An unprecedented attack shook Canada on Wednesday as at least one gunman attacked parliament and the country's war memorial in the capital, Ottawa.
A fundamentally quiet and orderly town, Ottawa was rocked by the shooting of a uniformed Canadian soldier as he stood guard over the National War Memorial, located right across the street from Parliament Hill and the prime minister's offices at Langevin Block.
It was the second attack inside Canada this week. The shootings come just two days after a 25-year-old man described by police as a "radicalized" Muslim drove his car into two Canadian soldiers in a city outside of Montreal, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Martin Couture-Rouleau, the suspect in that incident, was arrested in July while trying to travel to Turkey. Following his rampage, Courture-Rouleau was shot and killed.
On Wednesday morning, a man arrived by car, with a blanket concealing a rifle, and shot the soldier four times at the memorial, a witness told a Canadian news station.
The situation quickly escalated, with reports that Parliament itself was under attack and dozens of shots had been fired inside the legislature. Members of Parliament were caucusing in the building, and the building was promptly locked down. According to local Canadian press reports, a gunman wounded a security guard on Parliament Hill before he was shot by the sergeant-at-arms.
A Globe and Mail reporter posted on YouTube a harrowing video of shots fired during a police sweep of Parliament Hill.
Entire blocks of the city remained in lockdown Wednesday, though police would not say at an afternoon press conference whether they were looking for more gunmen—only that they want the city to remain alert.
Swarms of police, gunfire, panic—all foreign to a city known for its quaint, Commonwealth style, still air, and orderliness.
Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted to approve an anti-ISIS air combat role for Canada. One purported ISIS fighter from Canada praised Rouleau and encouraged others to follow suit with violence. Whether this incident is connected or not, it has been a week of violence never before seen in Canadian political history.
Canada is no stranger to terrorism, having endured the kidnappings of government officials by radical domestic terrorists known as the Front de liberation du Quebec in 1970, during what was known as the October Crisis. Mass shootings are also not unprecedented, having happened at Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 and at Dawson College in 2006.
But never before has an attack so brazenly targeted Canadian institutions in the nation's capital. With at least one attack linked to Muslim extremism this week, and violence at the very symbols of Canadian democracy Wednesday, this is an unprecedented assault on my home country.
Perhaps that's the reason why security around Ottawa's parliamentary precinct has been so haphazard, with at least four different and uncoordinated protective services roaming the area. In 2012, an internal Canadian government report called for the consolidation of these forces. Two years later: no dice.
There will be vigils. There will be memorials. There will be an investigation, perhaps a Royal Commission.
But for now, as prominent political writer John Ivison wrote in shock at the news Wednesday morning, there is only deep pain and wondering in the nation's capital.
"Canada," Ivison wrote, "has just lost her innocence."
This article has been updated throughout.