In Perspective

How to Talk About the Ottawa Shooting

Flowers, mementos and well-wishes are placed at the Canadian War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, October 23, 2014. Blair Gable / Courtesy Reuters

“Our world has changed forever today, and we don’t even know yet how much,” Canadian Senator Fabian Manning said on Wednesday, hours after a gunman entered Canada’s Parliament building and opened fire. In an editorial headlined “The End of Innocence,” the Calgary Herald solemnly declared, “Canada will never be the same again,” adding, “We crossed a threshold as a nation on Wednesday and we can never go back to being the way we were before.” Susan Clairmont, a columnist for the Hamilton Spectator, wrote, “Just as America changed the moment the planes hit the Twin Towers, Canada was forever altered the moment Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was struck down. In the hours and days and years to come, we will know that this was a pivotal moment that we can never turn back from.” 

And on it goes. Read any Canadian newspaper this week, and Canada appears to have been radically altered. We suffered not one but two murders by men apparently driven by Islamist ideology: Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was shot down on Parliament Hill after killing an unarmed reservist at the National War Memorial, and Martin Rouleau, known as Ahmad, another recent convert to Islam who was shot dead on Monday after deliberately running over two Canadian soldiers near Montreal, killing one of them.

Canadians are asked to believe that this is our 9/11, our 2005 London bombing, our Netanya Passover massacre. Many newspapers, including my own, the Toronto-based National Post, cleared their front-page sections to focus on Zehaf-Bibeau, calling his actions one of the defining savageries of our age. Meanwhile, national sympathy has poured in for Cirillo, a handsome father who appears in photos playing affectionately with his dog, and thousands have commended Kevin Vickers, the parliamentary sergeant-at-arms who helped overpower Zehaf-Bibeau.

Make no mistake: Wednesday’s events were horrific. Cirillo’s death was a senseless and evil act. Vickers is a true hero. And it was inspiring to watch a video, taken on a cell phone by a reporter and widely circulated online, showing Vickers’

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