'People are scared': Tory acknowledges fears as city beefs up security after van attack

In a climate of both fear and resilience after Monday's deadly van rampage, Toronto's leaders are beefing up security measures and discussing how to prevent another similar tragedy.

'There is a security lens we have to apply to public places,' says Coun. Joe Mihevc

The van used in the attack is shown on a sidewalk near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue in Toronto. (Warren Toda/EFE/EPA)

In a climate of both fear and resilience after Monday's deadly van rampage, Toronto's leaders are beefing up security measures and discussing how to prevent another similar tragedy.

On Tuesday morning, councillors took a pause from their scheduled council meeting to mourn and reflect on the attack, with Mayor John Tory assuring all that Toronto remains "strong and resilient."

"People are scared," Tory said in his remarks to council. "They are unsure of what happened or why and they are uncertain about what they should do."

Ten people are dead and 15 others injured after a van driver drove into pedestrians along a more than two-kilometre stretch of Yonge Street near Finch Avenue in North York.

Richmond Hill resident Alek Minassian, 25, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack, which is now prompting discussions of Toronto's security level.

Mayor John Tory, speaking Tuesday during a special sitting to reflect on the victims on Monday's van attack in Toronto. (CBC News)

"There is a security lens we have to apply to public places," said Coun. Joe Mihevc, speaking to CBC Toronto in council chambers. "And of course we will do that, recognizing this could happen in a variety of ways, in a variety of places."​

Mihevc stressed that preventive measures are crucial, to provide support for people who feel isolated or are coping with mental health issues — though it's not yet clear what motivated the suspect in yesterday's deadly incident.

Answers to those questions, Tory said earlier, "may not come for some time."

Police use heavy cement blocks to barricade intersections near Union Station. (Ryan Turford/CBC)

Coun. John Filion, whose ward includes the site of the tragedy, said it's not clear what security measures could be implemented to protect people on a busy stretch like Yonge Street.

"We have so many people on it every day," he said, adding that, perhaps, design changes to public places may be an area to explore.

Concrete barriers

Some changes, however, are already evident. On Tuesday night, heavy cement blocks were set up to protect thousands of fans cheering on their home team in Maple Leaf Square near the Air Canada Centre, while dump trucks and police court services vehicles blocked intersections from traffic.

Concrete barriers were also placed around Union Station by Toronto police, said Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.

There is still currently extra transit safety around Union Station "out of an abundance of caution," she said, adding the transit agency is in close communication with Toronto police, the TTC, RCMP, and other public safety agencies.

City spokesperson Wynna Brown said city staff have a similar approach, working with various law enforcement and public safety partners, but she wouldn't speak about any specific strategies. 

She did say the city does co-ordinate with "various law enforcement partners to determine if additional, short-term security enhancements may be required as a result of an incident, threat, or the raising of the domestic terrorism level."

'Canadians stand united'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking Tuesday at the G7 summit underway in Toronto, described Monday's incident as "a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking Tuesday at the G7 summit underway in Toronto. (CBC News)

In offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed, he said the entire community of Toronto has shown strength and determination in the face of the tragedy.

"All Canadians stand united with Toronto today," Trudeau said.

"We are continuing to monitor it closely and work with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians."

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

Reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca