By Jason Menard
By now most Canadians know the macabre story of Russell Williams, the former colonel who was in command of Canadian Forces Base Trenton and now finds himself in another federal establishment – Kingston Penitentiary.
Wednesday, they went to Williams’ former home in Tweed, ON to recover all military clothing, documentation, and equipment, in accordance with military rules. Yesterday, military personnel from CFB Trenton burned the aforementioned items. Today, I say they’ve made a horrible mistake.
True, the military has every right to do as they please with their possessions. All items are crown property and would have had to be returned had Williams left the military under normal circumstances.
However, these circumstances were far from normal. And burning them sends the wrong message. Instead of reducing Williams’ actions to a bunch of fading embers, they should have been used to fan the flames of the memories created by his horrific crimes.
And they should have been used to burn one message into our collective conscious: never again.
The Canadian military is doing everything it can to erase the stain that Williams left on the service. During the trial they asked the media to refrain from using his rank, colonel, whenever he was referenced in reports. They’re in the midst of formalizing his final ejection for the Canadian Forces. And now they’re doing their best to remove every indication that he ever appeared in Canadian fatigues. Perhaps they’ll go so far as to scratch his face out of every group photo that he appeared in during his service.
Obviously, I’m not supporting Williams or his actions. Nor am I suggesting that Trenton should erect a memorial to Williams. But something must be done to prevent his actions from slipping through the cracks of time. Out of sight, out of mind is not an option here.
The story of Williams must continue to be told. To new recruits, to fellow soldiers, and – most importantly – to all Canadians across this nation. He should be rightfully vilified and held up as an example to everyone that appearance, rank, job title, and apparent normalcy does not preclude someone from being a murderer, a rapist, or an assault.
For too long, the face of our societal boogeyman has been one that’s hidden in the shadows. We know what bad people look like, we theorize. They dress a certain way or they act a certain way. They’re social outcasts, losers, and misfits.
The problem is they’re not. Some may be, true, but so many more are apparently upstanding citizens. Some may be related to you. Some may hold positions of authority. Some may be well respected in the community. Some may be just like former colonel Williams.
Sadly, the names that we should remember: Corporal Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd, will fade from our memory. We’ve seen it over and over. Think back to the École Polytehnique massacre? How many of you remember the name of the man who perpetrated that horrendous crime? Now how many of the innocent women that he slaughtered can you name?
Serial killers and madmen (and women) become pseudo-celebrities. Unless their victims are famous (John Lennon, Sharon Tate), their identities are erased, just as their lives were. And the victims continue to be victimized.
Reducing any evidence of Williams’ existence to ashes doesn’t remove the effect of his actions. Pretending he didn’t exist doesn’t bring those women back to life; it doesn’t erase the sense of violation that his other victims continue to face.
Instead, we should be forced to view Williams as a reminder of what our current reality is. Instead of hiding him away, we should hold up his evil to the light and ensure that everyone knows that the face of evil can look just like you and me.
We should burn his visage into our minds and then maybe we can use that to fan the flames of our collective passion to work together in preventing this type of horror from happening again.