Spectators sitting in the stands at the Caribana parade – one of Toronto’s most prominent summer events – will be searched this year, a response to heightened concerns in the city about gun violence.
The decision by organizers of the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto, which drew more than one million people in recent years, came on the same day as Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to discuss how to respond to a spate of gun violence in the city. The meeting took place eight days after the largest mass shooting in the city’s history, which left two people dead and 23 injured.
Stephen Weir, a Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival organizer and spokesman, said there have been violent incidents at the parade before, but increased security at the Aug. 4 event is meant to alleviate broader public concerns.
“We are doing it because of the concerns that really are out there about our event, from people that aren’t going to be at our event,” Mr. Weir said. “It’s not a big thing to search bags but if it would make people feel better, we certainly would do it.”
Mr. Weir, who has worked on the event since 1999, said it’s the first time he knows of that people will be searched on the way to the bleachers at the event. As well, organizers will hire more than the 600 private security staff who were brought in last year.
The searches, for weapons and illegal substances, are not in response to a shooting following the parade last year that left one man dead and two others injured, Mr. Weir said.
They’re also not a direct response to recent shootings in Toronto, including last week’s shootings at a block party on Danzig Street.
“They’re totally different events,” he said. “They were at a private party, we’re a parade.”
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash declined to comment on whether the police presence at the parade and other summer events, including the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and the Canadian National Exhibition, will be increased. But he said the public will likely see a more visibile police presence across the city.
“People will notice at events and outside of events, a higher police presence in the city,” Mr. Pugash said.
He said Police Chief Bill Blair, who met with Mr. Ford and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty Monday, will give more details on deployment by the end of the week.
Mr. Harper met separately on Tuesday with Mr. Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty to discuss the recent spate of gun crime in Canada’s largest city.
Mr. Harper told reporters the deadly shootings underscore the need for the tougher penalties for gun offences that his government recently introduced.
“This is not a theoretical problem,” he said, adding that he plans to call on those courts that are attempting to strike down some of the tougher penalties to take them seriously.
Mr. Ford did not talk to reporters after his meeting with Mr. Harper at a police station in Scarborough. In a statement, Mr. Ford said the two had a productive conversation and agreed to continue to work together.
Mr. McGuinty said he asked Mr. Harper to help the province crack down on illegal handguns that are entering Canada from the Untied States.
“The fact of the matter is most of the guns that end up in the hands of young criminals are illegal guns and they’re coming from south of the border,” he told reporters.