The Canadian flag outside Parliament flies at half-mast in honour of two slain soldiers. Parliament will resume today amid heavy security.
Photo Credit: Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

‘Canada will never be intimidated,’ says prime minister

Canada’s parliamentarians went back to work today, refusing to be cowed by yesterday’s attack at the National War Memorial and inside the Parliament building.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the nation Wednesday evening and called the perpetrator a terrorist.

Canadian reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo is the Canadian soldier who was killed while guarding the National War memorial in the nation’s capital. © PC/Facebook/Canadian Press

Events began Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire on one of two soldiers guarding the cenotaph across the street from Parliament Hill. Bystanders made valiant efforts to save his life, but 24 year-ld Cpl. Nathan Cirillo died. Spontaneous memorials sprang up across the country.

The gunman then went up Parliament hill, entered the Centre Block. Gunfire erupted. At least one security official was injured and others lead by the Sergeant-at-Arms shot and killed the attacker. A Globe and Mail newspaper reporter captured part of the gunfight on video.

Many parliamentarians close by

Many members of Parliament were in the centre block attending caucus meetings in rooms off the hallway where gunfire erupted. If the gunman had arrived one hour later, the halls would have been filled with parliamentarians, staff and reporters.

Police sources confirmed this image tweeted from an ISIS account depicts Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. © Twitter

Gunman a convert to Islam, said to be troubled

The gunman has been identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He was a Canadian who had converted to Islam. He had wanted to travel abroad but was recently denied travel documents. He had two criminal convictions in past years. The Globe and Mail newspaper interviewed a friend who said Zehab-Bibeau “did not appear to have extremist views or inclinations toward violence—but at times exhibited a disturbing side.”  The Globe reports that Dave Bathurst heard his friend say “the devil is after him.”

Zehab-Bibeau was the son of a businessman who appears to have left Canada briefly to fight in the Libyan uprising. His mother is a highly place civil servant with Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

Parliament and much of the downtown core in Ottawa was on lockdown for most of Wednesday as police and military personnel searched for possible accomplices. It now appears the gunman acted alone. The city is getting back to normal today amid a heavy presence of various security forces.

Canadians spontaneously set up memorials like this one near the National War Memorial where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down. © Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press

Events ‘will strengthen our resolve’

In his national address 10 hours after the first shooting, the prime minister declared the shooting to be a terrorist act and vowed there would be no safe haven for those who would bring “savagery to our shores.”

Wednesday’s attack came two days after another soldier was run over and killed by a Canadian-turned-extremist. The attacker was later killed by police. Canada has just dispatched six CF-18 fighter jets to help the United States and other nations in their air attacks on the extremist group ISIS.

Harper said the attacks “will lead us to strengthen our resolve” and later added “We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

Security issues will be debated

The events unfolded just as the government was to table a controversial piece of legislation giving more powers to security agents to fight terrorism.  There will be vigorous debate over how far it should go, while still preserving the civil liberties which are the foundation of Canadian democracy. There will also be much debate about security on Parliament Hill, a place that traditionally has been open to the public.

Canadian parliamentarians barricaded their doors after hearing gunshots outside their meeting room yesterday. Today they are determined to resume their work. © MP Nina Grewal/Reuters
Categories: Politics, Society

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