Yesterday, something most Canadians never imagined possible happened: a gunman shot and killed 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as he served as part of the ceremonial honor guard at Canada’s National War Memorial. The gunman, identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau1, then moved toward Parliament itself, where he continued his attack where he injured at least two more people before he was killed.2
Wednesdays events mark the second such attack on Canadian soil in the last week. On Monday in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed by a young man, recently converted to Islam with strong ISIS sentiments.
Last night, my wife and I watched Prime Minister Stephen Harper address the nation and use a word many of us might have been thinking, but were still surprised to hear him say: Terrorist.
“In the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had,” Harper said. “But this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”
The idea of a terrorist attack in Canada probably seems bizarre. I mean, it’s Canada. We’re all nice and polite and we have criminals who plan massive maple syrup heists. We have incredibly complex gun laws that require people to apply for permission to think about buying a gun.
We don’t have terrorist attacks. Except, it seems, we do.
So, we need to consider how these events should affect our thinking and our living. At the very least, I need to consider this and I’m hoping you’ll do so with me. Here are three things I see as important takeaways:
1. We should not ignore this event. It’s helpful for American readers to understand that when events like this happen, Canadians don’t stop everything they’re doing and watch the news. In America, I’m guessing this would have shut everything down: everyone would be paying attention. That’s just not how it works here.In fact, there are a good number of people here who won’t have any idea that there even was an attack on Parliament. We tend to have a laissez-faire attitude about most things in Canada: politics, the economy, education, Jesus… arguably everything except hockey, coffee, and beer. So when the attack happened, most of us were doing our regular jobs. Some of us were paying attention, but for many, it was more or less business as usual. I would love to see this change in my fellow Canadians, and in me. This doesn’t mean we need to become overly paranoid, but should acknowledge we are not immune to terrorism, and we would be foolish to think otherwise.
2. We must not use it for our own interests. Thankfully, so far at least, no one has taken to the airwaves and touted the need for more stringent gun regulations, nor do we need anyone making up conspiracy theories about Harper government trying to force a police state upon us.3 Because we don’t know the full story of what happened yesterday—specifically the motivations behind the events, though it’s almost certainly retaliation for Canada’s involvement in the coalition against ISIS—we would be foolish to rush to any sort of conclusion or use it as a launch pad for personal or political agendas.
3. We need to pray. Ottawa is a city filled with lost people. Toronto is filled with lost people. London (where I live) is filled with lost people. Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver… every major Canadian city and nearly every community is filled with lost people. But every Canadian community also has at least some faithful Christians. And every faithful Christian desperately needs to be praying right now. We need to pray for wisdom for our government and for the authorities investigating these events. We need to pray that any accomplices still at large would be brought to justice. That further plans would be thwarted. And most importantly, that there would be opportunities to be powerful witnesses to the family of Cpl. Cirillo, to those who were injured in Wednesday’s shootings, and to the millions upon millions of lost people in our nation.