In the wake of London attack, Ottawa officials ramp up security for Canada Day
Canada Day in Ottawa is always a big deal but it will be an even bigger party than usual this year for the country’s 150th anniversary.
And security officials are reassuring Canadians that they’re doing all they can to keep people safe during the long weekend’s events.
There will be “seamless collaboration” among security and intelligence agencies across the country in preparation for events around Canada Day, said public safety minister Ralph Goodale.
“We will not be intimidated by the kind of horrible behaviour that has been exhibited so recently in the United Kingdom,” he said.
Several people, including a Canadian woman, were killed in the weekend terror attack that also left dozens injured.
Security duties will be shared among the Ottawa Police, Gatineau Police, the RCMP and the Parliamentary Protective Service, said PPS spokesperson Melissa Rusk.
The PPS will manage security on Parliament Hill itself. In previous years, the crowd on the Hill at the annual Canada Day celebrations numbered around 40,000, but this year, she is expecting more.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson suggested that hundreds of thousands of people might visit the city for the celebration.
As such, security will be present and scaled to match the crowd size at events over the weekend from June 30 to July 2, with the greatest crowd expected on July 1st.
Visitors to the Hill will, as in previous years, be subject to bag checks and security screening at controlled access points to Parliament Hill. Guards will be checking for prohibited items like alcohol and weapons.
In an interview with Global News, Watson noted that on New Years’ Eve last year, trucks and concrete barricades were placed at strategic points along a parade route to prevent someone from driving into the crowd. Although he said he can’t provide specifics, he suspects something similar might be set up on Canada Day as well.
Police will also be very visible around downtown Ottawa, he said.
“You’ll obviously see a greater police presence in and around Parliament Hill, the Byward Market, Major’s Hill Park, anywhere there’s large gatherings.”
Jantine Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications, said she’s seen no evidence that people are changing plans to be in Ottawa for Canada Day, given the recent terrorist activity overseas.
Security is always top of mind for special events in Ottawa, and Canada Day is one of the biggest of them all, Van Kregten said.
“That is the biggest day of the year so it is not something they’re just addressing now because of recent attacks in London,” she said in an interview.
The city has been planning security for over a year, said Watson, knowing that there will be massive crowds, royal guests and high-ranking politicians.
He said Canada’s capital will do everything it can to prevent an attack when it hosts the country’s 150th birthday on July 1, but admits no amount of preparation can guarantee absolute safety.
“We can’t obviously guarantee that there’s never going to be an incident but we try our best to minimize any possibility of an incident that could bring harm to our visitors and residents.”
The attacker on the London Bridge had a car and a knife, he said. “Well, lots of people have access to cars and knives and we saw the horrible consequences of what happened in London.”
With files from the Canadian Press
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