Canadians return to shooting scene

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Canadians have returned to the reopened grounds of Parliament Hill just three days after a gunman murdered a soldier at the national war memorial then stormed parliament before he was gunned down.

House speaker Andrew Scheer said tours of parliament would resume on Monday, but visitors could expect to see a heightened Royal Canadian Mounted Police presence at entrances. Counselling sessions would be provided for Commons staff, he said.

The reopening comes at a time when Canadians are debating how to balance homeland safety and freedoms in a country that treasures its image as an orderly, open society, a place where the seat of government welcomes weekly public yoga sessions on its front lawn beneath a monument called the Peace Tower.

Brett Connors was among the visitors who came to the reopened grounds of Parliament Hill, accompanying his 11-year-old daughter’s youth hockey team as players took photos in front of a flame commemorating the nation’s 1967 centennial. He said reopening Parliament Hill, and soon the building, to the public sent an important signal.

“It represents democracy. So by closing it, it’s like closing the country down,” said Mr Connors, of Scarborough, near Toronto. “One single incident can’t be bigger than our whole democracy.”

“You have tragedy, but you have to rise from that.”

Shirley Savage made a point of visiting the grounds during a weekend trip from her home in Belleville, Ontario. She had been there before, but this time, the visit symbolised “the fact that Canadians are standing together”, she said.

The attack in Ottawa came two days after a man described as an “Isil (Islamic State)-inspired terrorist” ran over two soldiers in a car park in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot dead by police.

The man had been under surveillance by Canadian authorities who feared he had jihadist ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey.

The Ottawa gunman was identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32. Muslim leaders said he once complained that a Vancouver mosque he attended was too liberal and inclusive and was kicked out after he repeatedly spent the night there even though officials told him to stop.

On Wednesday, Zehaf-Bibeau gunned down Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, who was assigned to the honour guard at the national war memorial. Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually shot dead inside parliament by the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers.

Zehaf-Bibeau’s motive remains unknown, but prime minister Stephen Harper has called the shooting a terror attack, and the bloodshed raised fears that Canada is suffering reprisals for joining the US-led air campaign against IS extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Unlike the attacker in the Quebec case, Zehaf-Bibeau was not being watched by authorities. But a police chief said Zehaf-Bibeau – whose father was from Libya – may have lashed out in frustration over delays in getting his passport.

Abubakir Abdelkareem, who often visited the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter where Zehaf-Bibeau stayed in recent weeks, said Zehaf-Bibeau told him he had had a drug problem but had been clean for three months and was trying to steer clear of temptation by going to Libya.

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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