Ottawa shooting spurs fresh concerns about security on Parliament Hill

WATCH: Hundreds of MPs spent the day in hiding on Parliament Hill, as much of Ottawa spent the day on lockdown. Ottawa Bureau Chief Jacques Bourbeau reports.

OTTAWA – The fatal shooting of a soldier at the National War Memorial and the subsequent gunfire on Parliament Hill on Wednesday have renewed concerns about security in the capital.

The shootout left a suspect dead in the Centre Block, sent MPs fleeing and forced the lockdown of much of the downtown core.

Witnesses are asked to call Ottawa Police at 613-236-1222, ext 5493. Those looking to report suspicious activity can call 613-236-1222 or 9-1-1. Those dealing with the events can also call Distress Centre Ottawa at 613-238-3311.

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MPs and senators have been nervous for years about how easily members of the public can access the Parliament Buildings. Canada’s role in the campaign against ISIL has heightened concerns in recent weeks.

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READ MORE: Parliament Hill security – who is the Sergeant-at-Arms?

“I think the intention was to try to make Parliament not look like Fort Knox,” Liberal MP Marc Garneau said. “But we’ve crossed a river today.”

Garneau pointed out that while visitors go through metal detectors, most parliamentary offices are easily accessible once those people are in the buildings.

“The point is, somebody who decides that they want to rush the building can walk up, rush in, show their weapon and then rush into the building before anybody can really effectively do anything,” he said.

Karl Belanger, principal secretary to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, said there’s no question procedures will need to be reviewed and fixed so that such a breach never happens again.

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NDP MP Charlie Angus said that as gunfire echoed through the Hall of Honour during the party’s caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, “suddenly those parliamentary caucus doors looked very, very flimsy.”

But Angus added he hopes the Hill doesn’t become fortress as a result of the shooting.

“I just think what’s really important to remember from this is that Parliament Hill is an incredible public place that’s open for people to play football and come and protest and sit and have their lunches, do their yoga,” he said.

“We can’t lose that. We need to make it more secure, we need to make sure people can be safe … but we can never lose sight (that it’s) an open place where Canadians feel welcome.”

Liberal MP John McKay had the same feeling.

“That building is the people’s building and we’ve been able to pride ourselves on its accessibility to people,” he said. “I hate to think of us shutting it down because of both paranoia and legitimate fears. It really changes everything.”

Photos: Sports and protests on Parliament Hill

Three-year-old Ashley O'Dell takes part in a group yoga session with her mother Laura O'Dell on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011. Yoga on the Hill is a popular event in the summer. Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press
Young female soccer players from the Ottawa Royals under-ten take part in a fun match on the front lawn of parliament Hill prior to FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association announcing the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup on in Ottawa on Friday, May 4, 2012. Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press
A protester lights a joint during the annual 4-20 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Earlier, some MPs asked for a Commons committee hearing into momentary delays inflicted upon parliamentarians last month as they tried to get to the House of Commons and were held up by the German president’s motorcade.

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MPs say their ability to move freely is a question of parliamentary privilege, ranking with their right to call for witnesses and documents and to say what they want in the Commons.

The hearing was held Tuesday, the day before the shootings.

— With files from Joan Bryden in Ottawa

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