Sadness and Fury Call for Enhanced Democracy, Not Enhanced Security

Today was deeply disturbing for me: what should have been a routine day of presenting at a conference panel turned into a day where I (and other conference members) were placed into lockdown (along with thousands of others in downtown Ottawa and government offices) in the wake of a serious crimes event.

The panel was for the IIC-Canada, and we were to discuss the topic of telecommunications transparency reporting. Immediately prior to the panel, however, a gunman shot and killed a reserve soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The gunman then proceeded to Parliament where he was ultimately shot dead. He was killed inside the central block.

Shortly after the panel, and just as lunch began, the second floor of the convention centre was cleared and we were moved to the third floor. It was a bit strange, truth be told: we moved using cargo elevators so as to keep people away from the building’s exterior windows. Then, after several hours under lockdown we were all freed to leave.

We were never in any particular danger. The lockdown was just a precaution for safety’s sake.

Nevertheless I’m sad. And furious. Absolutely furious that a reservist was killed at a war memorial. Enraged that someone had the audacity to enter the Parliament with the intent to cause serious harm and death to those within. Sickened that bad legislation may follow from the attack, an attack which targeted people who have committed themselves to protecting and advocating for Canadians. Public service is an honourable calling and the criminal targeted exactly those who had heard the call.

Thus far the Canadian media has generally been balanced. And I think my reaction – sadness and anger – is in common with many Canadians. We’re not terrified. We’re righteously pissed off at the individual or individuals who choose to attack the symbolic heart of our democracy.

No matter how problematic the laws passed, however dysfunctional the party politics, and regardless of the bad-behaviours in Parliament, our MPs are there to peacefully and verbally resolve and address the issues of the day. Words are the way that problems are addressed and dealt with; they are not solved using violence involving martial weaponry.

The solution to the attack today is not more weapons and less public access to Parliament or more constrained or secured debate but the opposite: equivalent parliamentary security and access to Parliament, and even more robust and transparent parliamentary debate. We can choose to seek vengeance or simply carry on in the face of this attack. I, like many or most Canadian, pray that the latter approach is adopted over the former.