B.C. legislature warned of heightened security concerns from Ottawa officials

Grade 5 children from Vancouver’s St. Francis Xavier School wait on the B.C. legislature steps in Victoria, on Wednesday Oct. 22, 2014. The children were turned away from their planned visit following the shooting incidents on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

Dirk Meissener, The Canadian Press

VICTORIA - The clerk of British Columbia’s legislature says some provincial politicians were warned this week about “heightened” security concerns in Ottawa in the days leading up to Wednesday’s shootings on Parliament Hill and at the National War Memorial.

Craig James declined to offer specifics about the information he and the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms received or where it came from. He said there was nothing to indicate B.C.’s legislature was at risk.

“We are aware, and have been aware, of a heightened concern from entities in Ottawa,” James told reporters in Victoria.

“We received information that there may be a problem.”

James said those concern had existed for “at least a few days.” Some members of the legislature were made aware of them, he said.

The sergeant-at-arms, Gary Lenz, said security officials at legislatures across the country routinely share information. He declined to go into detail about any such information that was shared this week.

A reservist who was stationed as an honour guard at the National War Memorial was fatally wounded Wednesday. An assailant was shot dead in Parliament’s Centre Block, where a security guard was also believed to be wounded.

The capital was placed under lockdown amid fears there could be multiple shooters.

The shooting also prompted increased security measures at legislatures, military bases and other sites across the country.

At the legislature in Victoria, where a Canadian flag was flying at half-mast, security personnel were stationed at every entrance and the building was closed to the public, with the exception of pre-scheduled school tours.

Provincial politicians observed a moment of silence to reflect on the events in Parliament, an institution Premier Christy Clark said all Canadians hold in their hearts.

“Today I stand before you deeply saddened by what’s happened and I hope that all Canadians know that here in B.C. we stand with them,” said Clark. “Our sympathies go to the families of the victims. Our thanks go to those who protect us. Our vigilance remains strong.”

Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan called the events in Ottawa a tragic day in Canadian history, one that symbolizes a loss of innocence for the country.

He said speaking in the legislature lets everybody know that the business of the province cannot be stopped.

“We need to be here today to demonstrate that we will nor be bowed by terror or insanity,” said Horgan.

The B.C. legislature was the target of an alleged terror plot in July of last year, when the RCMP announced it had foiled a plan to use pressure cooker bombs to attack the building during Canada Day festivities.

Two people were charged with offences including facilitating terrorist activity, and they are currently scheduled to stand trial early next year. The allegations against them have not been proven.

Victoria’s police chief said the force was working with the Canadian Forces and security officials at the legislature, though he stressed there was no indication of any threats to the provincial capital.

The 19 Wing Comox airbase on Vancouver Island, more than 200 kilometres northwest of Victoria, was among Canadian Forces facilities across the country to increase security measures. A spokeswoman said the base had implemented “additional force protection measures,” though she declined to offer specifics.

A public affairs officer at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, west of Victoria, said she wasn’t aware of any additional measures in place at the facility.

Vancouver’s airport said on Twitter that it had “increased security vigilance” at the facility. A spokesperson said travellers would see additional security inside the airport terminal.

With files from James Keller in Vancouver

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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