Ottawa City Hall, a strong symbol of the heart of municipal democracy has almost always been welcoming – blissfully open to the public.
That may soon change. Sadly, city staff are now looking at increased security measures, On the City, From the Burbs has learned. Staff are now looking at everything from metal detectors at Andrew Haydon Hall – where city council takes place – to banning knapsacks and large bags.
Don’t go blaming the politicians on this one.
Blame the world we live in.
Pierre Poirier, the manager of Security and Emergency Management, told On the City, From the Burbs, there are many and varied issues to consider. And city staff are now in the process of looking at all of it. For example, if they ban knapsacks, does that also mean large bags and all purses? Or do they instead check bags. And what happens to the belongings of city staff? None of this is easy, Poirier very rightly pointed out.
“It’s just not as simple as saying no bags,” Poirier said.
“But we do take all of this very seriously.”
That was certainly clear talking to Poirier, in a no-nonsense interview in which he openly explained just some of the considerations staff have to take into account. For example, if a decision is ultimately made to increase security at council, do they do the same for committee meetings, located in a different part of city hall?
At the most recent city hall council meeting, a group of unhappy constituents interrupted council. A handful of them stood up, yelling their points out – and holding placards. For starters, placards aren’t allowed into council. How they got through the doors of council isn’t entirely clear.
Shouldn’t have happened.
But when the group stood up and began yelling and holding their signs, they were asked to stop. They didn’t budge. And frankly, while not every group listens to requests to hold their applause or stop profanities – I don’t quite remember a similar occasion. Or maybe, I’m just more attune to the dangers this world now has for us.
Eventually, a senior female city staffer went up to talk to the group, to advise them to follow the rules. Apparently, this is part of the city’s protocol – believing a woman is considered less threatening. She said her piece, but the group didn’t budge. Thankfully, before anyone else had to speak to the group, they did leave – peacefully.
But then a group of onlookers a couple of rows back from where the protesters had been sitting noticed a knapsack had been left behind. A few years ago, pretty sure none of us would have thought anything about it. Now, having seen what the world has brought us, it was frankly worrisome.
It’s all sad, but it’s our new reality.
City clerk Rick O’Connor told On the City, From the Burbs, he wasn’t aware of the knapsack being left behind. But he added, the entire incident would be looked at by city staff.