WINNIPEG –Metal detectors and armed security guards could be in the works at the Manitoba legislature under a bill introduced Wednesday by Justice Minister Heather Stefanson.
The bill would give security guards at the historic building the powers of peace officers – the authority to search people entering the building, seize weapons and evict people who pose a threat.
Currently, they have to call police for such actions.
“This is a people’s building, we want to ensure we respect that,” Stefanson said.
“But at the same time, it’s also a workplace. So we need to respect the people that work within this building and make sure that we provide the security for them.”
The guards may eventually carry weapons and have visitors go through metal detectors, Stefanson said, but those matters will be decided at a later date in consultation with the Speaker’s office.
The legislature is currently very accessible to the public. Anyone who presents themselves at the front door can obtain a visitor’s pass by signing in at the security desk.
Security has been increased since 2009, when a large group of demonstrators walked right by the security desk and up toward government offices. Soon afterward, the desk was moved closer to the main door and made larger.
Following the Oct. 22, 2014 attack on Parliament Hill by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, more cameras were installed inside and outside the Manitoba legislature.
“Obviously, we know what happened on Parliament Hill (but) it’s been discussed for many, many years,” Stefanson said.
The bill would also allow security to remove someone from the legislature before they have done anything wrong – if “the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person may threaten safety … or interfere with the operation of the legislative assembly.”
Stefanson said the government fully intends to keep the building, as well as the surrounding grounds, a welcoming place. Protesters often converge on the steps outside the building, and are given access to a podium and public address system if they register in advance.
“We respect where (people) are coming from and we respect their freedom of speech and so on,” Stefanson said.
“We’re trying to find this balance between respecting the public and protecting people.”