Canada is trying to return to normal amid lingering questions after two attacks in a span of three days shocked the nation. The nation was shocked to find itself in the unusual position of being at the center of world news when two violent episodes within a few days of one another jolted Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper would later define these acts as terrorism in a televised address to the nation.
The first attack came on Monday just outside of Montreal, when Martin Rouleau drove his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring the other. He was killed by police. Then on Wednesday in Ottawa, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot a soldier at the War Memorial, before storming Parliament. He was killed by security there, most famously the Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who is being hailed as a hero.
Canada will slowly return to normal again, even amid the whirlwind of questions following the chaos that the country witnessed earlier this week. These questions have swirled since the events on Wednesday, particularly about how a man who had just shot a Canadian soldier at the War Memorial nearby Parliament Hill could have gotten such easy access into the Parliament buildings themselves, and been so close to prominent government figures. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to hide in a broom closet for up to fifteen minutes during the shooting at Parliament Hill on Wednesday. Most of the rest of the Cabinet waited up to nine hours before escaping the imposed lockdown. Security was a complicated matter regarding Parliament Hill prior to the attacks in Ottawa on Wednesday, with four different forces – the Commons guard, Senate guards, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Ottawa Police, all playing different roles. While many were emphasizing that a secure perimeter is the least that should have come out of this episode, there are still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out first. For now, however, the RCMP will now provide 24/7 security protection for the prime minister.
There were also questions from south of the border regarding what was seen as a failure in communication. Neither of the two men responsible for the attacks earlier this week were on the American terror watch list, and American officials are now worried about intelligence gaps. A Canadian privacy law that limits how much information can be shared with foreign governments is being blamed for the gap. However, Canadian government officials have indicated that they will work on updating these laws with the aim of more effective communication in the future.
Canadians want their country to return to normal, despite lingering questions. While Prime Minister Harper declared these acts of terrorism, Canada normally is a quiet country that exudes an image of tranquility both at home and abroad. It is not a country used to being featured in headlines around the world following violent acts of terrorism. Yet, a return to normality may be difficult now, as Harper declared that Canada is not immune from terrorism. There was speculation that these attacks were the result of Canada’s official support of the international fight against ISIL in Syria. Whatever the reason for this attack, Canadians got a taste of what other countries have gone through before, and they may now have to get used to living with the uncertainty of the possibility of being a possible target of terrorism again in the future. That may be the new reality for Canada as it struggles to find a new normal.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by joiseyshowaa – Flickr