Thursday, October 23, 2014


The sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers, walks past the library where Michael Zehaf Bibeau was gunned down, on Thursday October 23, 2014 in Ottawa.
  • Kevin Vickers was different. Most high-ranking cops, at least to native eyes, would come rolling into Burnt Church, N.B., with two or three other officers in tow, looking and acting like what they were: outsiders.

But not RCMP Inspector Vickers.

He was dispatched to the troubled Burnt Church wharf 14 years ago to keep the peace between native and non-native fishermen during a tense and, at times, violent dispute over native lobster fishing rights. Whether on duty or off, the inspector would show up in the community, often alone, and often with his white shirtsleeves rolled up, ready to listen.

He knew the fishermen by their first names. He defused the tensions however he could.

"The inspector was a real community man," says Bobby Sylliboy, a longtime band constable with the Burnt Church First Nation. "People around here, let me tell you, they hold him in the highest regard. He was this 6-foot-3, non-native guy, coming to our reserve - and even coming to our Christmas vigils. He was hard to miss. He was a Down East guy, just a guy from the Miramichi.

"But to us, he was the chief."

To Canadians he is being hailed as a hero, a decorated police veteran and now Sergeant-at-Arms on Parliament Hill who, during a tense and tragic day in Ottawa, is being credited with killing the gunman run amok in the Parliament buildings. Despite the incident, Vickers was back at work first thing this morning as MPs returned to Parliament.

"MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers who shot [an] attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms," tweeted Craig Scott, the NDP MP for Toronto-Danforth. "I am safe and profoundly grateful to Sgt.-at-Arms Kevin Vickers and our security forces for the selfless act of keeping us safe," tweeted Julian Fantino, the Minister of Veterans Affairs.



While social media was buzzing with praise the phone lines in Miramichi, N.B., the 58-year-old Vickers' hometown, were ringing nonstop. Several of Mr. Vickers' cousins had gathered together to be close, and to be thankful that their relative was safe. But also to tell stories about the kid they used to play road hockey and cops and robbers with around the Vickers modest family home out on the Old King George Highway. It was practically a dead-end street. There were woods all around. There was Kevin, and his three younger brothers and an older sister, always heading outside, always ready to play.

"It is a small town, and I am three years older than Kevin, but we all hung out together," says Keith Vickers, a cousin who grew up across the street. "Kevin, with his personality, first of all he is a very intelligent man. And he is also very pragmatic. So for him to be able to react to the situation in Ottawa the way he did, and to do it quickly, it doesn't surprise me."

Policing is in the Vickers' blood. Uncle Benny Vickers was a chief in Blacks Harbour. Another cousin is in the RCMP. Kevin Vickers' son, Andrew, is a Miramichi constable and, just like his old man, a hero. Const. Andrew Vickers dove into the frigid, fast-flowing waters of the Miramichi River three years ago to rescue a drowning woman. It was an apparent suicide attempt, one prevented by an act of bravery that the young officer was later cited for in a speech in Parliament.

Now his father has saved the day in Ottawa.

He is a hero, although, says his cousin, Keith, if you were to call him that he would shrug it off — and maybe even blush about it. He was a cop for almost 30 years and never shot anyone. He crisscrossed the country with the RCMP, from Calgary to Toronto, from Yellowknife to Burnt Church. He became the sergeant-at-arms eight years ago. On Wednesday, in a moment of crisis on Parliament Hill, he is credited with taking a life, to save who knows how many.

His younger brother, John, is an artist in Vancouver. He was shocked by the events in Ottawa, but not surprised to hear of his brother's role in them.

"All the time that Kevin has been involved in the RCMP, and now as a sergeant-at-arms, he always put the people and the country first in everything he did," Mr. Vickers told the Vancouver Sun Wednesday morning. "It was never about him. It was about service to country and it didn't surprise me that he's reached the heights he did."

Out in Burnt Church, Bobby Sylliboy was thinking about the cop he once knew. He was always different. He wasn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

"We sure missed him around here when he left," Mr. Sylliboy says. "He was a professional. And for him to use force, it would have had to have been life or death."


National Post

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