“There was a moment there where we thought ‘This may be it. We’re going to die’.”
That’s how Langley MP Mark Warawa remembers the events on Parliament Hill that shocked the nation and many corners of the world on Wednesday.
Warawa and other Conservative MPs had gathered in the Conservative caucus room on one side of the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block of the buildings. The NDP caucus was gathered in a similar room on the other side of the hall.
“We heard guns fired outside our door. When you hear shots fired, your imagination goes all over. The immediate response is to flee.”
The MPs didn’t flee though. They knew it was far too dangerous to do so.
“So we switched into defence mode. We locked and barricaded the doors. We fabricated weapons, including using the top of flagpoles as potential spears. “We didn’t know how many gunmen there were. We were ready to do what was necessary.”
He said the caucus contains a number of former police officers, and they gave other MPs some instructions on what to do if a gunman did break in.
“That’s where we thought ‘this may be it.’ We took up defensive positions, made a bunch of spears and were ready to defend ourselves. I’ve never been in a situation like that, but we were left with no choice.”
Warawa said there were a lot of shots right outside the doors and MPs simply didn’t know what the circumstances were at that time, other than they were very close to a gun battle — in the halls of Parliament.
Shortly after the gunfire ceased, there were knocks at the doors. The MPs didn’t know if it was a gunman. They were told it was the police, and shortly afterwards Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers came into both caucus rooms to tell the MPs that one gunman had been shot further inside the building, in front of the library.
Warawa said Vickers, other security guards and police did an “incredible job,” chasing after the gunman and then systematically searching the building and entire area to see if there were any others. As a result, the MPs were moved to another secure area, but it took almost 12 hours before Warawa and his colleagues were finally able to leave the building.
“We couldn’t be released until they were sure things were safe.”
The Langley MP has great admiration for Vickers’ action in shooting the gunman, and praised him for his professionalism, as well as all the others who he said “did not back away. They went into danger. They are all heroes.
“Today (Thursday), we were constantly thanking them for their actions,” he said.
Warawa said Thursday’s reopening of Parliament after the events on Wednesday was a unique moment.
“It was the most united time I have ever experienced in Parliament. We all had experienced a common enemy, who could have killed any one of us.
“All philosophical differences were put aside. It was a time of appreciation for one another, and of unity.
“All the leaders hugged each other — three times.”
When The Times spoke to Warawa, he was at the Toronto Airport. He headed there Thursday afternoon, after the morning session, to catch a plane to Ukraine where he will be an election observer for several days before returning to Canada next week. Before he left he visited the site of the shooting. There are bullet holes in the wood and stone, and evidence of the tragedy that unfolded there is very obvious, he said.
Warawa said the two Canadian soldiers who died in incidents this week, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, will be remembered as true heroes in giving their lives for Canada, and he expects they will be remembered and honoured at Remembrance Day events in Ottawa and around the country on Nov. 11.