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more than meets the eye

News stories about things happening in my home province usually attract my attention. After living there for many years I know a lot of people; therefore I am always curious about these stories and whether there is some connection between those involved and those I know. I am also attracted to news about events that I find heart-wrenching. You would think that a more sensible approach would be to totally ignore these stories and spare myself some emotional pain. But I am not like that, I am interested, curious but more than that I am concerned. The focus of my concern is usually fairly broad, that is I am concerned about all the individuals involved in the drama. My heart aches for all of them.

The drama around the shooting of two RCMP officers in rural Alberta and the fugitive wanted as a suspect is one such event that caught my attention.

The young man was arrested this morning while talking to his parents on the telephone, talking about turning himself in to police. The news report by the CBC reports that the Mayor of the town of Killam, where the shooting took place, stated that “this has been very disturbing and unsettling for our area, and I know our citizens will be relieved at this turn of events. I’m sure this has been incredibly stressful on (his) family as well, so this is also good news for them”. The RCMP stated: “I think certainly the people of Killam wanted this resolved peacefully, without further incident. They got their wish. They can now go back and just be peaceful in their community again”.

Earlier this week the Alberta Government promised to increase funding for rural policing in response to this event. This is a typical response of the adversarial enforcement happy approach to “healthy communities” in the province.

I understand that the two RCMP officers are recovering from non-life threatening wounds. I also understand that someone else, maybe the young man’s uncle lost his life in this unfortunate situation. I also know that other than what is reported in the news I know absolutely nothing about the circumstances that led to this drama and I have no interest in commenting on what may have happened and who did what to whom. This drama, like other dramas that I have written about, spurs my interest.

My concern and interest is in the aftermath of this event, the aftermath that the news reporters will not cover and that we will not hear about. Judging from the comment by the RCMP perhaps we are also not interested in the repercussions of this event and others that have a similar trajectory. Maybe we are only interested in returning to being “peaceful in (their) community again”.

I however am interested. I am interested in the path that led to this event. What caused the pain and suffering that allowed this event to occur in the first place? What brought this young man to this level of desperation or whatever he was experiencing that took him on this path? What will become of this young man now? What chances does he have to have peace in his life? Will he forever from this moment on be considered a criminal rather than a person who took a wrong turn, a very wrong turn but a wrong turn nonetheless? Regardless of what he did or did not do he is first and foremost a person and in my mind still warrants respect.

I was intensely touched by his parents’ plea to him before his arrest. My heart broke for them and at the same time I honoured their courage in stating their love for their son. His father’s words “swallow your hurt and listen to the quiet world” brought tears to my eyes. I wondered how they will move forward now. What impact will this have on their lives and their ability to lead the rest of their lives within some semblance of peace? Will they also be ostracized by the community that may want to turn their back on the real cause of this event?

How will the lives of the two RCMP officers change?  How will they respond to their experience with this episode in their future work?  How have their families been impacted by this incident? How about the other officers who although not directly affected will nonetheless feel the impact of this incident?

How will the community respond or will they? Will the community be happy to have more of a police presence or will they consider this as a wakeup call for examining the health of their community?

Will the government consider this beyond a policing and justice issue? Do they see any connection between this event and the health of the communities in the province? When will they begin to see that the health of people of the province is critical to the success of the province and that health is bigger and broader than more hospitals and doctors? Or do they want to continue to bury their heads in their oils sands?

I know what I will do. I will dry my tears and continue to send my thoughts of love to all involved and I will continue to hope that we as a society start to take a more serious look at a broader definition of health for its entire population.


Irene McDermott © 2012