Central Alberta Members of Parliament released individual statements in response to events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week, in which a Canadian soldier was shot and killed while guarding the National War Memorial.
MPs Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer) and Blaine Calkins (Wetaskiwin) paid tribute to the fallen soldier, 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as well as Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in a separate hit-and-run incident in Quebec just two days earlier.
“They died serving our nation, and will remain forever true Canadian heroes,” said Dreeshen. “We are forever indebted to their heroism and service to our nation.”
Calkins urged Canadians to be grateful to “police and peace officers for protecting us every day, and (to) also encourage the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces as they continue to protect and defend our beloved freedoms.”
Briefing media via a conference call from his home in Lacombe last Friday, he said the day on which the shooting took place began like any other.
While chatting with a colleague in the Conservative Party caucus room, he perceived an initial “loud bang” to be of no concern. Such noises, he said, aren’t uncommon in the House of Commons.
“It’s a busy place: There are people moving trolleys around, things get dropped and there’s construction work outside which has been using controlled explosions.”
Within seconds, however, the seriousness of the situation became apparent.
“I heard the rapid fire of what I knew to be a handgun, which confirmed my suspicion that the first shot was actually a firearm,” said Calkins. “I then basically just was shocked for the first few seconds … and then I heard more gun fire. There were a lot — and I mean a lot — of shots fired.”
Calkins spent the rest of the day in lockdown, unable to make contact with the outside world.
A “sobering moment” arrived when he and his colleagues were addressed by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who told them he had shot and killed the gunman responsible.
“You could see he was visibly shaken, but still firm in his resolve,” said Calkins, adding only partial relief was provided by the news. “There was a lot of chaos and confusion, and we weren’t sure if there were multiple people still involved.”
Dreeshen recounted a similarly harrowing account of events in last Friday’s Red Deer Advocate, noting he was “running on adrenalin” throughout the day.
In a statement, he referred to the incident as “not just an attack on the legislature of Canada, but on Canada as a whole.”
Calkins said he would refuse to be intimidated by the attack, and encouraged Canadians to remain steadfast in its wake.
“I believe in my heart that most people are good, honest, decent people,” he said. “As long as there are more people that feel that way than there are with hatred in their hearts, then people with that goodness and that hope and that optimism in their hearts will always prevail.”