In the midst of the terrible tragedy and fear that overtook Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, there were moments of heroism and pride.
Commendations rolled in for the Ottawa police and their quick response to protect those in the downtown core, after one or more gunmen opened fire at the National War Memorial and prompted a full lockdown on Parliament Hill.
Respect and prayers were sent to the family of the yet-unnamed guard shot and killed at the beginning of Tuesday’s chaos, and all men and women who wear a military uniform across the country.
And there was also a flurry of commendation for the country’s Sergeant-At-Arms, 57-year-old Kevin Vickers, a veteran of the RCMP and the protector of the House of Commons.
According to several Members of Parliament and the Canadian Press, Vickers stepped into duty on Wednesday and shot a suspected gunman during the chaos on Parliament Hill.
“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Conservative MP Julian Fantino told QMI Agency. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”
According to the Government of Canada, the Sergeant-at-Arms is a largely ceremonial position that, among other administrative duties, “is one of the officers who may administer the oath of allegiance to newly elected Members (of Parliament).”
As Sergeant-at-Arms, Vickers leads the Speaker of the House of Commons into the Chamber each day while carrying a decorative mace.
But aside from his ceremonial duties, Vickers is also responsible for the safety of those in the House of Commons. While that usually relates to handling misbehaving visitors in the public galleries or lobbies, today it meant much, much more.
Conservative MPs Peter MacKay and Julian Fantino, NDP MP Craig Scott and others posted their heartfelt thanks to Twitter, telling the public that Vickers played a key role in subduing the attacker on Parliament Hill.
Vickers was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms in 2006, one year after joining the House of Commons as Director of Security of Operations. At that time he had already been celebrated for his 29 years of service with the Mounties.
He had previously worked as RCMP district commander of the Acadian Peninsula and director general of the National Contract Policing Branch. He has previously provided security for Her Majesty the Queen and his Royal Highness, Prince Andrew.
Before being named Sergeant-at-Arms, Vickers was the aide-de-campe for the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick and received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Canadian 125 Medal and the RCMP Long Service Medal.
Vickers was the lead RCMP Inspector during the Burnt Church Crisis – a series of clashes and shootings between members of the Burnt Church First Nations and non-native fishermen in 1999 and 2000 over the right to fish for lobster in New Brunswick.
He was honoured by the Community of Burnt Church for leading the crisis to a peaceful conclusion.
If reports that Vickers was involved in neutralizing an attacker on Parliament Hill, it would not be the first time the Sergeant-at-Arms had been called into action. In 1984, René Jalbert, Quebec’s Sergeant-at-Arms, subdued an attacker who had killed three and injured 13 others in an attack on the National Assembly. Jalbert later received a Police Exemplary Service Medal for his bravery.