Some locals with a passion for the environment attended a watershed stewardship meeting and ended up talking about terrorism, Canadian values and the Ottawa shooting.
Last week MP for Skeena-Bulkley Nathan attended a watershed stewardship conference and before presenting his speech on his bill to ban supertankers from the north coast, recounted his version of events from inside parliament during the shooting that took place on Oct. 22.
Cullen explained, quite modestly, that while the conference may not have been the proper place for a discussion about the shooting, he felt given the recent occurrence of the incident it was important to address it as it had become a part of the countries national story.
“The events in Ottawa this week seem to be very much on peoples minds and people want some conversation about that,” Cullen said as he spoke to the crowd.
Cullen explained that at around 9:30 a.m. in the morning two soldiers positioned at the cenotaph of the National War Memorial in Ottawa were attacked by a man armed with a Winchester 3030 rifle. As a result of the attack one solider, Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed. The gunman then stole a car and drove to the Parliament buildings where he managed to gain entry to the building and opened fire.
Cullen explained that as the shooting began he was getting ready to leave parliament to return to British Columbia for a radio interview.
“I was just on my way to the door and there was this big clamour, as if someone had knocked over a table of trays,” said Cullen. “No one thought at first that it was gunfire because it’s so out of context,” he added.
Cullen and the rest of NDP caucus attempted to lock the doors of their meeting room but found that the locks were old and not in very good condition, something Cullen said would be addressed immediately.
“When I got to the door, our security guy came through our doors to shut them and we tried to shut them but realized that they don’t lock very well,” Cullen said. “He [the security guard] then, quite bravely, stood with his back to the door to keep the door shut.”
Because of the confusion during the incident both politicians and police officials were unsure of whether this was being perpetrated by one gunman or a multitude of people.
“The amount of gunfire was impressive, there was no way you could have convinced me there was only one shooter,” said Cullen. “There was somewhere between 80 to 100 gunshots fired within 15 or 20 seconds.”
Because of the uncertainty of whether or not there were multiple threats, security and police officials raided each room in the building, breaking down doors as they did so, according to Cullen.
“My guys are sitting in this office and we’re hearing these doors being smashing in, one after another, down the hallway, but we didn’t know who was was doing the smashing,” he said.
Despite all the tragedy of the event, Cullen said had the attack come just 30 or 40 minutes later it would have been exponentially worse.
“Another 30 or 40 minutes later would have been the time when all the caucuses would have been let loose. During that time the hallways are crammed with politicians, reporters and public staff so as bad as this was another 40 minutes and there would have been no way for the police to shoot him.”
Eventually the gunman was shot and killed by the Parliament’s Sergeant at Arms, Kevin Vickars. Cullen spoke to Vickars after the shooting had finished,
“I talked to our sergeant at arms… his comment was ‘I just ended someones life, someone who was a son and a friend and I’ve just ended this guy.’”
Aside from the inner details of what is poised to be the biggest news story of the year, Cullen also spoke to the importance of keeping our collective heads during this trying and emotional time saying,
“Freedom of assembly, speech and thought, those are all fundamental Canadian values and it would be a real loss if we sacrificed all of those because of what happened.”
Cullen said that while he is sure security at Pariliament Hill will be increased he and his party are committed to keeping the house a “peoples house” as he put it.
“I’m quite committed that the house stays the peoples house and that we don’t turn it into a fortress,” he said. “A million people come through the House of Commons every year and I’m not willing to change that.”
Cullen also spoke of the unknowns still yet to be discovered about the incident and said that the life of the shooter was one he does not wish on anyone.
“Who knows what he was thinking, what was going on in this guys life is not a life I would wish for anybody; drug addictions, mental health issues and some perverted form of Islam that had been rejected by the [Muslim] community because it was a violent strain… We don’t know, we’re going to find out, but what we can’t do is male laws that sacrifice our civil liberties because of one lone gunman.”