By Jamie West, USW Local 6500
President, Sudbury and District Labour Council
Like many of you, I was shocked to hear of the violence in Ottawa on Wednesday. I have friends who work on Parliament Hill and was relieved to read posts that they were safe and secure. At the same time, I felt a pang of guilt knowing the tragedy and mourning that Cpl. Cirillo’s friends and family were going to endure.
As a Canadian, I’m confused: Why would anyone want to harm us? Who’s friendlier than Canadians? Think about it: we’re the people who say “sorry” when other people bump into us. Our country is so friendly that citizens from other countries sew our maple leaf on their backpacks when they travel. We're so friendly that, in 2001, when planes were being used to create terror in New York, Canada allowed 255 US-bound aircraft to be diverted from the US to our airports.
I can’t understand why this would happen. I’m bewildered, frustrated, offended, angry, insulted, and filled with rage. As Canadians, we typically don’t wear our pride on our sleeves - except for during Olympic hockey and on Canada Day - we rarely wear anything with an obvious Canadian logo. Instead, we keep our Canadian pride nestled close to our hearts. As a result, this attack at our Nation’s capital has become an attack on our values; a betrayal of our friendliness; and, a shock to our culture.
However, what is bothering me more than the unnecessary bloodshed, the subsequent panic, and the confusion and shock, is how quickly rage seems to open the door towards racism. I understand the desire to lash out in an attempt to harm the gunman in any way that we can – to spit insults and slurs to signify our disgust of his actions. However, I am cautious of defining a culture by the actions of an individual.
I’m reminded that I have brothers and sisters in the union movement who have skin darker than my own. I also have Muslim friends and neighbors. And, when I hear the slurs directed at the gunman in Ottawa, I can’t help but feel it splash onto the innocent others – others who are blameless, yet harmed through our rage and anger because of their looks, clothing, or cultural beliefs.
And because of this, I urge us to be cautious. I urge us to recognize that there are those who will use the fuel of our anger to manipulate our actions. I urge us to remember the final words of the greatest Prime Minister that never was: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
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