POLITICS

Queen's Park To Have Some Armed Security

03/23/2015 01:11 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Some guards at Ontario's legislature will be armed, the Speaker said Monday as he discussed a number of security changes that will be phased in at Queen's Park.

A task force reviewed security protocols at the legislature following October's shooting on Parliament Hill. Now that the review is complete, Speaker Dave Levac said there will be a "minor arming" of some guards, but he will not be publicly announcing "who's got what."

Security changes are going to be "slowly integrated" so they're less intrusive and they may or may not be changes that are visible to the public, he said.

When asked if all visitors to the legislature will have to pass through metal detectors, Levac said "the potential for screening is going to be implemented," but he wouldn't divulge details.

Currently, only people without security passes who wish to enter the legislative chamber have to go through a metal detector before entering the public galleries.

Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson wants to see all "qualified officers" armed, but even if only some will be armed he wants the process to "hurry up."

"It's been several months and I don't feel secure here," he said.

"We need to make sure all the qualified officers have the proper tools. They need to be armed to protect themselves, to protect the tours, to protect the school children, and protect the members and our staff."

NDP house leader Gilles Bisson has raised concerns that the changes to legislative security would restrict public access, in particular for tour groups.

"We're saying, 'Listen, we understand in a modern day we need to modernize our security forces as far as being able to do the job of protecting the public and protecting the people that work in this building, but clearly there has to be a balance,'" Bisson said last week.

"We live in a democracy and the moment that we start giving into the fears that others are trying to create, they win and democracy loses."

Levac said all tour groups will have to follow the process "that only some have been" following up until now.

"So those that have not been following the protocols that we already had in place for, say, school bus tours will be asked to do that," Levac said following question period.

"At one time we were not screening any individuals coming off those tour buses and coming into the place."

Tours must be booked in advance, he said.

Earlier this month, the sergeant-at-arms announced that visitors to the legislature will now be required to show photo identification, a change meant to deter security threats. Dennis Clark said in a statement that it was one of a number of "security enhancements" the Speaker approved following the recent review.

Following the attack on Parliament Hill, the British Columbia legislature implemented a number of changes, including arming guards and an airport-like security screening for visitors.

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