First presidential visit since 2016 brings heavy security presence to Ottawa
The Canadian PressNews joe biden national security
By Cindy Tran and Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have not yet arrived in Ottawa, but the city’s streets and skies were showing signs Wednesday of the security presence residents can expect for the country’s first presidential visit in seven years.
They are set to arrive Thursday for the first official visit to Canada since Biden took office as president in 2021 and will stay overnight until Friday.
In downtown Ottawa Wednesday, about 20 police vehicles circled the area as U.S. flags were strung up near Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official office and the main street in front of Parliament Hill. Meanwhile, workers were busy installing fences to prepare for the visit.
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe told reporters that the visit provides “an opportunity to remind people that Ottawa is the capital of Canada and that it’s an amazing city and beautiful city.”
The last time the city of Ottawa hosted a president was in 2016, when former president Barack Obama came to Ottawa for the North American Leaders’ Summit near the end of his second term. Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, attended a G7 meeting in Quebec City, but never visited Ottawa.
Biden’s sojourn will take place under a heavy police presence, with the RCMP saying security for him and the first lady will be provided through an integrated security unit.
The Mounties say they are working with the Canadian military, the U.S. Secret Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Parliamentary Protective Service, as well as local officers in Ottawa and across the river in Gatineau, Que.
Retired Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau, who served as a superintendent during Obama’s first official trip in 2009, said extensive planning goes into each presidential visit, and the fact Biden is staying overnight will take even more resources.
He said in an interview that the service had two months’ notice for the 2009 visit.
“This planning needs to take place in a co-operative (way) and in collaboration with the multitude of partners — not just here in Canada, but as well with the U.S. Secret Service,” said Bordeleau.
“It’s an event that’s very resource intensive because of the number of officers that are required to deal with protecting the entourage, the traffic management and the buildings that he may be visiting.”
During that visit, which saw thousands of people pack the lawn in front of Parliament Hill, Obama surprised many by taking a detour with his motorcade to the nearby ByWard Market to try a local sugar-coated deep-fried pastry, known affectionately as a BeaverTail.
He also left with three sugar cookies shaped like maple leaves for his family after stopping at a local bakery.
Obama reminisced about that visit when he addressed the House of Commons in 2016, telling members of Parliament that a Beavertail “is better than it sounds.”
Ottawa police have warned residents of an increase police presence through the week, as they are turning large parking lots into staging areas for officers.
The Armed Forces and National Defence also confirmed it would be providing air security during Biden’s visit.
“Residents of the National Capital Region may see or hear Norad CF-18 Hornet fighter jets and CH-146 Griffon helicopters over the region as early as Wednesday … and throughout the course of the visit,” it said in a recent statement.
It added that civilian pilots should watch for flight restrictions in the area from NAV Canada.
The city also cautioned residents to brace for road closures on major downtown streets and around its airport — all routes where Biden’s motorcade will travel.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
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