MP David Wilks was in a meeting in the House of Commons as gunfire erupted during Wednesday’s events in Ottawa.
An armed attacker made his way into Centre Block Parliament Hill after shooting and fatally wounding Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.
The doors to the national caucus meeting were already closed — a normal procedure – said Wilks, but gunshots could be heard from the meeting room.
“It was going on in the Hall of Honour, which separates the House of Commons from the Senate,” Wilks said.
“After hearing the gunshots, my police instincts kicked in right away and the first thing I did was hit the ground and look to see what was going on.
“About 30 seconds later, I made a decision that we needed to secure one of the doorways where the majority of the gunfire was coming from. So myself and a number of my colleagues just starting grabbing a whole bunch of chairs that we sit in and piling them against the door.”
Wilks said the impetus behind piling chairs was not to stop the gunman, but to slow him down should he try to enter. The door was the only thing that separated them from the hallway where the shooter was.
“After that myself and a number of my other colleagues who were former policemen more or less tried and were successful in calming everyone down and making sure that we were quiet,” he said. They then waited for security, which arrived shortly after.
“Then we were in lockdown and waited until security said that it was okay for us to leave,” Wilks said, adding that was several hours.
Security, which included the House of Commons security, Senate security, the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police, would periodically stop by to provide updates once the scene was secured. Then they arranged transportation for the MPs and their staff.
One of the problems Wilks noted was with the door closed, you could hear gunfire, but there’s no way to tell who is shooting.
“My assumption is always, until told otherwise, it’s the bad guy, and you act accordingly,” Wilks said.
On Thursday morning, Wilks said he had no apprehension about heading back into the House of Commons.
“Today was much more normal, with the exception that no visitors were allowed into the House today,” he said. Part of the House of Commons was still a crime scene, so the only ones allowed in were members of parliament and their staff.
“Other than that it started off at 10 o’clock and we continued with business at hand,” he said.
“Security here was amazing,” he said. “Hats off to not only the House of Commons and Senate security, but also the OPP and RCMP. I was able to get to my office this morning and then get to Centre Block. There were RCMP there and we were ID’ed to make sure we were members of parliament.”
Wilks said he hopes this doesn’t have an affect on Canada’s openness.
“This is referred to as the People’s House. Since 1867 anyone could come in here. Although under normal circumstances they go through security.”
He said certain aspects of security will likely be beefed up a bit.
“Their job is to protect us. They do a very good job at it and they have my highest regard for that.”
Wilks noted that things changed as a result of Wednesday’s events.
“What I’ve always said is that it seems that there is a little bit of complacency on the part of not politicians, but Canadians in general,” he said. “With regards to the fight is over there, as in Iraq, Syria, Iran and those areas in the Middle East, but it has moved here and the game changed. So we can’t say anymore that it can’t happen here, because it’s happened twice this week.”
Wilks was referring to the hit-and-run attack that killed a soldier in Quebec on Monday.