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Updated on Saturday, October 25

#19986

OMG: This November, when I wear my poppy, I will be thinking of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot dead as he stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.
Such a tragic reminder of what can happen when a psychopath with a gun decides to turn terrorist - and why we need to continue fighting movements that promote extremism and hatred.

13 comments

  1. There's a mental health component to this too. The shooter begged to be sent to jail a few years ago because he was afraid of what he might do. Our mental health resources are abysmal for a first-world country.

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    1. Fair point - what else could have been done for him then, in that case?

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  2. 1 here. a) Access to mental health services b) Improvement of quality of mental health services available to people c)Work done to reduce stigma of mental illness. Those are the big three. Not to turn this too political because these problems were around before King Harpers' coronation, but he's more likely to build more jails and/or play up the "isolated radical terrorist" angle than acknowledge the failings of our national health care system. It's a disgrace that a country that prides itself on quality of life, and is as rich in resources as Canada is, cannot develop a coherent mental health strategy. In fact, it is just in the past year or two that the country has even attempted to draft one.

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    1. What angers me the most is that Harper is trying to play this into a "Terrorism is hurting us so we need to go help invade other countries" vibe, yet when a white shooter goes on a rampage (like in new brunswick) there's no mention of terrorism, its all about mental health.

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    2. 2, I'm just saying, we don't have a 'national health care system.' We have 10 provincial health care systems, because health care belongs to the provinces under our constitution. Perfectly legitimate criticism's of Harper's other policies aside, he shouldn't - and doesn't - tell the premiers how to do their jobs.

      2a - tbh I got a completely different vibe from Harper over this whole thing. Never once has he suggested we invade anybody. Sure, we currently have 6 jets doing bombing runs in Iraq, but seeing as that's being done with the Iraqi government's consent and there are no troops on the ground in Iraq... that hardly amounts to an 'invasion.' Nor has he suggested this was somehow a terror plot - it's quite clear this was a terrorist act orchestrated by a single, radicalized, unstable individual. And it's tragic - but there are lots of mentally unstable individuals out there, and we generally hope that the vast majority of them won't grab guns and start killing people.
      All he *has* suggested is that we need to take action to stop the spread of extremist sentiment and action in Canada... which in itself isn't terribly controversial.

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    3. 2a: "...when a white shooter goes on a rampage (like in new brunswick) there's no mention of terrorism, it's all about mental health."
      Calling this "terrorism" had nothing to do with the shooter's skin colour (he was white, btw - Quebecois, born and raised, only converted to Islam a couple years ago). It was terrorism because he attacked a soldier guarding a national monument, and then attacked Parliament itself while MPs were in caucus meetings, thereby threatening the freedom of our elected representatives and shutting down the governance of the nation for an entire day... all in an attempt to create fear, and all inspired by the 'call to action' of a known terror group.

      There will always be isolated, lonely, unwell people in society. And no matter what system is put in place, there will always be those who slip through the cracks and are left on the outside.

      Don't mistake me for a defeatist! I am not suggesting - even for a moment - that this means there's no point in doing anything because nothing we do will matter. Individual, community, and government action in the name of mental health will absolutely make a tremendous difference.

      However, we could have made all the effort in the world, and this could quite possibly still have happened. Because the resources necessary to help everybody that needs it, when they need it... they simply don't exist.

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    4. 2.b): Fair point on the provincial health care. But they're all predicated on the same values, and with minor differences, are basically the same. The PM can promote change; he has power and should wield it. Ultimately, is he the decision-maker? No. But he has not done what he can to enact change.

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    5. Depends on how you look at it, 2d. Harper set out a 'no strings attached' plan for health care transfers to the provinces. I think he fundamentally believes that the federal government should keep its nose firmly out of provincial business, so long as that business is constitutional and not directly at odds with federal legislation made within the federal government's rightful authority. I can't say I disagree with that perspective - we elect our MPPs to legislate on regional issues - including health care, education, provincial transportation, and a range of other matters - and it's quite frustrating when the federal government sticks its nose in and interferes with those things, when those things have nothing to do with its mandate.

      Harper's mandate was really clear. His whole campaign in 2011 was centred around a single promise (with a handful of tangential promises targeted at different parts of the CPC voter base, but that's beside the point): to balance the budget and return us to surplus by 2015. Gov't policies, laws, and ministry behaviour over the last 4 years have, for the most part, been centred around delivering that promise, while transforming the public sector in a way that fits Harper's (intellectual and quite non-trivial, whether you agree with it or despise it) view of what the role of government should be in society.

      Don't mistake my words for blind support. Every government has its strengths and weaknesses, and I know that for every thing I like about this government, there's another thing that has fallen by the wayside because its simply not a priority for them. Working with the provinces to come up with a national strategy for mental health and wellness... not exactly something I'd think of as a forte for a policy wonk like Harper.

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  3. 2:c) So because we can't help everyone we just shouldn't try? I know you probably didn't mean that, but it's a slippery slope that a statement like yours can take. We should strive for excellence, and any failing like this one is unacceptable. The shooter sought help for four years, and repeatedly came up short. That's not an isolated failing; that's a systemic problem that must be addressed.

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    1. 2c here. I quite explicitly stated that I *don't* believe in defeatist arguments like "because we can't help everyone we shouldn't try."

      That said, you are quite right. There are systemic problems with mental health care in Canada. Hell, there are systemic problems with mental health care EVERYWHERE. But it's highly complex.

      We used to institutionalize people for mental issues all the time... wherein we practiced some truly horrific forms of 'treatment.' While I'm glad we did away with the asylums, we never really came up with an effective system to close the gap. And the stigma surrounding mental health issues remained so large, nobody was talking about taking the necessary action.

      It's starting to become better understood now. But we aren't there yet.

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  4. There is most likely a mental health component to these events. Whether or not better access to mental health care would have prevented these incidents is debatable though. When considering criminal acts, you have to consider whether or not an individual was conscious of their actions, or considered their actions to be 'wrong'. The point isn't to decide if the action is indeed wrong, but to establish the individual's state of mind, as well as their motivations. This is not a black and white situation, so it requires some contemplation by authorities. Regardless of his mental state, the gunman in Ottawa did shoot and kill a soldier, and did shoot and attempt to kill others. These are the only indisputable facts so far.

    As far as the issue of terrorism, it is important to distinguish between a terrorist group or agent and an individual who acts out of extremist beliefs. Frankly, the portrayal of Zehaf-Bibeau as a "terrorist" plays into the hands of genuine organized terrorist groups such as ISIS/ISIL, etc., as is gives the perception of their reach extending in to Western countries like Canada. However, there is no evidence (yet) that Zehaf-Bibeau was directly connected to a terrorist organization or acting as part of an organized campaign, although there is evidence he committed his acts in the name of his extremist views.

    When we talk about extremists or terrorists, terms that are truthfully far to loosely defined and fluid to have much meaning in public discourse, and about the need to oppose them, we would do well to consider the origins of these groups. Many were formed in response to Western intervention into their own affairs and communities, and the invocation of, for example, radical Islamic views as justification for what is essentially a geopolitical conflict is mostly a smokescreen, or also a means of recruitment. The basic conflict here is not one of religion, but it is one of ideology and self-determination, and Western nations should be careful about what acts and motivations we attribute to which agents and organizations. Nobody would deny the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of two Canadian soldiers, or deny that those who caused their deaths were wrong in their actions, whatever their motivations, but this does not absolve us the requirement for careful consideration of our own actions in countries abroad.

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    1. I like this analysis. Very thorough. :)

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