Justin Trudeau delivered a homily. His response to the shooting that killed six Muslims during prayer at Quebec City's Islamic Cultural Centre was to call for love and compassion.
This was, Mr. Trudeau emphasized, an act of terrorism. But the language that he used in addressing the Commons on Monday afternoon wasn't what we're used to hearing from leaders after a terrorist act. There was little talk of vigilance, or rooting out evildoers, or new intelligence measures, or fight.
"This was a group of innocents targeted for practising their faith. Make no mistake, this was a terrorist act," the Prime Minister said to describe the events. But his counsel was this: "We will not meet violence with more violence. We will meet fear and hatred with love and compassion, always," he said.
That was the shared tone. Appeals for human compassion also came from Conservative Rona Ambrose and New Democrat Tom Mulcair, in addition to calls for solidarity with Muslim-Canadians. Politicians not only expressed horror at Canadians targeted for their faith, they seemed to be drawing on their own. They talked of broken hearts more than outrage. It was clear this act of terrorism was different, because the perpetrators and victims were different.
Many of these MPs lived through an act of terror in 2014, when a jihadist-inspired gunman killed a soldier and then roamed the halls of Parliament, yet Sunday's shootings sparked some of them to express incomprehension. "We don't understand," Bloc leader Rhéal Fortin said in his speech. Green Leader Elizabeth May said: "It does not belong in Canada. It feels as if it could not possibly have happened, and yet it did."
There was, after the Ottawa shooting in 2014, a debate about whether it was an act of terrorism. The perpetrator, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, wasn't what many thought of as a terrorist, because he wasn't part of an organized conspiracy. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, who had killed a soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu two days earlier, he was inspired by jihadists, but not directed by them. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau appeared to be unstable, seizing on an ideology for his own reasons. Some, like Mr. Mulcair, didn't call it terrorism. A few days later U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Ottawa, opined that someone who plans a rifle attack on a soldier, then storms into Parliament "is committing, by common-sense standards, a terrorist act."
Likewise, by common-sense standards, Mr. Trudeau is clearly right: Sunday's mosque shooting was a terrorist act. Its only possible result was terror. If it turns out the perpetrator was another unstable young man, it was still terror.
The response is different this time because the victims were Muslim and the lone perpetrator targeted them for being Muslim. There probably won't be much call for new intelligence or eavesdropping powers. There wasn't much initial indication that kind of lapse will be blamed for this attack, or that people will think authorities could hope to detect another like it.
We're now in a new generation of inspired terrorist attacks. Mr. Trudeau's speech on Monday included the commonly-used notion that those who commit acts of terror "aim to divide us." That's obviously true of terror organizations like al-Qaeda or ISIS, who strategize about drawing Western countries into reactions that will weaken them, but it's hard to imagine strategy motivated Sunday's mosque attacker, or Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau. It seems more likely they were unstable young men dipped into a boiling stew of hateful ideologies.
On Parliament Hill, another question circulated about Sunday's attack: is there a link to U.S. President Donald Trump's order barring people from seven predominantly-Muslim countries? The Liberals talked of Canada's embrace of diversity, and avoided criticizing the President. Most politicians avoided a link. For all its faults, Mr. Trump's order didn't cause the attack.
But there's no doubt it has sowed division. Other countries have erected barriers to immigrants, but this was a sudden slamming of the doors that implied all Muslims are dangerous, even those fleeing extremists. It was implemented in a sudden, unpredictable way that seemed designed to cause hardship and increase tension.
Mr. Trudeau's homily was a contrast. His intent was to soothe. This was an act of terror, but it demanded a call for healing.