Montreal police want festivals better prepared for terrorist attacks

The 25-page guide, a first in the city, focuses on vehicles that could ram into crowds, as in recent attacks in London and Nice.

Montreal police create terrorist threat guidelines for the city's festivals, a first

A security guard watches as people walk around the Place des Arts for the Montreal International Jazz Festival. (CBC)

Recent terrorist attacks in Europe involving vehicles slamming through crowds prompted Montreal police to draft a guide to better prepare the city's popular festivals for similar attacks.

The 25-page document, which was obtained by Radio-Canada, contains recommendations that include the strategic placement concrete blocks in pedestrian-heavy areas. 

This is the first document of its kind produced by Montreal police. 

Officials in the force say it was drafted in response to last July's terror attack in Nice, in which a large truck careened into a crowd of pedestrians, killing 86 and injuring hundreds more.

Since then, a number of European cities have been the site of similar vehicle-based attacks, including Berlin, Stockholm and London, three separate times.   

Following the Nice attack, French police installed barriers at festival sites in order to block rampaging vehicles. 

Montreal police say that's when they started working on their own preventative measures, which include graphics of tools that festival promoters and borough administrations can use to make their outdoor venues safer.

Montreal police commander Martin Grenier, who oversees many large events, said the city has already started to implement some of the document's recommendations. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

"The global context is supporting our hunch ... it could happen here," said Martin Grenier, who heads the Montreal police unit responsible for securing large public events, such as last month's visit by former U.S. president Barack Obama.

While the threat level for Montreal remains unchanged, Grenier added that there is no such thing as "a zero risk."

Document shared with other forces

Montreal police have shared the document with festival organizers as well as other police forces in the province, and have put any large meeting area on guard.

More specifically, the document suggests organizers consider installing hydraulic bollards, stubby cylindric poles a few feet high that can retract to make evacuating easier. ​ 

"They're expensive, but in the future I think it would be a good idea to have these installed at (Place des Festivals)," said security analyst Éric Buchelin, speaking of the downtown area where many of Montreal's public festivals are held. 

Grenier said police have already started installing the concrete blocks at Place des Arts. He said the blocks required a "certain amount of weight" to be effective. 

One of the recommendations to increase security is to strategically place concrete blocks in pedestrian friendly areas. (CBC)

The police document also suggests avoiding temporary metal fencing as a security measure. While cheaper, it can be easily plowed through by a vehicle. 

Police, too, want festival organizers to construct evacuation plans from outdoor venues that are quick and easy to follow.

"We've started to gradually install some infrastructure to secure the sites," said Grenier.

He said there are ways to avoid the blocks from being eye sores. As an example, he pointed to the cement blocks that close Ste-Catherine Street to traffic at the corner of St-Hubert. There a piece of white tarp-like material has been fitted to slip over some cylindric cement weights.

Festival president opts for 'discreet' security 

In addition to subtle barricades, the document calls for increased security. 

But Gilbert Rozon, founding president of the Just For Laughs festival, believes security should not be excessively invasive. 

"It is more important (than before), but I try to make it as discreet as possible. You shouldn't feel the presence of uniforms," Rozon said, noting Just For Laughs is there to bring "joie de vivre."

"I've even banned black gloves," Rozon said his festival's security guards. 

Montreal police are planning a second version of the document for next summer.

With files from Radio-Canada's Louis-Philippe Ouimet