This is the social contract on which just societies are based; that democratic institutions be open and transparent. Citizens who nurture a healthy distrust of government have the right to be heard, and citizens can also voice their support if they feel government is on the side of the greater good.
That openness is under threat. City Hall was evacuated Tuesday, and a suspect was later arrested for allegedly being armed with many incendiary devices. I was watching the livestream of what was a rather unexciting meeting about fire control when the loud bangs abruptly ended proceedings.
City Hall was closed the day after the event, and it remains to be seen when staff will be ready to open the doors to the public again.
When it reopens, will things change? The great thing about City Hall is that it’s a gathering space, a community space. I’ve gone to arts awards and press conferences there. I was supposed to go to an event Wednesday evening at City Hall that celebrated Black-owned restaurants in Edmonton. Sadly, it had to be postponed.
Will City Hall become a place of metal detectors and security checks? Will it become less of a public space? It would be heartbreaking to see it happen. Many councillors hold open houses in their wards so they can connect with the public. Will they be forced to think twice about where and when they happen?
When the social contract is broken, when the healthy distrust of government crosses into violence, the institution itself comes under threat. We saw that with the American insurrection, and, while this is a much smaller example, if a lone suspect walks into City Hall armed and ready to fire, the normal reaction is to ask “why are we so open in the first place?” And it is a normal, human reaction.