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Monday, 27 October 2014 14:25

What is the Risk that Comes with Trust?

Written by  Vicki Thomas

Written by: Vicki Thomas

What is the Risk that comes with Trust?

On the surface, things are back to normal here in Ottawa. All lock-downs have been lifted. Parliament Hill has reopened. The streets are open.

The only real obvious difference are the flowers, wreaths, cards, and bouquets. The National War Memorial is surrounded with these offerings of condolences and thanks.

Canada

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was working at the National War Memorial last Wednesday Oct. 22 when he was fatally shot. Moments before the unarmed Cpl. Cirillo was shot and killed, he was posing for photos with tourists and simply doing his job as a reservist guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa’s downtown.

Minutes after shooting Cpl. Cirillo, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau bolted to nearby Parliament Hill in a car and burst through the doors of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block doors - while brandishing his gun. Chaos reigned. As shots were fired from Zehaf-Bibeau, security guards, and police officers - the people working in the Centre Block were terrified.

Parliament Hill staff including Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, barricaded themselves in whatever room they could, many blocking the door with desks, chairs and other office furniture. Barricaded in these offices they heard gunfire. No one knew what was happening.

Meanwhile social media was going wild with accounts of the shooting at the National War Memorial followed by reports of multiple shooters at large, a shooter racing down the Queensway (major highway in Ottawa) with a gun, and of shots at a nearby shopping mall. (All proving to be false.)

When we go to work, we expect to be safe. We don’t think twice that for most of us, our office doors are not locked. Pretty much everyone can walk in. Guests are offered coffee and pointed to the nearest chair to sit and wait for their appointment.

Trust is implied.

One of the questions that has arisen since this tragic event in Canada’s Capital is that of trust. Are we too lax with our security? Should security be tightened at Parliament Hill? What about at your workplace - do you work in a building that requires a swipe card or can anyone simply walk right in?

Traditionally, Parliament Hill has always been an open and relatively unguarded place of government. Tourists mingle freely with Canada’s elected officials and other decision-makers. RCMP pose with tourists for photos. Tours are held daily, taking anyone into these government buildings.

Should this change?

Consider these words from Alex Borisenko, in a recent CBC.ca article titled Ottawa Shooting: Parliament Hill Now Open to Public:

"It is very important to me that they reopened Parliament Hill. Terrorism won't stop Canada from being open and people going about their lives," said AlexBorisenko, 25, a software developer living in Ottawa.

"I know that there are measures to increase security, but having Parliament Hill open without a huge police presence stopping the public from coming in is very important and symbolic to Canada's openness as a country.

Questions are swirling about how Zehaf-Bibeau was able to gain such easy entry to Canadas national government buildings and to start shooting. What was happening in the moments after Cpl. Cirillo was shot at the National War Memorial and Zehaf-Bibeau was making his way to Parliament Hill in a car? How was he able to hijack a car on busy Parliament Hill and brandish a weapon?

Consider this explanation of the security on Parliament Hill and the surrounding area from an Ottawa Citizen article:

Parliament Hill’s security is divided amongfour agencies sharing responsibility inside and outside the buildings. The House of Commons’ security handles buildings under House jurisdiction while Senate Protective Service is responsible for East Block and east side of Centre Block.

The RCMP is responsible for the grounds and the security of the Prime Minister but Ottawa Police take over for streets in the broader parliamentary precinct beyond Wellington Street.

On the surface everything looked perfectly fine. On the surface everyone was doing their job. Scratch just below the surface though and that’s where the unease remains - leaving trust and openness at risk.

What are the real risks that come with trust?

To read more about the Oct. 22 shooting and the aftermath, click the following:

(Vicki Thomas lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)