Friday, 31 October 2014

Silver Lining in Tragedy - Canadian Culture On Full Display

On Wednesday, Oct. 22, Canada experienced a tragedy in the nation's capital. Lone gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, attacked the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill, killing 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who was standing guard at the memorial.

This occurred two days after two soldiers were victims in a hit-and-run attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. One of those soldiers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, was killed in the attack. He had been serving in the military for 28 years and considering retirement according to CBC News.

Canadian media has covered both of these tragedies in great depth, so I won't get into the details.

What struck me and many others, both in Canada and abroad, was the way that the Canadian public and the Canadian media has reacted to these tragedies. One picture that I retweeted showed the general reaction well.

We're not immune to fear-mongering or anti-Islam sentiment, but Canadian culture quickly refuted those sentiments. All our political leaders spoke out in support of the greater Islamic-Canadian community, despite both of the perpetrators referring to themselves as Muslim.
In a small town in Alberta, a mosque was defaced, but within hours friendly Canadians came out to clean up the vandalism.

My last example of Canadian culture came a day after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was buried in his home-town of Hamilton, Ontario. Omar Albach, 18, a Canadian of Palestinian descent, joined a couple York University friends to launch a "social experiment." In Hamilton, he had a Caucasian class-mate make anti-Islam comments towards Zakaria Ghanem, who was dressed in full traditional Islamic garb called a Thobe, with the intent of recording the reactions of Hamilton residents. 
They did get reactions, but perhaps not what they were prepared for. All the people they show in the video react with disgust towards the xenophobic comments and the most extreme reaction actually leads to a guy cursing at the man acting as a xenophobe and ultimately punching him in the face.
The back-story and video of the social experiment can be read here:

The 'social experiment' video is here:

The silver lining of these tragedies has shown the best of Canadian culture and we should all be proud that this message has been relayed across the world. Americans talked about our calm media coverage in the face of tragedy and this social experiment video has gone viral internationally. 
Through all the ugliness of the last two weeks, Canada's multicultural and welcoming values have not been shaken.

Read here for a breakdown of last week's tragedies:  

UPDATE: Interesting historical perspective on Politico, "Canada's Stiff Upper Lip": 

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