October 18, 2017

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'Phone threat' leads to legislature evacuation

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Manitoba Legislative building evacuated Thursday afternoon.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Manitoba Legislative building evacuated Thursday afternoon.

The legislature building was evacuated just before 3 p.m. Thursday after Speaker Myrna Driedger told the House there was a security threat in the public gallery.

Premier Brian Pallister later told reporters there was a phone threat, but would not elaborate. Pallister said that too much attention paid could lead to "repeat activity."

Emergency crews gave the all-clear just before 4:30 p.m. MLAs briefly returned, moved the rest of the day's business to Tuesday, and called it a day.

Pallister told an impromptu scrum on the legislature lawn that he was informed that the building evacuation was ordered after a “phone threat.”

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The legislature building was evacuated just before 3 p.m. Thursday after Speaker Myrna Driedger told the House there was a security threat in the public gallery.

Premier Brian Pallister later told reporters there was a phone threat, but would not elaborate. Pallister said that too much attention paid could lead to "repeat activity."

Emergency crews gave the all-clear just before 4:30 p.m. MLAs briefly returned, moved the rest of the day's business to Tuesday, and called it a day.

Pallister told an impromptu scrum on the legislature lawn that he was informed that the building evacuation was ordered after a "phone threat."

"I understand this is a consequence of somebody making some kind of an idle threat. The world is a strange place sometimes and it’s disappointing," he told reporters.

Police cars and officers surrounded the stately building, while an ambulance, a string of fire trucks and a hazardous material response unit vehicle lined the north side of Broadway.

Pallister referred to the perpetrator or perpetrators as "pranksters," and he expressed concern that the massive response may encourage copycats.

Platoon fire chief Barry Carpenter told reporters that the initial call was about a toxic smell. "It was upgraded to a suspicious package," which led to an investigation which included the bomb squad.

Nothing was found and no one was injured, said Carpenter. "Given the situations that happen in the world, we have to take these precautions."

Even while question period continued, staff who normally oversee the House and its public visitors had searched under all the benches throughout the public gallery.

Clerk's staff huddled for several minutes with House leaders and Independent MLAs while the business of the MLAs went on all around them.

The fire alarm began ringing, and Driedger told the House, "We have had a security threat in the public gallery."

Outside, police told everyone  to move to Kennedy Street and Broadway.

Driedger said outside the building that police and fire officials had ordered the building cleared.

"I'm not allowed to say (why) at this point," she said.

Asked why normal business proceeded while there was obviously something going on, Driedger said, "We were meeting with the house leaders to make joint decisions. We were awaiting further information." 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 3:25 PM CDT: updates

5:29 PM: Update

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