Ottawa shooting: A shock attack in a peaceful Canadian nation

Violent crime is more common in Canada than you might think

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The Independent Online

The shooting and subsequent lockdown of a nation’s capital might not have been as surprising if it had occurred somewhere else – say, in Washington.

But in Canada – and especially the bureaucratic city of Ottawa – to have gunmen stage such an attack is shocking. The country isn’t often associated with such dramatic events, especially by the British. Anything remotely exciting that happens in what’s perceived as a peaceful nation is usually overshadowed by the focus on its bigger brother to the south.

To compare the two North American nations, estimates in 2011 put the number of firearms at 270 million in the US, or 89 per 100 people; Canada had 9.95 million, or 31 per 100 residents. The US reportedly had 11,000 gun-related killings in the same year, while Canada had 158.

So there are fewer firearms and fatal shootings north of the border. But even though the attack took terror in my homeland to another level, violent crime – though it occurs, like anything else, on a smaller scale than in the US – isn’t as rare as many people suspect.


When I first moved to London 11 years ago, I was surprised to learn about the lack of guns in Britain and the relative rarity of crimes committed with them. It still strikes me as odd that the British police aren’t armed when they’re patrolling the streets. Even in Canada’s smaller cities there are often convenience-store hold-ups, bank robberies and muggings committed with guns; even if such events don’t end up resulting in shots fired, it’s a serious potential threat.

As a journalist there I covered shootings on a regular basis. Just a few months ago, a gunman shot dead three police officers in the largely rural, sleepy province of New Brunswick.

  In his 2002 movie, Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore depicts the relative safety of America’s neighbour by crossing the border and knocking on unlocked doors. That might have been true when I was growing up in rural Canada in the 1970s and 1980s. But that’s long since changed.