The recent act of violence that occurred in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, was shocking to our nation. While our office building here at Fulbright Canada was on lockdown, we watched the news unfold and followed the twitter feed in disbelief.
As Canadian citizens, we don’t know how to react or deal with this type of situation, and maybe that’s a good thing. Watching the news reports the day of the shooting I noticed two interesting points. First, a number of bystanders rushed to help Corporal Nathan Cirillo and perform CPR. Second, people did not have the instinct to drop to the ground; according to CBC “…people were running and hiding behind poles.” This demonstrates that Canadians are willing to help, even if it puts them in harm’s way, and that we are so seldom exposed to gunfire, at least in Ottawa’s downtown core, that we actually don’t know how to react. This may mean that we need emergency preparedness training, but to me it sends the message that Ottawa is generally a safe place to live. As Moscrop and Watson stated yesterday “…before Wednesday’s shootings, many of us assumed we would wake up in the morning and go to bed at night without physical threat. The same is still true today. Wednesday’s attack, whatever it was […] changes very little about how we conceive of the security of the state and its inhabitants as it relates to political violence” (Ottawa Citizen).
In fact, CNN reporter, Chris Cuomo, seemed surprised when he stated that there were only ‘four homicides’ in Ottawa last year. Ottawa Police’s official Crime, Police and Traffic Statistics 2013 actually states that there were 9 homicide incidents in 2012 and 2013, which is still very low for a major city. As a preventative measure to reduce firearm related violence, the Ottawa Police Service, in collaboration with Henry’s and Olympus Canada, launched the “Pixels for Pistols” gun amnesty program in 2013, encouraging residents to trade their guns for free digital cameras. In a four-week period, they had seized 1035 firearms in Ottawa alone. Unfortunately, this type of program, along with other preventative measures certainly can’t eliminate all violent crime. What happened here on Wednesday was unsettling and surreal, but
I for one still feel that Canada is a safe and lovely place to live and study. Ottawa residents have taken matters into their own hands and are sharing positive pictures and stories with the #MyOttawa hashtag.
In the aftermath, what has affected our nation the most is the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was standing guard at the War Memorial. As Senator Jim Munson said “When we lose one soldier, we all hurt”. Our hearts go out to Cpl. Cirillo’s family and friends.