Parliament Hill remained locked down hours after a gunman entered the buildin

Parliament Hill remained locked down hours after a gunman entered the buildin

Back in the 1950’s this writer recalls that no one locked their doors during the day and they certainly did not worry about leaving windows unlocked at night. Would you do that today? Not unless you expect something bad to happen.

After 9/11, our world changed completely. It has been a race against time to stop terrorists around the world from going on their killing sprees both overseas and at home. As a result, no country is safe.

Canada is known worldwide as one of the most peaceful places on Earth where people are friendly and the military generally only goes on peacekeeping missions. Again, this has now changed completely.

On October 20, 2014, 25-year-old Martin Rouleau appeared to purposely hit two soldiers with the Canadian Armed Forces with his car in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Rouleau continued driving and a police chase ensued. In the process, the man was shot and killed.

One of the soldiers was in critical condition and later died in hospital while the other sustained minor injuries. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the man was “known to federal authorities” and had “become radicalized.”

Then on October 22, the reality – and fear – of terrorist’s actions came home in full force. Two more terrorist related attacks over just three days, has left Canadian in shock and wondering what could possibly happen next.

Parliament Hill and a number of other government buildings in Ottawa were placed under lockdown after a lone gunman that one witness described as having black hair, and wearing “a grey jacket and scarf” opened fire at the War Memorial at approximately 9:52 a.m. After shooting the soldier, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau then walked calmly to his car on a busy street nearby and drove away.

Canadian soldier Corp. Nathan Cirillo, 24, a member of the Argyll and Southerland reservists in Hamilton where this writer lives, was shot and killed. According to the Hamilton Spectator, reservists with the 91st Canadian Highlanders were on tour and guarding the memorial in the days leading up to the shooting.

The 32-year-old gunman then made his way to the Parliament buildings, made his way inside and continued his reign of terror. Police stormed the site with a hail of gunfire and the armed suspect was killed.

Three people were injured and sent to The Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. with minor injuries and were released soon afterward.

Fortunately, spokesperson Hazel Harding said, “Apart from (the soldier), they had minor, non-life threatening injuries and remain in hospital at this time.”

Witnesses heard “gunfire inside the halls of Parliament, including a dozen shots outside the Parliament Hill library.” By 4 p.m., police were still on site and the building was still locked down, although the legislature was in session all day. The director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted that he was safe but all of his public functions for the rest of the day were cancelled.

One of those was an honorary citizenship ceremony for Malala Yousafzai – the 17-year-old Pakistani teenager, who fought for the rights of women in her country to acquire an education and was gunned down by Muslim extremists. The citizenship title was to honor her for her courage and strength in the face of oppression.

At an earlier press conference, police indicated that there might have been a second shooter given the number of gun shots heard.

“We’re still investigating an active situation…we’re in the process of clearing and securing Parliament Hill,” said Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau. “We’re asking the community to be vigilant…report any suspicious activity that they’re seeing.”

All buildings in the downtown core saw a mandatory police lockdown as well as schools in the area including the University of Ottawa. Lock downs quickly followed at the Nova Scotia and British Columbia legislatures. Entrances to parliament buildings in both Fredericton, New Brunswick and at Quebec’s legislature were locked, with “heightened security” at the Manitoba and Saskatoon sites.

As well, the U.S. Embassy was placed in lockdown and all Canadian Forces bases were closed to the public. Security was also beefed up on major transit systems across Canada.

The Rideau Centre shopping mall in Ottawa, was initially under lockdown but it was later lifted. A number of other major sites in the city were also closed. Even the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team, which was to face off with the Ottawa Senators later in the day were safely sequestered and the game was postponed.

Even the New York Police Department decided to send its “Critical Response Vehicles, Hercules Teams and other patrol resources” to watch on any locations associated with the Canadian government.

The Globe & Mail learned that just days before soldiers in Quebec were run down, CSIS raised the threat level “from unlikely to could occur” in Canada. An internal report warns that “Canadian extremists could turn on their own countries” if they were denied travel abroad. This is exactly what happened when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized Rouleau’s passport, as he was a suspected home grown terrorist.

However, the threat level was raised due to “an increase in general chatter from radical Islamist organizations…” and others who posed a threat, authorities said.

The Canadian Military is now considering whether officers should wear their uniforms while off duty since they have been the targets in all three incidents.

With all that has happened in the past couple of days, it seems clear that that the carefree life we once knew back in the ‘50s is destined to become just a fond memory, never to return again.