Edmonton City Hall opens to media for 1st time since shooting, building to open to public in ‘weeks’

Click to play video: 'Tour of Edmonton City Hall after damage from shooting'
Tour of Edmonton City Hall after damage from shooting
It's been weeks since members of the public could enter Edmonton City Hall due to a shooting in January but now, reporters have been allowed back inside to cover council meetings. Breanna Karstens-Smith was inside the building on the day of the shooting and walks us through the damage and what has since been repaired – Feb 21, 2024

Four weeks after someone walked into Edmonton City Hall, fired a gun and threw a Molotov cocktail, city manager Andre Corbould said he believes it will be “a matter of weeks” and not months until the building reopens to the public.

“There’s a principle at city hall that it is the people’s building,” he told reporters at a media briefing Tuesday night to talk about the progress on repairs and improving security at the building.

“It needs to be open to the people and people have the right to access and be at city hall, and we will absolutely make that (happen).”

Corbould spoke to reporters on Tuesday night ahead of city hall allowing members of the media to have access to the building again beginning Wednesday.

City committees continue to meet virtually and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has said remote work continues to be an option for city employees in the aftermath of the shooting. On Feb. 5, some employees began physically returning to city hall to work there.

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Both Sohi and Corbould have previously said city hall would remain closed to the public until repairs were done and a security review is complete.

Click to play video: 'Some employees return to Edmonton city hall after shooting'
Some employees return to Edmonton city hall after shooting

Corbould said there has been significant progress made on the security review, which has seen members of the Edmonton Police Service and another municipality outside of Alberta be involved.

“Based on taking a look at the review, we have said (things like), ‘OK, we like that idea — Option 1 and this idea, and Option 2.’ … We’ve largely sort of worked through that,” he said Tuesday night, adding he hopes to have a revised version of a plan ready next week that narrows down changes the city would like to make.

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“That will really allow us to stick a timeline to it.”

Corbould said crews working on cleanup and repairs have done an excellent job, already having completed work like cleaning up or replacing carpets with burn marks on them or grinding down parts of damaged floors. He said bulletholes have been cleaned up as much as possible in walls and panels and that work has begun to replace glass panels with wood panelling while the city waits for glass panels to come in.

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He said the glass panels will take six to eight weeks to arrive because they are “pretty unique” and they “create the strong barriers” that have always been at city hall.

“(The) rough estimate for the damage done is no more than $100,000 right now,” Corbould said.

The city manager noted that he was impressed with how cleanup and repair crews have worked to be conscious of how their work can mitigate the potential for people at city hall reliving the trauma of the violence in January.

“It’s important to minimize the triggering of people as they come back,” Corbould said. “There are ways we can do that by covering up bulletholes and fixing damage before people see it, because all of that can be a bit triggering.

Corbould said current plans for changes to security protocols at city hall are something he would describe as “an additional layer of security,” adding that will likely include new training initiatives and locking some doors or access points going forward.

He added that he believes he has the delegated authority and that his team has the expertise to make the decisions on security changes. He noted he does not believe “the security state needs to be debated in public.”

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“But I think we will be clear with the public what the changes are when we make those,” Corbould said. “I absolutely believe council has the ability to weigh in and I will brief them on what the plans are. And if they don’t like the plans, I would expect them to tell me and we’ll react to those … and adjust as required.”

A reporter asked Corbould on Tuesday if there are any other buildings that the City of Edmonton is looking to in terms of ideas for how to make changes to security.

“I would say that we’ve definitely seen the Legislative Assembly (of Alberta) change things and Parliament Hill in Ottawa change things since they had their tragic event,” he said. “We look to a lot of that.”

Nobody was physically injured in the violence that unfolded at city hall in January, but psychological supports have been brought in for staff impacted by the shooting and their families.

Several city councillors, staff, members of the media and elementary students were inside city hall when shots rang out on Jan. 23.

Police have said the incident began just before 10:20 a.m. that day when a man came into city hall through the parkade and walked through the building with a gun. They said he fired shots, mostly on the second floor, and threw a Molotov cocktail. No one was hurt or killed. The man was arrested quickly and police believe he acted alone.

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Bezhani Sarvar, 28, has since been charged with reckless arson in an occupied property, possessing incendiary materials, use of a firearm while committing an offence, careless use of a firearm, throwing an explosive substance and discharging a firearm into a building.

–with files from Global News’ Breanna Karstens-Smith and Emily Mertz

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