A sculpture honouring nurses during the wars, located in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block, has a bullet hole in the base of the sculpture.
A piece of tape covers a bullet hole in the door of the Railway Committee Room after a guman rampaged through Centre Block on Oct 22, 2014.
Bullet holes remain visible in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in the immediate aftermath of a shoot out between a lone gunman and RCMP officers in October 2014.
OTTAWA – The massive effort to rehabilitate Parliament’s Centre Block won’t heal all of the century-old building’s scars as the government has decided to preserve the bullet holes from the 2014 shooting.
The horrific Oct. 22, 2014, attack by Islamic State sympathizer Michael Zehaf-Bibeau that left multiple bullet holes in the Hall of Honour may be a dark part of Canada’s parliamentary memory, but the government has decided it is part of the building’s “heritage fabric”.
During a small media tour of the major restoration work being done on the building that normally houses both the House of Commons and the Senate, a senior official said no changes would be made to the remaining traces of the shots exchanged between Zehaf-Bibeau and RCMP officers.
“We don’t plan on making any changes to that. It’s been decided that’s part of the heritage fabric of this building now. So we plan on no changes to that. And those decisions would really be taken by Parliament,” Rob Wright, the assistant deputy at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), told pool reporter Lee Berthiaume.
Parliamentarians had been divided on the preservation of bullet holes in the aftermath of the attack, and some of them have already been repaired as items in the building were replaced when necessary.
There had also been debate as to if the bullet holes — and the shooting in general — should be mentioned during guided tours of the building. The library of Parliament, which directs the tours, ultimately decided not to include it in guides’ spiel because it nothing to do with the working of Parliament.
During the Wednesday tour, Wright also told reporters that workers had been surprised to discover that the building’s foundation under the Senate wing was made of… rubble.
“We did an assessment of the grounds, but heritage restoration projects are all about dealing with unknowns… This section of the building, the foundation was a rubble foundation. Not a modern concrete foundation”, Wright said of the eastern portion of the building.
To ensure that the building stays standing for another 100 years, workers poured concrete all around and inside the old foundation and reinforced it with steel rods, creating what Wright referred to as a “concrete sandwich”.
The senior official also said that workers have removed about 5.5 million pounds (or roughly 2,500 metric tons) of asbestos-containing material while gutting the building.
All this work is part of a megaproject that will essentially see the historic building gutted and then restored to its former glory, all the while implementing some much needed modernizations and bringing its IT infrastructure into the 21 st century.
“So the plan is for all of those high heritage areas — the reading room, the railway committee room — is really about restoration and preservation and bringing them back to the way that they look and feel, but improved in the sense that all of the modern elements will be integrated in behind,” Wright said.
“So enhanced acoustics, enhanced speed, security, modern audio visual, not overlaid on top of the beautiful heritage elements but integrated in behind carefully. That’s a big challenge, getting all of that right. But it’s critical to making sure that this facility serves Parliament and Canadians for the next century.”
Since the beginning of the project, various government officials have said that the renovation and modernization of Centre Block would take at least 10 years.
When asked for an updated timeline, Wright bizarrely told pool reporters that his department had “never articulated” that the work would take a decade. He said that no firm timeline or costing would be announced until early next year.
“That’s in the media because I think the media have indicated it’s a 10-year project,” Wright asserted. “I think we should be in a good position in the first quarter of 2021 to really establish a baseline budget and schedule.”
Yet a cursory internet search will show government Web pages that spell out how the House of Commons will be temporarily relocated to the West Block building for “ten years”.
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