Canadian parliament locked down, one suspected gunman reported dead


A gunman shot and wounded a soldier in Ottawa on Wednesday and then entered the country's parliament buildings chased by police, with at least 30 shots fired in dramatic scenes in the heart of the Canadian capital.

A suspected gunman was shot dead inside the parliament building, a government minister said.

It was not clear whether the suspect had acted alone. Ottawa police said they were actively looking for one or more suspects.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in a caucus meeting in parliament when gunfire erupted in the building, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, a former policeman, told the Toronto Sun.

Harper was later safely removed from the building, and parliament was locked down.

Fantino said parliament's head of security, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), had shot a suspect dead.

“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Fantino said. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”

Dramatic video footage posted by the Globe and Mail newspaper showed police with guns drawn inside the main parliament building. At least a dozen loud bangs can be heard on the clip, echoing through the hallway.

'DANGER HERE'

As the drama enfolded, police in dark bulletproof vests and automatic weapons flooded the streets near parliament.

Some took cover behind vehicles, and shouted to people to clear the area, saying: “We do not have the suspect in custody. You are in danger here.”

Members of parliament were told to lock themselves in their offices, and stay away from the windows.

“If your door does not lock, find a way to barricade the door, if possible. Do not open a door under any circumstances,” said a security alert issued by parliament officials.

People in downtown Ottawa should stay away from windows and off roofs due to an “ongoing police incident,” the RCMP cautioned in a statement.

All cell phones in the area were blocked.

The wounded soldier was taken into an ambulance in which medical personnel could be seen giving him cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

The shooting came two days after an Islamic convert ran down two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, near Montreal, before being shot and killed by police.

'DOUBLE-BARRELED SHOTGUN'

A construction worker on the scene in Ottawa told Reuters he heard a gunshot, and then saw a man with a scarf over his face running towards parliament.

“He was wearing blue pants and a black jacket and he had a double barreled shotgun and he ran up the side of this building here and hijacked a car at gunpoint,” construction worker Scott Walsh told Reuters.

The driver got out safely, then the man drove the car to the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, where construction work is underway, Walsh said.

The suspected gunman rushed past a woman with a child in a stroller, who ran away screaming. He did not attack the woman or child, he said.

Centre Block is the main building on Parliament Hill, a sprawling complex of buildings and open space in downtown Ottawa. It contains the House of Commons and Senate chambers as well as the offices of some members of parliament, senators, and senior administration for both legislative houses.

One member of parliament, Mark Strahl, tweeted from inside parliament: “Very tense situation in Ottawa this morning. Multiple gun shots fired outside of our caucus room. I am safe and in lockdown. Unbelievable.”

Security on Parliament Hill is fairly low-key, compared with Capitol Hill in Washington. Anybody could walk right up to the front door of parliament's Centre Block with arms and explosives without being challenged before entering the front door, where a few guards check accreditation.

The room where the caucus of the governing Conservatives meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper is perhaps 100 feet (30 meters) from that door.

The Canadian military closed its bases across the country following the events in Ottawa, CBC TV said.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins,; Writing by Andrea Hopkins and Frances Kerry; Editing by Amran Abocar; and Peter Galloway

Obama says Canada shootings tragic, offers assistance


President Barack Obama called the shootings in Ottawa on Wednesday “tragic” and said they reinforced the need for vigilance against acts of violence and terrorism.

U.S. officials said there was no specific indication of a similar attack in the United States, but reinforced warnings to Americans to be alert.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama said he did not have information on the motive behind the shooting or whether the gunman who was involved in an incident in which a flurry of shots were fired inside the Canadian parliament was part of a broader network.

But he pledged the United States and Canada would work together: “It's very important, I think, for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, that Canada and the United States (have) to be entirely in sync.”

Obama offered U.S. assistance in a telephone call with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was in parliament when the shooting occurred, the White House said.

U.S. officials said there were no specific indications of a similar impending attack in the United States.

Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Paul Bresson said FBI field offices and other government agencies had been reminded to “remain vigilant in light of recent calls for attacks against government personnel by terrorist groups and like-minded individuals.”

A Department of Homeland Security official said there had been no indication that the events in Canada indicated a threat to the United States.

Unspecified extra security was authorized at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, the nation's most hallowed tomb where ceremonial guards mount a constant watch, a Defense Department official said.

The incident in Ottawa began when a soldier was shot and fatally wounded at Canada's National War Memorial near parliament.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by David Storey and Richard Chang

Canada selects design for national Holocaust monument


A team that includes world-renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind has been chosen over five other finalists to create a national Holocaust monument in Ottawa.

The team was announced made Monday by Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Multiculturalism Minister Tim Uppal. Uppal had introduced the private member’s bill, the National Holocaust Monument Act, that led to the monument’s creation.

Scheduled for completion in the fall of 2015, the team’s design features a large gathering space for ceremonies, with room for 1,000 people, enclosed by six triangular, concrete segments to create the points of a star — reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

The winning team is led by Gail Dexter Lord, co-president of Toronto-based Lord Cultural Resources, which also consulted on the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg and the 9/11 Museum in New York. Both his parents were Holocaust survivors.

Liebeskind’s buildings include the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen and many others. In 2003, he won the competition to be the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.

In addition to Liebeskind, the team includes artist-photographer Edward Burtynsky, Quebec-based landscape architect Claude Cormier and University of Toronto Holocaust scholar Doris Bergen.

“The winning design is a fully integrated proposal in which architecture, landscape, art and interpretation communicate the hardship and suffering of victims while conveying a powerful message of humanity’s enduring strength and survival,” a government media release issued Monday said.

Once completed, Canada “will no longer be the only Allied nation without a national Holocaust monument,” noted the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “In bearing witness to the Holocaust, the monument will be a compelling reminder of the dangers of unchecked evil and the enduring imperative to confront all manifestations of anti-Semitism and hatred.”

Canadian PM Harper pressured P.A. to drop U.N. bid


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.

While in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, Harper had “a short,  brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas,” the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

“In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: If you keep doing what you're doing, he said – referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status – 'there will be consequences,'” the newspaper reported.

“It was just one part of the bare-knuckle approach Canada has taken toward the U.N. bid, though largely out of public view,” according to the newspaper

The P.A. is set on Nov. 29 to ask the U.N. General Assembly to approve Palestinian status as a non-member observer state. Abbas was rebuffed in an attempt last year to have the 15-member U.N. Security Council recognize a Palestinian state.

A source told the Globe that Canada has warned the P.A.'s envoys that their legation in Ottawa might be closed, and the Palestinian envoy,  Said Hamad, sent home.

In addition, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told several people, including Palestinian representatives, that he would travel to New York personally to cast a vote against the U.N. bid, the Globe reported.

The more serious potential aspects of the “consequences” about which Harper warned have to do with money: Ottawa pledged $300 million in aid over five years to the P.A. starting in 2008, and that period is about to run out.

Meanwhile, Australia will abstain in the U.N. vote on the status of Palestine, despite the Prime Minister reportedly being intent on siding with Israel and America in voting against the motion.

Local media reports Tuesday suggested Julia Gillard was roiled by a backbench revolt inside the Labor Party, but Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who supported abstaining, denied the charges.

Expressing disappointment at the decision, Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: “Rightly or wrongly, the decision to abstain will damage Australia’s international reputation for moral leadership on international issues, and thus our international standing.”

The opposition Liberal Party's Julie Bishop argued that the vote on whether to upgrade Palestine's status at the U.N. is “an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts.”

But Gillard and Carr issued a joint statement Tuesday backing the decision to abstain. “The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” it said.

“Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state.”

Arab-Israeli lawmaker in Ottawa speech calls for West Bank boycott


An Arab-Israeli member of Israel’s Knesset appears to have contravened an Israeli law by calling on Canadians to boycott Israel.

Ahmad Tibi, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, called for a boycott of companies and products linked to Israeli towns in the West Bank and other disputed territory, Canada’s Postmedia News reported.

During a visit to Ottawa on Monday, Tibi tested the Boycott Law, which came into force in Israel last July and allows civil actions against those who encourage boycotts against the Jewish state.

“I said that I am willing to test this immoral law trying to prevent me, as a member of the parliament, from expressing my views against the settlements in a peaceful way,” Tibi said.

Israeli Jewish settlements on the West Bank “are a cancer spreading all over Palestinian land, and cancer should be treated and eradicated,” he said. “I am talking about a peaceful and nonviolent way by not buying or selling or dealing in these products from these settlements.”

Tibi said Canada’s staunchly pro-Israel government “is not willing to differentiate between, for example, products coming from settlements and products coming from Israel.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that on the following morning, Israel Beiteinu Anglos, the English arm of the nationalist Israel political party, began a social media campaign against Tibi.

“It is about time we boycott Tibi,” a party spokesman wrote on the Israel Beiteinu Anglos Facebook Timeline. “He accepts the taxes of those brave Israelis who live over the ‘Green Line’ and then calls to boycott them.”