A “major” national security investigation is underway in light of a warning from Canadian border security agents about potential explosives in vehicles parked near Parliament Hill, sources tell Global News.
Parliamentarians and their staff were told to “shelter in place” Saturday afternoon as police descended on Ottawa’s downtown core due to what law enforcement sources described as a credible threat of explosives in the area.
Police searched two vehicles, one parked near the intersection of Slater Street and Metcalfe Street, the other near Canada’s Supreme Court building. Two people were detained in relation to the incident.
Multiple national security and law enforcement agencies, including a RCMP-led national security team, the Ottawa Police Service and high-ranking intelligence officials, are engaged in the investigation.
Two law enforcement sources told Global News that the tip about potential explosives came from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), whose intelligence branch focuses on detecting “high-risk people and goods at the earliest point” of their travel to Canada.
In a statement to Global News, the CBSA refused to confirm or deny their participation in the investigation.
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Emergency call logs reviewed by Global News suggest police detained a suspect near Slater and Metcalfe, a busy downtown intersection three blocks from Parliament Hill, at roughly 1:42 p.m. Ottawa police then set up a perimeter around a vehicle.
That vehicle was “cleared” before 2:53 p.m., according to the logs, before a warning about a second vehicle near the Supreme Court on Wellington Street. That vehicle was cleared by 3:33 p.m.
It wasn’t clear Saturday night what, if anything, police found in the vehicles.
“Following an investigation, no public safety threat was identified. At about 4 p.m. the area was cleared and is now accessible to the public,” the Ottawa Police Service wrote in a social media post Saturday evening.
“The investigation into this matter continues.”
Parliament Hill was evacuated early Saturday afternoon and the Parliamentary Protective Service – the agency responsible for security on Parliament Hill – advised any parliamentarians and staff to “shelter in place” while the investigation unfolded.
“As the situation is ongoing, our highest priority continues to be the safety of the parliamentary community and the public,” a spokesperson for the protective service said in a statement.
“We continue to work closely with our security partners.”
Tensions in the parliamentary precinct have been high after February’s convoy protests, and there is an active discussion among MPs and senators over rethinking Parliament Hill’s security posture in the wake of that event.
Responsibility for security on Parliament Hill itself lays with the protective service, while Ottawa police are responsible for Wellington Street directly in front of the Hill.