'I'm always hopeful': Kevin Vickers, NB Liberal leadership candidate, reflects on New Zealand attack
The man hailed as a hero for stopping the gunman behind the 2014 Ottawa shooting has set his sights on the New Brunswick Liberal leadership.
And he says if his experience confronting and ultimately killing the gunman taught him anything, it was the need to maintain hope that people can overcome even the dark challenges of tragedies — like the shooting of 49 Muslims at a New Zealand mosque by a self-proclaimed white supremacist.
“These are always tragic and troubling events that happen. I guess it’s the dark side of humanity. We just have to realize that from time to time the lesser good is going to come forward,” he said in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson. He then described a talk he once heard, given by a women whose husband was killed in Jerusalem and how she helped him see “the power of forgiveness and the weakness of hate.”
“I’m always hopeful, having heard that, that having that power and the great side of humanity we’ll overcome these things and be better off overall.”
WATCH BELOW: Timeline of New Zealand mosque shootings
A gunman killed 49 people on Friday in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, while another 48 were taken to hospital. Police have charged a 28-year-old man in the attacks.
The massacre and the white supremacist language in the “manifesto,” published by the gunman prior to the attacks, have prompted calls for politicians to do more to condemn ring-wing extremism and avoid anti-Muslim rhetoric, a mainstay of the far-right.
Vickers, who announced last week he will run to replace former Premier Brian Gallant as leader of the New Brunswick Liberals, would not say whether he thinks politicians in Canada need to do a better job of cutting back on the rhetoric.
WATCH BELOW: Kevin Vickers announces leadership bid for New Brunswick Liberal Party
When asked, he said only that his experience travelling in Europe as Canada’s former ambassador to Ireland showed him the deep respect people have for Canada and Canadian society.
“I think Canada is really a shining light among the constellation of nations … we’re so looked up to,” he said.
“I think Canada is out there in the forefront and we really have something magical here.”
WATCH BELOW: Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers hailed a hero
If Vickers wins the leadership race, he will be campaigning in a province that recently saw ripples of right-wing populism in its provincial election.
Kris Austin, leader of the right-wing People’s Alliance, found himself playing kingmaker after voters rejected Brian Gallant, the former Liberal premier, and elected a minority legislature in which no one party held enough seats to form a majority.
Because of Austin’s opposition to existing bilingualism policies in New Brunswick — specifically, the dual systems in place to provide separate services to both anglophones and francophones — both the Liberals and the Green Party refused to partner with his party’s three seats.
While Austin says he is not against bilingualism itself, critics maintain his policies are a dog whistle for those who are.
Instead, Austin threw his party’s support behind Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs, and pledged to keep the government in power for at least 18 months before another election will be called.
Vickers said it was friends of his from the Acadian community — the francophone minority in the province — who originally encouraged him to run.
“Briefly at the beginning I thought it was a compliment, but the more I looked into it, the more passionate and driven I became about it,” he said.
“I was able to gain vast experience in a wide range of areas and it’s my turn to pay back to this wonderful province.”