Colin Mayes walked into the Conservative caucus room Wednesday not realizing that within minutes, a dramatic chapter in Canadian history would unfold.
The weekly gathering of government MPs had just started and Prime Minister Stephen Harper was addressing the crowd when a series of gunshots were heard just outside of the room at 9:55 a.m.
“I was at the back of the room. What was happening was on the other side of the wall,” said Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP.
“Most of us stood up because the first reaction is to get away from danger. We looked at where we should go.”
Mayes wouldn’t get into specific details as to what occurred inside the caucus room, but says he and other MPs turned to their colleagues with law enforcement and military experience.
“They are trained to react and they took charge. They organized and knew the safest place to be and we all listened to them,” he said.
Harper was immediately removed from the caucus room and taken to a safe location.
“For all of us, our first reaction was to surround him and protect him,” said Mayes, who was locked down in the caucus room for seven hours.
“They (security) kept us briefed but the worst time was when the shots stopped. The concern was someone would be at the door that was not friendly. But the RCMP came to the door which was a relief.”
At this point, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers had shot an armed individual just outside of the caucus rooms.
“He is a hero and was the right man for the job,” said Mayes.
The entire incident began just a few minutes earlier when an individual approached the honour guard at the National War Memorial and shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist in the Canadian Forces. Cirillo died from his injuries.
On Thursday morning, MPs and parliamentary staff gathered at the War Memorial to pay tribute to Cirillo.
It’s still not determined if the shooter was acting alone or is connected to radical movements in the Middle East, but Mayes insists Wednesday’s tragedy will not deter the federal government from taking action against terrorism.
“The worst thing about fear is fear alone and we won’t go into that mode. We will continue to stand for those who are oppressed,” he said, adding, though, that he is concerned that some Canadians will use the incident as an opportunity to embrace intolerance.
“Canada is made up of different nationalities and faith groups and it has shown respect for all and it’s important to remember those values. You will always get people in society who can be radicalized or have some determination against the government.”
He admits that security on Parliament Hill must be considered in light of the violence.
“They have always been open and public facilities and they (authorities) are reviewing the things that went right and the things that need to be improved. There may be a compromise on how the government grounds are accessed.”
On Thursday morning, Mayes was preparing to be back in the House.
“We will continue with business. We will make a statement by continuing on with business here,” he said.
“The government and the opposition will continue to serve Canadians.”