A week like no other in Ottawa

Canadians witnessed bravery in the face of a terrorist attack

I started last week in Ottawa by joining His Excellency Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall as he honoured a number of Canadians, including Chilliwack resident Shawn Nagurny, for acts of bravery.

It was a poignant ceremony, where the Governor General spoke of these “wrong way guys and wrong way gals” who had turned toward danger, rather than away from it and put themselves at risk to save their fellow Canadians.

The very next day, Canadians witnessed the same sort of bravery in the face of a terrorist attack in Ottawa.

I was in the Conservative national caucus room with my MP and Senate colleagues, as I am every week on Wednesday mornings, when the prime minister’s remarks were interrupted by loud noises – noises that we soon recognized to be gun fire. Single shots were quickly replaced by rapid bursts and the noise was getting louder and closer to our room. Everyone in caucus knew that there had recently been specific terrorist threats against Canada, made all-too-real days before when two soldiers had been mowed down by a radicalized individual in Quebec. We all assumed that there were multiple terrorist gunmen outside the room with automatic weapons and that they would be inside in a matter of seconds. Since no one in the room was armed and there was really no way to defend ourselves, it was terrifying.

People acted quickly to take cover where they could because we had no idea what was happening outside of our windowless caucus room. It wasn’t until much later that we learned that in fact, most of the gun shots that we heard were from our security forces responding to the security threat. Meanwhile, (unknown to those of us locked down throughout the centre block of the House of Commons) heroism was on full display in the appropriately named Hall of Honour. The House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, heard the initial gun shots, grabbed his service pistol and headed toward the danger. He was the one who killed the gunman. Mr. Vickers was not wearing a bullet proof vest. He was wearing his ceremonial robes, complete with his distinctive white neckwear. He didn’t think twice about putting himself in harms’ way to end the threat. He is a true Canadian hero – a man who takes his job to keep parliament and parliamentarians safe with deadly seriousness.

As the day and the lockdown continued, we learned about the tragic, senseless and cowardly attack on an unarmed soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – one of Canada’s most sacred sites. Corporal Nathan Cirillo joined Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killed two days earlier, as someone who was murdered simply for wearing the Canadian Forces uniform – uniforms that they had proudly earned the right to wear. Uniforms that represent our most honoured values. We will always remember their service and sacrifice.

When the lockdown ended and the prime minister addressed the nation later that night, he made it very clear that Canada will not be intimidated – we will never be intimidated – by acts of terror and brutality such as we saw last week. Indeed, MPs were all back in our seats at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning – only 24 hours after the gunman had burst through the front doors and attacked one of our democratic institutions. On behalf of a grateful nation, we thunderously applauded Kevin Vickers as he (and we) fought to control emotions as he delivered the Mace to its place on the table, allowing us to proceed to prayers and to re-open the House. There was a spontaneous singing of our national anthem, and the words “God keep our land glorious and free” seemed especially meaningful given all that had happened in the day before.

There was a moment of silence for Cpl. Cirillo. The prime minister and the other party leaders spoke eloquently in tribute to our fallen soldiers and about our unity as a country. The leaders embraced. And then, most significantly, we continued on with “routine proceedings” and orders of the day.

There will be much written and said about this terrorist attack in the days and weeks ahead. There will be debates about Canada’s response to domestic, home-grown terrorist threats and the need to strike the right balance between providing our security forces the tools they need to keep Canadians safe and protecting our rights and freedoms.  There will be security reviews to determine what went right and what should be improved in our nation’s capital.

But on this let there be no debate – the take away from Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014 is not about a cowardly terrorist attack. It is about the duty, ideals, service and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces, personified in Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. And it is about the bravery of our security personnel, personified by Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers, who along with many others put his life on the line to keep us, and our democratic institutions, safe from harm. We will always remember them. May God bless them.  And may God continue to bless Canada.

Mark Strahl,

Chilliwack-Hope MP

Just Posted

U-Save property owner files six lawsuits against District of Hope

One of the lawsuits demands $6,200 to undo the work done on the roundhouse.

Rainfall warning issued across Lower Mainland into the weekend

50 to 70 mm of rain expected to fall starting overnight Friday and into Sunday morning

Husband pleads guilty in relation to 2009 killing of Kulwinder Gill

Abbotsford woman died in hit-and-run conspiracy

Raymond Lee Caissie gets life in prison for murdering Surrey teen in 2014

Judge numbers Caissie among ‘violent merciless men without a conscience’

Area A, B lose power, wireless service due to winds

BC Hydro and TELUS are working to restore service.

VIDEO: ‘Lyle the singing pig’ searching for home

SPCA say the pig is ‘not opera-ready’

Man in custody linked police search near Salmon Arm

Police have not connected arrest to search at Salmon River Road property

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Search for missing B.C. man a race against winter weather

David Jeff of Williams Lake was last seen in Kamloops during the chaotic wildfire evacuations

Man steals police car, goes for a ‘slow’ ride

Mission RCMP say the motive of the theft is unknown

Dodgers punch ticket to World Series

This will be the first time the Los Angles Dodgers have made it to the World Series since 1988.

Surf group winning the war on plastic bags

The Tofino Co-op will no longer provide plastic bags, following in the footsteps of the Ucluelet location that already made the change earlier this year.

All three victims identified in Fernie arena ammonia leak

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith were from Fernie and Jason Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta

5 to start your day

Sentencing in murder of Surrey teen expected, Maple Ridge mayor to step away from politics and more

Most Read