Shootings in Canadian Parliament captured on film / YouTube
As I write this while at home in central Ottawa, my husband is in lockdown at work and my kids are being kept indoors all day in their secured school.
Ottawa residents joined by onlookers the world over are still trying to piece together today’s events, after a shooter opened fire this morning at the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, killing a Canadian Forces Soldier, before apparently entering Center Block building on Parliament Hill where shots rang out. A third shooting was reported outside Rideau Centre, the shopping mall two blocks away. At the time of this writing, one shooter has been reported killed, and another one or two remain at large.
All this on the same day that Malala Yousafzai was due to receive honorary Canadian citizenship at a ceremony with Prime Minister Harper in Toronto.
Nine kilometers west of Parliament sits the Jewish community campus. Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman said that she has been in contact with the Ottawa Police Services and mayor’s office. There doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat to the Jewish community, but the campus is taking precautions, including locking down schools community buildings.
“The important thing is not to jump to any conclusions about why these atrocious acts are taking place, but obviously there’s shock, dismay and anger that our country is being attacked like this,” Freedman told me by phone.
Freedman is right that we don’t yet know what motivated the attacks. It could be insanity, murderous crime, or politically motivated terrorism. If it is an act of terrorism — meaning a politically motivated action rather than a random crime — it is possible that it is of the Islamist variety. Or not.
What is the responsibility of the media, policymakers and commentators in both reporting facts and keeping passions calm, both among potential targets who need to be kept safe, and among innocents who may face backlash by virtue of presumed ethnic association?
International affairs commentator Hayes Brown tweeted:
We are now entering the “conflicting information” stage of the Canadian shooting crisis, with a sprinkling of “assign ethnic blame”— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) October 22, 2014
Even more direct was Alex Kane, tongue firmly on cheek:
REMEMBER: If the Canada shooter is Muslim, he's a “terrorist.” If he's white, he's “unstable.”— Alex Kane (@alexbkane) October 22, 2014
Prior to Holocaust Memorial Day — officially commemorated across Europe on Sunday — a Book of Commitment was placed in the British House of Commons for Members of Parliament to sign. The purpose of this simple act is to “publicly commit both to remembering the Holocaust and to working towards a future in which prejudice and hatred are never again allowed to gain a foothold in society.”
After placing his name in the Book, however, David Ward (MP for Bradford East) felt it necessary to issue an addendum of sorts on his website. His postlude could hardly have been more opposite to the spirit of his earlier dedication to tolerance and reflection, replicating as they did what Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks calls one of the “great slanders of our time: that Jews, victims of the Holocaust, are now perpetrators of a similar crime.” Here is what Ward wrote:
Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the hours following the public dissemination of his comments, instead of showing the sort of shame and penitence such barefaced bigotry demands, Ward reached for his shovel, thumping and scratching at the scarred earth beneath him. Initially, Ward attempted to utilise a quote from Elie Wiesel in his defence.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” he cited in part. Wiesel did not much care for this: “Although he quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel.”