PAJ Issue 3 NA


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T he morning after his daring heroics — diving from behind a pillar inside the House of Commons to shoot dead a gunman who had just killed a soldier — Parliament's sergeant-at- arms Kevin Vickers awoke before dawn and wept. "It was the loneliest moment of my life," he said, his voice faltering. And as accolades and tributes to his fortitude and strength in protecting the centre of Canada's democracy flooded in after the Ottawa attack last October, Vickers himself retreated to his family's log home in Miramichi, N.B., where he called his parish priest and — while holding his young grandchildren — prayed for Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the gunman he killed. He told the gripping account of the aftermath of the terror attack on Parliament to graduating students at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., last May, when he was awarded an honorary degree. Vickers, 58, drew a direct line from growing up in Miramichi under the influence of his mother and fa- ther, through his career with the RCMP to his con- frontation with a killer in Parliament's Hall of Honour on Oct. 22, 2014. He said he knew what he wanted to do with his life when, walking past the courthouse as a young boy, he watched three members of the RCMP walking out in their red serge uniforms. He spent 29 years in the force. "One of the things that struck me during my career is I obtained 17 confessions from men who've killed people," Vickers told graduates and faculty. "The reason that I was able to get those confessions and facilitate those men telling me their stories was what my father, Bill Vickers, instilled in me way back when: regardless how repulsive the crime, you always respect the dignity of their person." That philosophy has always guided him, he said, and his faith in it was again tested after the shooting. He took the job as director of security at the House of Commons in 2005 after retiring from the RCMP. On his way to the job interview he saw a father playing Frisbee with a boy on the lawn outside Parliament. "I was instantly enamoured with the place and I wanted to protect it. I wanted to keep it safe from harm," he said. He became sergeant-at-arms the following year, promising in his job interview, "If you people make me the sergeant-at-arms, there will be no walls built around Canada's Parliament buildings." He was largely seen by the public only as a ceremonial fixture in the arcane traditions of Parliament, wearing an archaic hat and carrying the ceremonial mace into the House of Commons before each sitting. "My career as sergeant-at-arms went by very quickly and then on Oct. 22 came that day, that tragic day," he said, his voice betraying emotion. 26 w w w . p o l i c e a d v o c a t e s j o u r n a l . c o m THE AFTERMATH It was the 'loneliest moment of my life,' hero of Parliament Hill shooting tells students BY ADRIAN HUMPHERYS "There was a moment when I thought I'd just reach out and grab the gun." Kevin Vickers addressed Convocation at Mount Allison University on May 11, 2015. He told students that his father told him that "regardless how repulsive the crime, you always respect the dignity of their person." PHOTO: Daniel St. Louis

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