House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who famously ended the October rampage of a gunman who attacked Parliament Hill, will be named Canada’s ambassador to Ireland.
In his formal announcement of the appointment mid-Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Vickers’ heroic “actions in stopping the terrorist attack of October 2014.”
“Kevin Vickers has shown profound leadership and dedication to the security of Canada and its national institutions. His extensive experience working with Parliament, as well as his bravery and integrity, will serve to deepen close bilateral relations between Canada and Ireland in the years ahead.”
Vickers, 58, served as the top security officer for the elected legislature since 2006 after a 29-year career in the RCMP during which he never fired a shot at a suspect. However, on the morning of Oct. 22 when Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed onto the Hill and was wounded by Vickers’ security team, it was Vickers who finally brought down the assailant in a hail of bullets.
Widely hailed as a hero for his actions that day, the quiet-spoken Vickers has never talked publicly about his role, and publicly saluted his team and the wounded constable, Samearn Son, who first sounded the warning.
Minutes earlier, at the National War Memorial, the gunman had killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo before attacking Parliament. The actions of the RCMP and the Hill security forces that day are still under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Vickers, who stands six-foot-four and carries a 9-mm pistol during his duties, has been a symbol of security and decorum on the Hill, carrying the mace to open parliamentary debate into the public legislature daily.
While he has overseen the drafting and revisions of a massive security overhaul as well as a massive billion-dollar renovation of the parliamentary precinct, Vickers has also advocated the need for public access to the environs.
Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer said on an interim basis, Vickers’ deputy sergeant-at-arms and director of protective services, Pat McDonell, another ex-RCMP veteran, will lead the security team.
Scheer praised Vickers’ “exceptional leadership” for having strengthened security systems and advanced a plan to renew the historic Parliamentary buildings.
“Kevin Vickers has built a remarkable security team that does us proud each and every day,” said Speaker Scheer. “His actions, and the bravery displayed by his entire security team this past October, will never be forgotten. He has forged personal connections with many parliamentarians, and so while this news is welcomed as an excellent recognition of his skills and abilities, we are somewhat sad to see him leave.”
Other parliamentarians chimed in.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted that Vickers “showed great courage and diplomatic skill as Parliament’s Sgt-at-Arms. Best wishes on his new role as Ambassador to Ireland.”
“I am proud to call him my friend and I wish him all the success in his new role,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May, saying Vickers had “promised that as long as he served, ‘no wall would be built’ around Canada’s Parliament, giving Canadians unparalleled access to their nation’s history.”
After retiring from the RCMP in 2005 as a chief superintendent, Vickers was director of security at the Commons before taking over the job of sergeant-at-arms. He had served 10 years in the Northwest Territories, worked in major crime units, and led the development of the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet.
A fly-fisherman and grandfather who returns to New Brunswick whenever he can to spend time with family, Vickers speaks often of his love of his home but also of his job as sergeant-at-arms.
He was born in Miramichi, N.B., where his mother was a nurse and his father ran a dairy operation.
Vickers replaces Loyola Hearn, a Newfoundlander and former Conservative MP, who served as ambassador to Ireland since 2010.