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Woman charged after trying to get into Centre Block, stealing car on Parliament Hill

Ottawa Police have charged a 27-year-old Ottawa woman who they say stole a taxi to drive to Parliament Hill, abandoned the vehicle and then stole another vehicle after being denied access to Centre Block by security guards on Monday afternoon.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Police have charged a 27-year-old Ottawa woman who they say stole a taxi to drive to Parliament Hill, abandoned the vehicle and then stole another vehicle after being denied access to Centre Block by security guards on Monday afternoon.

Police said Catherine Côté has been charged with two counts of theft of a vehicle and one count of theft under $5,000. Ms. Côté, who was not armed during the incident, will undergo a mental-health assessment; a referral has also been made to the mental-health court.

"At no point in time was the safety and security of the visitors, the grounds or Parliamentarians ever at risk," said Melissa Rusk, a spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS).

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Police said Ms. Côté arrived on Parliament Hill around 3:30 p.m. Monday, after abandoning a stolen taxi on Wellington Street in front of the Hill. Only authorized vehicles, such as ministerial cars, are allowed on Parliament Hill.

She then made her way to the visitor's entrance of Centre Block and told the guards she was a Parliamentary employee wanting to enter the building, according to Ms. Rusk. Ms. Côté did not have a Hill pass and was denied entry.

Police said Ms. Côté proceeded to get into a nearby unoccupied vehicle and drove toward the Hill's exit. She was soon stopped by RCMP on Lower Drive, a restricted roadway on the Hill grounds, and arrested. Ottawa Police then arrived and took her into custody.

It's not clear whose car was stolen on the Hill, although Ms. Rusk said it was not an RCMP vehicle. A spokesperson from the Senate Speaker's office confirmed the incident occurred, but also cited security concerns when asked about the origin of the vehicle.

Ottawa Police are now heading up an investigation into the incident. When asked how Ms. Côté managed to get into the second vehicle and drive off, police said they could not comment further as the matter is before the courts.

Ms. Rusk would not say if Hill security was beefed up after Monday's events, but did note that the PPS constantly examines its security measures.

"Our security is based on the domestic and international threat environment and so we are constantly evaluating our measures to ensure that they're responsive to the needs of that environment. And that's on a daily basis. It's not incident driven," Ms. Rusk said.

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With MPs and Senators on a scheduled break week, Parliament is quieter than normal this week.

This isn't the first time a car has been stolen from Parliament Hill grounds. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stole a car to drive to Parliament Hill after shooting Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22, 2014. He then hijacked a minister's car on the Hill and drove up to Centre Block, where he stormed the front doors of Parliament with a rifle. He was shot dead moments later by security guards, RCMP officers and then sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

Security was increased following the October, 2014 attack and the PPS was created, integrating the House and Senate security services under the command of the RCMP and Speakers of both houses.

Conservative Senator Vern White, a former RCMP officer and once Ottawa Police chief, said Hill security needs to be increased. Speaking to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, Mr. White said he has asked for a review and report of Monday's events.

Mr. White said he is specifically concerned about pedestrian access to the Hill.

"We need a system whereby there are only a couple of entry points onto the Hill and there at least has to be a conversation from someone in uniform to the public," Mr. White said.

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"We have right now … six walk-on entry points on the Hill. I think it's too many. You could probably have the others closed off and just have the front three."

Mr. White said he has experienced push-back from some Parliamentarians who want the Hill to remain free and open to the public. His response: "It's not about limiting who comes. It's about ensuring those who are coming on the Hill are coming for the right reasons."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Michelle Zilio is a reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau. Previously, she was the associate producer of CTV’s Question Period and a political writer for CTVNews.ca. Michelle has also worked as a parliamentary reporter for iPolitics, covering foreign affairs, defence and immigration, and as a city desk reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. More

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