Canada’s Heart & Soul

I am composing this blog from inside the Reading Room in Centre Block on Parliament Hill. This is the room where our government has its national caucus every Wednesday morning. We have been in lockdown in this room since tragedy struck Ottawa just after 10AM this morning. It is now almost 4PM and my mind is swirling with a mixture of anger, sadness and discomfort so I hope writing this will help me process this sad day in the capital.

Canada’s heart and soul were struck this morning in a vicious attack. Parliament represents the heart of Canada’s parliamentary democracy and our strong democratic institutions are something Canadians deeply value despite the apparent frustrations with day to day political discourse. If Parliament is the heart of our democracy the National War Memorial represents Canada’s soul. The freedoms and values that form the foundation of our country were secured and defended by generations of Canadians. The National War Memorial is a somber tribute to the tens of thousands of Canadians who died defending these values and freedoms and our willingness to fight to secure them for others. Our heart and soul are located a few hundred metres from each other in Ottawa and they were attacked today by someone that does not share our values.

The deepest loss today is not the shattered innocence of a national capital, but the loss of a young Canadian who embodies Canada’s heart and soul. A Canadian soldier was shot and killed as he stood as an honour guard at the site for Canada’s fallen. This young reserve soldier volunteered to serve his country and was attacked only because of this desire to serve. He was not attacked because of who he was, but because of the values his Canadian Armed Forces uniform represents. My heart goes out to his family, friends and to his unit. Our guard of honour for the fallen sadly joins those he was honouring.

My staff is fine but obviously shaken by these incidents as are many Canadians. I was steps away from where this occurred and the echoes of the shots and events afterward are something that will remain with me. I am thankful to the heroic actions of law enforcement on the Hill today. Their actions remind me of the words of the Governor General earlier this week before he presented Medals of Bravery to several Canadians (including a Courtice resident). Bravery is seen in those who run the wrong way towards danger when others recoil and run away from it. Parliament Hill security, the RCMP and the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms ran towards the danger today and prevented a terrible tragedy from getting much worse. We are indebted to them for such valour.

Today is not the day to try and decide what went wrong or what could have been done to prevent such acts of terror. We can and will learn from these incidents. Today is a day to offer prayers for the soldier we lost, give thanks to law enforcement who responded to danger and renew our commitment to the values they represent.