Security tight in Ottawa for Canada Day, but officials promise quicker lines
By The Canadian PressNews Public Sector canada 150 Canada Day Ottawa Parliament Hill
OTTAWA — Officials are promising shorter queue times for Canada Day festivities in the nation's capital this year, but heavy security measures will once again force revellers to endure enhanced screening and tightly controlled access to Parliament Hill.
Security was ramped up to its tightest and most restrictive levels ever last year for the Canada 150 celebrations.
Officials say the same measures are necessary again this year due to the threat of violent attacks.
Police presence will be heavy throughout the city and multiple streets will be closed around the parliamentary precinct.
Last year, visitors endured lengthy waits in long lineups and many complained of a lack of communication and co-ordination. Some participants were especially upset after spending hours in queues that turned out to go nowhere.
“Significant planning” has been undertaken to minimize the wait times for visitors and improved operations, officials said during a technical briefing.
Sen. Vernon White, who formerly served as police chief of Ottawa, says he believes operations will run smoother this time, despite the fact security levels will be the same as last year.
Keeping the public safe is important, but allowing Canadians proper access to their nation’s capital on Canada Day is equally critical, he said.
“I’m not sure I’m totally convinced that they’ll iron out some of the issues from last year, but I think (they’ll clarify) some of the issues around the extended entry points and what is and what is not an entry point, and things like that,” White said.
Access to Parliament Hill will be limited to a single entry point where members of the public will be screened using airport-style, walk-through metal detectors. A second accessible entry point will also be available for people, such as those in wheelchairs, who require it. There will be multiple exits, however, to allow for good flow of visitors from the Hill, which has a maximum capacity of 30,000 people.
RCMP will use social media, video signage and 300 volunteers to give crowds up-to-date wait time estimates for all major attractions. Visitors are encouraged to arrive at least two hours in advance to avoid disappointment.
As for whether security on Canada Day in Ottawa will ever return to former levels, which began to escalate after the October 2014 attack on Parliament Hill by Michael Zehaf Bibeau, officials say assaults that continue to occur around the world call for ongoing high security measures for events such as this.
“The procedures that are put in place are based on a risk analysis. It is the perfect venue to do something really bad,” White said.
“The risk is high, the threat is high and the accessibility is high … everyone will say, ‘We think they went too far,’ but if they don’t go far enough everyone will be saying they didn’t go far enough.”
— Teresa Wright
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2018
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