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Red, white and secure

How the Parliamentary Protective Service keeps the Hill safe on Canada Day

Parliamentary Protective Service officers work closely with the RCMP to keep Canada Day celebrations on the Hill safe. Credit: Serge Gouin, RCMP

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Every July 1, Parliament Hill is transformed into a giant outdoor concert filled with revelers celebrating Canada's birthday.

But planning security for the event starts almost a year in advance for the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS).

RCMP Supt. Marie-Claude Côté, who's been with PPS for two years, gave the Gazette a behind-the-scenes look into what goes into keeping festivities on the Hill safe.

September to December

PPS meets with its internal and external partners — the RCMP, Ottawa Police Service (OPS) and Canadian Heritage, which hosts the event — to discuss lessons learned from the previous events and make recommendations for the next one. Overall, more than 20 partners work together to pull off Canada Day on the Hill, including the City of Ottawa and its emergency, fire and transportation services.

January to July

PPS plans the security measures it will put in place at this year's event. From this point, it meets with its partners monthly to co-ordinate each of their responsibilities and how they will work together. The meetings become more frequent closer to the big day.

Two weeks before

PPS and its many partners begin setting up barricades, installing security check points and other equipment needed for July 1.

July 1

4 a.m.

The first wave of PPS officers arrives on the Hill and work until mid-afternoon. Parts of Parliament Hill are closed to visitors while officers sweep the grounds for explosives and other threats. Throughout the day, they patrol the area making sure no one sneaks in. They also respond to security incidents and emergencies such as brawls, injuries and lost children.

8:30 a.m.

Guests are allowed onto the grounds, which can accommodate approximately 30,000 people, including entertainers and special guests. Each visitor passes through one of multiple lanes of security check points. Special guests are screened separately.

RCMP officers work alongside PPS to search bags for weapons, explosives, fireworks and alcohol. Buses dropping passengers off closer to the gates are swept for explosives.

1 p.m.

The second wave of PPS officers, detection specialists and other staff begins the evening shift, which will end at approximately 1 a.m.

10 p.m.

As smoke and sulfur fade from the air after the final pop of fireworks, the crowd leaves the property. RCMP officers, civilian members and public servants spend up to three hours tearing down all the equipment. The next morning, it's business as usual on the Hill — after city employees spend most of the night cleaning the streets and lawn of Parliament Hill.

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