Shooting on Parliament Hill: Perspective of a IV Year Cadet

My Role in the Response to the Events of 22 October

OCdt (IV) Mitchell Binding, 26552

I spent the fall semester working as an intern with the Security Operations Division (SecOps) within the Privy Council Office. This semester provided me with many unique learning opportunities, one of which was my role in the response on the 22nd of October.

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The events of 22 October 2014 will remain in our collective memory for a long time as a day when one of our own was taken from us while carrying out the most symbolic of soldierly duties. I will remember the occasion with particular detail, as I was at that moment working with PCO, barely 500 meters from ground zero of this attack.

The Langevin Block across from Parliament Hill, where most of PCO is situated.

The SecOps division is one of the groups responsible for the security of the parliamentary precinct. As soon as it became apparent that there was an active shooter on Parliament Hill, it became the responsibility of SecOps, or more specifically our Crisis Management Cell (CMC), to secure all PCO and Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) buildings and personnel – whether through lock-down, evacuation, or relocation – in close coordination with the RCMP and Ottawa Police Service.

The CMC is comprised of a group of public servants who make preparedness for these possibilities their living, and they’re very good at it. I therefore felt extremely privileged when I suddenly found myself in a seat at the table, playing a role in the response. The rapid organization of the operation centre, the difficult and quick decisions that had to be made, and the leadership moments that I witnessed provided me with valuable insight and a unique example of national level leadership in a highly stressful operational environment.

I volunteered to act as the scribe, responsible for taking detailed notes of decisions made, actions taken, people involved, and exact times. It allowed me a very involved and hands-on role that gave me a real sense of being able to contribute.

I also got to witness first hand many of the lessons that we learn through our officer training. I saw the importance of making fast decisions early on to ensure that people on the ground remained confident in the CMC; I witnessed some of the most calm and composed leadership I’ve ever seen, occasionally reminding the team to take a step back and maintain the big picture; I saw an acknowledgement of the lack of knowledge of the tactical situation on the ground whilst events were very dynamic and quickly changing, and the resulting delegation of tactical decisions to those who were better situated to deal with them; I observed the Incident Manager seizing on a quiet moment to establish a mid-action plan, getting the team to think about our plan over the next number of hours and the different courses of action we could follow if certain situations emerged; I saw that the best-laid plans are severely tested when they meet the realities of a chaotic situation; and I was shown that, even with the potential scale of the problem, it was crucial to remember to think about such ordinary tasks as ensuring that employees were still getting food throughout the hours-long lockdowns and shift replacements could get through security cordons to relieve employees at certain stations.

My ability to observe the execution of this crisis management was supplemented by the work I’ve been doing all semester with the PCO, which has been consolidating our awareness, training, and exercise programs in relation to security, emergency management, and business continuity planning – essentially our ability to pre-empt and respond to security issues and emergencies. Having been developing a program framework in this subject matter, being able to see it spring into action provided a unique educational and practical experience for me.

Between this experience, my work on the security program, and my trip to Beijing with SecOps, this internship has been an extremely valuable experience for me. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the SecOps Division at PCO, the RMC Foundation who once again has assisted in providing support for an incredible experience, and Professors Leuprecht and Last, who put a lot of time and patience into helping me pull everything together this semester.

On assignment with SecOps in Beijing