Torontonians 'take back' the stretch of Yonge Street near Mel Lastman Square where a van attack killed 10 and injured 15 in Toronto. Photo by Michael Swan

Editorial: Good triumphs

  • May 4, 2018

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

St. Paul wrote those words in his letter to the Romans 2,000 years ago. The people of greater Toronto are living out that sentiment today.

The city has been awash in prayers and acts of kindness almost from the moment that a man roared a rental van onto Yonge Street sidewalks April 23. He killed 10 people and injured 16 more. The dead ranged in age from 22 to 94. Eight were women.

If ever people had cause to react in righteous anger, this was it. But, remarkably and thankfully, there has been little of that.

To paraphrase Dickens, the tragedy was the worst of mankind, the best of mankind. But this mournful week wasn’t a tale of two cities. The tragedy portrayed one city made up of many races, languages, cultures and religions coming together amid its tears in a unified show of compassion to support victims’ families and each other. They gathered in ways not dripping in empty sentimentality but alive with the type of prayerful solidarity preached by Paul.

“Repay no one evil with evil,” wrote Paul, “but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”

Of course there is anger and grief, but more evident has been the untold numbers of people pursuing what is noble. Everywhere, good rose up to overcome evil. An overflow crowd filled a local Catholic church for an interfaith prayer service three days after the tragedy, and three days after that thousands attended an outdoor memorial event.

Along the sidewalks where the dead and injured lay that awful afternoon, passers-by offered comfort to the dying and aid to the wounded until medical teams arrived. Photos showed stranger hugging stranger. In a particularly poignant picture, a police officer was shown at a curb holding the hand of a stunned young man.

There was a wellspring of spontaneous human compassion that, to a large extent, was perhaps predictable — good people instinctively performing good deeds. Less predictable was the calm, professional actions of the lone police officer who confronted the alleged murderer as the driver climbed out of the van. 

The driver acted like he had a gun and planned to shoot the officer. He seemed intent on dying at the hands of the officer. No one would have blamed the officer if, in that moment, he believed he faced a political terrorist and opened fire. 

Instead, possibly recognizing a young person in mental distress, the officer remained calm and made a peaceful arrest. That measured response seemed to set the tone for a week that became more about kindness than anger or vengeance. 

Overcome evil with good, said St. Paul. To its credit, a city has personified that message.

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