Two British Columbians in Brussels say they aren’t sure what to expect next following two terrorist attacks in the city that left at least 34 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Both spoke to Vancity Buzz on the condition of anonymity and say they’ve been advised to stay in their apartments until further notice.
“I don’t really feel comfortable leaving my house right now – my university is closed today and I’m just playing it by ear,” says a student from Metro Vancouver.
She says since arriving in January, there’s been a large military presence in the city due to November’s attacks in Paris.
“Coincidentally, yesterday, I was talking with a friend and we were saying ‘there’s such a strong army presence, but in a place like this it almost seems like it’s an overreaction,’ and today’s attacks unfortunately prove that it’s not an overreaction,” she says.
“I’m very much looking forward to coming home to Canada – I think for a little bit, it might be a bit strange. I feel like I might be looking for army men where there obviously aren’t any around because it’s become such a normalized part of society and daily life here.”
Another young British Columbian living in Brussels says it’s been known for a while that Syrian-trained fighters were living in the city.
“I think there’s been some skepticism and in some ways, today’s events, as tragic as they were, were not wholly unexpected.”
She was hesitant to say, however, that she felt there was a lack of proper safety protocols in the city.
“These are public areas [where the attacks happened] and you really have to draw the line between freedom to move and freedom to gather and, I guess, the interest of public safety.”
“I think relevant measures were taken. Stopping these attacks before they manifest – it’s probably something that’s going to be a real concern going forward,” she says.
Here in Canada, the threat level hasn’t been raised, says Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, but he says Canadians should remain vigilant. In addition, the Vancouver Police Department say the public should be more attentive to their surroundings and report suspicious activity in the city.
Transit Police are on high alert here in Vancouver, with the deployment of additional officers and bomb sniffing dogs. There will also be extra RCMP presence at YVR airport.