Mayor vows increased security at downtown library But facility unlikely to reopen by Monday as city, union debate how to keep patrons, staff safe

Mayor Scott Gillingham says the Millennium Library won’t reopen until at least some security changes are in place, after a man was stabbed to death inside the building on Sunday.

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Mayor Scott Gillingham says the Millennium Library won’t reopen until at least some security changes are in place, after a man was stabbed to death inside the building on Sunday.

“I’m committed, and I know council colleagues are committed, to make sure the library does not reopen the same way that it closed. There needs to be other measures in place to ensure that the public can have confidence, and our staff can have confidence, that it’s a safe space to work in and a safe space to visit,” Gillingham told reporters Thursday.

The mayor declined to reveal specific security options being considered, but said changes could delay the reopening of the library to the public. The city previously said the earliest that could take place would be Monday.

“I would like to see it open by Monday. However, I would much rather it open when we’re ready for it to open, when we can ensure it’s a safe space for our staff and for our employees,” said Gillingham, noting some “preliminary” safety measures could be added first.


The library has been closed since Sunday, after 28-year-old Tyree Cayer was stabbed to death inside the building that afternoon. Four teenage boys have since been charged in his slaying.

The head of the union that represents library staff said he doesn’t expect safety changes to be in place soon enough to allow it to reopen Monday.

“I think if we’re going to do this properly, I think that we can’t rush it and I think certainly it’s going to take longer than a week,” said Gord Delbridge, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.

Delbridge said he is concerned about the loss of the city’s flagship library for an extended period, though he couldn’t offer an estimate for how long it might remain closed.

“Libraries are important for the community… It’s a concern that it’s closed but it’s necessary to put the proper provisions in place to make sure it’s going to be safe and accessible for all,” he said.

Delbridge said it’s critical that some changes be made, since staff remain shaken after the homicide. He said security incidents at the Millennium Library have also become far too common.

“The numbers are quite significant… What happened here is not just an isolated incident,” he said.

Delbridge also declined to elaborate on what specific security measures are being discussed.

When asked if he would personally support a return to airport-style security at the Millennium Library, Gillingham did not directly answer.

“I’m supportive of measures that ensure the public has confidence that the library is safe, so I’m open right now to all options,” he added.

Blaming a surge in violent incidents, the city introduced the extra security at the library in February 2019, requiring patrons 13 years and older to submit to bag searches and scans with hand-held metal detectors. The changes triggered backlash from some advocates, who argued the measures violated privacy rights and created a barrier to using the facility.

The pushback led the city to end the screenings in 2020.

Gillingham said elected officials who served on council when that security was removed may be reflecting on the matter now.

“I don’t know if it was a mistake to remove the added security but what I do know is we have a homicide in the library. The library’s got to be safe. (The homicide) took place on the first floor, there’s a lot of children’s books and programming on that floor. What is paramount to me… is that the library be safe for all people,” he said.

Earlier this week, an advocate who helped lobby to get the airport-style security measures removed told the Free Press that decision should not be reversed.

“What is paramount to me… is that the library be safe for all people.”–Mayor Scott Gillingham

“We’ve always said that the checkpoints are actually part of a broader divestment from libraries and public services … our demands to have them removed have always been part of demands for greater overall investment in city services and community health and safety,” said Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, a member of the group Millennium for All.

Dobchuk-Land said the city should instead increase investments in community services, such as expanded library hours, to address the root causes of violence and crime.

Requests to speak to a Winnipeg library official were not granted this week. In an email, spokesman Adam Campbell said decisions on how to address safety concerns have not yet been made.

“We won’t be accommodating any interviews until we’re ready to announce a re-opening plan. The library has remained closed to allow time to evaluate next steps for ensuring the safety of all staff and visitors, as well as provide counselling support for staff … Monday remains the earliest possible date the library could reopen,” wrote Campbell.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.


Updated on Thursday, December 15, 2022 10:04 PM CST: Removes quote about number of incidents. Could not be immediately confirmed.

Updated on Friday, December 16, 2022 9:14 AM CST: Fixes typo

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