MP recounts terror attack

by Phil Ambroziak

As a retired RCMP member, it was only natural for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River MP Rob Clarke to follow his instincts and to take action recently to ensure the safety and security of both himself and his peers.

MP Rob Clarke

MP Rob Clarke

Clarke was at Parliament Hill shortly before 10 a.m. eastern time Oct. 22 when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier conducting ceremonial guard duty at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, was gunned down. The suspect in the shooting, later identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau – a Canadian citizen believed to have had extremist views – then made his way to Parliament Hill where, with rifle in hand, he stormed into Centre Block, pursued by police and security. Meanwhile, Clarke, along with Prime Minster Stephen Harper and other members of the Conservative caucus, were in a meeting room only metres away.

“We were gathered for our weekly meeting when, around 9:52 a.m., I heard what sounded like a shotgun round being fired followed by another one,” Clarke said. “Then I heard about 17 nine-millimetre rounds being discharged and that’s when I realized there was shooting taking place in Centre Block.”

Clarke, as well as other former police officers who are currently members of the caucus, immediately secured the room and attempted to maintain a sense of calmness. According to reports, MPs barricaded the door and even fashioned flagpoles into spears for further protection.

Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually shot and killed by House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

“At first there was panic,” Clarke continued. “But, everyone soon calmed down and simply relied on the security staff on Parliament Hill to do their jobs. They performed above and beyond the call of duty and prevented an already horrible situation from possibly getting worse.”

The MP also extended his thoughts and prayers to Cpl. Cirillo’s family and friends, as well as to those of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who was killed earlier last week in a hit-and-run attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

“These are genuine terrorist attacks,” Clarke said. “And, those responsible are Canadians who have become radicalized.”

Clarke said MPs and their staff remained on lockdown for close to nine hours following the shootings, stating it took so long because it was necessary for the police to speak with anyone and everyone who may have witnessed the attack.

The following day, the House of Commons was back in session, but Clarke said there was a heightened awareness with regard to security throughout the downtown area.

“There are a lot of police on the streets,” he said.

As for what happens next, Clarke said it will be up to the government to decide on the necessary steps to protect Canadians.

“Canadians are angry because their sacred institution of Parliament was attacked,” he said. “We need to strengthen legislation to protect our citizens. ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is moving overseas now and involving individuals with extremist ideals who, in turn, are attacking Canadians on their own soil.”

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