Canadian politicians and citizens are marking the two-year anniversary a shooting on Parliament Hill that took the life of a Canadian solider with memories and messages of grief.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo, of Hamilton, was shot and killed on Oct. 22nd, 2014, while standing guard at the National War Memorial. The shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, went on to storm Centre Block before being killed. The events sent shockwaves across Canada and around the world, sparking fear and causing officials to rethink security around the historically peaceful Parliament Hill.
It was two years ago today that Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. pic.twitter.com/2m2K9NMgMj
— AM980 London News (@AM980News) October 22, 2016
Cirillo, 24, had spent eight years with the Canadian Army. He is now buried at Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement early Saturday to commemorate the anniversary, Cirillo, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in an attack in Quebec two days earlier.
“This vicious attack, at the very heart of our democracy, sought to frighten and divide Canadians. Instead it had the exact opposite effect, drawing us closer together and making us stronger. In the wake of this deadly assault, parliamentarians and Canadians united in condemning terrorism and further embracing our diversity.
“The whole country honoured first responders – Senate and House of Commons Protective Services, the RCMP, former House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, medical personnel and others – for their bravery and their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way for Canadians of all backgrounds and faiths.
“It showed the world that Canada will not be intimidated by hatred and violence, but will meet these acts with strength and conviction. This also showed me yet again that our diversity and collective love of democracy are what make our country strong and our nation great.
“I join all Canadians today in mourning the loss of Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent – who was killed two days earlier in an attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
These two members of the Canadian Armed Forces made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they loved. The most fitting tribute that we can pay them is defending the values that they so personified.”
Former London North Centre MP Susan Truppe was attending a Conservative caucus meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper when the shots rang out.
“Probably the most frightening part of everything was when we heard the sounds, we’re running to the corners of our square room and I can tell you there’s nowhere to hide in the square,” Truppe said. “We kept hearing shots and shots and gunfire and we didn’t know — that was the frightening part is that we didn’t know how many were out there. Is there 10? Was there 15? Were there any security left or are they all dead?”
Zehaf-Bibeau, armed with a hunting rifle, was killed when he entered Centre Block through the main entrance of the Peace Tower. He was shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers.
“There was only a handful that were armed and you know, you don’t expect anything like that to happen in Canada,” Truppe said. “I think this opened our eyes, opened everyone’s eyes, to know that yes this does happen in Canada.”
Meantime, the two-year anniversary of the shooting comes as officials look at boosting security around Parliment Hill even more.
The head of head of Parliamentary Protective Services (PPS), which was formed following the attack, says he’s open to putting measures in place to better screen people who want to access the front lawn of Parliament Hill.
In the 16 months since Mike Duheme was appointed the head of the new merged security force, several measures have been put in place to prevent another attack on Parliament Hill.
Communications have been harmonized so that all levels of security can actually speak to each other, guards have been given handguns and RCMP officers are now more visible and more heavily armed on the grounds.
C8 carbine rifles are now in the hands of Mounties as they patrol Parliament Hill. The directive follows the report into the shooting deaths of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta.
The report found the officers were not equipped with an appropriate weapon to face someone with a semi-automatic rifle.
Seeing officers with high powered rifles can be jarring to some, but Duheme says it’s just something people need to get used to.
“It does look somewhat aggressive, but it’s something that if you look in the European countries they’re highly visible,” he said.
That visual deterrent is part of the changes implemented by the PPS. Others factors being considered include preventing ministers’ cars from parking in front of East and West block buildings, a direct response to the events of Oct. 22, 2014.
During his attack, Zehaf-Bibeau hijacked a ministerial car in front of East block and then sped to Centre Block where he eventually made it inside and continued his rampage.
For now though, the RCMP is in charge and they’re open to suggestions on improving security.
For instance, some believe there should be fewer access points to the grounds of Parliament Hill and the gates where people do pass should be equipped with guards or metal detectors.
Duheme is open to that idea, however with 3.5 million people visiting Parliament Hill every year, he wants to maintain the free-flowing access to the grounds.
With files from Marty Thompson, Carl Garnich, Mike Le Couteur (Global News)