31 January 2017

What is it about Quebec and mass killings? #nlpoli

Compared to the United States, there haven't been a lot of mass killings in Canada.

Period.  Full stop.

Canada is predominantly white and Christian and researchers tell us that across the world, men are usually the perpetrators of mass killings.  That's why what CBC's Neil Macdonald calls an inconvenient truth is really a penetrating insight into the obvious. Telling us that Canadian mass killers are white, male, and Christian is like saying that in Sweden, the mass killers are usually male blond protestants or that in China they are unlikely to be Africans.

There have been about a dozen mass killings of strangers in Canada since the mid-1960s if  this Wikipedia compilation is accurate. That doesn't include a couple of biker murders and cases where people killed the family and then themselves or went off and killed a few strangers along the way.

Typically, the perpetrators have been 20-something males.  One each in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, although the one in Nova Scotia really doesn't fit. Macdonald has an Ottawa  school shooting not in the Wiki list so we can substitute that one. Nova Scotia was a gang of three lads who killed a bunch of people in a robbery gone wrong.  A couple in Alberta and one in BC.  Another one in Ottawa.  One in Brampton.  And in Quebec, we have five:

  • Quebec National Assembly (1984)
  • Concordia (1989)
  • Ecole Polytechnique (1992)
  • Dawson (2006)
  • Centre culturelle islamique (2017)

Lone males killing bunches of strangers.  Almost half of the examples that have occurred nationally in Canada happened in one province and within a span of 32 years. Three of the episodes came within a 10 year span in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Mental illness turns up regularly among these cases across Canada.

The most disconcerting thing about Neil Macdonald's opinion column isn't that he spouted a few facile observations.  It's the frame for his piece.  Macdonald wasn't trying to understand events in Canada from a Canadian perspective.  He framed the piece because, like far too many Canadian journalists, Macdonald is obsessed with Donald Trump and events in the United States.  Blame it on Muslims, Donald?  No sir.  These killers are white Christians.  He's chasing the flavour of the second.  It's the national equivalent of a streeter about the horror of moving Costco from the foggy east end to a spot out the TransCanada behind Mount Pearl.

English television in Canada didn't do any live broadcasts of the killings in Quebec City.  Anyone in English Canada wanting to know what happened would have to follow the thing in French.  If  you wanted English coverage, you flipped to CNN from Atlanta.

That's perhaps fitting since Canada's national broadcaster seems more interested these days in what's happening south of the border than noting that of the relatively small number of mass killings in Canada,  almost half of them occurred in a single province. About the only way that might turn up in a Canadian news story these days is if Sean Spicer mentions it in a White House press briefing.