OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian security forces are turning the nation’s capital into a fortress ahead of a huge weekend sesquicentennial celebration set to attract a half-million people, including Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
Authorities have already shut down central Ottawa streets and will place concrete barriers across entrances into Parliament Hill to try to prevent fatal incidents like those in London, Nice and Stockholm, where attackers rammed vehicles into crowds.
The biggest party will be on Saturday, the 150th anniversary of the day Canada officially became a country. Britain had ruled it before 1867.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that Canadians should be at ease as they marked the occasion, “knowing the extraordinary police services and intelligence agencies are doing everything necessary to keep people safe.”
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale declined to comment on the specific security measures in Ottawa.
The celebrations around Canada Day, as July 1 is known, are usually relaxed, with crowds free to walk onto Parliament Hill for musical performances, a military fly-by, and speeches by politicians.
This year, though, people will have to enter special metal pens and have their belongings thoroughly searched.
There will be a heavy police presence, although authorities declined to give numbers for security reasons. The Ottawa police force has ordered every officer not scheduled for annual leave to be on duty on Saturday.
Police estimate that up to 500,000 people will attend events on Parliament Hill and nearby venues from Saturday through Monday, which is also a national holiday.
Canada’s threat level has been at medium since October 2014, when a gunman killed a soldier and then stormed into Parliament before being shot dead.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn
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