OTTAWA, ON. (NEWS 1130) – It was three years ago today, the country was rocked by a terrorist attack on Parliament Hill.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial, before storming the buildings and being shot himself. The events changed Canadians and made it clear this country was not immune to an attack.
He says it’s changed the way he lives his life. “One freaky thing for me is as a journalist, you never think that you’re going to be a part of the story. It wasn’t until the next day because everything went on lock down on Parliament Hill — I found my jacket which actually had a bullet hole through it. That kind of hit me at the time and was a little shocking to see that a bullet hole was through my jacket and I didn’t even realize it until a day or two later when I realized, ‘This could be a bullet hole.’ It ended up being used as evidence by the Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] when they conducted their investigation.”
LISTEN: NEWS 1130’s Sonia Aslam speaks with Parliament Hill Reporter Cormac MacSweeney
MacSweeney says as he was running he thinks he heard at least five or six gunshots, adding everything happened to quickly. He adds between the shooting at the National War Memorial and Zehaf-Bibeau storming Centre Block, the time span was roughly three minutes, although it felt much longer.
“He ran up, hijacked a minister’s car and then was able to take that car and drive it up to the front doors of Parliament Hill. There was an RCMP car that was stationed to prevent something like that from happening, but there was a failure of the officer at the scene to block him. When he got to the front there were jurisdictional issues because the RCMP didn’t have jurisdiction inside Parliament, only on the outside, so the initial officer who responded did not go inside because they didn’t have jurisdiction.
He says plenty has changed on Parliament Hill since the attack, including tighter security.
Despite the 2014 attack — a potential attack stemming in Ontario last fall, the attack at a mosque in Quebec in January as well as the terror incident in Edmonton at the end of September — the country’s terror threat level has remained at medium. The federal government is maintaining it’s monitoring the situation and it has no current information to raise the level.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered his deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Cirillo, as well as Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who was killed days earlier in an unrelated attack in Quebec.
“These attacks were intended to instill fear and divide Canadians. Instead, they only served to unite us. We emerged stronger than before, showing the world that our most cherished values – freedom, democracy, diversity, and inclusion – will always triumph over fear and hatred,” he said in a statement.