Terrorism is un-Canadian

A little over a week ago, a senseless act of violence was committed at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Corporal Nathan Cirillo was killed by a shooter who then proceeded to enter the parliament building. The man, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, continued to open fire, injuring others. His rampage came to an end when he was shot and killed by Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons:


While much has been said on the attack, I would like to speak specifically to two key points: 1) the meaninglessness of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” 2) the assumption that violence is “un-Canadian.”

1) What is terrorism?

Who is a terrorist? Websters’ defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” But these days the term continues to be used loosely to describe almost any act of violence where the perpetrator’s motives are not readily understood, as well as in situations where they are. Leader of the Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair has said he does not consider the act a terrorist attack.  While the shooter may or may not have had political motives and he may or may not have been struggling with mental illness, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t diminish the horror of what happened that day. That being said, the word “terrorist” holds meaning only for those who wield it to further their own political agendas. This man committed horrific criminal acts and is therefore a criminal in the eyes of the law.

2) How is violence “un-Canadian?”

In the aftermath of the attacks in Ottawa, many people took to social media to voice their concern over what happened. While this outpouring was heartfelt and showed why Canada is a truly remarkable country to live in, it also revealed a gap in our personal narrative. The inherent idea that violence and attacks of this nature are not Canadian and Canada is an innocent bystander on the global scale is simply untrue. For example, this poignant article details Canada’s involvement in recent wars. To put it plainly, this kind of violence is not native to any country. Saying what occurred in Ottawa is “un-Canadian” demeans the suffering and tragedies taking place in other parts of the world i.e. Syria, Nigeria and Israel. In these countries, violence is also un-Syrian, or un-Nigerian. No country condones such attacks and to assume otherwise is ludicrous and insulting to those who suffer from them.



2 thoughts on “Terrorism is un-Canadian

  1. I could not agree more with your comment on Canada and violence. It is very easy to fall into the belief that ALL Canadians are the friendly door-holding, please-saying people that we have a famous reputation for among other countries. Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with this reputation and I feel proud to tell others that I am Canadian because of it, however if history has taught us anything it is that stereotypes are dangerous and can lead to extreme violence, prejudice and even genocide. This Canadian stereotype makes it too easy write acts of violence off as random and unlikely instead of forcing us to realize that Canadians are humans who can suffer from mental illness, anger, hate and other feelings, emotions and personal issues that can lead to violence. You are correct in saying that no country condones attacks like the one that occurred in Ottawa. That attack occurring here does not make us “less Canadian” – If anything, demeaning other countries for the violence they regularly experience does.


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