Today is the ten year anniversary of the Dawson Shooting. This may sound cliche, but I really can’t believe it has been a decade.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it. I was in a dep, I won’t say which one to avoid linking them in any way to a tragedy.

I had the day off and was working on building a website. I was hungry and went in for a snack. They had the TV on.

I wouldn’t resume my project until the following evening. I turned on the TV when I got home and was glued to the coverage from that point on.

This wasn’t the first school shooting Montreal had survived. It also didn’t have the scope of mass tragedy that came with Polytechnique Massacre.

I was too young to fully comprehend Polytechnique when it happened, only that something terrible had occurred. But Dawson. I was a Dawson graduate.

I didn’t hang around the cafeteria when I was a student. I hung around Conrod’s and smoked cigarettes just outside the de Maisonneuve entrance.

The same spot where, on September 13, 2006, eight years and a few months after I graduated, Kimveer Gill would begin his shooting spree. A spree that would end with Gill dead by his own gun after being shot in the arm by police, 16 people injured, many more traumatized and 18 year old student Anastasia de Sousa tragically murdered.

It was very real for me. If this was a decade earlier, I would have been there. It was significantly more real for people who were there and lived through it directly. This includes some people I know now even thought I didn’t know them at the time.

This was something that happened not just in our city, but in our community. I’m sure quite a few people reading this either know someone who was there or were there themselves.

As with any school shooting there are broader issues that should be and were discussed at the time and still are being discussed, sadly, ten years later. People not getting the mental health services they need, while getting the semi-automatic weapons they absolutely shouldn’t have.

But this wasn’t just about the broader issues. This was, to me anyways, something that happened here. At a school I had attended and still walk past. I now live a few blocks from Dawson. I didn’t at the time of the shooting.

I remember getting stopped by Alexis Nihon security a few months after the shooting and asked what I was doing. Alexis Nihon Plaza is across the street from Dawson and is from where Gill planned his attack. I explained that I was simply passing through to catch a bus and that was that.

When I was stopped, I happened to be wearing a black shirt and black jeans, similar to what Gill was wearing under his black trenchcoat when he carried out the shooting. It occurred to me a while later that my unfortunate and unintentional wardrobe choice that day was the reason for my being stopped. I’m not a fan of profiling, but this time I got it. People were still on edge.

A major event had occurred across the street from where this security guard worked. Maybe he was on duty that day and still regretting not having done something to stop what had happened.

A few weeks ago, there was a news story about how there was finally a crosswalk leading from Alexis Nihon to Dawson’s de Maisonneuve entrance. At the time, I hardly gave it a second thought. But now, realizing that today is the anniversary, that small bit of urban planning news carries a huge symbolic weight: life, Dawson and the surrounding community continuing.

There was a ceremony today. The focus was on Dawson’s resilience as well as better gun laws. Events like this are important so people don’t forget. Somehow, I don’t think I or anyone I know ever will.


On Wednesday, as most Canadian politicos were either basking in the afterglow of the Orange Wave which swept Alberta or nursing their hangovers, the House of Commons passed Bill C-51, the Harper Government’s so-called anti-terror legislation. This wasn’t a surprise by a longshot, but it is, nonetheless extremely unfortunate.

All the major parties voted as the said they would. The Conservatives voted for it, the NDP and Greens against, and the Liberals, living up to half of their promise to help make it law and then change it if they come to power, voted yea.

Much has been said about how this Bill is fundamentally flawed and over-reaching. Many pundits, including myself, have raised concerns that C-51’s definition of terrorism was left vague so the bill could be used as a weapon against the government’s political opponents such as environmentalists, First Nations, BDS supporters and others.

One thing that really hasn’t been talked about, though, is that even if C-51 was on-target and not a typical Harper Omnibus distraction, there still wouldn’t be need for it at all.

A Tale of Two Tragedies

I will never forget the Dawson shooting. My old CEGEP turned into a crime scene. Anastasia DeSouza was gunned down, an innocent, random victim of one man’s violent delusion. Her murderer, Kimveer Gill, killed himself after being shot in the arm by police, though this is one of those rare times when I think deadly force by police would have been justified.

At the end of the day, two people were dead, one an innocent victim, one very much the exact opposite. Several people were injured and survivors were left traumatized.

It was a terrible tragedy. In the aftermath people were calling for tighter firearms regulations and improved services for people suffering from mental illness. No one, though, was screaming terrorism, because it wasn’t. It was the act of one man.

Ottawa shooting Harper

What happened last October in Ottawa was also a tragedy. Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo died senselessly, the victim of one man’s delusion. His killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was justifiably killed by Parliament Hill Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers.

At the end of the day, two people were dead, one innocent, one guilty. Others were injured and survivors were traumatized. I don’t laugh at Prime Minister Harper hiding in a broom closet (though I do question the RCMP’s exit strategy for a head of state), he’s human and was a victim of this event, too.

Despite its similarities to the Dawson shooting and other horrific attacks carried out by troubled lone gunmen, the reaction to the Parliament Hill shooting was different. It was instantly labelled as a terrorist attack.

A few thousand people, or even just a few people, killed by a coordinated assault planned by a group is a terrorist attack. It doesn’t justify something like the Patriot Act, in my opinion, but at least the shoe fits. A lone gunman going on a spree is a spree killing, even if the spree is cut short after one or a few victims.

While Zehaf-Bibeau may have had thoughts of jihad in his head and chose targets based on his take on world politics, he was still just a disturbed man acting without outside coordination. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was as much a member of ISIS as Kimveer Gill was the Angel of Death he claimed to be on a website.

Political Reasons Only

Justin Trudeau was interviewed on Vice News a few weeks ago. Shane Smith asked him about his party’s confusing position on C-51. Trudeau said that despite C-51’s faults, “there are a number of things in that legislation that increase security for Canadians, that do make us safer at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”

I’d honestly like to know what those things are. How does anything in a bill, inspired by an event that is not terrorism, but the act of a disturbed individual, protect Canadians against the bogeyman of terrorism?

It can’t, but that’s not the point. The point, at least for Trudeau, is “at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”

It’s politics, pure and simple. Polls, albeit sketchy polls, showed support for the bill at the time. He went for it. So did the Bloc Quebecois. When C-51 came up for a vote, though, the Bloc voted against it. I guess they saw that the bill was now opposed by many. If there ever was a time for the Liberals to flip-flop and not suffer for it, it was Wednesday.

There are so many ways Trudeau could have sold a reversal on this that even the cleverest Dipper wouldn’t be able to use it to hurt his party. While I’m not a Liberal supporter by any stretch of the imagination, I would have welcomed it. The more voices against this bill, the better. I even wrote to Marc Garneau, my current MP, asking him to convince his boss to change his tune.

Colossal Miscalculation

Being the anti-Harper candidate doesn’t just mean looking younger and fresher and having somewhat more progressive social policies. It means opposing crap bills with no purpose like C-51.

Instead, Trudeau stuck to his badly aimed guns. The opposition to this monstrosity of a piece of legislation now clearly belongs to Tom Mulcair. The NDP leader is a moderate centrist at best, but, thanks to a little bit of rain on his hair and some serious Liberal bungling, he has the chance to come across as a street fighter, standing on a soapbox railing against oppression and invoking the War Measures Act and Duplessis’ Padlock Laws. He’s Angry Tom who’s angry for a very good reason.

trudeau voting for
Justin Trudeau voting for C-51

C-51 may have cost Justin Trudeau any chance he had in the upcoming election. That is, if people remember a few months from now that he sided with Harper on a bill which has no purpose but potentially horrible repercussions. If they do, he can forget about the left. As for the right, why would they vote for Harper Light when the real deal is also on the ballot?

This colossal miscalculation on the part of the Liberals doesn’t necessarily mean a new era, though. Stephen Harper is still one of the craftiest politicians out there. Even if the anti-Harper vote crystallizes into a shade of orange, some of what once was red may turn blue and join their right-wing brethren to fight the feared wave.

The real trick is convincing all, or most, Canadians, whether they lean right, left, stay in the centre or don’t really care about politics at all, that taking away our basic rights to express ourselves for manufactured purposes is just plain wrong.

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