Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod was in Parliament when the vicious attack occurred that led to a volley of gunfire and left two dead on the morning of Oct. 22.
“We first heard sort of a loud blast. There has been a lot of construction [going on] and so I think for many of us it was ‘oh, what is that’?
“Then we heard rapid gunfire, so certainly for the first while, before we got an idea of what was going on, it was very frightening.”
An all-day lock-down was implemented that kept the MPs in the chamber, with furniture piled up against bolted doors.
“Of course, we now know that it was a solitary perpetrator. But with the sort of significant gunfire that was happening right outside the door from where we were, we weren’t sure if there was many, many, or what the situation was, so they had to secure the entire precinct.”
The gunman, armed with a rifle, shot soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo twice at point-blank range as he was standing guard at the nearby National War Memorial. Cirillo died in hospital shortly afterward.
As the day progressed, MPs learned that Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers fired a shot that stopped and killed the gunman, who was later identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
House of Commons Security Services Const. Samearn Son suffered a gun shot wound to the leg during the attack, and two others had minor injuries.
McLeod explains when the lock-down ended around 7:45 p.m., she and other MPs were transported by bus to a safe location and then returned for a sitting the following day (Oct. 23).
Noting there is “heightened, heavy security” in the interim, she says that is only temporary, but a full crime-scene investigation into what happened will reveal if any long-term changes are required.
The violent attack followed a tragedy two days before in Quebec where a man deliberately drove a car into two soldiers, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
McLeod adds these are both “very despicable” acts that have rightfully outraged and appalled Canadians.
Preventing these types of murders has been in the works in terms of additional legislation around terrorism, and to give the modern tools to the agencies that need them, she explains.
Meanwhile, McLeod appears to not be too worried about her own security.
“We have to keep this in perspective. It was certainly a very frightening incident, but I feel so blessed to live in Canada, where we live in relative safety compared to many other parts of the world….”
She adds there were “very impressive” speeches made by all the leaders when Parliament resumed.
The whole House of Commons also stood and applauded Vickers – who is also head of parliamentary security – as he routinely carried in the ceremonial mace about 24 hours after the horrific incident began.