Parliament security responds to criticism over Ottawa's Canada Day fiasco

Canada Day

The Parliamentary Protective Service is arguing bad weather, geographic restrictions and a lack of food were to blame for the long lines on Canada Day that Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau criticized earlier this week.

“The unseasonably cool temperatures, torrential downpours and lack of food/beverage services on the grounds certainly added to the complexity of the screenings, as people were wearing and bringing more items onto the grounds. The lack of concessions also added to the volume, as many would leave the grounds and then enter security queues to re-enter,” agency spokesperson Melissa Rusk said in a statement.

Rusk added that with no access to the hill from the north, due to the river, the site has "geographic limitations."

“Mother Nature did not cooperate, causing unexpected flooding of the north side of the West Lawn, resulting in a temporary closure of the grounds as the Fire Department worked to pump the water off site,” she said.

This caused a ‘bottleneck’ as screened people were stuck on Wellington, and those in lines could not pass through.

Rusk also said that while the agency's jurisdiction extended past the grounds of Parliament Hill to include Wellington Street and the two access control points on Canada Day, the “implementation of measures outside of the jersey barriers that were installed leading into the access control points falls outside of PPS's jurisdiction.”

They were under Ottawa Police jurisdiction, she said. “The PPS has no control over decisions taken and measures implemented.”

“PPS estimates that we screened over 70,000 visitors on Canada Day, with wait times in the queue lines never exceeding 2.5 hours,” she said.

Other reports from the day have suggested lines were longer than 2.5 hours at several points during the day.

On Monday, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau told the police services board meeting that he believed organizers could have been better prepared to manage the long lines.

“From an event management perspective, there were huge gaps that we had identified up front and said you better take care of these things. That was not done,” he said. “We provided input during the event for them to readjust their plans and unfortunately that wasn’t done.”

His comments came after board vice-chair Jim Durrell called the event an "unmitigated disaster."

Seven organizations were involved in the planning of Canada Day, including PPS and Ottawa Police. They are holding a series of debrief sessions “to identify lessons learned and work collectively to implement additional measures to ensure that the overall visitors experience is enhanced, in a safe and secure manner.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.