A typical day for Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins changed drastically last week in Ottawa after an armed man shot and killed a Canadian soldier and then stormed the Parliament Building.
Calkins gave a synopsis of his morning on the day of the shooting during a conference call Friday, Oct. 24.
While Calkins was making his way from one office to the Parliament Building, shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was on his way to the fateful shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, which led to a day of panic and concern in the capital city.
Calkins was not far ahead of the shooter.
“I didn’t know at the time but I was only a couple of minutes ahead of that individual (Zehaf-Bibeau),” said Calkins.
While Calkins arrived at the Parliament Building, Cirillo had just been shot.
Wetaskiwin MP had been in the Hall of Honour for about two minutes when people in the room heard a loud bang, which is not out of the ordinary, he explained. “But it just did not sound right to me.”
It was at this time that police were actively engaging the shooter and shortly after that 58-year-old Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers shot the culprit before he could make his way further into the Parliament building.
“I was shocked for the first few seconds,” said Calkins. “I was standing right there in the doorway.”
The Prime Minister was subsequently secured in the Caucus Room and people barricaded the doors in an effort to stay protected or defend themselves.
“I remember a very sobering moment when the sergeant-at-arms came in. You could see he was quite visibly shaken but still firm in his resolve,” said Calkins.
Getting information out to family and friends was difficult as many people were using their cellphones but Calkins did get a few emails and texts out to family and staffers.
The rest of the day involved waiting in secure areas while investigators ensured people were safe. Calkins said once he arrived at his apartment and spoke with family members, he slept like a baby.
Dealing with the aftermath
“I’m not going to let the events of that day affect me any differently than any other event in my life, that’s been a tough day,” said Calkins.
He said this shooting was directed at the Canadian Armed Forces and suggests Canadians should be mindful of the challenges they face.
“It’s too early to say if there’s going to be any long-term effects,” he said in relation to the future.
There was some backlash in Alberta Oct. 24, with vandals in Cold Lake spray painting a local mosque with slogans like “Go home” and “Canada.” Not long after however, good Samaritans helped clean up the mess to counter the vandalism.
Calkins says he feels most people have goodness in their hearts but there are some individuals who will pervert their beliefs. Vandalizing a mosque is not the answer to solving the actions of a few.
“Remember that the men and women of the Canadian Forces represent the freedoms that we have. One of those freedoms are to worship as we please and we need to be ever mindful of that,” said Calkins.
Calkins fielded other questions from reporters during the call and said he was grateful to be home with family.