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)