When gunfire broke out on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, lawmakers inside the building, realizing that they may have to defend themselves, improvised spears to take on the terrorist shooter, should he make it into the room where the Conservative caucus was meeting. As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was bundled into a closet, other Members of Parliament prepared to take on the gunman.
“It was that or get mowed down,” recounted one MP.
As more details emerged about the armed attack on the Canadian Parliament by Islamist radical Michael Joseph Zehaf-Bibeau, individual accounts of the harrowing events begin to fill in the gaps to reveal the entire sequence of the attack. Video footage has also been released by Canadian authorities, showing Zehaf-Bibeau pulling up in a car outside the building and then making his way toward the Center Block of the complex.
When lawmakers meeting in the Conservative caucus room first heard shooting, a number of them reached for the 15 flags on display; snapping 13 of them from their mounts and fashioning them into spears, with which they were ready to defend themselves if the terrorist entered the room. Many of the MPs assumed that Prime Minister Harper had already been rushed from the room but this was not the case; Since no-one knew the situation outside, Harper was urged to hide inside a closet with in the room and stayed there for some 15 minutes whilst other lawmakers grabbed the flagpoles and prepared to attack any assailant who might come through the door. “These guys were up there holding these spears ready to impale anyone who came in,” a source told the Globe and Mail. Other people in the room stacked chairs and tables against the door.
When thew Prime Minister later emerged from his hiding place to be escorted from the room by his security detail, several of the MPs were taken by surprise, since they had assumed he had already been evacuated.
The attack was ended by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who emerged from his office with a semi-automatic handgun to confront the gunman, who was armed with a hunting rifle. Vickers engaged the attacker, who was attempting to conceal himself in an alcove outside the parliament’s library, at close quarters; diving onto the floor in front of the gunman and taking him down with several shots. As security personnel who had been giving chase approached the fallen attacker, Vickers went to the room in which the Prime Minister had been taking shelter. After identifying himself, he entered the room and announced that the threat had been neutralized. “I engaged the suspect and the suspect is deceased,” he announced to the MPs and cheers broke out.
Zehaf-Bibeau, who was reportedly angry at being unable to renew his Libyan passport, had been planning to travel to Syria in order to fight with the Islamic State, it has since been revealed. Before entering the parliament building in Ottawa, he shot and killed a reservist soldier at the nearby National War Memorial.
As for the improvised spears that Ottawa lawmakers were ready to use against their assailant, a small place in Canadian history is assured. “Everyone was taking their spears home,” the MP revealed, adding “I’m going to frame mine.”
Graham J Noble