Last week’s tragic incidents in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario were ones of deep sadness for me, as they were for people across this country and around the world.
My condolences are with the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
On Oct. 20, Vincent was deliberately hit by a car while on duty and later succumbed to his injuries.
Cirillo was volunteering at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22 – guarding the cenotaph which honours veterans and those who have died or might die while serving their country – when he was shot.
The memories of these courageous individuals will live on in our hearts and minds forever. As we grieve their loss and begin the healing process, let’s all be inspired by their commitment to Canada.
In the wake of these tragedies, Canadians have shown that our principles of kindness, courage, acceptance and diversity will not be weakened or falter because of such attacks.
After the shooting of Cirillo, a group of strangers tried to save his life by providing CPR, comforting him through words of encouragement and appreciation, and basically doing their best to help, despite the dangers of the situation.
Margaret Lehre and Barbara Winters were two such individuals who went to the aid of the fallen soldier.
At the Parliament buildings, Const. Samearn Son, a security guard who bravely tried to prevent the gunman from taking his weapon inside, was hit by a bullet in his leg. As the gunman continued into Parliament and entered the Hall of Honour, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was able to shoot him.
Following the murders, a mosque was vandalized in Cold Lake, Alberta and spray-painted with “Go home” and “Canada.” Windows were also smashed.
In response, community members and the mayor denounced these actions, and residents of the area helped remove the graffiti, clean up the scene and repair the damage.
On Saturday (Oct. 25), as thousands gathered at the National War Memorial, Imam Haider al-Shawi from the Ottawa a-Mahdi Centre was greeted with a hug from paramedic Kyle Pooler, who was moved by the speech that al-Shawi had given in honour of Cirillo.
In a fund created for the families of both soldiers, tens of thousands of dollars so far have been donated by Canadians.
Our actions following the deeply saddening tragedies of last week are representative of what it truly means to be Canadian and showcases the qualities and strength that Vincent and “Canada’s son” Cirillo would have been proud of.
As we honour their contributions to our country, let’s all continue to defeat hate and extremism through our commitment to our Canadian values and solidarity with one another through this difficult time.
Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.