Gunfire on Parliament Hill ‘unnerving’: Cowichan MP

Jean Crowder felt a long way from her Nanaimo-Cowichan riding during the shocking events in Ottawa on Wednesday.

"It was pretty scary," she said over the phone as she completed the 30-minute walk to her home in the capital.

The usually urbane Crowder was at a loss for words for a moment.

"The word I find myself using most to describe it is unnerving," she said. "You just don’t anticipate anything like this."

Crowder was not on Parliament Hill itself when an armed man broke in after shooting a reserve soldier who was one of two ceremonial guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

She was at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal a couple of blocks from Parliament Hill on Elgin Street, reporting to her colleagues about the proceedings at the tribunal.

"I wasn’t in the thick of it but we also ended up being locked down. At one point they weren’t letting us leave the building and asked us to stay away from the windows. That was pretty scary."

Some of her colleagues were in a caucus meeting in the Parliament Buildings themselves and late in the day Wednesday, some of them

were still there.

"I’m almost home. They just let us get out the building with the understanding that we couldn’t get back into the building once we left. You were basically on your own hook."

It was not her normal walk home.

"There really isn’t much traffic on the streets. Out at my end of town things are, not normal, but more normal. But downtown, there’s lots of police and other vehicles. Roads are barricaded off."

Crowder first heard about the shooting on Twitter.

"I was at the tribunal for the closing arguments on this child welfare case. I was sending tweets out about what was happening there. And then I saw the early reports. It was pretty difficult for the first 10 minutes or so to get any additional news.

"Of course, you didn’t know what was happening to people. But quickly there were messages coming out that our caucus was safe and urging us to pay attention to the messages from security."

Crowder didn’t know if she would be returning to work the next day but by Thursday morning everyone was back in the House.

The three party leaders embraced each other before going to thank Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who shot the gunman who made his way into the buildings.

Across Canada Wednesday, many official areas were shut down with the country on heightened alert and Crowder didn’t know what to expect when she eventually returned to the Hill. "There is some rumour that they are breaking down doors to our offices to make sure no one is hiding in them but I can’t confirm that."

She agreed that many, many people would not be doing much

sleeping in Ottawa that night.

"I think people are feeling pretty shell-shocked because this is so far out of their experience. What

I’m seeing people do is reach out to each other because we’ve all had a similar experience today," she said.