The True North Strong and Free, Unbowed and Not Intimidated

Phil Ottawa 510    We are the true north strong and free but last Wednesday it sure didn’t feel that way.  I was preparing to get my fall harvest moving; as yet wet weather has kept me out of the fields.  I was listening to a CBC radio interview with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau when the announcer broke in on the program talking about the tragedy which was unfolding in Ottawa.  In our post-9/11 society, the hairs on the back of my neck went up.  I knew this was not a very good thing.

The next thing I heard was that there were 50 shots fired in the center block of Parliament.  If you are not aware of the center block of Parliament, it is the center of Canadian democracy, a structure that is symbolic of what it is to be Canadian.  Anybody that visits Ottawa usually marvels at our Parliament buildings.  When you do get to the centre block you feel profoundly Canadian.  So with shots ringing out in the center block of Parliament, something told me my Canada was not going to be the same.

Of course the day before we learned that Canadian forces warrant officer Patrice Vincent had been the target of a terrorist attack in St Jean Sur Richelieu Quebec.  Now my radio crackled with information that a Canadian soldier had been gunned down at the National War Memorial.  In the meantime I was still reeling from the realization that there was shooting going on at Parliament Hill.  This is Canada and it is not supposed to happen here.  At the end of the day Corporate Nathan Cirillo was the name of the young 24-year-old taken from us at the War Memorial.

I was wounded the rest of the day.  There is only so much that you can do to get ready to drive a combine and I think this fall I’ve done it all and more some.  Needless to say, I did find a few things to do but my heart was heavy with the realization that my country had been attacked.  This was personal and in many ways it could have a real impact on how we look at this country.  Call it innocence lost, call it what you will.  Those shots ringing out on Parliament Hill took a little bit of all of us last Wednesday.

It is incredibly personal partly because of what it means to be Canadian.  We are no better than anybody else in this world, but there is a bond sea to sea to sea.  I have been lucky because as a Canadian farmer I have been able to speak to farmers in each region of the country.  Last year I was the guest speaker talking about the grain markets at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers convention in Ottawa.  In the same winter I flew to Québec and to New Brunswick to speak about Canadian grain prices in those respective provinces.  Over the years I have flown out to Western Canada to speak about the same thing and of course all over Ontario.  One thing I know is that we are all Canadian and on a day like yesterday we all come together.

It was so incredibly evident to me as I looked on my twitter feed later in the day.  What I saw there were people overwhelmingly expressing their sympathy and their concern for our fellow Canadians in Ottawa, Nathan Cirillo and of course Patrice Vincent from St Jean Sur Richelieu in Quebec.  Regardless of our differences there is something about the true North Strong and free.  Whether that is a beef farm near Woodstock, New Brunswick or a vast canola expanse near Lacombe Alberta versus a dairy farm in Ste. Hyacinthe Quebec, we are all Canadian.  Faced with adversity, we were all coming together.

Of course this was about some very difficult realities.  Canadians attacking Canadians is something truly bizarre.  It may be based on something a long ways away, which our Prime Minister implied in his statements.  Of course he said Canadians would not be intimidated and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

It is not like we haven’t had terrorism before in this country.  I can remember the FLQ in Quebec as well as some of the heinous crimes of violence that have perpetrated our society from time to time.  However, the events of last week in Ottawa and St. Jean Sur Richelieu were somewhat darker and its fair to say a little bit of Canada died last week.

Bruce Mackinnon of the Halifax Chronicle Herald posted one of the most powerful images last Thursday.  It was a cartoon, showing the World War 1 Vets coming to life at the National War Memorial reaching down to the fallen Corporal Nathan Cirillo.  It will burn in my memory a long time.  Simply put Canadians take care of each other.  In this terrible adversity, we’ll forge on and never succumb to the prejudices of those who perpetrated these crimes against our nation.