Loathing Fear

English: Photograph of Parliament Hill, Ottawa...On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 a lone gunman gave Ottawa a taste of fear. In the days following the tragic events in Ottawa’s downtown, the media covered the story with slow, in-depth and repetitive detail. Every aspect discussed, every perspective pursued. Even now we continue to look and ponder. We learned the anatomy of the fear experienced by everyone. Those on Parliament Hill who heard shots and then knew nothing more of what transpired for hours. We learned of the fear experienced by those in lock down in the many government buildings surrounding the Parliamentary Precinct. We heard of the fear experienced by the sergeant-at-arms who confronted and killed a man for the first time in his long career of service. We heard about the fear of the pedestrians close to the war memorial where a young soldier lost his life. The fear of the passerby who stopped and comforted the dying soldier as he drew his last breath and of course, we learned of the fear and shock he must have felt on that fall day.

No doubt if we could gage the level of stress experienced by the city of Ottawa on that day it would have spiked through the charts, but more concerning for me is the level of fear that we retain as the events of that awful day fade away. “Should we tighten security on Parliament Hill?” one poll asked and of course in the rush of fear following the shootings, the public said, “Of course.”

Well as someone who has always been proud of the fact that we give our citizens open access to our parliament it makes me angry to think that one gunman’s loathsome actions could charge us so full of fear that we create barriers between the public and those who run the country. Do we need to tighten the way we implement current security? Certainly. Are there things that could have been done better? No doubt. But as an exercise in marketing fear, I’d like the gunman’s actions to ultimately fail. Democracy, personal rights, political and religious freedom are among the things we put at risk when we let fear campaigns dictate our actions.

Today, when this post goes up, a week after that gunman terrorized MPs and citizens alike, I will be on Parliament Hill along side hundreds of other people. Like them, I will be meeting with individual MPs, telling my story. Like those others, I have a good story to share, one focused on public health, one acting in the public interest. More importantly, I’ll be reminding MPs, and perhaps myself, that they are there for very good reason and that access to the public and the publics’ access to them should never be the price we pay for security. I expect security will take a little longer, but I am pleased to know that voices like mine will work to drown out a loathsome message of fear.

Photograph of Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Taken from Ottawa/Ontario end of Alexandra Bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




0 responses to “Loathing Fear

  • Every time something horrific happens, there’s a rush to “tighten security” and it seem nobody bothers to look at how the current practices were being properly enforced in the first place. All I know is I’m tired of turning on the damn TV and hearing about another shooting more often than not 🙁

  • That’s the worst thing when things like this happen. Fear takes over and we give up our rights and freedoms in exchange for more “security.” And then later we complain that we can’t do the things we once did without realizing that we allowed the fear mongers to win. We put ourselves in a place where we accept the fear as part of our lives instead of the opportunities we once had.

    The sad thing is, this is all about our own personal responsibilities. Instead of policing ourselves and taking our own safety into our own hands we seek the comfort of a “parent” to mind the world for us.

  • Great post and great thoughts on why fear should not take away access to previously enjoyed rights.

  • Debra, I agree with you 100%. My first response was one of “why weren’t there armed guards” but I remember meeting our MPP on Parliament Hill and there wasn’t a sign of an armed guard and that was nice. Personally, we have been annoyed with the press because they have over talked and over analyzed the whole situation. There have been worse situations, just think of the Eaton centre, not all that long ago. We need to let the dust settle and then take another look at what is needed but we should NOT give in to fear.
    This was an excellent post written in a truly Canadian way.

  • Hello Debra

    I have read this sad news about attack in Ottawa. I feel very sad about the incidence. I feel such incidents create problems for many as even a common man faces a lot of troubles of screening and investigation if wants to meet up any official from establishment , who actually are, our representatives.
    Now a days the condition in Pakistan is critical as thousands of people are outside Parliament House from months as having sit in protest against rigging in 2013 election polls. One day establishment tried to remove protesters and 7 lost their lives.
    Such situations of attacks create a lot of trouble, fear and I hope people will be responsible in future and such incidents will not happen.

  • Through-out time elected officials and others have been gunned down; protected or not. It makes me sad and angry that we are at a point in this world where a discussion has to be had regarding to what end security must be taken. Of course no-one wants anyone hurt but Fear is a constraint we harness to an entire society if it is not checked. How much security is too much and how much is too little. I do not have the answer but what I do know is that a state where access is denied because a “nut job” pulls out a gun and shoots the place up should not override the will of all the good folks out there.

  • I must confess I have mixed feelings about the issue of public access to government buildings, etc. While I highly value freedom, and hate how the tragedy of 9/11 has changed the face of America, it has become our reality. I remember my first visit to Washington DC many years ago and being able to walk along the fence outside the White house – now it’s lined with barricades, armed soldiers and guard dogs. It’s a terrible testament to the times, but I can’t help but wonder how democracy would have been served had one of those people who were recently apprehended trying to break into the White House had succeeded. Thanks for your insightful and thought provoking article.

  • I’m with you, Debra! Watched as the whole city of Ottawa went into lockdown, unbelievable. We still don’t know everything that happened, and may never. Watched the standing ovation given to Kevin Vickers by the MPs – who all went back to work the very next day – and thought, this is how Canada does heroes. While the question of security at the Parliament buildings is inescapable, I think the bigger concern is dealing with mental disorders. The gunman seems to have reached out for help, but didn’t get it. Let’s hope that isn’t ignored in the discussion about what we learned from this horrible incident!

  • I must begin my comments with my appreciation for the calm way you portrayed the tragic story of what occurred in Ottawa last week. There has been much heightened fear mongering in and throughout the press about this incident, which I’ve noticed has transferred to everyday folks. I was on Parliament Hill this week as well, and I noticed a small increase in the number of security guards from the usual security personal component. I did notice a deeper respect from the public upon entering the buildings vis-a-vis the security guards, which to me is understandable. But the point is that our democratic system remains open to the public… and thank goodness for this fact. I’m not going to buy into the fear mongering…… for me this incident is about one mentally ill man, with a gun(the most problematic part of the story to me), who stormed our democratic hub. Nobody will disagree that storming any location where people congregate with a loaded firearm is nothing less than horrific. We know that more extensive measures are being considered and there will be changes in the security protocols on Parliament. At no point do I believe that they will close off the federal legislature to the public. And I will never accept what happened as normal, or that Canada has now caught up with the rest of the globe.

  • We can’t live in fear, if we do gunman, terrorists or the like win. Our reactions to the possibility of terrorism are out of proportion to the facts. The generators of fear are largely controlled by government attitudes and actions. It is upsetting to see the people in Ottawa in such fear. Put the task of combating terrorist crimes back where it belongs, not on the citizens

  • What has been plaguing the US has finally crossed the border into Canada. I can tell you that life will become more normal but it won’t be the normal you had before the gunman.

  • Louise Crandall says:
    October 29, 2014 @ 09:32 am

    I agree with Debra and Ted. You can’t live your life waiting for a lone gunman. But on the other hand I was shocked that someone could just walk in the front door of the Parliament Buildings.

    • I think the ease in which he entered shocked all of us. There are certainly more guards on the Hill now, than before, but it didn’t take any longer to get through security than usual. If the number of visitors is anything to go by, then I would say most Canadians think the way we do. 🙂

  • I agree with Catarina’s assessment.
    And the gunman wasn’t “lone.” From the Washington Post: ‘The Toronto Star described Couture-Rouleau as a failed entrepreneur who converted to Islam and became “an aspiring Islamic State fighter.” ‘

    • Whether the gunman was self-radicalized (as our press has put it) or indoctrinated was not my point. I was more concerned that his obsession did not dictate the way we live at a core level. As I chat with people and read comments here it has given a wonderful window into the differences in how we all think. That alone was worth the discussion.

  • Unfortunately, Debra, it’s the world we live in now. There are people who have no regard for human life so we’ve trade unfettered access for tighter and tighter security measures. I remember the carefree days when I could leave my apartment, arrive at the airport in 20 minutes and walk on to the plane. I’m so glad I don’t have to travel on business anymore. It is such a draining experience to go through airport security. But what else can we do when gunmen open up on innocent people?

    • I don’t want less security, but I don’t think I need to give up access either. What became evident to me as I read comments is that Canadians think very differently about access. We have mass yoga sessions on the front lawn of our parliament buildings, people have picnics there and play frisbee. That has never been the case in the US. Security has increased, but we will still be us.

  • Extremely well written Debra. I completely agree that the people we elect and for all intents and purposes work FOR us, should e accessible we live in dangerous times. Seems like when these things happen, we get our share of copy cats terrorists too. And everyone deserves to be safe, elected or not. I just think we need to find a different forum where citizens can access elected officials. I find this sad…and it makes me a little angry too.

    • The MPs I met with, and in fact, those my colleagues met with were adamant in their belief that we let terrorists win when we change the things that are so core to our way of life. I think our level of access has always been much higher than most states and that may be why we guard it so carefully.

  • Well written piece that captures the emotions surrounding this event. I live in the U.S. and I can’t even begin to describe all the things that have changed because of random as well as carefully plotted acts of violence here. There are places where just walking into a normal downtown office building requires, ID’s, badges and scanners. I guess it makes us safer and we get used to it but it’s frustrating when you think of how things used to be and why they changed.

    • I get frustrated with the extra layers of security too, but I don’t mind them as long as I can continue to do the things I used to. Its when the fear get so oppressive that it stops the most basic of interactions that I think we have lost our way.

  • Captivating words. Excellent writing skills.

    Fear holds us captive. Fear stops us fulfilling our purpose. Fear is crippling.

  • I think I have to agree with Catarina on this one. While I realize other countries have enjoyed the accessibility of their public figures in the past, today’s environment and threats of terrorism perhaps needs to lead them to rethink this policy – unfortunately.

    • I enjoyed my meetings this morning with MPs. What is the purpose of democracy if we can’t tell politicians what we need from them?

      • Ted Wigdor says:
        October 28, 2014 @ 03:50 pm

        Maybe it’s the Canadian in me coming out, but I agree with Debra. While a head of state should be properly protected at all times, politicians must be accessible. They can’t do their jobs properly without that accessibility. Naturally, suitable precautions should be put in place but we shouldn’t turn our government buildings and legislatures into a fortress. The day we do that is the day that terror and terrorists win.

        • Ted I was chatting with some friends, colleagues and MPs about this because I was surprised at the response in the comments. I do think our attitude about this is a “Canadian Thing”. Very proud to be Canadian. 🙂

  • In 1986 the prime minister of Sweden. Olof Palme, was murdered because he did not want to have body guards. In 2003 Anna Lindh, minister of foreign affairs of Sweden was also murdered because she wanted to be accessible.

    This summer Norway foiled a plot by the Islamic State to pick a Norwegian family at random and execute them. When you deal with that kind of fanatics you have to protect not only politicians but the general public as well. We can’t wait for a video of a Canadian or Swede having his throat cut to take measures to protect the people of Canada and Sweden.

    • Fortunately for me, I was able to meet with my MPs and share our story. How does democracy work if we remove access?

      • As you know, I have lived and worked in, or with, the majority of people in the world. The country that gives its citizens best access to their rulers is Saudi Arabia, of all places. It’s called majlis and the king, other princes and ministers receive Saudis from all walks of life. They ask for whatever they need – a house, money to start a business, food, car whatever they need. And in most cases they get what they need. Before being admitted to the majlis they are screened for explosives and fire arms though.

        • I had no idea how the process worked in Saudi Arabia, very cool and not all that different from here. We asked for money for public education. 🙂

          We were all screened, including our bags, in much the same way we are screened at the airport. I think precautions are wise as long as they don’t become an excuse to limit the democratic process.

          • Great. Wrote people by mistake instead of countries in my previous comment.

            Debra, could you in Canada as a private person get access to ministers to ask for a house, money to start a company or whatever? That’s completely impossible in Europe. You only get access to ministers if you have a position in society that makes them want/need to see you. In Saudi someone at the bottom of society can attend a majlis and ask for whatever they need/want. Getting access as a professional is completely different from getting access as a private person.

          • If we were really trying to stretch the bounds of reality I might say its possible. In other words, a constituent who lived in a Minister’s riding might approach him for housing assistance, but that kind of scenario is unlikely. Typically, local government offices would deal with that request. Access to minister’s is given when the “ask” has a collective or broad purpose.

            That is a really interesting difference in Saudi and a very cool approach to governance. I am amazed they are they not overrun with requests.

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