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JONESIE: Our response must be a Canadian response

October 24, 2014 - 7:09 AM

My uncle is talking to me in my kitchen in an unexpected visit. I’m pretty sure he’s wearing pyjama bottoms. And he hasn’t shaved in a while, probably because he hasn't been able to remove his mechanical neck brace for three weeks. And it’ll be another three weeks yet until they know if he'll still need surgery on the cracked vertebrae in his neck.

Three weeks ago he was driving home from visiting his first grand-baby in Saskatchewan when he saw a car in his lane coming straight at him. He jerked the wheel so hard to the right that when the oncoming car hit the side of his truck, he and his wife and their little dog spun and flipped over a time or two before landing right side up. In addition to the broken vertebrae, he has a compressed spine and a gash on his head. His wife has four broken ribs and a gnarled foot. The dog? When the vehicle stopped, she was so scared she just ran and ran and ran.

He showed me a picture of his smashed truck.

“We’re so damn lucky,” my uncle said.

What an odd thing to say, I thought, looking at him. Luck is not getting into an accident in the first place.

But then I thought what a fool I am. Absent the real threat of loss, no one says that. Life just goes on and we cast our cares about. The prospect of losing life or a loved one changes the math. Only then do we count anything short of that loss as, well, lucky.

That’s kind of how I am feeling after the events in Ottawa and in Quebec this week. I look around at my Canada and realize just how lucky we are.

Mine is a country where a soldier volunteers at a ceremonial post—unarmed. Where people run toward danger because someone needs help. Where after that soldier is murdered, our focus is on Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and not the man who killed him. Canadian journalists cover the event with respect and principle, not fear and hype. Our government goes right back to work the day after shots were fired in their offices.

That’s true north strong. And free.

Only now we are on the other side of—whatever this is or was—and trying to make some sense of it. People are drawing conclusions, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that just can’t be drawn yet without some imagination.

Maybe the man who shot Cirillo in Ottawa and the man in Quebec who appears to have deliberately run over two soldiers in uniform, were acting on the command of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to strike back against Canada for our role in bombing them in Syria and Iraq. Maybe they were just deluded and crazed or just your average scrub seeking revenge on society. Maybe a combination of both. And if either are true, what then does that mean?

It seems a very Canadian value to want to know the difference to ensure we act appropriately. My worry is that we’ll simply react, that we’ll jerk the wheel too hard to the right and go end over end for a bit. And that would indeed be tragic.

We saw that in the U.S. after 9-11, didn’t we? That whole country seems in a brace, blinded to everything but their choice to focus on its enemies, unable to look around and see they’re losing what made them special in the first place.

To follow them into a culture of irrational fear is not Canadian. Yes, Stephen Harper, you’re right. We won’t be intimidated. We show that by retaining our values, our freedoms and our principles and all that was great about our country as it remains. Don’t you dare take us down another dangerous road.

Look around as my uncle does, after he faced the risk of losing all that is truly valuable to him. Whatever he has is glorious. No doubt he has a little fear, answered by reasonable caution and care where danger may exist. But that won’t be his focus. His focus is on all that is precious now and he won't be stopped from keeping on down the road to see his baby grandson—his family's future promise—across the country. 

He is indeed lucky. As are we all.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of

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