In December of 2015, Global News published a shocking statistic:
“Overall, Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.”
The numbers are staggering.
The number of gun deaths in the US are exponentially higher than in Canada. Though official statistics from 2015 aren’t available yet, in 2012 the States experienced 8,813 murders involving firearms, while Canada had just 172. If you watch US news sources, you may be accustomed to hearing about shootings on a weekly basis, and you may take solace in the fact that we’re statistically much safer in Canada.
That illusion of safety was shattered last week when a shooter appeared at a school in La Loche, SK, opening fire, killing four people and wounding two.
The reaction in the quiet prairie province has been one of shock, confusion, and unbelievable grief.
Among the four victims who lost their lives on the afternoon of January 22, was 23 year-old teacher Marie Janvier. Two others were said to be brothers of the alleged shooter, who were killed at home just before the school was targeted.
Authorities have not released much information about the victims, or the perpetrator, but expect more to come out in the coming days.
For Canadians who frequently consume American news, which I suspect is most of us, incidents like these are a common occurrence. We have become numb to active shooter warnings, death tolls, and video clips of grieving family members.
Not to say we don’t have sympathy for these people in our neighbouring country, but a lot of Canadians have developed a that doesn’t happen here mentality.
While it’s true that it happens significantly less, we are not immune.
Seeing headlines for the La Loche shooting is eye opening and shatters the veil of innocence through which we see our country. Reading testimonies from the victims’ friends and families, many of them express shock and disbelief that such a tragedy could occur in the quiet, unassuming province of Saskatchewan.
First Nations Chief Teddy Clark told the National Post, “This is something that you only see on TV most of the time.” I think that’s how most Canadians feel.
It’s over there; we don’t have to worry about it.
While the dust settles and we wait to learn more about why the shooter committed this horrible crime, who they were, and exactly what happened, I think we should all take this time to allow ourselves to feel a little uncomfortable.
We are not immune to these kinds of tragedies. Humans are humans, regardless of what country they come from, and occasionally they do unspeakable things. We like to point to things like a lack of gun control laws and a perceived culture of violence as a cause for these events. And, while those things undoubtedly have an effect, the bottom line is that the dark side of human nature can never be eliminated with a law or a cultural shift.
I love being Canadian. And, I love feeling safe in my day-to-day life. But, I think we all need to remember that we’re not perfect, we’re not superior, and we’re not immune to the evils of humanity.