I have so many memories on Parliament Hill. This is where I hung out when I first came to Ottawa (I couldn’t believe it was open to the public!). This is where I worked, a few years later. This is also where I occasionally protested, attended festivals, partied on many Canada Day events, where Mark practised the art of walking, where I enjoyed countless breaks reading books sitting on the grass, where I took hundreds of pictures, where I came right after becoming a Canadian citizen.
In Ottawa, in doubt, go to Parliament Hill.
Yesterday evening, the Hill was a popular destination.
The weather was unusually warm—21ºC—and many of us were enjoying the late fall colours around the Ottawa River.
But this was also the third anniversary of the Ottawa shootings, where Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty, was shot in a lone-wolf terror attack. The perpetrator was killed a few minutes later in a shootout with parliament security personnel. Although the death count was limited to a victim and the terrorist, the incident shocked Canada.
And this week, Canada is also mourning Gord Downie, frontman of the Tragically Hip, who passed away on October 17 at the age of 53. Last year, the Hip announced that Gord had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The band toured one last time in the summer of 2016 and the final concert in Kingston, Ontario, was broadcast and streamed live by the CBC and viewed by an estimated 11.7 million people.
The country reacted to the news with deep sadness and it prompted many tributes, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement to the House of Commons observing a moment of silence, from local radio stations shifting to an all-Tragically Hip format to candlelight vigils across Canada. It’s hard to explain this quintessential Canadian band to foreigners—it took me years to understand the lyrics and the references to Canadian culture—but it was so unique, sincere and poetic that it was hard not to like it.
And of course, Ottawa paid tribute to Gord on Parliament Hill, with candles, flowers and pictures on the steps of the Parliament.
In doubt, come to the lawn of the highest office in the land and express your Canadianess.
That’s what we did, as the sun set on the Ottawa River.