Ottawa courts, law firms in holding pattern

The shootings on Parliament Hill have shut down courthouses and placed a number of downtown Ottawa law firms in lockdown.

The Ottawa Courthouse on Elgin Street, which is around 450 metres away from the War Memorial, is locked down, as is the Supreme Court of Canada building.

“The Supreme Court is on lockdown because of the multiple shootings in downtown Ottawa — we are all safe inside, staying away from windows,” Michel-A. Sheppard, a reference librarian at the Supreme Court, tweeted around noon.

Many of the law firms clustered in downtown are also in lockdown, including the Ottawa offices of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP.

“Our Ottawa office is v close to Parliemnt. Stil on lockdown, but all safe. Our thoughts are with the fallen soldier & first responder,” read a tweet from SGM’s Twitter account.

Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP is located in the Sun Life Financial Centre, only a block away from the Parliament buildings.

Julie Beaucaire, the director of marketing and client services at Nelligan O’Brien, tells Legal Feeds the firm received a notification in the morning from the building’s management that people would be searched when entering or exiting.

By noon, that had turned into a full-blown lockdown with no one allowed to come in or leave.

At around that time, she was sent some tweets from a Toronto Star reporter that showed dozens of police officers pouring into the Sun Life building.

“There were snipers on top of the building and we had quite a number of police armed with machine guns come into the building,” says Beaucaire.

Beaucaire says some of the lawyers and staff at the firm are working, while others are chatting about the day’s events.

“We make sure that everyone knows what’s happening and we give regular update to everyone,” she says.

Beaucaire says the only time she can recall a similar situation at the firm was during the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Because we were located close to the Parliament buildings, the executive committee of the firm closed the firm on that day because everyone just wanted to be home with their families,” says Beaucaire.

Lawyers and staff are eating leftover food from a lunch that never took place and also sharing any extra food they might have in their offices.

But Beaucaire says that right now everyone is just waiting to know when they can go home.

“We just don’t know how long we’re going to be here,” she says.

For continuing coverage of the situation in Ottawa, follow Reuters live news.

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