There are three lessons to take away from last Wednesday’s shootings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
The first one — one that played out in front of radio listeners and TV viewers throughout the day — is not to over-react. After Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and made a beeline for the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, those tasked with security there did their duty. They tried to stop him at the main entrance. They followed the man as he headed down the Hall of Honour and continued to exchange gunfire with him. Finally, Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers was able to fire at him and bring him down.
The media coverage of the events of the day was ongoing, but it was not filled with over-reactions. Instead, it was done in a moderate tone, with facts relayed as they became available.
An investigation is underway, and it includes a detailed look at a video the shooter left behind. It is clear that the man felt disconnected from society and that he was at least influenced by messages from ISIS on social media. Beyond that, it is unclear what influenced him to take the actions he did.
The federal government needs to take the same approach — move slowly and not over-react. There is no need for drastic changes to laws which will impact on freedoms of ordinary people. There may well be a need for increased surveillance and perhaps a blocking of social media messages from known ISIS activists.
The second lesson is that there is clearly a need for better security at the Parliament Buildings. Part of this may be due to a variety of forces being responsible for various aspects of security, but access to Parliament through the front door is too easy. If this had been a co-ordinated attack, there could have been enormous repercussions.
The third lesson is the need for all political parties to co-operate more often, as shown in Thursday’s extraordinary actions in the House of Commons. Parties can and should disagree — but they can also agree on many measures to make Canada safer and fight this new type of “lone wolf” terrorism. Canadians would greatly appreciate a parliament that works for them, not just for partisan advantage.