Halifax cartoonist shares personal connection with War Memorial image

HALIFAX – The Halifax political cartoonist whose illustration gained international fame following an attack in Ottawa on Wednesday said the image has personal meaning to him.

Bruce MacKinnon, whose cartoons appear in The Chronicle-Herald, drew an image to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed in an attack at the National War Memorial.

It depicts a First World War soldier bending down from the monument to help Cirillo, whose red and white Argyll and Sutherland Highland socks are showing. Other soldiers are gesturing to pull the young soldier up to join them.

READ MORE: Cartoon resonates with Canadians in the wake of Ottawa shooting

The cartoon evoked an emotional response that MacKinnon never thought was possible. He said he’s relieved the cartoon spoke to people clearly and that it was received the way it was intended.

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“Every time someone loses their life in a dramatic way I think it touches people, and I’ve lost people that way, so it has an effect on me,” he said, noting the past week has been emotional for him.

“I thought that the symbolism of the war monument and this unarmed soldier who was guarding it was inescapable,” he added. “It was very, very powerful, and so I needed to do something with that.”

It was an image that tugged at the heartstrings of people across the world — it was shared by international news networks and by thousands of users on social media.

MacKinnon said the response has been overwhelming.

“I think it also speaks to the emotion attached to this story and the powerful symbolism,” he said. “It’s a lot of forces that combined to get that kind of response. It’s very touching.”

He said he has been busy doing interviews with various news outlets since the cartoon was published.

“It’s the age of social media, things can blow up and go viral, and do things that maybe wouldn’t have happened 10 or 20 years ago.”

MacKinnon said his cartoons aren’t always supposed to be funny, especially in the shadow of tragic events.

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“In a case like this, that’s not what you’re going for. Normally I want to make people laugh,” he said. “The sooner I get back to that, the better.”

The Chronicle-Herald says a portion of the sales from prints of MacKinnon’s cartoon will be donated to Cirillo’s family.

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