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Security measures for Layton funeral balanced against need for public access

Crowds line-up to pay respect to Canada's leader of the Opposition Jack Layton as his body lies-in-state in the Center Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 24, 2011.

Patrick Doyle/REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/REUTERS

The first state funeral to be held in Toronto in nearly half a century will be open to the public but will also involve a strong security presence, federal officials said Wednesday evening.

Officials face a tricky balancing act in trying to keep Jack Layton's weekend funeral accessible to mourners in Canada's largest city, while also protecting the lives of visiting dignitaries. But federal officials say they will do their best to comply with the family's wishes to bring the public in as much as possible.

Mr. Layton's funeral is to be held 2 p.m. Saturday at 2,500-seat Roy Thomson Hall. Federal officials said they have assembled a list of 1,700 invited guests so far. Four large-screen televisions are to be arranged for mourners congregating outside the building.

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"The public will be invited to come … details will be communicated in the next few days," said Dominique Collin, a spokeswoman for Heritage Canada. Her colleagues attending a news conference in Toronto said there will also be a "large" police presence and some barricades outside.

The RCMP is to take responsibility for site security and the safety of any top officials, such as the Prime Minister. Toronto Police are to assist in guarding the funeral and procession. Heritage Canada officials say they believe a state funeral hasn't been held in Toronto since the early 1960s.

Mr. Layton's body will leave Ottawa on Thursday afternoon, and be brought to Toronto City Hall at 9:45 p.m. by police pallbearers.

A public visitation will run Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Dignitaries will visit his body outside of those times.

At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Mr. Layton's casket will be placed in a hearse at City Hall. Starting around 1 p.m., a half-hour downtown motorcade led by mounted police will take him to Roy Thomson Hall for the funeral.

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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