Implementing security measures at public events is always a challenge. The amount of delay and inconvenience caused by security needs to be weighed against the visitors’ experience and the overall goal of the event. At sporting events, games are ongoing throughout the year and security has the advantage of experimenting with different measures and improving upon methods where needed. For a ‘one off’ event, it is more difficult as there is only one chance to get it right.
On Canada Day in Ottawa, many people wanted to get to Parliament Hill to see the festivities. The security inside the Parliamentary precinct was the responsibility of the RCMP and the Parliamentary Protective Service, which also managed the lines and screening stations. Some people waited three to four hours in line waiting to get on Parliament Hill. Some people breezed through security, but others were left angry and frustrated. Many took to social media or contacted newspapers with their complaints such as “Ottawa should be embarrassed,” “Shame on Ottawa,” and “Ottawa failed its tourists”.
Darlene Macartney of Toronto complained of disorganization and poor services for those waiting in line. “You wanted us to come to Ottawa. We came. We spent over the top exorbitant prices for hotel rooms,” she wrote. “We got up early in the rain to line up for what we thought might be two hours to get onto Parliament Hill. No. We waited 5 and a half hours with no exaggeration,” Macartney wrote.
The capacity for screening was not adequate to deal with the number of visitors and the times at which they arrived. Ottawa had aimed to screen 8,000 people per hour with two screening stations, but that was based on the expectation people would arrive dressed for summer weather. In fact, they came in rain gear, many with backpacks, food, and drinks since there was no food available in the area.
Logistic principals could have been improved upon by eliminating bottlenecks in line. Perhaps, the two screening stations should have been more flexible and either increased capacity or added a third screening station to deal with the peak in demand.
I think the screening protocols were well thought out, and instructions were clear, so changing these to speed the process up would not have been a good idea. This would have created an increased risk, which would not have been acceptable.
On a positive note, Canada Day’s celebrations were enjoyed without any major incidents, and the security was sufficient.