Canadians are known for their accommodating and forgiving ways. A small piece of that image comes from the few corners of this great country where people are apt to turn the other cheek in lieu of a principled stand.
Such folks are content to keep their heads buried when an issue doesn't affect them directly. "None of my business," they might say.
Some would rather say nothing if an otherwise peaceful existence were to be put at risk, regardless of how superficial or meaningless that peace might be. But shove something right in our face and out comes a whole new personality.
There are those that may not pay any attention to the page 6 news of a serial rapist preying on young aboriginal girls. Watch out when those same people actually see somebody blowing a red light or cutting them off in traffic. Blood pressure rises with a call for immediate justice. "Where's a cop when you need one?"
Several years ago one of those news magazine shows ran a piece on stolen vehicles that featured a bait car wired to capture the behaviour of a would-be thief. And when the thief came along and took the bait he didn't disappoint. His behaviour was spectacularly atrocious. He was a maniac, proven both by his psychopathic driving and his running, madman-commentary.
It was right there, right in the public's face, and when that video first emerged there were cries far and wide for the thief's lengthy incarceration. If memory serves, the public's thirst for retribution was satisfied with a penitentiary term.
And now to Vancouver.
Watching the post-Stanley Cup apocalypse was like staring at a car wreck. It was hard not to look. Hard not to get enraged at the burning, breaking, looting, violence and mayhem perpetrated by the worst kind of brainless, destructive losers.
And it didn't end with the action that was broadcast on live TV. In the ensuing days the sordid details contained in news reports, in newspapers and on the Internet served to make the public aware that an appalling situation was even worse.
Earlier this week I saw, for the first time, the footage of 17-year-old Nathan Kotylak, supposedly an Olympic hopeful, allegedly trying to blow up a Vancouver cop car by stuffing a rag into the gas tank and trying to ignite it. When that didn't work, some type of flame was tossed into the cruiser's interior. That failed, too.
I've read Kotylak's apology, with little about his specific malfeasance and much more about how much he's suffered since, including his suspension from the national water polo team.
Quite frankly, I don't give a rat's rear end about his apology and less about his water polo aspirations. People are incensed. I'm incensed. Because the actions of people like Kotylak and a thousand others are a black eye for all of us. On the international stage, we are a symbol of lawlessness, a bunch of run-amok hillbillies incapable of sportsmanship on any level. The butt of late-night jokes.
The riotous actions will cost all of us millions, maybe a billion says one report, to remove the stain and repair a tarnished image.
And as the stories about the riot, the investigation and the predictable arrests continue, the anger rolls on unabated.
According to a new Angus Reid poll, an incredible 96 per cent of British Columbians are united in their desire to have the rioters "prosecuted to the full extent of the law." There's no indication that the usual fluff from the excuse bag -- drunk, stoned, mob mentality, blah blah blah -- will or should carry any weight. Substantial penalties are in order and being called for.
The Vancouver riot of 2011 is different than any other in our past. The destruction was captured in unprecedented detail and put out for all to see. It allowed us all to witness an attack on the integrity and heart of our country.
And it woke a sleeping giant, a Canadian one, with very little patience for this brand of BS.
The congruent disdain that Canadians have for this smattering of rioters should haunt each and every one of them for a long time to come. That haunting should be the first lesson in a long list as they're marched into the courts of Vancouver to face their just desserts.
On the question of whether the courts will know what to do with them, the answer is less clear. Our justice system comes with no guarantee and those loftiest of public servants are under no obligation to accede to the clear will of those they serve. Justice in this case may be a crapshoot.
Robert Marshall is a retired
Winnipeg police detective.