Friday, 24 October 2014

Standing ovation for Canada’s hero, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers

KEVIN Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Canadian parliament and the country’s new national hero, was given a rousing standing ovation as he walked into the House of Commons on Thursday.
Mr Vickers, who shot dead the would be terror attacker Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was applauded for over two minutes by politicians who pounded their desks as the former Mountie and devoted grandfather stood motionless.
The 58-year-old Mr Vickers, who had dashed into his room to get a handgun when Zehaf-Bibeau ran into the parliament buildings, nodded his head to acknowledge the applause, his lips quivering with emotion.
On Wednesday, Zehaf-Bibeau killed Nathan Cirillo, an unarmed soldier standing guard at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then attempted to storm Parliament, where Mr Vickers shot him dead.
It has since emerged that the firs person Mr Vickers rang after the attack was his mother.

Later in the session, Prime Minister Stephen Harper lauded Mr Vickers, whose job — a mix of the ceremonial and the practical — encompasses the maintenance of safety and security in the Parliament complex.
“I would be very remiss if I did not conclude in acknowledging specifically the work of the security forces here on Parliament and the great work of our sergeant-at-arms,” Mr Harper said to more cheers and applause from the members.
Mr Harper then walked over to shake Mr Vickers’ hand and clap him on the shoulder.
“I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday’s events,” Mr Vickers said in a statement.
“However, I have the support of a remarkable security team,” he added. “Yesterday, during extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage. I am grateful and proud to be part of this team.”
He said he would have no further immediate comment on the incident while an investigation unfolded.
Video broadcast on Thursday showed Mr Vickers moments after the gunfire, walking down a corridor in the Parliament building with a handgun in his right hand.
In his statement, Mr Vickers said one of the security officers on duty with the House of Commons, Constable Samearn Son, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg but was expected to make a full recovery.
Praise for Vickers was swift and widespread.
“Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes.” tweeted Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
Mr Vickers, whose background includes providing security for visiting members of Britain’s royal family, became Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons eight years ago after a varied security career. He spent nearly 30 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, reaching the rank of chief superintendent.
A member of Parliament from Ottawa, Paul Dewar, described the 6-foot-4 Sergeant-at-Arms as “a gentle giant,” and recalled how he had scooped Mr Dewar’s young son into his arms at their first encounter.
Mr Dewar said that when Mr Vickers interviewed for the job years ago, he had stressed the importance of striking a balance so that Parliament would be secure yet remain accessible to the public.
“He said, ‘I want to make sure people are still able to play frisbee on the front lawn,”’ Mr Dewar recalled.
A former RCMP deputy commissioner, Pierre-Yves Bourduas, who also has security duties at Parliament Hill, said told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday that Mr Vickers was a meticulous planner.
“He actually did mock-up scenarios for the personnel ... very much like what happened today,” Mr Bourduas told the CBC.
Mr Vickers was born in New Brunswick and spent much of his police career there.
His son, Andrew, has carried on the family tradition as a police officer in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
Three years ago, Andrew was lauded in the federal Parliament for diving into the frigid, fast-flowing Miramichi River to rescue a drowning woman who was trying to kill herself.
“We are happy to see Andrew following in the footsteps of his dad,” said the lawmaker who saluted him, Tilly O’Neill-Gordon. Then, as on Thursday, the chamber erupted in cheers.
It’s not the first time a Canadian sergeant-at-arms has confronted a killer. In 1984, a disgruntled soldier, Denis Lortie, attacked the Quebec legislature, spraying the chamber with submachine gun fire, killing three people and wounding 13. The sergeant-at-arms, Rene Jalbert, calmly entered the chamber and talked to Lortie for several hours, eventually persuading him to surrender. Jalbert was awarded the Cross of Valor, Canada’s highest award for civilian bravery.