Security agencies call for parliamentary precinct to include Wellington Street

Trucks participating the convoy protest are shown parked on Wellington Street in front of the Parliament Buildings on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.  (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Trucks participating the convoy protest are shown parked on Wellington Street in front of the Parliament Buildings on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The leaders of three groups directly responsible for security on Parliament Hill told a committee they believe expanding the parliamentary precinct to include Wellington Street would help them keep elected officials safe.

Larry Brookson, acting director of the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS), told MPs and senators at a joint committee hearing Thursday that he'd requested Ottawa police shut down the street about a week before convoy protesters arrived last winter.

Asked by senator and former Ottawa police chief Vern White how the service responded to that request, Brookson testified that he was told a plan was already in place, and that one lane would be left open to allow for emergency vehicles.

"The biggest challenge I had is I didn't have authority of Wellington Street," he said.

The hearings Brookson and other security officials participated in are part of a study looking at the federal goverment's use to the Emergencies Act.

Mayor, city manager unavailable

The PPS superintendent said he tried to contact Mayor Jim Watson and city manager Steve Kanellakos to speak about the situation, but was told they weren't available to talk.

"The decision by the city to alleviate an issue in the suburbs or wherever, to let the vehicles come and just completely jam up Wellington Street, was a big concern for me," he said Thursday.

When asked what he would have done differently, even before trucks and other vehicles began to pour into the city and park around Parliament, Brookson's response was brief.

"The streets would have been blocked," he said. "There would have been no vehicles permitted to come up onto Wellington Street."

Whether or not the precinct should include Wellington is currently under review.

Permanent closure considered

In response to a request for comment from CBC, a spokesperson for the city shared a news release from Feb. 23, which stated council would discuss the possibility of shutting down the road permanently with the federal government.

"Wellington Street will remain closed to vehicular traffic until the temporary closure study is considered at the Transportation Committee at the beginning of the next term of Council," it read.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Staff will also look at closing O'Connor and Metcalfe streets north of Queen Street, to vehicles, the news release added.

Ottawa police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brookson was testifying alongside Patrick McDonell, corporate security officer for the House of Commons, and Julie Lacroix, director of security for the Senate, who both recommended the parliamentary precinct grow to include Wellington.

Security forces must also have technology and infrastructure needed to "close and secure the precinct when necessary," according to Lacroix.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Brookson also recommended what he called "effective barriers," but didn't elaborate.

The acting head of PPS said police services provided him with updates, but because PSPS is not a law enforcement body, he wasn't part of the joint operations between police forces. That meant knowing what was happening beyond the Hill was sometimes a struggle, he said.

"My lack of situational awareness of what was sitting on Wellington Street was my biggest concern and remains my concern to today," said Brookson.