Image of Parliament Hill via Twitter.
This morning I contacted one of my favourite 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 shot soldier who was standing guard at the National War Memorial. A crowd of bystanders feverishly performed CPR on an unseen victim lying next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, national war memorial.
Reports were circulating that a gunman, hijacking a car at gunpoint, made his way a few blocks north to Parliament Hill where a shootout took place. The gunman reportedly then ran into parliament.
I called Ling to see what was happening, hoping that he’d been up the night before, and had not made it into the office early.
We used to work together in the Parliamentary Press Gallery covering Canadian politics. I knew full well that Wednesdays were caucus days, where all of Canada’s major political parties have their weekly meetings and journalists harass them as the exit—and Justin Ling harasses with the best of them.
Ling answered the phone and said he was in the cafeteria being sequestered by Parliament Hill security guards. I could hear running, then Ling went silent for a few breathless moments.
“I gotta go, I gotta fucking go.” Click.
In or around that time, the active shooter fresh from attacking and gunning down a soldier at the National War Memorial, stormed into parliament with similar intentions. He’s been described as carrying everything from an assault rifle to a double-barrelled shotgun, with long hair and a bandanna.
Nothing is completely confirmed, but we do know this video is allegedly what happened inside parliament as journalists scrummed politicians. I spent many tired Wednesdays there listening to the smooth baritone of Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau, so the scene of RCMP 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.
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-Richilieu 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 RCMP and the Prime Minister's Office. 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, but 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 Parliament Hill, the Chateau Laurier, to Sparks Street is crawling with armed law enforcement. 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-terrorist 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.