Today is September 11th, 2011 and so marks the tenth anniversary of those tragic events which would change all of our lives forever. I still, like many others, remember where I was on the day of the attack, I was working the phones at a call centre that day and we were phoning Americans. When the planes hit you could hear screaming on the phones and crying; we stopped calling obviously and went home where I sat in front of the TV, unable to tear myself away as the horror unfolded. On that day, we were all Americans, we all felt in varying degrees the pain and suffering that was inflicted on them and some would walk away changed forever.
I was in that unique age where I was old enough to understand what was going on, but still young enough to be vulnerable and impressionable. In retrospect that single event was a fairly fundamental moment in my development, I wonder what I would’ve been like had 9/11 never happened, but I’m not writing this today to talk about me. What I would like to talk about is how things have changed in Canada since those events, and how these changes have made the country better and stronger. How despite the terrorists continued and prolonged attempts at destroying our (The West’s) society, we have solidified and become stronger. Nations, not unlike people, are made stronger through tribulation and this event, this tragic horror, was no different.
The year was 2001; Liberal leader Jean Chrétien is Prime Minister with a track record of avoiding engagement in the Middle East (Desert Storm 1). Relations are strained over trade with the US but good with China, a new developing ally of Canada. Deep Cuts to the Canadian Forces has left the Military unable to meet existing mandates and the army of our nation is viewed internationally with disdain citing poor equipment and numbers, but Canadians felt relatively secure as the national narrative dictated that all was well in the world since our debt was down, and no one wished ill-will toward the friendly toque wearing Canucks. Then the unthinkable happened, as the planes crashed into the WTC and Pentagon, and it becomes apparent that the Terrorist threat other nations had been speaking of was real. Many people are left reeling as the shock of an attack on this continent by enemy forces sinks in. Family members of Canadians working in the towers wait in agonizing anticipation of reports of any survivors.
The Canadian culture is shocked, and opinions on the event are at first immediately sympathetic, “No one deserves what happened today” is a common sentiment, the PM orders all flags to be flown at half-mast for a month in support of the US, and all flights are grounded as many Canadians open their homes to Americans unable to return home. The initial response was commendable, but the initial response from everyone was commendable, after all, the only nation to outwardly applaud the attacks in an official stance was Iraq via Saddam Hussein with his now infamous:
“The American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity”
We know how that went for him. It seemed that while our perceptions of safety had been shattered, it would result in a new found strength in our alliance with our southern neighbor. Unfortunately, this sympathy and solidarity would not last, and soon the reigning powers in Canada would show how shallow their sentiments of solidarity were, and a deep divide would be created in Canadian society.
Enter “Operation Enduring Freedom”, by October 7th of 2001 a US led invasion of Afghanistan was under way, and Canada had committed to offering Military Aid to the operation, but it would not participate in the initial invasion. This was peculiar, but in keeping with the political leadership of the time. His anti-war, anti-US backers were depending on Jean Chrétien to keep Canada out of the fight and offer ‘Moral support’ but the international pressure, plus that of the opposition led by Stephen Harper, proved too much and Canada was going to war, though not until December of that year. So began the ugly rearing of the anti-American face of Canada. Once it became clear that this country would fight with its allies the divide in the culture became apparent. On the Right were the pro-west men and women that promised to stand united with its allies the United States and United Kingdom to combat terrorism no matter where it lies, in keeping with our promises to NATO and the UN, and in keeping with the principles and values of Canada. On the Left were anti-west, anti-military, men and women that felt despite giving our word to support our embattled brother to the south, and despite UN and NATO commitments of the same, that we should leave them to their own demise and let them reap what they sow, a line all too familiar and none too friendly. Protests erupted across the country in what we can now safely say are the usual places, Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton, calling for an end to the war, and a severance of all ties with the US. These protests mounted as an Invasion of Iraq was planned again, and the PM, buckling under pressure from protestors, rebuked the US publicly and stated in no uncertain terms that it would not participate in the Invasion of Iraq leaving the US and the UK to carry the lion’s share of that offensive. The opposition government opposed this vehemently but at the end of the day the protestors would win the debate and Canada would stand by the sidelines, unwilling to take a stance against a dictator who engaged in the most heinous crimes against his people imaginable.
As the ugly business of war continued, and the necessity to deal with ever greater threats to the west increased, the split in Canadian society grew and behavior on all sides degenerated. Anti-War protestors were being heckled by anti-protest protesters. The men and women of the Canadian forces were pelted with litter on left leaning campuses; Mosque’s were burned to the ground in rural communities and fundraising for terrorism skyrocketed in Canada. Enough was enough.
As the rift grew even further and this hidden ugly face of anti-western activism and self loathing emerged those that opposed it rallied. Where the anti-west contingent relied on protests and media control to push the message that those who opposed our enemies were evil fascist dictators attempting to institute a police sate, the pro west contingent focused their energies in the political arena. This resulted in a rather positive turn of events, and a number of things happened which bolstered the image and security of Canada. Laws were passed which empowered authorities to more successfully apprehend terrorists; this resulted in the thwarting of a terrorist attack on Canadian soil by the ‘Toronto 18’ and of course the Omar Khadr affair. Our Military is now something to respect (Or fear if you’re a terrorist) with tried and true commanders with hardened experience under their belt leading multinational engagements and troops that receive some of the best training in the world along side bleeding edge infantry equipment. We possess a growing reputation as an enemy of extremism and terrorism wherever it should rear its head, and as a staunch ally and supporter of pro western forces across the globe. We have staunchly taken principled and moral stances when the international community makes decisions that fly in the face of Canadian values. We have pursued liberty and freedom aggressively and all the while maintaining a fiscally sound economy.
This is our legacy of 9/11, this is what Canada is 10 years later as we all try to rebuild and recover from the wreckage of that fateful day. We emerge stronger, and more resilient than ever, we emerge as men and women of sound character resolute in our defense of western values and with clarity restored we are able to see the good from the bad, our friends from our enemies, and while we still have villains within our borders and those that would see all this work destroyed in a heartbeat should an opportunity arise, we are now more aware of the threat and more able to prevent such atrocities from happening. We are better, we are stronger, and we are wiser and are once again ‘The True North Strong and Free’