Varying Media Coverage on Ottawa

Holiday 2014


On October 22, 2014, a series of shootings occurred in Ottawa, Canada. This attack is the most serious security breach at Parliament Hill since the Parliament Bombing in 1966. The shooting was also the second attack on a Canadian soldier that week. These events were perceived differently by both the American and Canadian media. Historically, while Canada focuses on the heroes and victims of the crime, America focuses on the murderers and attempts to find suspects.

The members of the Parliament of Canada were attending caucuses when the shooter launched the attack. American news outlets have focussed mainly on the gunman, who was later identified as thirty-two-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial in Ottawa. Later, Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed in the gunfight with security personnel.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, of Libyan descent, was born as Michael Joseph Hall and changed his name when he converted to Islam. Police obtained information that Zehaf-Bibeau had a criminal record in Quebec, dating back ten years ago on drug related charges. Police also found his criminal record in British Columbia, where he was convicted of threatening and served one day in jail in 2012. However, Canadian media centered around coverage of the shooting victims and heroes. The first victim of the shooting was Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was shot in the back, unable to defend himself. He is portrayed as a smiling, friendly, soldier who enjoyed spending time with his family and dog. Cirillo’s death has been mourned by both the Canadian and American media as a tragic event. The hero in the tragedy,Kevin Vickers, has also been brought to the media forefront. Vickers is credited with taking down the gunman, Zehaf-Bibeau. Ty Moyer, ‘16, stated, “I think the news outlets should focus on the heroic actions of Kevin Vickers rather than the gunman.”

In the town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Martin Couture-Rouleau rammed his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one in the aftermath. Like Zehaf-Bibeau, Couture-Rouleau was also shot by soldiers following the incident. Although both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau had recently converted to Islam, no group claimed responsibility for the attack on Ottawa or the one near Montreal.

Although both countries are very different in terms of media coverage, many comparisons were made following the Parliament Hill shooting. While the comparison is understandable to the average citizen, Canada and America function within different contexts. The U.S. has been facing a systemic issue of gun control for some time, while the Parliament Hill shooting is not an everyday occurrence for Canada.  In these tragedies, both Canadian and American media played a significant role in determining the reaction and public outcry to the events. The news media should not be underestimated. Just look at Ferguson as an example.