouleau was also shot to death shortly after slaying Vincent.

Couture-Rouleau was one of 90 people monitored by the RCMP in 63 national security investigations, the country’s national police force confirmed Monday night.

Security will increase as the terrorist attacks play into the existing law-and-order agenda of the governing Conservative party.

More surveillance cameras is a given. Beefed-up security at airports and border crossings is inevitable.

Who but the most ardent civil libertarians would oppose such measures when all signs point toward more terrorism within Canada?

Last month, the spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham called for attacks on Canadians. Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans whether they are members of the military or civilians.

Extra security to defend against such attacks will be expensive.

Canadians will lose some civil liberties in a tradeoff for feeling, and hopefully being, safer.

How far will the pendulum swing? How much will our country change from its reputation as a peacemaker?

The most disturbing aspect of both incidents is that both killers were Canadians.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of terrorism is that radicalized fanatics can walk among us undetected, especially if they are Canadian citizens.

Besides whatever increase in domestic suspicion that would naturally occur, this cannot help but raise intolerance toward anyone in this country with an odd name, suspicious accent or swarthy skin.

This will provide an excuse for anyone already inclined toward intolerance, outright racism or paranoia.

Finding a healthy balance in the times that will come will not be easy. One of the worst fallouts from terrorism is how it makes people and their governments fearful and reactionary.

How many loyal Canadians with Japanese ancestry were dispatched to internment camps during the Second World War? How many of them never got their land and other possessions back at the end of the war?

We will hopefully not repeat that shameful slice of Canadian history, yet we must be more vigilant – and suspicious.

Residents of a less-innocent Canada are faced with more doubt and uncertainty than just last weekend.

Canadians who until this week were spared from the chill of domestic terror except for isolated horrors such as the Marc Lepine massacre no longer have that luxury.

Maybe we were just fooling ourselves, content with our international reputation as the nice guys in the long shadow of our U.S. neighbours.

Americans will continue to be a much more attractive target than Canadians, but we’re now on the radar for terrorists.

Still, nothing unites a people like an external threat, and we could come out of this more united than we have been for some time.

How we react to this threat will say volumes about Canadians. The trick will be protecting ourselves from fanatics without becoming extremists ourselves.

 

 

Mark Allan is the former editor of the Comox Valley Record

 

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