Author­i­ties in Cana­da have locked down Par­lia­ment Hill, the heart of the coun­try’s nation­al cap­i­tal, Ottawa, after a yet-to-be-pub­licly-iden­ti­fied assailant fatal­ly shot a sol­dier guard­ing Canada’s War Memo­r­i­al, then entered Cen­tre Block and began fir­ing at peo­ple there before being killed by secu­ri­ty. Fit­ting­ly, the man who took the gun­man down was said to be Par­lia­men­t’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers.

Canada's National War Memorial
Canada’s Nation­al War Memo­r­i­al, as seen from the Peace Tow­er. (The Memo­r­i­al is cir­cled). The gun­man began his attacks at the Memo­r­i­al, fatal­ly shoot­ing a Cana­di­an sol­dier before pro­ceed­ing to Cen­tre Block. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Cen­tre Block, for those unfa­mil­iar with Ottawa, is the most famous build­ing in the Cana­di­an cap­i­tal. It is the equiv­a­lent of the domed Leg­isla­tive Build­ing here in Wash­ing­ton or the U.S. Capi­tol build­ing in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia. It con­tains the cham­bers of the Cana­di­an House of Com­mons and the Sen­ate. Its most promi­nent fea­ture is the Peace Tow­er, which is almost one hun­dred meters tall.

Parliament Hill, in Ottawa
The image above depicts Cen­tre Block, the most dis­tinc­tive build­ing on Par­lia­ment Hill, where Canada’s law­mak­ers con­duct busi­ness. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Alarm­ing­ly, at the time of the attack, Canada’s polit­i­cal lead­ers were inside Cen­tre Block for cau­cus meet­ings. For­tu­nate­ly, none of them were harmed. Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harp­er was tak­en away by the author­i­ties to a secure loca­tion imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the inci­dent. He was lat­er tele­phoned by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, who offered any sup­port and resources that the Unit­ed States could provide.

The White House released a read­out of the call, which said:

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma spoke by phone with Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harp­er to express the Amer­i­can people’s sol­i­dar­i­ty with Cana­da in the wake of attacks on Cana­di­an Forces in Que­bec on Octo­ber 20 and in Ottawa on Octo­ber 22. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma con­demned these out­ra­geous attacks, and reaf­firmed the close friend­ship and alliance between our peo­ple.  The Pres­i­dent offered any assis­tance Cana­da need­ed in respond­ing to these attacks. Prime Min­is­ter Harp­er thanked the Pres­i­dent and the two lead­ers dis­cussed the assault and agreed to con­tin­ue coor­di­na­tion between our gov­ern­ments mov­ing forward.

Speak­ing to MSNBC, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Char­lie Angus said that had the gun­man entered Cen­tre Block an hour lat­er, it is like­ly that the cau­cus meet­ings would have con­clud­ed, and that MPs would have been out in the halls speak­ing to the press.

It is not yet clear how the gun­man man­aged to get into Cen­tre Block. From hav­ing vis­it­ed Par­lia­ment Hill in July, I can attest that entrances and exits to the build­ing are mon­i­tored and guard­ed. All vis­i­tors are swept by secu­ri­ty pri­or to enter­ing Cen­tre Block for guid­ed tours, or to go up the Peace Tower.

A num­ber of build­ings in Ottawa remain on lock­down. Cen­tre Block, East Block, and West Block are all closed to the pub­lic right now. West Block was actu­al­ly already closed; it’s been under­go­ing ren­o­va­tions for months. The near­by U.S. Embassy, which is very close to Par­lia­ment Hill, was also sealed off.

West Block, under construction
West Block, on Par­lia­ment Hill, is shown under­go­ing ren­o­va­tions in July of 2014. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Ottawa is a charm­ing city and a fair­ly safe place. I’ve described it to friends as a cross between the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Lon­don. Ottawa is actu­al­ly home to more peo­ple than San Fran­cis­co, but it does­n’t feel like a large city at all. Part­ly that’s because it is much more spread out than cities of com­pa­ra­ble size.

By after­noon, all of Canada’s major par­ties had issued state­ments in response to the shoot­ings. Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s office said he would speak to the nation in a tele­vised address this evening.

We extend our con­do­lences to the fam­i­ly of the sol­dier who was killing and our sym­pa­thies to those wound­ed in the attack. Hope­ful­ly they’ll all recover.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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