Kevin Vickers named ambassador to Ireland
Sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons lauded for confronting shooter on Parliament Hill
Kevin Vickers, the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms who became a household name in October after his confrontation with a gunman in a hallway on Parliament Hill, will be Canada's next ambassador to Ireland.
The appointment is effective Jan. 19. Vickers, 58, replaces Loyola Hearn, a former Conservative cabinet minister who held the post from 2011 until last August.
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"I've known Kevin for a very long time," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at an event in Delta, B.C., on Thursday, touting his vast security and management experience and "tremendous acts of heroism."
"I think they speak for themselves and speak to his character, and I know he will do a tremendous job as ambassador," Harper said. "I know he's looking forward to that assignment."
"As a Canadian with family on both sides hailing from Ireland, there could be no greater honour. I am humbled by the invitation to serve my country in this way," said Vickers in a statement, adding that he was saddened to be leaving Parliament Hill, but will cherish his time there.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all Canadians for their support in the last few months. You have my word that I will do my best to represent you in Ireland with pride and dignity," he said.
Hero of Ottawa shootings
Vickers made headlines after the October shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing sentry at the National War Memorial.
Vickers shot Michael Zehaf-Bibeau after the man gunned down the soldier.
Zehaf-Bibeau drove his car the short distance from the memorial to the entrance of Parliament Hill. He then ran through the gate, hijacked a minister's car and drove it up to the Centre Block. After entering, he exchanged gunshots with security as he ran down the Hall of Honour. He was killed in front of the library of Parliament.
After the shooting, he entered the nearby Conservative caucus meeting room and said: "I engaged the suspect and the suspect is deceased."
The next day, MPs gave him a standing ovation as the House of Commons resumed sitting.
Applause across party lines
"We're going to miss him," NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said. "Mr. Vickers has been a strong and reassuring presence.
"He knows protocol … and he likes people," Dewar pointed out — particularly fortunate, he noted, given his destination.
"This is Ireland, after all — we don't want to send someone boring or reserved."
Government whip John Duncan told CBC News that Vickers is a humble, fun-loving guy who doesn't seek the limelight.
"One of the first things he wants to do is bring road hockey to the young men and women in his new neighbourhood in Dublin ... he's got a driveway that would probably fit the bill," he said.
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"Kevin Vickers showed great courage and diplomatic skill," Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she knew Vickers would bring professionalism, dedication, and insight to his new job. "I am proud to call him my friend," her statement said.
"Thanks to his exceptional leadership our security systems are stronger, service delivery has been greatly improved, and there has been major progress on the plan to preserve and renew our historic parliamentary buildings,” said House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer in a statement.
Scheer said security will be led by Vickers' deputy, Pat McDonell, until further notice.
Long career in security
Vickers grew up in Miramichi, N.B., and served for 29 years with the RCMP. Thursday's announcement emphasized his experience in First Nations communities and work on major crime units.
“He has a strong Irish-Canadian background, is a very good friend of the embassy of Ireland in Ottawa and his family have been involved in Irish affairs in New Brunswick for many years," said Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan in a statement.
He worked as an aide-de-camp for New Brunswick's lieutenant-governor and protected the Royal Family and other foreign dignitaries during visits to Canada.
Vickers became sergeant-at-arms in 2006, after retiring from the RCMP and joining the House of Commons as director of security in 2005. The role includes both ceremonial and security responsibilities.
Representatives from all security forces that share jurisdiction on Parliament Hill began a detailed examination and revision of security after the October incident.
- An earlier version of this story suggested that Loyola Hearn was currently Canada's ambassador to Ireland. In fact, he wrapped up his posting last August and returned to Newfoundland and Labrador. The ambassador's position is now vacant.Jan 08, 2015 11:26 AM ET