Speech: Shooting on Parliament Hill

On Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 in Speeches

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for giving me this opportunity to speak on this very serious and grave day. We had a horrible day yesterday. I especially want to thank the Prime Minister for his words today, as well as the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Party.

We are together now and always.

It is rare in the House to be united as we are now. We experience shared grief occasionally, such as the day we gathered to honour our colleague Jim Flaherty, but this day we have shared something far different.

All of us in different ways yesterday experienced the fear of being locked down somewhere, not knowing quite what was going on. All of us, and some of my colleagues far more than I, experienced the real terror that comes from thinking someone with a gun is on the other side of a door and they are at risk.

I know these moments are important and we should underline that there is no partisanship in the House when we are all together. In the same way, I guess that there are no atheists in fox holes, there are no political party leaders when we share a common experience of such basic fear and concern for our loved ones and for our well-being. All of us together are family. We need to feel it and say it more often. We are together in this place and our constituents need to know. We are not at war with each other, as the Prime Minister said.

Together, we work together for our country. Whatever our views are about the future of the country, whatever course we want the country to take, at a very basic level we are nothing more than human beings who at a very fundamental level care for each other. All of the people in this place are my colleagues. My colleagues must know how much I care for all of them and love them, and this is something our constituents need to know.

I cannot add anything to the eloquence of what was said, but it does need to be said again. This country lost two wonderful men this week through cold-blooded murder.

I am talking about the cold-blooded murders of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent.

These are crimes that cut to the heart of all of us. We get to know something of their lives, and we get to realize with every passing day and revealed detail of their personal lives how much we all lose as a nation when two such fine men are so senselessly and brutally killed.

We know, as I think we always knew, that our Sergeant-at-Arms is a consummate professional. He is more than a ceremonial figure. The finest thing that we could do for him right now would be to let him leave this place and go fly-fishing on the Miramichi.

In closing, I want to wish all of my colleagues and all Canadians well. I pray for one thing: that we hang on to the sense of a common, shared purpose, that we remain calm, and that we wait for answers from the police before we make any assumptions about motivations, connections or the extent of what we face.

If I were a betting person, and it is good for my bank account that I am not, I would put money on these being the acts of isolated, disturbed and deeply troubled men who were drawn to something crazy. I do not believe that it was a vast network or that the country is more at risk today than it was last week. However, that is my opinion. I can be wrong. I have been wrong before and I may be wrong again. I am undoubtedly going to be wrong again, but what I would like to suggest is that we wait for answers from the police before we make assumptions and that we speak calmly, truthfully and openly to all Canadians.

Let us be the place that exemplifies the words of our founding documents. Let us exemplify peace, order and good government.

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  • Andrew Abbass

    You’re the only one left worthy offering ‘good government.’

    Also, nice to see you recognize that Harper is leading the Opposition and the Liberals now.

    • Josh Doan

      Comments like that have no place here. Have some respect. Criticize as much as you want somewhere else. This is one time where this country stands together. Leave it that way.

      • Ross Cameron

        Josh, it’s a light-hearted comment based on E’s wording in the speech.

  • Sonia B. Kaminsky

    Wonderful words from you Elizabeth, and I do hope you are right that these were the acts of “2 deeply troubled men” …. we will wait to see what unfolds.

  • Sheri Levy

    thank you for your words of calm assurance, I too believe Canada is at no more risk than it was last week,

  • Eh J

    Take out the part about there being “no atheists in foxholes” and you have something. You should apologize to atheists in general but specifically the atheist members of our armed forces. It shows a lack of respect for them and their contributions, as well as the Canadian ideal of freedom of (and, by necessity, from) religion.

  • mtw1407

    I do not think you are wrong Ms. May, two soldiers were shot by two disturbed gunmen. When did we stop calling these deranged shooters just that? They are being called “terrorists who attacked Canada” so Mr. Harper can have a free hand increasing security to the maximum.

  • http://www.northernlightbooks.ca/MentalHealththroughMusic Laurna Tallman

    Dear Ms. May, Thank you for the email I received last night and for your words today. Yours is a voice of balance sadly needed in Canada and in our Parliament. I have exceptional knowledge of mental illness. I grieve also today for a deranged young man who also lost his life, and for his family.

    I had a schizophrenic son, but I healed him. I have written and self-published books on this subject. I counsel and speak and teach about how the left half of the brain can become dominant (which is the condition of normal cerebral integration) by treating the right ear with high-frequency music, gently amplified through headphones. When I healed him, I was determined to find out how music accomplished that miracle. I found fragments of information in many research documents and books. I taught myself the physiology of the ear and enough neurology to discover a new neurological paradigm of human behaviour. My research reveals that most mental illness could be fairly easily and inexpensively healed. Our son has had no symptoms of schizophrenia since I taught him how to care for his ears. If you would like to learn more about my learning on the cutting edge of behavioural science, please contact me.

    Again, thank you for your voice of exceptional grace.
    Sincerely, Laurna Tallman

    • Cris Paunescu

      Aside from using this tragedy to promote a possible treatment for mental illness, calling either one of the two newly converted (now dead) Islamists “mentally ill” casts a shameful shadow over those with real mental illnesses – like your son.

      The shooter in Ottawa was not mentally ill. He was a killer who planned his moves, checked out his targets and proceeded to follow a carefully planned course of action.
      Was he imbalanced? Probably – he was indoctrinated by a religion that promised him 70 virgins if he died for jihad. You don’t really believe that the Islamic State terrorists are beheading men, women and children because they are lacking mental treatment, do you? Cause if you do, you probably also believe that the Oklahoma beheading of a woman was properly qualified as “workplace violence”…

      • http://www.northernlightbooks.ca/MentalHealththroughMusic Laurna Tallman

        You do not understand mental illness as I do: in the process of healing our son of schizophrenia, I discovered the (neurological) relationship between rationality and irrationality. Some kinds of irrationality are embedded in people’s insufficiently examined belief systems and are passed on from generation to generation by methods of acculturation and socialization. We are a family of pacifists, which made care for our son much easier and much less risky during his long recovery. You refer to the “indoctrination” of “a religion,” referring to Islam, according to popular and unsympathetic views of that religion. But if you listen to Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam and goes by the name of Yousef Muhammed, you will hear an Islamic message of peace. You can find examples of ghastly brutality in the followers of any major religion, or of no religion; the Western rhetoric of “righteous” war is no more rational than the Eastern rhetoric of jihad. The fruits of war are the same: wasted lives and resources. The causes of war have a lot to do with greed and refusing to share resources. The potential for intelligent exchanges between people with differing ideologies exists but such meeting of minds is difficult because people tend to be emotionally invested in their belief systems — and emotion tends to undermine rational thought. I do not know what you mean by “mental treatment.” I have shown that stimulating the right ear makes the left, rational brain stronger and more dominant over the right, emotional brain. Left-brain dominance in the integration of the hemispheres is the necessary condition for learning and for sanity and for learning self-control. What we listen to (content) and the ears with which we listen (accuracy of perception) are equal parts of becoming sane and rational. If you listen to false reasoning, and I believe any argument about “the necessity” for arms is insufficiently rational, then you take your place among those who are less than mentally healthy. “You” may be as brutal as the Muslims who take a prominent place in the news these days, or “you” may be as brutal as soldiers anywhere who kill and maim and destroy the means of sustenance for the men, boys, women, girls, children, and infants of wherever the war is being waged. The type of insanity that is mainly physiological (ear dysfunction) and the type of insanity that is mainly ideological will be similar, depending on the subconscious memories of the person who loses left-brain control, whether spontaneously or by choice. The suicides and homicides and mass murders you read about in recent years are hugely tied to medicines given to unstable people who have some of the same subconscious awareness of evil as you do, but the damage to their ears by the chemicals they have taken (even after withdrawal of the drugs) has left them without the ability to dominate those right-brain urges with their left brains (cf. Dr. Ann Tracy’s catalog of such incidents). Similarly, the soldier of any belief system deliberately suspends his rational mind to allow his subconscious aggression and anger to be inflamed and unleashed. And sometimes conflicting systems of belief and reasoning cause the soldier to self-destruct (e.g., the Muslim psychiatrist on the US military base and a number of Canadian and US military men). The end products are identical: murder and mayhem. The lines you try to draw between religions and beliefs and brutality and mental illness are not clear or reasonable. And don’t forget that beheading and hanging are part of “our” tradition until relatively recently. In the final analysis, dead is dead however you contrive to kill. Jesus is one of those who took the concept “Thou shalt not kill” to the full extent of reason.

  • Linda Mulhall

    Dear Elizabeth, Thank you for your wise words. I was particularly struck by the last few statements. While I do believe we need to increase protection on the Hill, and find ways to investigate more thoroughly those people who are a real threat to Canadians, I am concerned that this government will use this current situation as a opportunity to reduce civil liberties and to increase police surveillance in inappropriate and intrusive ways. Please speak up for the importance of maintaining basic civil liberties. It is a hallmark of being a Canadian.

  • j leger

    Elizabeth, I support your environmental concerns for a better Canada as does my husband. However, your statement ” there are no atheists in foxholes…” is not correct. It undermines the contributions that atheist Canadians have made, past and present, for the good of society.

  • Lee

    Eh J: It’s an expression. I’m an atheist and was not insulted. Get over yourself

  • Jacqueline Nadon

    What I think everyone has failed to recognize in this situation, is what a glaring indictment of our mental health access this situation points to. The shooter had documented addiction issues, from what I understand. It saddens me that things got to this point for him and for our fallen solider, because it seems that perhaps if we had better mental health resources available across the country, something like this could have been avoided.

    I can imagine a young man, battling a mental illness with nowhere else to turn, finds solace in a religion and becomes radicalized in his vulnerable state. When will people realize that mental health is not an obscure issue affecting very few Canadians, it is a real crisis in our health care system and it deserves our attention, our resources and our compassion? Instead what it brings is stigma and intolerance, misunderstanding those who suffer with it daily. Chances are every Canadian knows someone who deals with some sort of mental illness on a daily basis, whether they realize it or not.

    Mental health care is something worthy of discussion, especially as we approach a federal election.

  • http://www.traumarecoverybc.com/ Darren Gregory

    Thank you. Be Well.

  • Ross Cameron

    Hi Elizabeth, I love reading your wise, unifying, and compassionate words. I think using the expression “there are no atheists in foxholes” is poorly chosen given your largely secular humanist constituency, but that’s a small detail in the larger picture. Thanks again for all you do.

  • melldclute

    Please do not let any legislation to pass that will include “preventative detention”. We might as well turn into a police state. You cannot detain someone if they haven’t committed a crime.

  • bobs your uncle

    Ms. May: It is good that you have experienced terror. Now you have a better idea of what Israelis live through on a regular basis.

  • Tony Wass

    While I am greatly saddened by the tragedy yesterday, I am relieved to read that the shooter (now deceased) was not part of terrorist group.
    Instead, it sounds as if the fellow was a troubled guy, with mental health issues.

    Hopefully we can seek to prevent further tragedies by providing the necessary care for people with mental health issues, and guide them gently away from guns and other weapons.

    The alternative, making government fortresses while at the same time doing away with the long gun registry, is madness.

  • CG

    Elizabeth, thank you for avoiding the use of the old drum beating rhetoric, calling the perpetrators cowardly. Instead, you reminded the house of what should be obvious, that these were deeply troubled and disturbed men.

    You are correct, Canada has not changed and we are no different today than we were last week. Remember 1984 when Denis Lortie stormed the Quebec National Assembly? Canada didn’t change then and there is no reason for it to change now. However, my fear is that certain people will take advantage of this event to make drastic changes that affect our freedom. I’m hoping you will be vocal to protect us against that.

    It is odd how a death close to the house is treated so much more seriously than a death in Quebec or in a foreign land just because it is close to home. If only the members could keep that in mind when they vote to send our jets on bombing raids in foreign lands that are likely to kill innocent civilians and generate more hate. If only they could look at their own reaction and recognize what is happening. Many MPs are talking tough, using words like “Canada will never be intimidated” and “we stand united” revving up for more war and making it sound like you will be a traitor if you don’t support an effort to fight back! How can we expect them to act any differently if we can’t?

    A few weeks ago, you eloquently pointed out the hazards of entering a mission against ISIL. Now look where we are. Leaders will claim we will look weak if we back down and they will be reluctant to do so because the other side may claim victory. We just can’t have that embarrassment, they will say. Like school kids in a playground, we may be stuck in conflict.

    Or are we. Why can’t someone make the case for being civilized? Why can’t someone point out how history shows us that violence only brings violence; that we are possibly embarking on a dangerous course. Perhaps a few guards at the door of parliament and a metal detector would help a bit, but do we need much more security than that? A man with a gun and evil intent can shoot an MP or anyone for that matter as soon as they step out on the street. Should we have armed guards and every mall entrance? Every hotel? Check points on every corner? There will always be a way for a crazed person to commit the types of crimes we have seen the last couple of weeks. The only solution is to tackle the root causes: despair, mental illness, poverty, joblessness, and a lack of education. If we only spent the same money on aid that we do on the military, we would be so much safer.

    Perhaps you have to wait the prerequisite time to be critical, but I hope you and many others stay true to your belief that peace is the only way. Otherwise we are destined to keep repeating history, amplifying hate through an endless cycle of revenge attacks and hyped up rhetoric.

  • MG

    Elizabeth, it may seem convenient or reassuring to yourself and some Canadians to believe that the two attacks on Canadian soldiers this week were not planned or coordinated by the likes of ISIS, ISIL, al-Qaeda or the myriad of other jihadist groups that exist. The stark reality, however, is that these groups have, in fact, publicly called on radicalized Muslims throughout the world to attack Canadian soldiers, law enforcement personnel and their government whenever they are able to. Perhaps the two attackers involved in the heinous acts of murder committed this week were ‘not of sound mind’ or under the influence of some type of addiction when these crimes were committed, but to suggest that they were not motivated by terrorism or terrorist organizations is short-sighted and ill-informed. While some might wish to put their heads in the sand and hope that this will not happen again, the reality is that it will unless Canada, and other countries that find themselves targeted by these groups, takes active measures to deal with the very organizations that are motivating people to commit these acts.

    • frothquaffer

      far better than “dealing” with them would be to take the wind out of their sails by not rising to their bait and going over there to kill them. Canada and Canadians are far better off when we’re the honest brokers and Peacekeepers on UN sanctioned Peacekeeping missions. When will Canada recognize Palestine as Sweden has just done?

  • Elspeth Dowell

    “No atheists in foxholes” -that phrase was invented by theists in order to discredit atheists.

    So there was an attack on parliament and Elizabeth May perhaps didn’t have time to do a lot of research. I’m an atheist and secular humanist. For me, it’s like saying atheists are weak minded, pathetic people. As soon as there’s danger, she think atheists will drop a life stance they may have held for decades?

  • B. Allen

    Yikes! “no atheists in foxholes”?. You may as well have said that there are no brave people who are aware that humans commonly invent fictional characters, including gods; and that atheists, as much as theists, are cowards unable to stick to their principles when death is near. Military atheists in the US have their own association to fight religious discrimination http://militaryatheists.org/.

  • Cris Paunescu

    Nice words from the Leader of the Green Party… Unfortuantely, they do not represent the entire truth…

    Ms May is the only “leader” that tried to turn this double tragedy into a political football. She was free to express her certainty that PM Harper will use it to promote “draconian measures” – whatever those may be. Sadly, not unexpected from her. Strangely, not repeated by the other leaders – not even Trudeau, who made sure that he made absolutely no reference to Islam.
    I challenged Ms May on twitter, she replied “I did not know what ‘draconian’ means” – a pathetic, infantile excuse from someone who has hopes of becoming this nation’s leader – or close to that at least. Word of advice – if you don’t know what it means, don’t use it – what if it meant “excellent”?

    And yes, she was wrong… again…

  • Syntonic

    There are plenty of atheists in foxholes – in the U.S. they even have their own organization. I suspect that religious belief is encouraged by the military as it provides them with less-questioning recruits. Atheists will fight and die, if necessary, but they need good reasons.

  • Jennifer

    Love your work but really sad to see you discredit all atheists. Here is a wonderful humanist video, specifically about the afterlife, and what I would hope for if I were ever in a foxhole:

  • Joanne David

    Dear Ms. May

    I have been an admirer of your outspoken nature on important issues facing Canadians for many years. Until today.

    I could not believe that I read this response from your office pertaining to the 911 petition, a copy of which is below.

    In your first paragraph, through your assistant, you insult the integrity of every single professional, engineer, business person, and concerned citizen… that is concerned about our Canada and in particular the role that Canada is playing in international affairs.

    I learned recently that at 2011, Canada’s war economy exceeds 1 BILLION dollars, and that does not include the many supporting businesses to this direct international export figure. Do you know the figure at at today?

    I work in Edmonton, AB where there are thousands of engineers, many of them building engineers.. I have been fortunate and privileged to work with many of them.

    NOT ONE thinking engineer agrees with the official American report of 911 from an engineer perspective. That is because the buildings falling down by fire, as reported, is simply not possible – by law of physics and engineering.

    Many of these engineers are afraid to speak out due to loosing their jobs. Yet, their question remain unanswered.

    The many brave engineers, architects, business people, etc. that did speak out, and bravely placed their names on the petition that YOU agreed to present, deserve your respect.

    NONE of them theorize on conspiracy. They are thinking intelligent people with heart, that know there are serious issues and questions about MATH pertaining to the 911 stories.

    Listen to them.

    More to the immediate point: To belittle Canadian citizens as you did, is entirely unacceptable for an elected MP of Canada.

    I am asking for your apology for this response, and to give these highly intelligent people the respect they deserve.

    We all deserve answers. Every single Canadian deserve answers on our international policies.

    The 911 incident is the very foundation of all our current international affairs. You need to place this foundation issue on your serious agenda. For all thinking, concerned Canadians.

    We all look forward to, and request a more appropriate response from your office.

    Thank you.

    Joanne David

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