Senator Cowan’s Statement on the Events of October 22Published on 23 October 2014 News & Photos by Senator James Cowan (retired)
Speaking Notes for Senator Cowan
Statement on Shootings of October 22, 2014
Oct. 23, 2014
Colleagues, I want to add my voice to that of my friend, Senator Carignan.
Canadians are in shock and mourning today, the day after terrible events, unprecedented in our nation’s long history. My thoughts and prayers, and those of Canadians across the country, are with the family and friends of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, killed – impossible as it is to imagine – simply for standing guard at our National War Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This young father and soldier was so proud of his service in the honour guard at the Memorial. From now on, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be indelibly seared in our collective memory as the place where this very proud and now very Well Known Soldier was struck down, doing his duty.
What will also remain long in the collective memory of Canadians was the sight of so many of their fellow citizens rushing to this man’s aid.
And then, of course, the shooter came here, to Parliament Hill, turning his attention away from the national monument honouring those who defended our country, to focus on the centre of the democracy those soldiers died to protect. To the security forces of both the Senate and the House of Commons, and to the RCMP, I say: thank you. Your courage and calm professionalism were tested and never failed for an instant. We have all seen the video of what took place in these halls. You put the safety and security of Parliament Hill above your own safety. We are so proud, and so deeply grateful.
It is important that the Senate is sitting today, that both Houses have returned to work. I was proud yesterday to receive our Speaker’s statement assuring us that we would sit as scheduled – that Canada’s Parliament will not be closed because of the actions of a deranged individual. Parliament is the people’s house, and that house will not be shut down.
In the same way, we must work to ensure that Parliament remains the house of all Canadians – that it does not become a fortress on the hill, a closed monument to the idea of an open and free democracy. There are dangers inherent in living in a free society – the events of yesterday and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu are graphic evidence of that. In the days and weeks ahead, we will hear various proposals of how to best ensure that such terrible events never again take place. But it will be critically important that we never lose sight of the free and open society we are seeking to protect, that we resist the temptation to sacrifice our values, in the name of the security of those values.
I was very proud of the statements made last night on television – and this morning in the House of Commons – by each of the leaders, the Prime Minister, Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau. As Canadians heard, “Criminals cannot and will not dictate to us how we act as a nation, how we govern ourselves, or how we treat each other. They cannot and will not dictate our values.”
I agree. I have always been fiercely proud to see Canadians openly walking about, enjoying and visiting Parliament Hill – for it is their Parliament, not ours; we are here on their behalf, not our own. We will have failed, if we allow the actions of criminals to bar Canadians from their Parliament Hill.
There are many unanswered questions from the events this week, and I know that we are all determined to obtain answers. These are issues that are beyond politics, beyond partisan differences. This goes to the core of our responsibility to Canadians: to keep them safe and secure, while upholding the rights and freedoms that define us as Canadians. I know that together we will find that balance, and our nation will be even stronger as we face the future, united.
I want to say a final word to the Hill family who were here yesterday as the day unfolded. We should not underestimate the impact that these events have had, or may have on us or our excellent staff. I hope that we each keep a watchful eye, and encourage those who may need it, to benefit from the services available to help deal with these events. We need to watch out for one another.