Gunfire rang out on Parliament Hill Wednesday morning just outside a room where Conservative MPs, including Abbotsford’s Ed Fast, were holding a caucus meeting.
The attack began with the shooting of a Canadian soldier stationed at the nearby National War Memorial just before 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The soldier, Nathan Cirillo, later died from his wounds. Shortly after, gunfire erupted in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building. Dozens of gunshots rang out in a large hallway adjacent to the Reading Room, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking to Conservative MPs, including Fast.
Fast and his fellow members of Parliament were uninjured in the incident, which ended when the gunman, later identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot and killed by Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers. Zehaf-Bibeau had a criminal record that included a conviction for uttering threats in Vancouver in 2011.
Even after the suspect was shot, members of Parliament remained locked down in their caucus room for hours as police officers cleared the building to ensure another possible shooter was not at large.
A photo from Conservative MP Nina Grewal posted to Twitter showed chairs and other furniture piled several feet high blocking the doors to the room.
Fast was still in lockdown when he spoke to The News.
“It’s something that you don’t expect to happen in Canada,” he said.
While other MPs have told media outlets that they heard dozens of shots ring out, Fast declined to say anything about what he saw, or about what occurred in the room “because the matter is under investigation.”
Canadian authorities had raised their internal threat level earlier in the week following an attack in Quebec Monday in which a “radicalized” man used a car to run down two soldiers, one fatally.
At Abbotsford International Airport, operations director Parm Sidhu said staff have heightened their level of awareness, but travellers won’t see any more security personnel.
“Security and safety is our job every day,” he said. “We’re just being extra alert.”
Sidhu said the airport has sent out an email to partners asking them to report any suspicious activity.
Travellers should also expect longer wait times to cross the border, according to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
“At this time, CBSA continues to take measures to increase vigilance and maximize the CBSA’s capacity to conduct risk assessments of people and goods before or upon arrival in Canada,” a CBSA spokesperson said in a written statement.
Const. Paul Walker said the Abbotsford Police Department’s approach hasn’t changed substantially.
“In light of what happened in Ottawa and back east, our organization and officers are that much more aware of what’s going on.”
While there are few high-profile targets locally, Walker says officers pay particular attention to the offices of politicians.
In Victoria, the B.C. Legislature restricted visitor access and proceeded with its afternoon sitting, with extra security. Legislature clerk Craig James told reporters the provincial government had been informed by officials in Ottawa that “there may be a problem.” James did not release specifics, however.
Fast cautioned against rushing to conclusions, with much still unknown about the shooter.
“I expect it will lead to an investigation of what took place here, how we can improve security. What I don’t want to do is prejudge where this can lead. I think there will be a lot of reflecting going on about what steps we take in terms of providing enhanced security.”
Personally, he said, “I just have an even greater resolve to do my part to provide leadership to our country. I think the message that must go out is that we will not be intimidated and we are resolved to carry on leading our lives as Canadians in peace and security.”