Wednesday, 22 October 2014

CANADA'S DARK DAYS


In the last few days radicalised men have been attacking, and killing, Canadian soldiers and citizens on Canadian soil - first in Quebec then in Ontario today - connected to our highest ideals of good government and decency.  Canada, often thought of as dull, is anything but - but it has rarely seen such action on its own ground - though of course the land was wrested from various peoples in complex historical struggles over five or more centuries, including fending off Fenian raiders and Americans. Nor is this the most deadly attack with weapons - there was the massacre of the engineering students, there was the assasination of D'arcy Magee, the killing by RCMP of Metis, brutality during strikes, and various serial killers; there have been dramatic standoffs with native Canadians; there have been tanks rumbling in the streets of Montreal; FLQ letter bombs - but yet, despite this, and Canada's involvement in WWI and WWII, and the Korean War - nothing has quite prepared us for today.

If you have never visited Ottawa's Parliament Hill you won't understand - but it is a wide open, friendly, safe, dull, low-key place - and we are utterly proud of our beautiful parliament building, with its wooden library, its houses modelled on Westminster's, and the inherent accountable, decent, democratic, nature of Canadian governance.  Yes, we have had the sexy Pierre Trudeau - but all our other prime ministers have been hardworking squares, buttoned down, earnest, intelligent, mostly lacking in star power.  You visit Ottawa and you see Mounties, you visit Parliament, you see kids with little red leaves painted on their faces, you shop for a beaver tail snack in the mall, you maybe walk along the canal, go see a play or musical... and you feel safe. Canada's history is as flawed as any human history, but it is inarguably, over the past 100 years, one marked by more good than ill - in short, Canadians have done more good, added more to the sum of human experience, joy, and achievement, than they have taken away - through our artists, pianists, thinkers, poets, actors, musicians, comedians, film-makers, peace-keepers, doctors and environnmental campaigners.

Yes, we are increasingly bellicose; we pollute; we use resources; we have killed seals; we have not always done the right thing.

But there is no wiser, better, safer, gentler, less violent parliament in the world, none with a better record on health care, social justice, compassion for the sick and elderly, for overseas aid - Canada is a world beacon of decency, calm, good humour, friendliness, easy charm, laid back qualities of acceptance, multiculturalism, tolerance.

All blown away, by men killing our soldiers, our citizens, on our good ground.  I pray for my people.  I mourn the dead. And I vow to be steadfast.  Those who seek to undermine the Canadian model of society must be stopped in their tracks.  We will not be swayed. But Canada's face has been streaked today with a terrible scratch, slapped by a petty hand - a mark that shames not the wounded, but shows that the red of our flag is our blood that falls on the snowy sheet of our good large land.
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