Thursday, June 08, 2006

Terrorists Appear to Have Set Their Sights on the Parliament Building in Ottawa

Lurid scenarios of heavily armed jihadists storming the House of Commons failed to jive with the sun-dappled scene yesterday of school children skipping across Parliament Hill as utility vehicles routinely plied their trade.

Despite a host of security changes on Parliament Hill over the past decade, a determined lawbreaker could still have driven an 18-wheeler through one unobstructed gate and directly up to the Peace Tower yesterday afternoon.

Security, or the lack thereof, around Canada's seat of federal power is once again causing unease following sensational and uncorroborated claims on the steps of a Brampton courthouse.

Gary Batasar, a lawyer for one of 17 alleged terrorists arrested on the weekend, claimed the Crown allegations include a plot to "storm the Parliament buildings," take MPs hostage and behead the prime minister.

The allegations seem so over the top that it was difficult to gauge how seriously they should be be taken.

PM Stephen Harper himself quipped about the threats, saying he can live with them as long as they don't come from Conservative MPs.

International Trade Minister David Emerson, by contrast, called the alleged parliamentary plot "breathtaking."

It's time to wake up and smell the coffee.

The emotional gap between their two reactions illustrates the divide that security officials must bridge when it comes to fortifying Canada's seat of parliamentary power.

Harper took some public criticism recently when a large black Chevy Tahoe SUV appeared in his motorcade -- a gas-guzzling presidential affectation to some observers.

It now seems likely the added security was a response to the RCMP terror investigation and the alleged threats on the prime minister, although no official will confirm as much.

Canadians are pretty sanctimonious about stuff like that.

They don't like being asked for identification. They don't like being checked. And I don't think that's going to change.


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