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Wednesday 22 October 2014

War Memorial Shooting in Ottawa: Dealing with the after-effects

by Stephen B.Chadwick, MA Counselling Psychology.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo
Today in Ottawa, with the event of the shooting of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial, which follows almost two days after 2 other CAF members were rundown by a recently radicalized Canadian, the bubble on Canada's mythical belief of a land of peace and tranquility has been burst.

As a Canadian myself, I think most Canadians would like to think that we, as a middle power, could rest on a point of pride that we "negotiate" in our country. We would like to believe in the myth that we are a relatively safe, peace-loving society and that we have no need for ramped up security. We pose no threat to anyone. 

However, now with what has happened, we will have to deal with the trade-off between security or safety and privacy restrictions or freedom. Moreover, Canada will now begin to feel for the first time, as a nation and society, what other, more war-ravaged countries have felt for a while, since the advent of global terrorism: paranoia, anxiety and group post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, we can get through this.

Over the course of this day, many things have been said in the media. And sometimes seeing the media focus again and again on troubling issues will naturally ratchet up the general public's anxiety.  Some in the media have said this is "Canada's 911". 

I don't think so. When you consider that close to 3000 people died in 911, this does not come close. However, in terms of striking at the heart of a nation or capital... quite possibly.

However, a measured response is probably what Canadians, I would think, would want. No, we don't want to be terrified and panicked, but at the same time, when a threat comes, we don't want to be bullied either. Bullying as, I have mentioned earlier comes about both on a personal level and even a national level. And it can also occur at any age not just in childhood and the teen years, but into adulthood, except here it is usually called harassment.  Terrorism, really, in some ways is no different. It's harassment  As the expression goes: Same crap, different pile!

And no doubt, unfortunately whether Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the perpetrator turns out to be linked to a terrorist group or not and is just a "lone wolf" -- no doubt that the general anxiety level of the nation will be raised. This is just so much like PTSD, in fact, dollars to donuts, I would hazard to guess that most of the M.P.'s (lingo in Canada here for Members of Parliament, kind of like Representatives in the States), will likely be experiencing some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and will need to integrate the emotional information of the experience of what has happened today before they can process it and move on. And it is likely that they will experience guilt and possibly grief symptoms associated with the shock and the trauma.

It is when these post-traumatic symptoms are integrated into a person's psyche and they no longer feel intrusive, invasive thoughts, or feel like they are on hyper-high alert or that they need to be hyper-cautious or avoidant that their lives will return to normal. However, dear friends, it is a strong possibility that for many of the ordinary MP's and other workers in the Canadian government, they will not be feeling this. Not tomorrow, not next week and possibly not for a long while, until the trauma will be processed and integrated into the psyche and this involves talking about it.

However, we need to place into perspective the trauma. Has anything even closely like this happened before in Canada?

And the answer is yes. Witness:
  1. The Assassination attempt on Pauline Marois, head of the Parti Québécois in 2012
  2. The Dawson College Shooting at the CEGEP in Montreal in 2006.
  3. The Ecole Polytechnique/Montreal Massacre in Montreal in 1989.
  4. The FLQ/October Crisis and the introduction of the War Measures Act. 
So it is not as if Canada has never witnessed such difficulties. And when dear friends, whenever one takes a firm position on an idea or creed, inevitably there is going to be a strong reaction from others who are opposed.

We Canadians are at times viewed as modest, retiring, and apologetic by the rest of the world. Sometimes, however, one has to draw boundaries. On a personal level, this might be saying "no" to abuse: sexual or physical or psychological. On a national level, this might be saying "no" to collective terrorism. I think that I am sure that dear old Joan Rivers,who died a just few weeks ago, God rest her soul, in the same week there were the awful ISIS beheadings, would probably find something bitchy and funny to laugh about this tragedy and that, dear friends, is how we minimize the impact.

Take Care,


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