The NDP caucus meets each Wednesday morning in the Railway Room, the grand room to the right of the Hall of Honour, reserved for gatherings of the Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. You can see the main entrance to the room on the right side of the video of this morning’s shooting.
New Democrat MPs were in the middle of their weekly meeting when the shooting began.
“I was sitting at the back of the room. I was just about to slip out to do a radio interview that was pre-planned, and I don’t know if I’d gotten up yet or was about to, and it sounded like banging, like trash lids being banged very loudly outside, echoey,” said NDP House leader Nathan Cullen this afternoon. “When I went to open the door is when the security came in through the other side, and the look on his face told me it wasn’t some disruptive protester going on.”
NDP MP Craig Scott said he heard two bursts of gunfire. MPs ducked under tables. Cullen says the security guard “jammed the lock, and then I went to the other door. We got everybody away from the tables and leaning up or sitting against the wall, which is safer than being in the middle of the room, and then went to the other door and put some tables in front of that and locked it, as well.” Scott says he put a table against the door nearest to him, then he and another MP, Hoang Mai, stood on either side of the door to attempt to reinforce it in case someone tried to push through. Scott says the security guard put a trolly in front of another door. Not long after the shooting stopped, security evacuated the MPs.
On Tuesday, the procedure and House affairs committee met to discuss concerns about the ability of MPs to move around Parliament Hill during visits by foreign dignitaries, when security on the Hill is heightened. Scott says that, last night, he mentioned to a couple other MPs that he was concerned about security on the Hill. “It was raised by the issue of how the security forces have to balance access for both the public and parliamentarians with serious security. And I was saying, ‘Well, here’s why I’m extraordinarily worried about what could happen. I’m proud that we have such an open, accessible legislature, but it’s very easy, if somebody isn’t worried about their own life, to do something.’ That was basically my point. And, after the incident, I had a couple of MPs come straight up to me and say, ‘Wow, you called it.’ ”
In the hours after the shooting, Cullen said tensions had eased, but that the impact of the day won’t be known for days. “Over the hours, the tension has obviously lifted, to some point,” Cullen said. “And, having worked overseas, I’ve unfortunately been around, not this exact scene, certainly, but around this kind of violence. I think the real shock generally hits for most people later on. That’s the thing that you generally have to watch for.”