BALDREY: Treat mental-health issues, don’t curb civil liberties

Other than the installation of a screening device (to be used only at certain times), I don’t expect there to be many changes to security at the b.C. legislature, even in the wake of last week’s terrible events on Parliament Hill.

And that’s the way things should be. the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo while he kept watch at the National War Memorial was unspeakably evil and tragic, and it understandably sent shock waves across the country.

But the killing was the work of a drug addict whose life had unraveled and was spinning out of control. the tragedy was not the result of state-sponsored terrorism or a jihad, but was instead an awful example of an individual running amok.

And so this horrible episode should not be an excuse for curbing civil liberties, or encroaching on the freedom of the general public. Instead, it should compel governments to take more action when it comes to fighting drug addiction or dealing with mental health issues.

That’s not to say there isn’t a need to reexamine security levels, where appropriate. there appears to be little doubt the whole episode revealed some serious security flaws on Parliament Hill, but they don’t exist in the same manner at the b.C. legislature.

For example, the killer on Parliament Hill was able to run down a hallway that allowed access to the caucus rooms of two political parties, which potentially made him a menace to the Prime Minister.

But at the b.C. legislature, the caucus offices of both major parties are inaccessible to the public. In fact, half of the main building is already off-limits to the public, and so are both annexes (one houses the government caucus, while the other is the premier’s office).

The back half of the building (which includes the legislative chamber itself, as well as the library and various cabinet and caucus offices) is accessible only through an electronic pass card, which is issued only to staff and occasionally to approved visitors.

The front part of the building, where the public is free to roam, also includes offices, but every one of them is behind a door that is locked 24 hours a day. as well, there are at least several security guards in sight at all times, and a series of surveillance cameras keep track of everything happening outside, on the legislature grounds.

That screening device will be installed in the basement, and the public will have to enter the building after passing through this machine – but likely only on days when the legislature is sitting (a metal detector already exists for those wanting to sit in the public gallery to watch a legislature sitting).

In other words, not a lot of change to security is likely needed, nor expected. there is a review under way of existing security measures, but hopefully it concludes that

the openness of the "people’s house" takes precedence over any major clampdown on freedom of movement.

but this focus on security reviews across is somewhat misplaced. the Parliament Hill shooter was addicted to crack cocaine, and he actually committed a previous crime (a robbery) in order to be thrown in jail, where he thought he would have an opportunity to be treated for his addiction.

Instead, he was released from jail after just one day in custody. the fact he began to immerse himself in radicalized Islam is indeed part of the narrative here, but only part of it.

the shooter appears to have become isolated, angry, frustrated and desperate. this in no way excuses his monstrous crime, of course, but it is foolish to think that simply hiring more security guards or installing more surveillance cameras is the proper way to deal with someone in his situation.

By all means, Canada has to be vigilant to the reality of the modern world when it comes to fighting terrorism. but we must also be more proactive when it comes to preventing drug addiction and treating mental-health issues.

If we don’t, we may witness other shocking, horrible events like last week’s tragedy in Ottawa. but they will have had nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with society turning a blind eye to the lingering and growing problems of drug addiction and mental health.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

Email Keith.Baldrey@globalnews

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