Public eyes on Parliament shooting

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RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has some explaining to do, and it would be best done by video -- the release, that is, of the security tape that captured the final moments of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the man who stormed Parliament Hill in October after shooting dead a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial. Questions about how the shooter got past Hill security still need answering, more than a month after the event.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2014 (2861 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has some explaining to do, and it would be best done by video — the release, that is, of the security tape that captured the final moments of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the man who stormed Parliament Hill in October after shooting dead a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial. Questions about how the shooter got past Hill security still need answering, more than a month after the event.

Canadians should not have to take the RCMP’s account at face value. But this, now, is what the commissioner is telling Canadians, and told the House of Commons committee that passed Bill C-44 on Monday. (The bill would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stronger investigative tools and permit the immigration minister to revoke citizenship faster from dual citizens convicted of terrorism and treason.)

Shortly after Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed in the alcove of the doors of the Library of Parliament Oct. 22, the commissioner told Canadians the security footage would be released and that he would try to see it was done expeditiously. On Monday, however, he said Canadians might get a redacted version of the transcript of what happened in the Centre Block where MPs were filing into their caucus rooms along the Hall of Honour.

DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Files DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / OTTAWA / JACK LAYTON

This was mere minutes after the shooter killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing as an honour guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, across the street from the Parliament Buildings. He then raced to the stone gates where he got past police, stole a vehicle and drove the short distance to the Peace Tower entrance to Centre Block.

Ottawa police received a 911 call after Cpl. Cirillo was killed, but no warning call was made to the RCMP, responsible for security on the grounds, or to Parliament security, with responsibility for the buildings themselves.

At Centre Block, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was confronted by a parliamentary guard, he shot his rifle, and the bullet ricocheted off the floor into the guard’s leg. The shooter, who was inspired by a jihadist agenda, ran up the stairs to the Hall of Honour where, according to media reports Monday he was wounded in an initial exchange of gunfire. He was then gunned down by police and parliamentary security in the alcove to the Library of Parliament.

But these are the bare bones of the events. Mr. Paulson says his force’s investigation of Oct. 22 continues, but doesn’t see the value in a public release of the video that is central to examining security on Parliament Hill. The lack of communication among the four forces — Senate security watches over that chamber’s sections of the buildings — tasked to protect the parliamentary precinct was highlighted in an auditor general report in 2012.

Weeks ago, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney should have had a complete report on what happened and where security fell down on Oct. 22.

If such a shooting had taken place on Capitol Hill, American legislators would have had security officials at a Congressional grilling within days. Indeed, when a man with a knife breached the security of the White House Sept. 19, Congress had Secret Service director Julia Pierson before them 10 days later. On Oct. 1, she resigned.

But Canadians are somehow expected to wait and wait, and then trust what they are told by RCMP of an extraordinary threat at their seat of democracy.

There is no reason why, when the review is complete, the security video should not be released publicly. The idea it may compromise security on the Hill is specious; making the weak spots public should ensure they are corrected. Mr. Blaney cannot evade such accountability, even if the head of the national policing force can’t recognize who, ultimately, he serves.

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