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COMMENTARY: For Canada’s Parliament Hill hero, the U.S. Capitol attack triggered memories

Kevin Vickers
Then-House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

As Kevin Vickers watched the shocking attack on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., last week, a flood of memories from six years ago filled his mind.

Vickers is the former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms in Ottawa who was awarded the prestigious Star of Courage medal for his role in stopping an active shooter on Parliament Hill in 2014. He would later become Canada’s ambassador to Ireland and leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, a post he resigned after failing to win a seat in the recent provincial election.

On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was among the police and security officers who confronted and killed a lone gunman who had earlier that day fatally shot Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo at the nearby National War Memorial.

The people involved in the terrible events of that day still carry emotional scars, Vickers told me.

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Read more: More than a dozen U.S. lawmakers joined protest at the Capitol

“People working on Parliament Hill that day were traumatized,” he said.

It all came flooding back as he watched the angry crowd descend on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, an event that left five people dead in its wake.

“The actions of these people were deplorable,” Vickers said. “This was an attack on the American democratic system. This was a violent mob.”

As Vickers watched the seething crowd invade the halls of Congress, his mind raced back to 2014. And he wasn’t alone.

As the day wore on, Vickers said he began receiving phone calls and messages from colleagues who were on Parliament Hill on that violent day back in 2014.

They were all coping with the same disturbing memories.

“I started receiving calls from friends and people who simply felt ill from hearing the breaking windows and noises and gunshots all over again. I was really, really taken aback by people reaching out.”

Read more: 2 U.S. Capitol officers suspended after violent protest in Washington

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As Vickers processes his own memories, he was left with a startling question: Why were the Americans so unprepared for the attack?

“Everyone knew that event was going to happen,” he said. “Usually, there would be security intelligence through the Secret Service, the FBI, local police and they would build a contingency plan based on a threat assessment.

“It appears that just did not happen. Or if it did happen, it was interfered with. For security to not be prepared, it just doesn’t compute.”

Now an investigation into the security debacle is underway in Washington, where President Donald Trump faces a second impeachment process over the deadly mayhem.

For David Frum, the Canadian-born speechwriter to former U.S. president George W. Bush, it’s an ignominy that Trump deserves.

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“It wasn’t just that things got out of hand,” Frum told me. “There was a plan — wacky, stupid and unworkable, but still a plan — to seize control of the government of the United States, and make Donald Trump by force the winner of an election that he lost.”

Trump will likely be impeached again in the House of Representatives, and become just the first U.S. president to be impeached twice in that chamber.

But, just like the first impeachment, it’s unlikely that the Senate will convict Trump on the charge, where a two-thirds majority vote is required to remove him from office.

Read more: U.S. Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf resigns after violent protest at U.S. Capitol

For a reeling and divided Republican Party, Frum argues that it’s now important to stand up against Trump.

“If this party is ever going to rebuild after Trump, we need to be able to point back to people who did the right thing,” said Frum, who is still a registered Republican.

“We will need Republicans who stood up on this day and were against overthrowing the government of the United States. That’s going to be a powerful resource for the next generation as they rebuild this country that has been so corrupted by Donald Trump.”

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Of course, only a minority of Republicans are as fiercely critical of the president as Frum.

Once he’s gone from office, it’s likely Trump’s long shadow will continue to hover over the Republican Party, and a bitterly divided America.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at mike@cknw.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

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