Tourists are once again walking the grounds of the BC legislature and people are making their way in through the main entrance of the building as life returns to normal in the provincial capital's seat of politics.
On Thursday night, the clerk of the house, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, advised members of the legislative press gallery that as of Friday regular public access to the legislature would resume.
“I am writing to provide you with an update on the Parliament Buildings security and access,” Ryan-Lloyd wrote in an email. “The demonstrators have now vacated the Legislative Precinct and all the areas at the front of the Parliament Buildings are now clear.”
Though the legislature is again open, there a noticeable change to the front of the building, arising from a prolonged occupation by demonstrators. A locked and cabled steel fence now bars access to the ceremonial gate where supporters of the Youth for Wet’suwet’en gathered for almost two weeks.
“It’s the ceremonial entrance, that’s where the lieutenant governor, the Queen’s representative, enters through so we are going to put in measures moving forward,” said chief of staff to the speaker of the BC legislature, Alan Mullen.
“We are the biggest fans of protests, [but] it’s not going to be happening on the front steps.”
Mullen said the current fence will remain until more permanent measures can be put in place that fit more appropriately with the building's architecture.
“It’s not going to be the way it was,” said Mullen. “We need to protect that. We need to have this building looking its best because it is the peoples' building.”
Mullen said to be able to open the house again to the public is a relief for those who work inside.
“What we saw was, you know, the building was lost to the general public for the sake of a few," said Mullen. "Well that’s not democracy, democracy is everybody needs to be looked after. It is the peoples' house and [we want] to be able to say, 'Come on in to your place.' We’re ecstatic.”
Mullen adds that legislative staff were able to reopen the grounds quickly because activists did a good job removing debris when they finished their occupation. The quick cleanup is welcome news for BC taxpayers, says Mullen.
“Thankfully, the protesters made the commitment right from the start, 'We want to leave the place clean,' and they did,” said Mullen.
“Our facilities management team came out and there was a little bit of sweeping up and that kind of stuff but for the most part the protesters did clean up after themselves.”
Legislative staff now say that, in addition to the ongoing injunction preventing the blocking of doorways at the legislature, staff will be more strictly enforcing policies against overnight camping and fires on the grounds moving forward.
Visitors are reminded that the legislature is open to the public from Monday to Friday, but is closed on weekends and statutory holidays.