Media and the Creation of Memory: A Sobering Reminder

Twenty-four hours ago Canada was attacked for the second time in under one week. The tragic events saw Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist from Hamilton’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regiment, shot and killed while standing on guard at the National War Memorial that is located just steps from Parliament Hill. This, after Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed earlier in the week in what Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called an ISIL-inspired terrorist attack. In a public statement yesterday, Harper said the federal government will “take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe,” to “strengthen our resolve” and to work with our allies in the fight against terrorism and terrorist organizations. Showing their support and backing the prime minister’s stand that Canada “will never be intimidated,” parliamentarians, staffers and others have returned to work on Parliament Hill this morning.

The murder of Cirillo is generating an outpouring of grief and support across social media in Canada and around the world. Canadians on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms are sharing their heartfelt condolences for the loss of the young Hamilton reservist. General Manager of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks Marcel Desjardins posted a photo of Cirillo on guard and a Facebook page, "Rest in Peace Cpl. Nathan Cirillo", continues to grow with thousands of comments in reaction to the tragic events, and in honour of Cirillo and in support of his family.

Out of respect for the families directly affected by the brutal events of this week, any identified gunmen will remain unnamed in this post and Clio’s Current will reserve comment until further details have been released. Instead, what we offer today is a brief comment on a topic that permeates our work but seldom receives any direct attention.

Yesterday’s shootings inside Parliament Hill’s Centre Block were partly captured on film by The Globe and Mail’s Josh Wingrove. In footage that received widespread and immediate viewing around the world, Wingrove captured evidence of a moment that will become widely known in Canadian history. The real-time footage is raw and deeply troubling. It allows viewers to witness, hear and feel a response that words cannot evoke. To see pandemonium in the hallowed corridors of the Hill conjures a deep emotional reaction that will further place the horrific events of yesterday in our collective and long term memory.

Clio’s Current often attempts to put a measure of distance between our conclusions and that of the wider media, but at the same time we fully recognize and appreciate that our work would be impossible if not for countless media at home and abroad who regularly face danger in keeping the public informed. Danger, that most of us never think will take place in and around Parliament Hill and so close to “home.”  

It’s important to note that print, television, web, and other forms of media are not a monolith. Variation and distinction amongst the press should be fully recognized, appreciated and even appropriately challenged when necessary. But today, as we remember all those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom, we should also thank the past and continuing efforts of countless media personnel who keep the public informed and the memory alive.

Although this post is in word count less than most of what we produce, it is in message as strong as all else. Clio’s Current is thankful today, once again and always for the sacrifices of those who provide our freedom – the media not the least of which.