Anyone who’s read these essays knows I’m opinionated, but there are some topics I shy away from. I try not to preach my religion to you, and I stay away from political topics. This isn’t to say I don’t have opinions in those areas—I just keep them to myself.
Instead, I try to write about the personal values I have—y’all know by now I believe that people need to accept responsibility for their lives, and their actions. I believe in self-reliance, and I believe we all have a duty to help those less fortunate.
I suppose my beliefs were forged in my childhood. I can still recall the time my mother got this horrified look on her face, when, as a teenager, I proclaimed some circumstance or other to be “not fair”. “Who the hell ever told you that life was fair? It’s not fair, not for anyone.” And then she added, that if it was, my father wouldn’t have died so young.
She didn’t often mention him—even then I knew that to be caused by her great, unrelenting grief. My mother was only forty-three when she was widowed, and in the few years she had left on this earth—she passed away at 56—she never even looked at another man.
Growing up without having a dad, and with a mother who took responsibility for everything that needed doing, surely shaped me. But there was one other incident in my relative youth that shaped my outlook in life, and I want to share that with you.
You may think of Canada as being a peaceful, even polite nation, untouched by terrorism; but we went through an act of ‘domestic terrorism’ before that phrase was ever coined. It took place in 1970, when I was sixteen years old. Referred to now as the “October Crisis”, it began with the kidnapping of two government officials—British Trade Commissioner James Cross, and the Quebec provincial Minister of Labor, Pierre Laporte—by a group that called itself le Front de libération du Québec(Quebec Liberation Front), the FLQ.
The government’s response to these acts of terror was swift; Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act, giving police sweeping powers of detainment without writ, and the deployment of Canadian Forces who only ever served as support to the civil authorities. During this period, police detained 467 people, all but 62 of whom were released without being charged. In the end, Mr. Cross was released, Mr. Laporte was murdered, the perpetrators were eventually arrested and convicted, and the FLQ disbanded, never to terrorize again.
The other response to this act that seems remarkable in today’s world was that not a great deal of “media attention” was focused on those perpetrators—they weren’t featured, spotlighted, or made into media stars.
I mention all of this, because of an incident you may have heard about that took place in our nation’s capital a couple of weeks ago. A person, “radicalized” to the cause of ISIS, after having shot and killed a young solider standing as guard at the National War Monument, proceeded to enter the Center Block of our Parliament building in Ottawa, in an obvious attack directed toward the Canadian government. While Caucus was locked down, for the protection of the government ministers including our Prime Minister, and the security team advanced, Kevin Vickers, a 58 year old former RCMP officer, and our current Sergeant-at-arms, left his office, gun hand, ran toward where the suspect was hiding behind a column, and without hesitation, held his pistol in a two-handed grip, leapt, turned in mid air, and opened fire on the criminal, even as he himself hit the hard marble-over-concrete floor on his back.
He was joined at that point by the bulk of the security force and they also opened fire. Mr. Vickers then returned to his office, reloaded, and went back to the “field” as no one, at that point, knew for certain if the attacker had help or not.
When it was deemed the gunman had indeed acted alone, Mr. Vickers entered the caucus room—gun still in hand—went to the microphone, and announced, “I have engaged the suspect, and he is deceased”.
The next day—the very next day—parliament re-opened, and it was back to business as usual.
Mr. Vickers received a standing ovation from the members of Parliament and the Prime Minister as he performed his ceremonial duty of bringing one of the symbols of power into the chamber. In true Canadian fashion, he nodded his thanks and appeared embarrassed by all the attention. Later, he said the true heroes were the rest of the security force. And then he, too, got back to work—business as usual.
Immediate action, spotlight on the victims and the heroes and not the villains, and then back to work.
That’s how you deal with domestic terrorism. I was very proud, on that day in particular, to be Canadian.