Like most Canadians, I exercise my right to bitch and complain about those things that make me crazy. Those things may be the latest federal, provincial or municipal boondoggle. Or the dithering on important legislation for a total smoking ban. Or the immature, self-serving political posturing that occurs daily in government circles. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to be Canadian. Some days, I take Canada for granted.
But when I see our flag flying at half-staff on public buildings and private property, I feel an odd mix of sorrow and pride. When I see classrooms of children writing letters and drawing pictures to pay their respects to the slain constables, I cry. When I see those innocents singing O Canada in front of the detachment office, I dissolve into tears. When I hear the bugle or bagpipes or watch the sea of uniformed men and women marching and mourning, I cry some more. The flag, the anthem, and the red serge are thoroughly Canadian sources of pride and a part of our national tapestry.
Letters to the editor, makeshift memorials, the books of condolences, the hockey fundraiser, the funerals and the national tribute — all allow average Canadians to express their pride, sorrow, and gratitude. I’m proud that as a people, as a community, we instinctively do the right thing even when nothing in our experience could have prepared us for this.
The Mounties I’ve known and worked with as a fee Justice of the Peace since 1978 make me proud to be Canadian. All ordinary, mortal men and women who answered an extraordinary calling. Individuals willing to lay down their lives for each of us.
As I read the countless news items and watch the extended TV coverage that reports the unspeakable story, I’m shocked and saddened. The profiling of the four young men who died makes me mourn their lost potential. The characterization of the shooter makes me question how our society deals with the damaged among us. Critics’ second-guessing RCMP procedure and protocol was to be expected. The 20/20 hindsight of all those who knew it was going to happen is not surprising either.
The blurring of issues — legalizing marijuana, gun registry, mental health treatment, judicial system sentencing, shrinking police budgets — is understandable as a nation seeks to understand the unbelievable. While the timing is not ideal for calm, reasoned debate, maybe the tragedy will serve as a catalyst for change. Lasting change would be a fitting legacy for a loss of life of this magnitude.
The December tsunami united the world in sorrow and generosity. This senseless event has united Canadians in voicing their pride and appreciation for peace officers and the role they play in the very fabric of our lives. That makes me proud to be Canadian.
As long as this event stays front-of-mind, it’ll be impossible for me to take Canada for granted and feel anything but pride — two good things from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission