Musings —01.01.2015 01:44 PM—
If you were asked to assign a word to 2014, what would it be?
Cold? It was indisputably that. Uncertain? With oil costing far less and housing costing ever more, unquestionably. Frightening? ISIS and Ebola ensured that it was.
Politically, there really is no single word that can be easily applied to the year that just went by. So let us look, instead, at ten people who – intentionally or not – shaped our politics and our perspective on 2014.
1. Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent: The murders of these two Canadian Forces men - at the hands of extremists who wanted to make a political statement, and did – still reverberates through our politics. Their deaths provided evidence that seemingly far-flung conflicts, in places like Afghanistan and Syria, aren’t so far away at all.
2. Dave Ross, Douglas Larche, Fabrice Gevaudan: Three RCMP officers were gunned down by Justin Bourque in Moncton in June – and their tragic deaths would not have happened if Bourque, whose own lawyer called a “gun nut,” had been denied access to a powerful semi-automatic M305. 308 sniper rifle. The deaths of Ross, Larche and Gevaudan could have been prevented with better government regulation of the acquisition of firearms.
3. Robin Williams: The comic was American, but his August suicide deeply affected many Canadians. Williams’ passing provided us with another reminder that depression – while much-discussed – is still an enormous public health crisis that remains mostly unaddressed.
4. Jian Ghomeshi: Ghomeshi was one of the brightest stars in the Canadian media firmament – but he came crashing to Earth, in October, amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault. His case, while rife with allegations that were disturbing, was also helpful in one way: it shone a light on the scourge of sexual harassment, and forced a debate that was long overdue.
5. Ahmad Jauhari Yahya: The former CEO of Malaysia Airlines – his tenure ended on New Year’s Day – will be remembered as the world’s unluckiest man. In the space of four months, two of his company’s planes went down – one shot out of the sky by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the other lost over the South China Sea – claiming nearly 600 lives, among them Canadians. The stories of those two flights provided shocking reminders that life is terribly fleeting, and can be taken away in an instant.
6. Michael Brown: The August death of the unarmed Missouri teenager – shot twelve times by police officer Darren Wilson after Brown had obeyed commands to put his hands up – set off riots and confrontations across the US, and even protests in Canada. Brown’s death, and the deaths of other black men at the hands of white police officers, stirred up racial tensions in a way that few expected during the tenure of a black U.S. President.
7. Vladimir Putin: Russia’s arrogant despot invaded the Crimea in February, and set off a conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands. Canada, home to the third-largest Ukrainian population in the world – after Ukriane and Russia – was rightly outraged by Putin’s flagrant disregard for international law and human rights. Putin, meanwhile, is still in power – and one of the world’s most reviled leaders.
Out of all that, a picture emerges. One word threads its way through the year gone by, and it is not happy one.
2014 was a year of triumphs, and breakthroughs, and some genuinely positive news, of course. But, mostly, the world in 2014 was still simply this: