After the harrowing turn of events on Parliament Hill, Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan came home Thursday to get some much needed sleep.
“We’re all emotionally drained up here. I’m looking forward to being in my own bed tonight,” he said from his Ottawa office, just a day after a gunman killed a Canadian soldier standing guard at the war memorial and rattled the nation with a shooting frenzy.
Cannan and his Conservative caucus colleagues were 25 minutes into their meeting, when blasts rang out on Parliament Hill.
“At first I heard a couple loud explosions, but there had been blasting around here, so I didn’t think much of it,” he said.
“Then there were 20 to 30 repetitive rounds, and I thought ‘that sounds like guns.’ Not only was it alarming, it was surreal.”
Ex-police officers in the caucus as well as guards on duty ordered the MPs to take cover while the gunman could be heard moving down the hallway outside.
“We all huddled together… away from the door and the perimeters,” he said, noting there were 150 to 200 people in the room.
“Then we stopped and prayed for the safety of the guards…with that many rounds being shot we knew someone would be hurt, and in this case there was a fatality.”
Cannan said that the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the guard who was gunned down at the war memorial is something everyone is having a hard time with.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” he said.
He’s also forever grateful to Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who is credited with shooting down the gunman.
“When the gunman was shooting, Mr. Vickers was by the library and he grabbed his weapon, came around the corner and shot the man,” he said.
“I’ve gotten to know him over the last eight years. He’s humble, but I told him today he’s a national hero.”
Reflecting on the horrors and the heroes of the week is something that Cannan and his colleagues will continue to do in the days ahead, but in the long-term he has high hopes that the shocking turn of events won’t leave a permanent scar on the capital.
“Vickers and his team will continue to keep us safe,” he said. “It’s important to keep the parliament buildings accessible…every Wednesday there’s yoga, and there are protests and rallies and all sorts of things take place. You want to keep that sense of freedom and democracy alive.”
Change in the wake of events like this week’s, however, is inevitable, even all the way across the country.
Kelowna’s airport has already implemented further safety measures, said Jenelle Hynes, the airport’s media spokesperson.
The terminal building and YLW facilities will have increased security patrols and a larger RCMP presence.
It will be most noticeable during peak travel hours.
“We are at a heightened level of security for the next little bit so we can watch what is happening,” she said. “It’s also to put the public at ease and allow them to feel safe and secure.”
The call for increased security came hours after the shootings in Ottawa from National Aviation Transport Canada, as has become protocol after a high profile security breach.