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Politics RCMP security gaps on Parliament Hill were exacerbated by budget cuts: OPP

Michael Zehaf Bibeau is shown carrying a gun while running towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2014, in a still taken from video surveillance in this handout photo.

HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

In less than a minute, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau zipped by four RCMP patrol cars on the grounds of Parliament and entered Centre Block with a gun, exposing long-standing security gaps that were exacerbated by recent budget cuts, a new report has found.

The Ontario Provincial Police has conducted an extensive investigation into the terrorist attack of Oct. 22, 2014, making 66 recommendations to beef up security and put an end to a disfunctional system that had been in place for years.

The only thing that prevented a massive disaster in the heart of Canada's democracy was that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was "unorganized," the OPP found. With better preparation and equipment, he could have wreaked havoc.

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Instead, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was hit 31 times by security guards and RCMP officers after he entered Parliament's Centre Block, and died in an alcove at the end of the Hall of Honour.

He was first hit about seven seconds after he entered the building by a plainclothes guard, but kept on running. In Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's final moments, fewer than two minutes later, he was shot by then sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers and an RCMP officer, who emptied their firearms in his direction, each hitting him with two fatal shots. It remains unknown which bullet killed him.

In a report released on Wednesday, the OPP found that many Mounties saw being posted on the Hill as an uninspiring job akin to being a "security guard," working with inadequate equipment and not enough staff.

"The response was limited because of pre-existing deficiencies in training, pre-incident planning, and equipment," the report said. "Maintaining a proper security posture on Parliament Hill has been challenging for the RCMP due to the limited amount of resources available, which are reflective of budget cuts in 2012."

The OPP is calling for the full unification of the security forces on Parliament Hill, something that the government has already started to enact. At the time of the incident, the RCMP, the House of Commons and the Senate each had different responsibilities inside the precinct, with the Mounties covering the outside and the two other bodies sharing responsibility inside the buildings.

"These three separate agencies work with different communications systems, separate training and limited interactions between their members, operating in silos to provide security on the Hill," the report found. "There are numerous issues associated with this lack of co-operation, which should be resolved with the proposed Unified Force."

The RCMP refused to acknowledged it "failed" in its duties during what the OPP described as "the most serious security breach on Parliament Hill in history."

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"It was a team effort, and the results showed that by working as a team, we were able to neutralize the threat in a limited amount of time," RCMP Assistant-Commissioner Gilles Michaud said at a news conference.

He said the fact Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau hijacked a ministerial car allowed him to quickly go by two RCMP cruisers and drive up to Centre Block. He added a message from a Mountie that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was in the limousine "came out all garbled" on the radio. The problem was not with the radio, but the fact the Mountie was struggling to prevent a woman and a baby from entering her car, and did not operate the device adequately.

As a result, another officer saw the car, but did not know a gunman was inside. Two other officers, closer to the street, had not seen Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau running onto the grounds with his gun a few seconds earlier.

"We have to adjust to the money, the budgets that are provided to us. I think that the security posture that we had on the Hill that day was sufficient to intervene," Assistant-Commissioner Michaud said.

He said three-quarters of the OPP's 66 recommendations have been implemented, and that the remaining ones require specific funding or additional consultations with the RCMP's partners.

The OPP said some of the problems faced by the RCMP at this point include the public's "unrestricted access" to the grounds, as well as the desire of MPs and senators to have "unimpeded access" to the legislative chambers.

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"Parliament Hill is a symbol of Canadian democracy," the OPP report said. "If Canada is to remain vigilant and pro-active in dealing with threats directed to this country, there has to be a willingness to implement changes to protect this area."

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