Guests to be searched at Toronto Caribbean Carnival in wake of shootings
Spectators at the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival’s annual parade can expect their bags to be searched, a decision that comes after a spate of recent gun crimes in the city.
Carnival spokesperson and organizer Stephen Weir said bags will be searched for any illegal or dangerous items such as drugs, alcohol, weapons and possible projectiles.
He likened the searches to the bag checks patrons would receive at a Blue Jays or Leafs game.
The decision comes as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vows to take a hard line on gun crime in the wake of two brazen public shootings. The first occurred June 2 in the food court at the city’s Eaton Centre shopping mall, and the other at a block party in the east-end neighbourhood of Scarborough.
Weir said that the Caribbean Carnival’s decision to incorporate bag searches are not a response to the incidents themselves, though there is a desire to stop any impression that the shooting in Scarborough particularly might be linked to the annual celebration.
“If it makes people feel better than that’s great and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t,” he told CTVToronto.ca on Monday.
Carnival organizers are also bolstering security staff, while Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has vowed an increased police presence on city streets -- not specifically at the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival but in public spaces in general.
Each year the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, formerly known as Caribana, invites scores of people to celebrate Caribbean culture through music and art. The festival culminates in a parade along Toronto’s Lake Shore Boulevard, renowned for its elaborate and colourful costumes.
Weir estimated that 800,000 to a million spectators watch the parade each year, but said the bag searches will only affect about 20,000 spectators, the seating capacity of the bleachers.
“Why not do it? It’s a common practice at all major events where there’s a gate and we probably should have been doing it for years,” he said.
The parade is scheduled to take place on August 4. The route begins at Exhibition Place and will continue along a 3.5 kilometre stretch of Lake Shore Boulevard.