IN THE NEWS ~ Investigation into Oct. 22 attack on Parliament Hill still ongoing four months later

Tim Naumetz, The Hill Times

PARLIAMENT HILL-An outside investigation of RCMP and Commons security actions the day a gunman stormed into Parliament's Centre Block last October before being shot dead in an exchange of gunfire is still underway, despite the four months that have passed after the brief burst of violence that kept Parliament locked down for 10 hours.

The Hill Times has also learned through statements from the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police, which is investigating the events of last Oct. 22 at the request of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu'Appelle, Sask.) and the Mounties, that the results of the inquiry might never be made public.

"The reviews have not yet been completed. Once they are received and reviewed, a determination at that time will be made among the RCMP and our security partners (on Parliament Hill) as to whether they will be publicly released," the media branch for the RCMP National Division said in an emailed response to questions.

A spokesperson for the OPP confirmed the investigation has not yet been completed, and said it will be up to Mr. Scheer and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to release the results of the inquiry.

"That will ultimately be up to the RCMP or the Speaker, who made the other request, as well," OPP Sgt. Peter Leon said in a telephone interview.

"The only thing I can let you know is our investigation is still continuing and I don't have anything additional or new to report at this time."

Sgt. Leon added: "With respect to your other question regarding when it will be completed, again, there has never been a date or a timeline identified. It will be done when it is in fact done and that information will be conveyed back to the originators of the requests."

Opposition MPs and Senators who opposed a motion the government rushed through the Commons and the Senate last month, calling for the RCMP to take command of Parliamentary security in the aftermath of the attack by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, argued the controversial step should not be taken until the conclusions of the OPP investigation are in.

Although the substantial aspects of the debate centred on constitutional implications of the change, because of the statutory direction and ultimate authority Cabinet has over the federal police force, MPs also argued the Commons security officers, including then Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, were the first to confront and fatally shoot Zehaf-Bibeau minutes after he murdered a reserve soldier standing sentry near the National War Memorial.

Zehalf-Bibeau, whose personally recorded account of his reasons for the attack is to be released by Mr. Paulson in a Commons committee on Friday, easily breached an RCMP patrol car security perimetre in front of Parliament before pushing his way through the Centre Block's main front doors. Unarmed Commons Security Service Constable Samearn Son was the first to confront Zehalf-Bibeau, and was hit in his ankle with bullet fragments when Zehalf-Bibeau's rifle went off as Mr. Sun tried to wrest it from him.

Former Globe and Mail reporter Josh Wingrove recorded the scene with his cell phone camera. The video of the indoor pursuit by Commons officers, with pistol-wielding RCMP officers now also closing in, captured the sound of gunshots and yelling that took place before Zihaf-Bibeau was shot to death in front of the Library of Parliament, only a few metres beyond a committee room where Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) was meeting his caucus and another committee room where NDP Leader Tom Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) was gathered with his caucus.

In the days after the attack, Mr. Paulson told a news conference he expected the OPP investigation would be concluded quickly.

"Consistent with the principles of independent investigation where police shootings or use of force result in serious injury or death, the RCMP has asked the Ontario Provincial Police to take complete conduct of the investigation of the shooting of Zehaf-Bibeau inside Parliament," Mr. Paulson told a news conference.

"The RCMP is confident we will have an authoritative and detailed account of the shooting, including a complete reconstruction of the heroic actions of those involved, in the weeks to come," Mr. Paulson said.

The review Mr. Scheer sought from the OPP appeared to be more extensive. "The Speaker has requested a comprehensive review of all actions that were taken, specifically to examine security systems and procedures, to identify what worked, and to make improvements where necessary," said an Oct. 27 statement from the Board of Internal Economy that Mr. Scheer chairs as Speaker.

Opposition MPs on Thursday said they are not surprised the OPP investigation has been lengthy, but NDP House leader Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C.) emphasized his party's objections to the government rush to hand over a unified security branch as part of the reaction to the attack to the Mounties.

"I think looking into the incident takes time, and it's not uncommon that it may take a few months," Mr. Julian said in an interview. "What was obviously premature was the motion that the Prime Minister's Office foisted on the House of Commons a couple of weeks ago."

Mr. Julian added: "This is not something that came of the Speakers' offices. It is not something that came from the security discussions that were taking place. It was basically Conservatives driving through what is a fundamental change, and doing it even though the RCMP had said that they were not ready, the investigation by the OPP had not been completed. It just shows how back-of-the-napkin this Conservative government is when it comes to fundamental changes."

Mr. Julian said it was "irresponsible" for the government to push the motion through both houses of Parliament, eliminating the independent security services. "It's also very much a slap in the face for the brave men and women who protected us on Oct. 22. They showed enormous courage and the Conservatives had treated them despicably," he said.

Government Whip in the House John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, B.C.) said the debate was not rushed. "There have been discussions going on for a very long time," he said. "Finally, this is not unconstitutional. The Speaker, in many ways, is the keeper of that very point. I am confident, as are others who have looked at this question, that the motion is absolutely consistent with our constitutional separation."

Critics say RCMP command of the security service could threaten Parliament's independence, and some have predicted a constitutional challenge if the plan goes ahead.

The RCMP Act, which establishes the relationship between Cabinet and the RCMP, gives Cabinet the authority to appoint or dismiss the RCMP Commissioner "who, under the direction of the Minister (of Public Safety), has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force."

Mr. Scheer and Senate Speaker Pierre-Claude Nolin wrote Mr. Paulson the day after the government's security motion passed through the Senate to invite him to begin discussions to establish the new regime.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Man.) said there is a need for Parliament to move speedily to unify Parliament Hill security in the aftermath of the unprecedented attack.

"The potential harm that could have been caused in different circumstances could have been much more overwhelming in its terror," Mr. Lamoureux said in an interview. "At the end of the day, I think we need to learn something from it. I don't think it needs to be studied to death."

Mr. Lamoureux said he expects some of the OPP conclusions and observations might remain secret.

"I suspect there will be some details that will be public, in terms of future security of the premise, but there's also going to be details that will not become public, and nor should they become public because of the very nature that we're talking about the future security," he said.

[email protected]

The Hill Times


Latest posts

Share this page

Are you ready to take action?

Attend an Event
Constituent Resources

Sign up for updates