New security measures could be coming to city hall
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Thursday, November 23, 2017 6:54AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 23, 2017 7:10PM EST
Mayor John Tory’s executive committee will soon be debating enhanced security measures at city hall, including the possibility of installing metal detectors at the downtown building.
In a report posted online, city staff outline a number of measures that could help make city hall more secure, including “patron screening,” which could involve metal detectors, bag checks, and x-ray machines.
“Patron screening is done to various degrees at provincial legislatures, city halls at large cities in the United States, city halls for two large Canadian cities, courts, and sport and entertainment venues such as the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre,” the report reads.
“The provincial legislatures of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, amongst others, all use visitor control consisting of reduced entrances for members of the public staffed with law enforcement and visitor sign-in.”
Calgary introduced screening measures at city hall in 2015 and Edmonton followed suit in October of this year.
Other ways to tighten security, according to the staff report, include “vehicle mitigation measures” and modifying a glass wall in the council chamber.
The idea of increasing security at Toronto city hall came after Canada’s domestic terrorism threat level was increased from low to medium on Oct. 1, 2014.
“As there is no indication that the level will again be lowered anytime in the near future, there is a need to consider security enhancements as more permanent in nature,” the report reads.
Additional security staffing is estimated to cost an extra $774,000 annually and implementing the proposed new security measures would require an additional $500,000 in one-time capital funding, according to staff.
The recommendations are based on assessments made from the Toronto Police Service and Public Safety Canada.
Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Mayor John Tory said his focus will be listening to what members of the public and staff at city hall have to say about the proposed recommendations.
"We want people to feel comfortable coming in here but I also want those very same people when they come here, and also the people who work here, the thousands of people who work here every day, to be safe," Tory said.
"I won’t be telling you I’m in favour or opposed to any particular proposal... until I’ve heard from people about where they think that balance can achieved."
Tory noted that members of the public regularly face much tighter security when entering other buildings in the city.
"The public go to rock concerts, they go to hockey games and in many, many other buildings in the city, including Queen’s Park, court houses, and even sometimes private sector office buildings, where they face a lot more security than they face here," Tory said.
"I’m not sure which one is right but I'm just saying there is a clear discrepancy between the two and I guess part of what we’d want to have a discussion about with the public and with our employees (is) how do we keep people safe and what’s the right series of changes that you’d want to make."
Tory said confidential security reports under consideration by members of city council do not suggest it's time to "hit the panic button" when it comes to implementing these changes.
One city councillor, however, told CP24 on Thursday that the proposal is “over the top.”
“We have pretty strong security now. Bags are always checked. Really this is about the public,” Coun. Paula Fletcher said. “You don’t want to be paying your property taxes and going through a metal detector. You don’t want to be here for your wedding and instead of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ you have a metal detector in front of you,” he said. “This is a place where the public comes. It is a public venue.”
Fletcher told CP24 that it will ultimately be up to the thousands of employees that work at city hall to decide whether they want enhanced security measures but she said that it is her belief that the building should be kept as accessible as possible.
“There is a childcare centre here , there is a wedding chamber here, there is a café, there is a library and we can’t discourage people from using their city hall,” she said.