Toronto Star's View: Politicians showed the right...
Bookmark and Share
Oct 24, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Toronto Star's View: Politicians showed the right instincts the day after attack on Parliament

Canadians can be proud of how political leaders reacted in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack – with firmness, solidarity and an instinct to preserve the open nature of our democracy


There were many fine words spoken in Ottawa on Thursday in the aftermath of the shooting that shook Canada’s Parliament to its core. But, as usual, it was the images that spoke loudest – to the great credit of our political leaders.

On Wednesday evening, hours after the attack, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged that “we will not be intimidated” by violence directed at the seat of the nation’s democratic institutions. The day after, members of Parliament demonstrated that by gathering for business as usual in the Commons chamber. “We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared,” said Harper. “Here we are, in our seats, in our chamber in the very heart of Canadian democracy, and our work goes on.”

Most striking was the prime minister’s gesture to the opposition leaders: walking over first to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and then to the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair and embracing them in solidarity. Given the ultra-partisan atmosphere that normally prevails in the Commons, and Harper’s notoriously combative nature, it was especially poignant – and entirely welcome.

MPs also united to pay tribute to the sergeant-at-arms of the Commons, Kevin Vickers, who personally shot dead the armed intruder as he approached the inner sanctum of Parliament – the Commons chamber and the rooms where parliamentarians gather for their weekly caucus meetings. The ovation went on for almost five minutes – as Vickers, carrying the ceremonial mace that opens the day’s proceedings, appeared to blink back tears. That image will not soon be forgotten.

The process of dissecting what went on, and what went wrong, this week in Ottawa will continue for many weeks. The political unity and human solidarity that marked the day after will undoubtedly break down as the politicians differ on how to interpret the events, and eventually who to blame for gaps in surveillance and security.

But it is important for Canadians to know that their representatives are united on fundamental values, chief among them that Parliament is sacrosanct because, as Liberal MP Irwin Cotler writes on the opposite page, it embodies the rule of law and “the voice of the people.”

Naturally, the fact that the gunman was able to force his way into the halls of Parliament’s Centre Block will prompt a searching review of security measures on the Hill. But it is encouraging that the first instinct of the politicians is to preserve the maximum degree of openness consistent with security. Tony Clement, the Treasury Board president, said he is “proud” that Parliament Hill is an open place, while Justice Minister Peter MacKay promised that “we’re not closing off the Hill.” That’s the right approach.

A number of disturbing facts emerged on Thursday, as well, chief among them that the prime minister was essentially unguarded at the time the shooter burst into Parliament. That will change immediately, as RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson made clear.

But overall, Canadians can be proud of how their political leaders reacted in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s attack – with firmness, solidarity and an instinct to preserve the open nature of our democracy.

Toronto Star

Bookmark and Share

(1) Comment

By Andrew | OCTOBER 26, 2014 12:27 PM
I am happy that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson made it clear. Thanks Andrew S. Collins <a href="">Condominiums Etobicoke</a>
( Page 1 of 1 )
Join The Conversation Sign Up Login

Latest Local News

In Your Neighbourhood Today