Blue Line ran a story last month on what would happen if Jihad came to one of Canada's larger shopping malls. We sat on the article for more than a year, looking for the right time to publish it. When two Canadian soldiers were murdered and Parliament was attacked by a lone gunman, we knew it was time.
The story was written by John Thompson, former director of the MacKenzie Institute and one of Canada's leading authorities on foreign and domestic terrorism. Thompson, who long ago ditched his rose coloured glasses, checks and double checks his facts and follows them up with rational, well-thought-out conclusions.
There is no sugar coating this story. Yorkdale is one of the largest and highest profile shopping malls in Canada and works hard to promote itself as world-class. Much the same as the World Trade Centre....
Several years back my wife and I visited the Mall of America while on vacation in Minneapolis. We were shopping in a book store at around 10 AM when an alarm bell began ringing. Store staff immediately moved to the exits and began herding customers toward the back of the store. I thought that strange because people should exit the store during a fire alarm.
Staff directed customers toward the store lunchroom at the back. A steel door was shut behind us and barricaded. This was a drill for an armed attacker in the mall scenario, we were told. Shortly thereafter an all clear was announced and customers were thanked and invited to leave. Needless to say I was impressed, while at the same time saddened that such a drill was necessary.
Here was a mall security service that understood the realities of the real world. No one - storekeepers, mall managers, security personnel or customers - were taking anything for granted.
Days after our December lead story was released a senior police officer called to tell me how it had upset everyone at Yorkdale, particularly the use of their name in the headline. There is no other way to shake people out of their denial that bad things can happen to good people, I told the officer. Bringing reality to the story by referring to a specific mall is the only way to bring stark clarity to this message.
We are missing a major opportunity here, I told the officer. Police must have a higher profile at shopping malls. Unarmed security guards are not the answer. He advised that his division barely has enough members to fill the patrol cars, much less staff shopping malls.
There is another reality that is not making it through to the police future thinkers and bean counters. These mega-malls must contract with police to establish a proper policing presence. They must pay for policing in the same way as any small town or city. Just as in the case of a two-tiered municipal system sewage, fire, hydro and roads are supplied by the municipality. Policing is supplied by the secondary corporate owners.
Canadian towns with as few as 2,000 people are required to supply, or contract for, policing services.
Nuclear power facilities have private armed security. Highly trained, non-police tactical officers patrolling their facilities.
Canada's largest privately owned toll road, Highway 407, currently contracts with the Ontario Provincial Police to police its 107 km. expressway, which skirts the north end of Toronto from Oshawa to Hamilton. The company pays for the cops, cars and support.
BC's Lower Mainland Transit Authority maintains its own armed police service to protect people and property on its corridor. Once again a private, albeit Crown, corporation.
Airports across the country contract and pay to have local police stations as an integral part of their facilities.
Any private corporation wishing to attract millions of people to shop at mega destinations the size of Yorkdale and West Edmonton Mall must be required to supply an actual police presence 24-7. How this is accomplished can be negotiated with the local police services and/or province. Only in this fashion could that formerly soft-target so attractive to terrorists would be considerably hardened and far less tempting.
One more point. Simply investing in the latest high definition CCTV system will attract, not deter Jihadists. Don`t believe meÉ? Google Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi.