Frances Itani writes in the aftermath of the Ottawa shooting

‘Has our beautiful hill lived out its own age of innocence?’

Ottawa author Frances Itani contemplates all that might be lost in the aftermath

Lars Hagberg/CP

Lars Hagberg/CP

All day Wednesday, I listened to radio in my office or my kitchen while events were reported from the Hill. From my apartment windows I looked out at the Peace Tower in the distance—a sight that greets me every morning—and thought: What has gone so terribly wrong?

Parliament Hill: our hill. I have always felt a sense of ownership, and why not? Since early childhood, I’ve been visiting the Hill, passing it on a bus, driving up onto it, counting the stairs in the tower, catching a glimpse of the Queen, watching the Trooping of the Colour, visiting the gallery of the House of Commons to watch proceedings below.

What excitement! Seven years old and being taken “to town” from our tiny village in Quebec. Climbing up into a rattling bus, dust seeping in and depositing brown Rorschach blots on the seats. Disembarking in Hull, only to board a streetcar, bells clanging, sparks crackling, past the Chaudière Falls and into the capital to be greeted by West Block, the Peace Tower, East Block with its windows that resemble two eyes and a nose.

When I was 16, on Halloween I drove my sister and two teachers’ college friends up onto the hill, where we paraded in costume. My sister was dressed as a Mountie. Her friends became a horse beneath a special blanket, and they dropped pancakes while attempting to canter across the main lawn. A real RCMP officer gave chase—how clearly I remember. We reversed course. The horse began to gallop, but tangled instead, and broke into two parts. Once we were all in the car, there was no place to escape except to drive the circuit of the hill in order to exit. I passed two startled Mounties in front of the tower, and drove back out onto the street.

We were foolish, but we meant no harm. Days of innocence. Alas, nothing feels innocent this week. Not with men dead and wounded, bullets ricocheting off walls, security breached. Has our beautiful hill lived out its own age of innocence? How fortunate we’ve been.

When I lived in Heidelberg in the early ’80s, I visited the German Bundestag in Bonn and was forced to hand over jacket, bag, purse. Nothing was permitted past the guards at the entrance. I begged for my passport. I had never seen such extremes in security. That was 34 years ago.

In 1981, 12 days after Anwar Sadat’s assassination in Cairo, I walked past the Egyptian Embassy in Athens and was unnerved by cameras tracing my every move on the street—nothing subtle—and by unsmiling soldiers armed with large guns. It was election time: Papandreou followers were everywhere. And so were guns and guards.

Has this kind of security existed in every capital but Ottawa? The large embassies in our own city are more difficult to penetrate than the entrance of Centre Block. I spoke with an American in Denmark this week and she said, “But the relaxed atmosphere is what is so welcoming. What a shame if that were lost.”

Time will tell what we have yet to lose. The balance is shifting now.


‘Has our beautiful hill lived out its own age of innocence?’

  1. Oh puleeze…..

  2. wow, talk about nutbarz, pleeez stop being so spolied rotten in your non-gifted silly-servant G-Job.
    ’70s October Crisis, (FLQ) what? was that going too far back fer ya?, Canada is NOT Innocent, far from it, especially after fighting in two other World Wars, … We are tougher than nails.
    I can’t believe virgin-tablet articles like this show up now ? -wait, I blame Harperoids cutbacks in education of canadians’ youth for this wrongfullness as well.

  3. I don’t care who wrote this silly (Hannah-Montana) article, but your ancestors(Canadiand great-great-grandparents possibly shed blood/lives just so that that “YOU” could have your “relaxed atmosphere” ?
    I’ll tell you this much, since Nov.11 is coming up: “:…Lest We Forget…” ?!

    • …so let’s try to always R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R our fallen, before we (pretend to) miss our silly little comforts.

  4. Ottawa/parliament innocence? More like grandeur delusional and incompetent idiots. Its a stage show folks, a stage show of self important people putting up illusions for our money and their lobby buddies.

    They push the propaganda, bickering so much, they believe their own BS. Reality is they do not represent the people who make Canada work.

    Fact is they will remove more of our liberty (taxes/debt), eliminate freedoms (gag laws and unaccountable police state) as a knee jerk to a problem Ottawa created.

    Laws exist to arrest those that will harm themselves or others. Fact is more unenforced laws to penalize good people isn’t the answer. As for security on the hill, and country, ignoring the warnings and with apathy, politicians will award them more police state, more money and the real problems get ignored.

    But hey, nothing in Ottawa runs efficiently, effectively and economically. But have no end for money to control and tax us like slave sheep.

  5. A christian nut with a gun ran around Moncton and murdered 3 RCMP Officers in cold blood. No national naval gazing over that one, not even about guns. No mention of a fundamentalist Christian terrorist.
    Some nut case in Ottawa who took up Islam a year ago is suddenly the feared Islamic terrorist and the CRAP fascist state will be enhanced as a result. No mention of enforcing existing laws, no mention that Ottawa police appear to have dropped the ball in apprehending him before he attacked, that the Hill’s security apparently also dropped the ball. Just seizing the opportunity to peek further under the nations skirts. The most troubling thing about it is that there are plenty of Canadians ready to buy this BS. I wonder, are Depends sales soaring?