Nova Scotia

Bruce MacKinnon says we 'can't live in fear' after Paris shootings

A Halifax-based editorial cartoonist says people "can't live in fear," after a deadly attack on the Paris office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo Wednesday.

'It's in the back of my mind. We're all susceptible, I suppose,' says cartoonist

A woman holds a pen in the air during a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris at Republique Square on Wednesday evening. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

A Halifax-based editorial cartoonist says people "can't live in fear," after a deadly attack on the Paris office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo Wednesday.

It took just minutes for masked gunmen to kill 12 people at the Paris offices, including the editor and several cartoonists, before escaping in a getaway car.

France's prime minister, Manuel Valls, said the two suspects still at large in the Charlie Hebdo slayings — Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his 34-year-old brother Said Kouachi — were known to intelligence services and preventing them from carrying out another attack "is our main concern."

Bruce MacKinnon, an editorial cartoonist who draws for Halifax's Chronicle Herald newspaper, has been in the business for about 30 years. He says, like many, he's in shock.

"I know some French cartoonists. I was very concerned it might have been a friend. I didn't, in the end, know any of the ones who died, but apparently they were among France's top cartoonists and very celebrated people. It's an extremely sad day. We're still reeling from it," he says.

Today's MacKinnon cartoon, published in the Chronicle Herald, depicts a pencil as a flag pole, with a tattered French flag flying at half mast.

"You have 12 people who have died in a tragic manner. My first impulse is to show some support and solidarity and condolences with the French people," he says.

'We can't live in fear'

MacKinnon says he had many ideas about what to draw following the tragedy.

"Cartoonists should really draw what they want and their editors are going to decide if the paper can run it or not. I guess newspapers do have to think about the reality of violent reprisals, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to draw the prophet Muhammad," he says.

"I don't like the idea of doing it gratuitously. Obviously, in the coming days and weeks, in the interests of making a point, it might happen. But there are lots of ways of saying what you want to say."

After an event like this, MacKinnon says it's natural to feel angry.

"If you respond with hatred, that's the fire that [extremists] want to fan. It's a matter of using your mind and saying something intelligent, and something that can … make a point to people and maybe change their minds about things," he says.

"The most important thing for me is to make a strong statement and try to do it in some sort of original, fresh way and I don't know what that's going to be for me yet." 

MacKinnon says he's received a lot of hate mail over the years.

"It's in the back of my mind. We're all susceptible, I suppose. If you look at what happened to Nathan Cirillo, it just takes one crazy to pull a trigger. But we can't live in fear," he says.

"If you do that, that's exactly what [extremists] want. They are terrorists and that's the seed that they sow. I'm going to live my life the way I did last week."

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