Jitters remains as MPs return to the scene of last week’s Ottawa shooting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lays a wreath at Ottawa's National War Memorial Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Vassy Kapelos / Global News

OTTAWA – It may well be “the safest place in Ottawa right now,” in the words of Conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt, but as MPs prepare to reconvene in their weekly caucus rooms in Parliament Hill, some jitters remain.

“I think Wednesday will be interesting when we’re back in the Reading Room,” Raitt, the Transport Minister, said this week.

It has been six days since a rifle-toting homeless drug addict with a grudge against government burst through the Centre Block’s front doors and careened down the central Hall of Honour before dying in a hail of bullets.

READ MORE: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo laid to rest in Hamilton

The drama played out just steps away from where more than 200 Conservative and NDP MPs and senators were holding their separate weekly meetings.

Story continues below advertisement

Since then, there’s been the emotional spectacle of the House of Commons returning to work last Thursday morning, exactly 24 hours after Michael Zehaf Bibeau’s deadly rampage.

There have been moving public outpourings at the nearby National War Memorial, where honour guard Cpl. Nathan Cirillo lost his life to the Islamic convert police say had “ideological and political motivations.”

And on Tuesday, thousands lined the streets as Cpl. Cirillo was laid to rest in Hamilton, Ont., following a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other dignitaries.

WATCH: Argyll Pipe band delivers stirring rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ at Cpl. Cirillo’s funeral

But even as the bullet holes remain visible on the limestone walls and wooden door frames of the Centre Block, there are less visible scars.

Story continues below advertisement

MPs return Wednesday, quite literally, to the scene of the crime.

“I’ve thought about that,” said Conservative MP Rick Dykstra. “It’s probably good just to get right back in there and face whatever you felt during that time period …. to push those demons away so that you understand this is a safe place.”

Raitt toured the Hall and the caucus room earlier in the week with some visiting family.

Seeing the bullet marks outside the unlocked doors where MPs barricaded themselves for hours was “a bit unnerving,” said Raitt.

READ MORE: ‘Distorted world view,’ not mental illness, drove terrorists: RCMP

“But I’ve got to tell you, I said it to the guys when I came in, this has to be the safest place in Ottawa right now. It really does.”

Not all MPs are feeling safe.

Some parliamentarians are avoiding using the main front doors under the Peace Tower, which remain a public thoroughfare. Some continue to be strongly concerned about Hill security, despite an increased RCMP presence outside the Centre Block.

The Mounties have now posted an officer atop the steps leading to the front doors, a position that commands a wide view down the lawn and drive.

Story continues below advertisement

Just that single extra officer on lookout likely would have prevented last Wednesday’s intrusion, according to one senior NDP staffer.

Still, in the words of New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, “people are fragile right now. You hear bangs, or see people running, that may cause you to jump.”

“People are processing things,” said the local Ottawa MP. “Going back to the (caucus) rooms is part of the process, getting back to normal.”

Veteran Conservative Gerald Keddy said he expects an emotional caucus reunion.

“I’m sure there will be, absolutely.”


Others were less prepared to concede they may still be spooked.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’ll carry on,” Peter Van Loan, the Conservative House leader, said with a tight smile.

Dr. Kellie Leitch, another Conservative cabinet member, said she wasn’t aware of anyone having difficulties.

“I would encourage everyone who does need help to step forward and ask for it,” said Leitch.

What MPs all agree on is the unusual outpouring of partisan-free public support and sympathy they received over the past week.

John McKay, a veteran Liberal, said that after the 9-11 terrorist attacks of 2001, the public response he experienced was “more detached.”

This time, Canadian well-wishers seemed to have a more personal stake.

McKay summed up the public sentiment this way: “‘These are the people we put here (in Parliament): Good, bad or otherwise, we put ’em here, they’re our people, our folks.”‘

Sponsored content