Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms in charge of security on the Parliament Hill, shot down an armed gunman inside the Centre Block as MPs attended caucus meetings, multiple reports say.
“MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs’ caucus rooms,” NDP MP Craig Scott said on Twitter.
“We are really thankful to the sergeant-at-arms,” NDP MP Peggy Nash (High Park) said in a telephone interview, adding that all of the security detail were “very, very courageous.”
The gunman was fatally shot. Vickers was not injured in the attack and was taken to an Ottawa police station to give a statement, CBC News reported shortly before 1 p.m.
Scott later said it was “amazing” that Vickers was the one to take down the assailant.
“There is something amazing about that, because it’s such a symbolic position, carrying the mace and all that sort of stuff and yet he does run our security,” he said.
“I’m almost certain he saved lives. There is just no way that a guy with that kind of fire power was not going to be able to find a target.”
Vickers is easy to notice on Parliament Hill.
Standing 6-foot-4, and powerfully built, he wears an antiquated-looking uniform, and carries a ceremonial sword and the Mace for the opening and closing of the Chamber each day.
He or his deputies also sit through debates.
A highly decorated veteran of the RCMP, Vickers was appointed to the historic Sergeant-at-Arms position in 2006, after serving as the House of Commons director of security operations, starting in June 2005.
He brought with him a reputation for soft-spoken diplomacy.
He told the local Telegraph-Journal that he found it comfortable and comforting to see fathers and sons tossing Frisbees on the lawn of Parliament Hill.
He also spoke to the press of how he didn’t want to see fences around Canada’s Parliament.
“In America, security trumps all,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t think that’s the Canadian way.”
He put his diplomatic reputation on display in the summer of 2000, when he was incident commander for the Mounties in Burnt Church, N.B. in a dispute over native fisheries and land claims.
His role made him the man-in-the-middle between angry politicians and fishermen and Native activist warriors.
His immediate response was to send in plainclothes aboriginal officers carrying donuts and coffee to talk with protestors, allowing them to vent.
“Our way of dealing with those in difficulty or in violation of the law is not founded solely in the rule of law, but rather upon respect of human dignity,” Vickers later wrote, adding that the Canadian way “includes respect, dialogue, facilitation, empathy, education and, when necessary, enforcement.”
“I guess it’s my Miramichi background,” he told the local Telegraph-Journal in 2006. “I was always raised to see the dignity of the person as very important.”
He was also involved in the bitter aftermath of a 1997 RCMP crackdown on protests over school closures in Saint-Sauveur, N.B., delivering an apology to residents for police heavy-handedness and pledged the force would rely on mediation first in the future.
Vickers was born in Miramichi, N.B., where his mother was a nurse and his father ran a dairy operation.
He rose in the RCMP to serve as the force’s district commander of Acadian Peninsula and director-general of National Contract Policing Branch. He also has experience working security at the New Brunswick legislature, according to a statement by Conservative minister Rob Nicholson announcing his appointment in 2006.
“Not only does he bring to the position an impressive background in safety and security, he also embodies those qualities that parliamentarians and Canadians expect in a Sergeant-at-Arms,” Nicholson said at the time.
“I have every confidence that Mr. Vickers will fulfill his role as sergeant-at-arms with the same loyalty, distinction and honour that he has displayed during his career.”
As sergeant-at-Arms, Vickers hasn’t been known to grant media interviews or seek the limelight. In 2011, after working to ensure the Sikh religious dagger, the kirpan, would not be banned from Parliament in Ottawa, Vickers was recognized with a special ceremony by the World Sikh Organization.
His honours include the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Canada 125 Medal and RCMP Long Service Medal.
With files from Joanna Smith