No society is immune to acts of terrorism, especially by a lone wolf driven by deep hatreds. The United States has known many mass shootings; Norway had the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik; in France last July, a man drove a truck into a crowd in Nice, killing dozens; the list could go on and on. When they strike, the measure of a wounded society is how it responds.
On Sunday, Quebec City was struck when, officials say, a 27-year-old student named Alexandre Bissonnette, known to be a right-wing extremist, walked into a mosque, began shooting and killed six people. The shock across Canada was immediate and tangible: Tolerance is a proud theme in Canadian identity — the country has taken in nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees since late 2015 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. Now Canadians were wondering how this could have happened, and what it means — a question made more acute by their widespread revulsion at President Trump’s actions to block Muslims from the United States.
The response of Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard, is worth noting. “Every society has to deal with demons,” he said. “Our society is not perfect. None is. These demons are named xenophobia, racism, exclusion. They are present here. We need to recognize that and act together to show the direction we want our society to evolve.”
That was what Canadians sought to do. Thousands gathered at memorial services across the country, including Mr. Trudeau on Monday. Speaking earlier to Parliament, he addressed the more than one million Muslim Canadians: “Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours,” he said, referring to the population of Canada. “Know that we value you.”
In sad contrast, the reaction from Mr. Trump’s White House was to use the shootings to justify its anti-immigrant policies. The attack was a “terrible reminder,” said the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, of why America’s actions must be “proactive, rather than reactive.” The logic, or illogic, seemed to be that if Muslims had been kept out of Canada, they would not have been killed.
Canada is not perfect; it, too, has its demons, as Mr. Couillard said. But the response of a democratic society must be to reaffirm its fundamental faith in freedom, including the freedom to practice one’s faith and cultural traditions. In Quebec, the demons took a terrible toll, but the country’s commitment to inclusion was, if anything, strengthened.