More Drugs, Weapons Showing Up Around Parliament Hill

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This text has been amended to reflect that security reported finding a single round of ammunition from a 9-mm "Luger"-type pistol, not the weapon itself.

The new police force created to patrol Parliament Hill after the 2014 gunman attack is reporting an increase in drug and weapon incidents.

A six-month-plus series of so-called "occurrence" reports, starting from Canada Day 2015, shows that more marijuana and knives are being seized in the parliamentary precinct compared with 2013 and 2014.

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An RCMP police car sits outside the Parliament buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 6, 2015. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

The higher numbers suggest the Parliamentary Protective Service, created on June 23 last year and amalgamating officers from the RCMP, the House of Commons and the Senate, either is more vigilant than the three forces were separately, or is seeing an actual rise in incidents.

Through the Access to Information Act, CBC News obtained 21 reports of drug and weapon possession, threats to VIPs and other security categories for the last six months of 2015 and first two weeks of 2016. That compares with just 17 reports for the same categories over the two-year period ending December 2014.

One incident happened on Sept. 7 last year, in the middle of the election campaign, when one round of ammunition for a 9-mm "Luger"-type pistol was reported at the visitor centre in the Centre Block, at the base of the Peace Tower.

Officers were called in at about 9:35 a.m., seized the bullet and later disposed of it. Further details are removed from the report under an exemption that protects security-related information.

The RCMP, the lead agency for the Parliamentary Protective Service, did not initially respond to requests for comment on this or any other incidents.

But Mike Duheme, director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, on Friday said Parliament Hill remains a safe place, regardless of any fluctuation in number of incidents.

"I cannot speculate why the occurrence types differ year-over-over," he said in a statement.

"However, I am confident that Parliament Hill is a safe place for Canadians and visitors. Occurrence reports reflect a broad range of incidents that, having been intercepted, resulted in the prevention of crime or injury.

"The Sept. 7, 2015 (incident) is but one example of the excellent work the Parliamentary Protective Service do every single day."

Knives seized

Four knives were seized, along with some dog repellent, on July 1, apparently from people showing up for Canada Day on Parliament Hill. No guns or knives were reported seized in the previous two-year period, apart from the grim day a gunman stormed the Centre Block after killing a sentry at the National War Memorial.

The greatest change is in the number of drug incidents, most involving marijuana. There were at least 10 such incidents, including four where people were nabbed smoking dope near the Supreme Court building or in an isolated parking lot known locally as The Pit. In 2013 and 2014, there were only two incidents involving people caught smoking dope.

There was also a plastic bag containing cocaine found at the visitors' centre on Aug. 4, 2015, inside the Centre Block, apparently dumped as the owner was about to go through security.

"Surveillance video checked, occurred in the video blind spot," says the terse report. "No suspects, no witnesses."

An almost identical incident also involving a bag of cocaine happened on Aug. 8, 2014, at the same spot, with the owner also never identified.

One unusual drug incident involved the Aug. 4 seizure of a hallucinogen mailed to Kerry-Lynne Findlay, then a Conservative MP and minister of national revenue. A vigilant employee screening mail at a special facility several kilometres south of Parliament Hill spotted a suspicious envelope, which was later found to contain diethyltryptamine oxalate, in powder form.

Details are removed, but the report notes that no specific threats were made to the Vancouver-area minister, who was defeated by a Liberal in the 2015 election.

Marijuana mailed

Other potential threats to VIPs were minor, usually involving "non-sensical" emails, phone calls and voicemails to MPs, including one on July 21 to the Prime Minister's Office.

Four incidents on Jan. 14 involved small amounts of marijuana mailed to the Ottawa constituency offices of Liberal politicians by British Columbia pot activist Dana Larsen, along with a copy of his book Cannabis in Canada – The Illustrated History.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, government whip Andrew Leslie, Karen McCrimmon and David McGuinty are each cited in the reports as recipients, who then reported the packages to the Hill police.

Larsen said he sent such packages, each with one gram of marijuana, to all 184 Liberal MPs to remind them of the party promise to legalize recreational cannabis. "No police have contacted me, and I'd be quite surprised if they did," he said in an email to CBC News when asked about the four seizures in Ottawa.

Other Liberal MPs across Canada may also have reported the packages to their local or provincial police forces. The RCMP did not respond when asked whether it was aware of other seizures of the mailed marijuana.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story said that a 9-mm Luger pistol was found last September. In fact, security reported a single round of ammunition from this type of pistol, not the weapon itself.

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