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Updated: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 19:47:09 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

RCMP costs soared after Greenpeace Parliament protest



Greenpeace protester drape a banner on the Parliament buildings, in Ottawa, Monday December 7, 2009. Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press

Greenpeace protester drape a banner on the Parliament buildings, in Ottawa, Monday December 7, 2009. Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press

RCMP security costs spiked in the wake of a brazen security breach by Greenpeace protesters five years ago, with a massive overtime tab driving the increase.

Documents obtained by CBC News Network’s Power and Politics reveal new details on how the 20 environmental activists carried out the stunt, what major gaps in security measures it exposed and just how much it all cost.

Figures show that security spending for labour and operations soared to $8.04 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, up from $2.39 million the previous year. That compares with just $1.18 million in 2003, two years after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

RCMP said the jump in spending was related to updated “threat and vulnerability assessments,” and the "Greenpeace incident" was factored in. But Power and Politics has learned that massive overtime costs contributed to the jump.

The nearly tripled spending came after Dec. 7, 2009, when Greenpeace protesters managed to breach security, reach the roof of the iconic buildings and unfurl huge banners demanding government action on climate change.Security gaps exploited by protesters.

The documents detail how the 20 Greenpeace protesters executed the stunt, exploiting low light levels, a shortage of cameras and blind spots on Parliament Hill to gain access to the grounds. The workers wore coveralls and hard hats to disguise themselves as contract workers.

The activists cut plastic wraps used to secure fencing around scaffolding at the rear of the West Block, and once they were inside the concealed construction area they proceeded through an unsecured door and gained access to outdoor steps leading to the roof.

The area was secured “with construction safety in mind rather than site security,” according to one briefing note to the minister of public safety.

Others gained access to the roof above the Senate entrance of the Centre Block, entering by the rear of East Block, “where there are no security cameras in place.”

The documents note that because the Hill remains open 24 hours a day and is meant to be accessible, it is difficult to continually monitor the property.

“The RCMP’s requirement to balance security, public access to the grounds and lack of modern security technology has proven challenging to ensure full security.”

Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace and one of the Parliament Hill “climbers,” declined to comment on how the group executed the stunt that drew international attention. It was carried out ahead of the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.

Hudema could not say if security has changed on Parliament Hill or how it compares with other world capitals.

“What I can say is that we've definitely felt an increase in the persecution and attacks on environmental and social justice groups,” he said. “From the current audits, to labelling those concerned about the threats the tarsands pose as radicals, to funding cuts and increased surveillance — the attacks have definitely increased since 2009.” 

The second phase of a perimeter security plan was ready to go in 2006, but had not been implemented at the time of the Greenpeace protest.

The report also points to gaps in infrastructure such as cameras, fencing and gates, as well as human resources

A number of short- and long-term strategies were recommended, including enhanced tactical deployments and technical equipment to provide heightened detection, but RCMP would not divulge details of the measures implemented because it would disclose its “security posture.”

"The RCMP constantly reviews security measures based on assessments in consultation with its partners and clients to ensure the safety and security of the general public, parliamentarians and employees working on Parliament Hill,” said RCMP Sgt. Lucy Shorey.

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