10/23/2014 10:43 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST

Toronto MPs Describe Taking Refuge During Parliament Hill Shooting

A pair of Toronto-area MPs told Metro Morning how they took refuge Wednesday while a gunman ran through the Centre Block of Parliament after a shooting that killed a soldier outside at the War Memorial.

MPs Julian Fantino (Conservative, Vaughan) and Chrystia Freeland (Liberal, Toronto Centre) told host Matt Galloway how they followed the orders of security staff to stay behind locked doors after shots rang outside in the Centre Block hallway.

Fantino, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was inside a Conservative caucus meeting when the shooting started.

"We identified it for what it was immediately … and we prepared ourselves" said Fantino a former chief of the Toronto police and commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. He and other Conservative MPs prepared to defend the room against the possible entry of the armed intruder.

They used furniture to barricade the caucus room door and obeyed orders to remain inside and stay away from the windows.

"The mood was one of concern obviously, but everyone was engaged … in preparing what we thought might happen next," said Fantino. "Everybody went into action. We had to protect ourselves against the entry of the gunman."

Fantino said Harper was quickly escorted from the room by security staff at the sound of shots being fired.

"It was imperative that he be put in a safe place, and that did happen."

The gunman was mortally wounded by RCMP and the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms outside the Parliamentary Library. For a few frantic hours, it wasn't clear whether there were more shooters, forcing everyone to remain in lockdown while security personnel secured the area.

Freeland was walking toward the Liberal caucus meeting when she heard shots.

"I recognized them as shots and I ran down the hallway," she said.

Security staff hustled her into what turned out to be a locker room for guards.

"They told me to go into a closet space at the back of the room and hide there. And that's what I did."

She stayed in that room for about 90 minutes, where she was joined by another Toronto MP Adam Vaughan (Liberal, Trinity-Spadina). Later she was put into a larger room with other MPs, senators, and a handful of people who were visiting the House of Commons that day.

"There were babies there, there were children, there were people from around the world," said Freeland. "What had been a day of seeing Canadian democracy in action, turned out to be a very frightening day for them."

Praise for security staff

Both Fantino and Freeland praised House of Commons security staff and the RCMP for their work in keeping people safe during the attack.

Fantino said the attack should serve as a warning and raises the need for a second look at security on Parliament Hill.

"We have to take notice of the fact that we've been violated in the most brutal way," he said. "The heart and soul of our democratic system. We don't create a fortress but we have to elevate our preparedness to deal with these potential threats. I know that things will change. We have to be mindful of our vulnerabilities."

Freeland said it's important that MPs will be back in their seats today.

"I think it's important that we not be intimidated by this," she said. "And not … let this change the nature of our democracy. We have to keep going and we have to remain who we are."


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