Image of Parliament Hill via Twitter
This morning I contacted one of my favorite freelance writers, Justin Ling, to see about a story on drone regulations I was expecting. Ling’s office is literally inside parliament.
I casually texted him something like, “Dude, when will your story be ready?”
His reply: “Turn on the news.”
Twitter was already erupting with images of a soldier who had been shot while standing guard at the National War Memorial. Reports were circulating that a gunman had hijacked a car at, made his way a few blocks north to Parliament Hill, where a shootout took place, then ran into parliament itself.
I called Ling to see what was happening, hoping that he hadn't made it to the office yet. We used to work together in the Parliamentary Press Gallery covering Canadian politics. I knew full well that Wednesdays were caucus days, when all of Canada’s major political parties have their weekly meetings and journalists harass them as the exit—and Ling harasses with the best of them.
Ling picked up and said he was in the cafeteria being sequestered by Parliament Hill security guards. I could hear the sound of running, then Ling went silent for a few breathless moments.
“I gotta go, I gotta fucking go.” Click.
Around that time, the shooter stormed into Parliament. He’s been described as carrying everything from an assault rifle to a double-barreled shotgun, with long hair and a bandanna.
Nothing is confirmed as I write this, but we do know the above video is allegedly what happened inside Parliament as journalists scrummed politicians. I spent many tired Wednesdays there listening to the smooth speaking voices of politicians like Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, so the scene of cops storming in and firing on a gunman was surreal.
Ling has been live-tweeting the whole way through, because he’s a hell of a journalist. Considering the circumstances, I was surprised he even answered his phone to tell me he wouldn’t be filing a story.
This horrific attack comes on the heels of Monday’s hit-and-run incident that left one Canadian soldier dead and another in the hospital. The attacker, 25-year-old St-Jean-sur-Richelieu native Martin Rouleau—who recently converted to Islam and referred to himself as Ahmad LeConverti—was known to federal authorities as someone who had been "radicalized," according to the government. Witnesses say he was shot multiple times by local police after emerging from his overturned Nissan Altima brandishing a knife.
For now, it sounds Ling is safe and sound, being protected by armed soldiers and police who are swarming Parliament as we speak. Everyone in Ottawa—from friends I have at law school, to my sister who teaches at a rural school outside of the city—is under some sort of lockdown. It’s important to remember that this is a city known for suburban tranquility.
For now, police have an enormous chunk of Ottawa cordoned off. Everywhere from Parliament Hill to the Chateau Laurier to Sparks Street is crawling with armed law enforcement officers, and it's hard to figure out what is going on. One shooter has been confirmed dead by the CBC, with another potentially on the loose. There’s even social media reports more shots were fired down the street from Parliament.
This is big news for Canada: a shootout in the halls of the most important building in the country. What this means for future anti-terrorism legislation in Canada and the potential pitfalls that come with it remains to be seen, but the feeling that things won’t ever be the same is inescapable.
_Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter. _