Parliament Hill festivities for Canada Day will be like nothing Ottawa has ever seen before.
“There’s a massive integrated planning piece in terms of everything across the city, not just on Parliament Hill,” said Chief Superintendent Jane MacLatchy, head of the Parliamentary Protective Services (PPS).
The PPS was created to oversee all security on Parliament Hill following the October 2014 shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and subsequent shootout in Centre Block.
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Ottawa can expect to see the largest security deployment in the city’s history on Canada Day because Parliament Hill is such an attractive target for would-be terrorists.
“It’s a very prominent place,” MacLatchy told Global News.
“We’re very cognizant (and) we’re working with our partners to make sure we’re aware and reacting appropriately to whatever the threat is.”
Some believe the level of security will rival a leaders’ summit like a G7 or G20, which Canada last hosted in 2010 in Muskoka and Toronto.
Douglas Kirkland is a former Ottawa police officer who oversaw security for Canada Day celebrations in the capital between 1995 and 2000. He believes the cost of July 1 celebrations will top all others.
“I know in the past it (the cost) was over a million,” he said. “So I would have to say you’re going to be somewhere around at least $2.5 million total.”
The unprecedented amount of security is a direct response to what local authorities believe is the giant target painted on Ottawa for the sesquicentennial celebrations.
“No one can possibly guarantee 100 per cent that there’s not going to be an incident, but what we can do, working with our professionals is minimize it,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.
Security screening tents will be erected on Wellington Street facing Parliament Hill. Similar screening was in place for New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital but they were previously on the actual grounds of the Parliamentary Precinct.
For Canada Day, you’ll only have access to the hill if you’ve gone through screening on the street.
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“The RCMP will set up their screening tents on Wellington (and) personal belongings will be searched so expect long delays,” says Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau.
Officials are hesitant to give more details about their plans but it’s likely dump trucks filled with sand will be used to block key intersections to prevent a car or truck from ramming into the crowd. A similar attack occurred during holiday celebrations in Nice, France last year.
Ottawa previously used trucks to block intersections last New Year’s Eve to protect a children’s march from City Hall to Parliament Hill.
“The change in security posture with barricades or dump trucks being used is an added element that helps reinforce the safety of an event that’s taking place.” says Bordeleau.
These are significant changes from years past. Journalists covering the festivities have been asked to fill out extensive paperwork and submit to security checks before they are granted access to more secure areas.
A separate accreditation is required to cover the visit of HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who are expected in Ottawa on July 1.
Road closures around the Hill are also expected to be unusually extensive over the holiday weekend. Residents and visitors are being advised to avoid driving into the downtown, and OC Transpo is offering free rides on July 1 to help ferry people from parking lots on the city’s outskirts.
-With files from Monique Scotti