Reported by Kera Skocylas
Close to a dozen police officers were at the Langara campus during the Vancouver mayoral debate which went off without a hitch on Oct. 22 amidst safety concerns in the wake of the attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
(COPE) were on campus for the intense debate, avidly watched by some 350 audience members.
A large crowd gathered to watch the debate
The candidates covered several hot-button topics including homelessness, transit and lack of government transparency – with several arguments drawing cheers, gasps and groans from the crowd.
The event began with a moment of silence in honour of Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo, the victim of the Ottawa shooting.
“Thank you for starting with a very important moment of silence for the tragedy in Ottawa today,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said when he first took the microphone.
Security was heavy at Langara
Security appeared to have been heightened in the wake of recent attacks, in which one soldier was shot dead at the National War Memorial earlier in the day and two soldiers were hit by a car near Montreal on Monday.
Several police officers walked through back hallways, looking in rooms and checking the perimeter throughout the event.
“There was some thought of cancelling it just because we thought people might be distracted watching the prime minister’s address,” said Frances Bula, Langara’s journalism department chair.
Langara nursing student Rita Balu said that she was worried because of the shooting but felt the security presence was appropriate.
“Our deepest sympathies to the soldier who died,” said NPA candidate Kirk LaPointe. “We have lost a lot in our country today.”
Langara student Becca Clair said there were many police officers outside the building. One, she said, looked like they were wearing SWAT gear.
“They had thicker outfits on than a normal cop, with leg padding. Definitely more than a normal cop,” she said.