New security measures, including a physical barrier between the public and councillors, will soon be in place at Edmonton City Hall.
“No councillors are doing hand stands or cartwheels about this,” Coun. Michael Walters said. “The ones that supported it did so reluctantly.”
Metal detectors will be set up and members of the public will be required to pass through them before heading into council and committee meetings. The public will also be subject to bag searches.
A nearly five-foot-high glass partition has also been approved inside council chambers. It will be located at the base of the public gallery.
“Based on the way the chamber is laid out it doesn’t, in my view, impede the relationship or the conversation that happens between the public and council,” Walters said.
It’s not known if any one incident in particular spurred the change in security protocols, but outbursts at Edmonton council meetings are rare.
During a September 2015 meeting, members of council were removed from chambers after an angry protest broke out during a meeting about the now approved vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
Members of council were reluctant to agree to the enhanced security measures, but ultimately sided with recommendations from corporate security and city administration.
“In my personal opinion, as a politician, it sends a very bad message,” Coun. Mike Nickel said.
“It sends the message that we’re scared of our public. I’m not, to be quite frank. I take the good with the bad.”
“This is not something that we asked for,” Walters said.
The decision was made during a private meeting earlier this week. No members of the public or media were allowed inside the meeting due to the sensitive nature of the discussion. After the decision was made, no details of the meeting were publicly released.
“I don’t think council was trying to hide this. I think that council is trying to be discrete given that they’re sensitive around the matter of security,” Nickel said.
It’s not known when the enhanced security measures will be in place at Edmonton City Hall.
Here’s a closer look at how city hall security is set up in other major Canadian cities:
Visitors are required to check in prior to council meetings in Vancouver, but there are no metal detectors or screening processes in place.
Metal detectors were introduced at Calgary city hall just over a year ago for people who want to attend council meetings. Bags and purses are checked before people head into chambers.
There is a security presence during council meetings in Ottawa but no metal detectors or bag checks.
Toronto City Hall does not have metal detectors but there is chair-height glass divider between council and members of the public.
All entrances to Montreal council chambers are staffed by security and people have to pass through police check points on days when council meets.
With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.