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Tighter security the new reality at Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill

Those hoping to celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill this year will once again have to go through long lines and enhanced security screening.

The government says it has heard feedback from last year’s revellers, who complained of disorganized queues and hours-long waits, but that stepped-up security will be the permanent reality for July 1 celebrations.

Crowds were unusually large and security concerns were heightened in 2017 because of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

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Senior officials, who spoke on a not-for-attribution basis at a briefing for journalists on Friday, said they are making changes to simplify the process for those who want to celebrate on the parliamentary lawn.

Instead of multiple lines snaking through Ottawa’s downtown core, like last year, there will be only one main entrance: a screening post to the west of the parliamentary precinct, next to the Supreme Court. There will be a second accessible entrance closer to West Block.

There will be multiple exits from the Hill, however, feeding on to Wellington Street, the main road in front of the Parliament buildings. Wellington will be open without screening, unlike last year.

Officials said there will be multiple signs outside the main screening post and around the area that give updated waiting times.

They currently expect it will take someone an hour to get through the line and on to Parliament Hill.

Officials said they had consulted an expert in airport screening to make this year’s security more efficient, though they likened the end result to what someone would have to go through to get into a major sports arena.

The list of restricted items is shorter this year: no weapons, no explosives, no fireworks, no alcohol and no bags larger than a standard backpack.

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Officials said the bigger security presence, introduced last year, was necessary going forward to address crowd control, crime and threats, such as terrorism.

“Parliament Hill is not only an iconic site, but it is also a symbol of our democracy,” Chief Superintendent Jane MacLatchy, director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, said in a statement after the briefing.

“We protect parliamentarians, employees and visitors within the parliamentary precinct, and balance security with the openness of the parliamentary grounds.”

The officials said there would be unspecified measures to protect against ramming vehicles.

One of the common complaints from Canada Day partiers last year was poor communication.

The government said it will address that this year through social-media posts and a team of 300 volunteers, who will be spread around the downtown core to give directions and answer questions.

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