Canada. What a treasured place we call home.
I grew up in a small town on the prairies. Saskatchewan to be precise. It was a tiny place in a what, at that time, was a small province. I grew up in a cradle of safety, responsibility, courtesy and respect. I learned to pass those values on to my children. We played outdoors, on the grass, road hockey, bicycles always at the ready to go anywhere, anytime. And we learned that living in our community, you couldn’t really get away with anything. If my mom didn’t see what I was doing, someone else’s mom did and called my mom.
There were so few rules then. Be home before dark. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Give people the respect they deserve. Always find something nice to say no matter how bad the meal is. Such simple, basic rules. Most importantly we knew we were safe. Safe to be ourselves.
This week, those values were tested. Our Canadian values were tested.
One television reporter proclaimed that Canada had lost its innocence. Tested perhaps. But lost?
We still know so little about the perpetrators of the tragedies in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Information comes in waves, much of it speculation, and much focused on ‘why’ this could happen. Surely not here. Not in Canada. What we do know is that the shooter in Ottawa and the driver in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu have been linked by the media to international terrorism. At this point, no one can say that with absolute certainty. Time and calm, clear research will paint a more complete picture in days to come. Whether we actually ever understand the ‘why’ is debatable.
But I do know this. We have not lost our innocence. When an entire country comes together to mourn the loss of a soldier in Ottawa, when the entire collective Canadian psyche mourns the loss of a soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, it says something about who we are. There are many, many countries around the world where the loss of one single soldier is hardly news at all. There are so many places in this world where so many soldiers are lost that they have become numb to the horror, the lost personnel barely a footnote in the paper.
Canadians on the other hand are still able to be staggered by the loss of a 24-year-old young man who went to the War Memorial in Ottawa to stand guard over the unknown soldier and lost his life. That in itself sets us apart. Although our innocence has been tested, it is still there. As a country we are still able to grieve for one, single, solitary solider that most of us never met. At the time of this writing, just one day after the horrific scene on Parliament Hill, almost 100,000 people have viewed a memorial Facebook page created in his honour.
I plan to attend a Remembrance Day service at a local school as I do every year. I plan to shed tears for those that fell in battle as I do every year. But this year, I will also be thinking of two men that went to work in an average way, on an average day, wearing their uniforms proudly, losing their lives.
Bob Dylan wrote, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
It is our responsibility to never forget. And it is our responsibility to remember the innocence that makes Canada unique.