Reflections on yesterday's events in Ottawa

Early this morning I walked to the National War Memorial. Nathan Cullen and I passed flowers over the security perimeter to a police officer who laid a dozen roses for us in honour of Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Somewhere in the crowd, someone began singing ‘O Canada’. It was quickly taken up by a chorus of Ottawa residents and MPs of all parties.

Back in the House, the Speaker asked that the doors to the galleries be opened and that the arrival of the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Speaker in the chamber—normally private—to open to public broadcast.

Down hallways lined with applauding staff members, our Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, led the Speaker’s parade into the chamber to a standing ovation by 308 members of the House of Commons.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone—from close friends to perfect strangers—who reached out to me and my staff yesterday expressing their concern for us, our colleagues, and our friends in Ottawa.

Yesterday was, of course, a shocking and difficult day for all of us who work on Parliament Hill. I was sitting in our regular Wednesday morning caucus meeting when we heard gunshots in the hallway outside. We locked the wooden doors, barricading them with upturned tables, and took cover. Security guards yelled for everyone to hit the floor. I heard 10 shots fired just outside the door. After perhaps 15 minutes we were evacuated—some through tunnels, others through the side doors—and I moved across the street, past police, ambulances, and soldiers in the street, to a nearby hotel where I spent much of the day in lockdown with fellow MPs and journalists.

That was my experience of yesterday. We all have many questions about what happened, and how, and why—and we will work to answers those over the coming days and weeks. But for now I’m struck by what adversity revealed in the people around me and what it showed us about our country.

I saw MPs and staff comforting, supporting and watching out for each other. I saw the security guards we’ve gotten to know in the halls every day react with unhesitating courage and professionalism. By now, many of us have seen the incredible footage of those women and men running down the Hall of Honour towards the sound of gunfire.

We saw the Ottawa police reach out immediately to religious leaders to offer support. And we saw our public broadcaster convey news to the nation, hour by hour, with calmness and a clarity that has already drawn praise from media around the world.

For all the images of violence that tragedies like this bring into our homes, they bring many more of the goodness of regular people helping each other: the woman who gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Corporal Cirillo beside the memorial; the construction workers on the scaffolding outside Centre Block who fashioned a makeshift ladder to rescue a panicked staffer after gunshots rang out near her office; the countless strangers who helped each other to safety as police cleared locked-down buildings downtown.             

For those who missed them last night, you can read and watch all the statements by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and Justin Trudeau here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ottawa-shooting-harper-mulcair-trudeau-speak-about-attack-1.2809530

At the end of a long and difficult day yesterday, I was very moved by these words from Tom Mulcair:

“We woke up this morning in a country blessed by love, diversity and peace and tomorrow we will do the same.

These acts were driven by hatred, but also designed to drive us to hate. They will not. We will stand up, and we will stand together.”

In Ottawa, the business of Parliament has resumed. In Victoria, my community office opened this morning as usual and my staff are there to serve all our constituents.