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Saturday, 25 October 2014

O Canada, We Stand on Guard for Thee

On Friday, October 24th, I stood atop a bridge that spans across a long section of Highway 401 called the Highway Of Heroes. I stood there with a hundred others, all of us strangers, all united for a single purpose. To pay our respects and to give our thanks to one of our own.

On October 22nd, an armed man walked up to the War Memorial in Ottawa and shot a Canadian Armed Forces Reservist twice before moving on to Parliament Hill, firing rounds steps away from where our Prime Minister was meeting with his caucus. My country was attacked by a brazen gunman, a man who was born here, but whose heart lied with extremists. What compelled him to attack the country he called home, I will never know. And, quite frankly, I don't want to know. What I do know is, he murdered a man, a soldier, who had devoted his life to protecting this nation.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo was serving with the Hamilton Argylls, and was stationed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The memorial has been guarded for several years after an idiot urinated on it. While guarding it, Corporal Cirillo was killed. He was killed while serving on Canadian soil. He leaves behind a six year old son, as well as countless siblings in arms.

The gunman was shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms inside the Parliament Building. My heart goes out to the Sergeant-at-Arms, as his life is forever changed by the fact that he killed a man. Yes, it was a man who was attacking his country, but he was still a man. My heart also goes out to the family of the gunman, as they, like Cpl. Cirllo's family, must bury someone they held dear.

So, I stood on the overpass to pay my respects to Cpl. Cirillo. As I stood there waiting for his motorcade to go by, I was filled with several different emotions. I am still filled with them. I am shocked. I am sad. I am appalled. I am angry. I am shocked that someone, a Canadian, would attack their own country. I am sad that we have lost one of thousands of selfless people who put themselves before their nation. I am sad for the family of the gunman as their lives are forever changed. I am appalled at the senselessness of the crime committed. How dare he murder someone who had devoted their life to protecting him in a time of war? I am angry that this atrocity happened in the first place. I am angry that our nation of peace has been attacked. The fact that Cpl. Cirillo was killed while serving on Canadian soil makes it hurt all that much more; it's like pouring salt in a wound. It has hit extremely close to home.

Cpl. Cirillo's motorcade.

Note all those who pulled over
to pay their respects.


If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a proud Canadian, and I stand by my country. I am proud that my country is as peaceful and accepting as it is. My city of Toronto is a beautiful mosaic of different cultures, all of whom are calling Canada home. Canada is a place of refuge for many; it is a place they come to to escape their own war-torn countries. They come here seeking peace. They did not come here to see our nation's capital attacked so brazenly by a gunman with a grudge. They came here for the same reason I continue to live here: Peace.

I pray that the fallout from this does not cause a war against races and creeds. I am a spiritual person, and I will gladly be friends with anyone of any religion, so long as there is mutual respect. I have friends who are Muslim, Wicca, Buddist, Shinto, Heathen, Pagan, and Atheists. I love each and every one of them because they are my friends. I have stayed at work for an extra ten minutes past the end of my shift so my Muslim co-worker could pray. The thing we need to remember is, there are extremists in every culture, and in every religion. (It's one of the reasons I consider myself spiritual rather than religious.) However, good is to be found in the other cultures and religions of the world. I love my country, because I love being surrounded by the different cultures, and being able to try all of the different cuisines. I love learning about other cultures, because every culture is unique.

I won't lie to you, a part of me is glad the gunman is no longer walking among us. He murdered a soldier in a country of peace, someone who is a brother-in-arms to my cousin, who is also a Corporal with young children. However, as I stated before, my thoughts are with the gunman's family as their lives will never be the same. My thoughts are with Cpl. Cirillo's family, and I can only hope his son understands the sacrifice his father made. I hope everyone understands the sacrifice Cpl. Cirillo has made. As someone with family in the military, and as someone who is pro-military (but anti-war), I understand. My great-granduncle was killed in 1917 in France, two weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday. My cousin is in the Armed Forces, and though I would be extremely proud to tell anyone that I have family serving overseas, I pray he remains on Canadian soil; I pray I never have to worry about him the way so many others worry about their family members.

I am confident that, as a nation, Canada will rise from this tragedy far stronger than it went into it. Canada is a strong country; we are strong people, though to outsiders, we seem very docile. In reality, Canada is a sleeping bear. You do NOT poke a sleeping bear, and you sure as hell do not go after her cubs. Our military is strong and swift, and I am proud of each and every member of our Armed Forces on land, sea, and in the air. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

With that, I will leave you with this sentiment: If you do not stand behind our troops, you are more than welcome to stand in front of them.