OTTAWA — Members of Parliament bowed their heads in silence and the flag atop the Peace Tower flew at half-mast Tuesday as the House of Commons and its denizens paid tribute to the victims of a "horrific" and "senseless" tragedy in Canada's most populous city.
MPs from both sides of the aisle stood to deliver statements of condolence for the impacted families and praise for first responders, most notably the Toronto police officer who took down the perpetrator following a dramatic confrontation captured on video by a bystander.
"On a peaceful, sunny day in spring, we saw it marred by senseless brutality, taking the lives of 10 innocent people and sending many more to hospital," said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
"We have all by now seen how this cowardly attacker was confronted and subdued by a single brave Toronto police officer, exemplifying the best of Toronto's first responders."
Speaker Geoff Regan led the Commons in a moment of silence, but not before he added his own voice to the chorus of dismay.
"All too soon, we find ourselves once again offering condolences for the tragic and unexpected loss of life many of our fellow citizens have had to bear," said Regan, an apparent reference to the deadly bus crash on April 6 that killed 16 people in Saskatchewan.
"Theirs is a deeply personal loss that can only be imagined by those of us who did not know their loved ones."
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale offered separate messages of sorrow and solidarity following the deadly rental-van rampage that killed 10 pedestrians and injured 14 others.
Both were careful to note that the attack appears to have no link to terrorism, and to steer clear of any rhetoric that might risk fanning the flames of speculation and innuendo.
"The events that took place ... in Toronto were a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy," Trudeau said, extending the government's condolences to the victims and their families, and praising the first responders on the scene.
"They handled this extremely difficult situation with professionalism and bravery. They faced danger without a moment of hesitation, and there is no doubt that their courage saved lives and prevented further injuries."
The investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but Goodale — speaking at a news conference in Toronto, where he happens to be for a meeting of his G7 counterparts — said there is nothing to suggest Canada's national security is under threat.
"The investigation that is underway is still in its very early hours, but thus far there is no discernible connection to national security in the incident last evening, based on all available information at the present time," he said.
"Police are obviously going to be very busy today and the days ahead to examine all the circumstances and the background to this situation, to determine exactly what happened and why. And they will have full support from the government of Canada."
Goodale thanked other countries, especially the United States, for their condolences and offers of help. He, too, commended the first responders.
The attack took place early Monday afternoon when a man allegedly drove a van down a busy stretch of sidewalk on Yonge Street in the city's north end.
Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., was apprehended by police without incident not long after the attack, following a dramatic standoff in which he repeatedly mimicked the motion of drawing a weapon on an advancing police officer with his own gun drawn.
Minassian appeared in a packed Toronto courtroom this morning clad in a white jumpsuit, saying only his name during the brief hearing. He is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
It's far from the first time that bystanders or passersby have been targeted by assailants using a van or a truck as a weapon. A series of deadly attacks in recent years, including in France, Berlin and Barcelona, have prompted renewed fears around the world about so-called soft targets.
"Obviously, we need to continue to reflect on the changing situations in which we're in," Trudeau said.
"But we cannot as Canadians choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business. We need to focus on doing what we can and we must to keep Canadians safe while we stay true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear."
Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole, who represents the Toronto-area riding of Durham, suggested Tuesday that the time may have come for a discussion about how better to protect people who are exposed to traffic.
"Sadly, it might be something we have to look at in very heavy, pedestrian-friendly areas," O'Toole said.
"This is something Canadians shouldn't have to worry about: going out to have lunch on a nice day when we've been waiting for spring ... We've got to learn how to prevent it, how to identify early antisocial behaviour before it turns into something terrible."
The Canadian Press