Motion to Recognize the Necessity of Fully Integrated Security throughout the Parliamentary Precinct and the Grounds of Parliament Hill and to Invite the RCMP to Lead Operational SecurityPublished on 24 February 2015 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joan Fraser (retired)
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette:
Honourable senators, I just want to remind everyone here that a motion is only good for the life of a Parliament. We have a law that says that Parliament will be dissolved and a vote held on October 19, which is in a few months, so this motion will no longer be valid.
If the intention really was to invite the RCMP to lead operational security, the first step would have been to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, and the second step would have been to change the Rules of the Senate.
From my point of view, this motion is a waste of time. Undertaking negotiations, with all of the energy that will demand of all parties, just to end up in September realizing that the motion is no longer valid demonstrates serious ignorance about the Senate as an institution.
Having said that, for the record I would like to quote some comments by a colleague whom I deeply respect, Senator White. This is from a February 16 article in the Hill Times. Here is what our colleague Senator White said:
Asked about the concern being raised over parliamentary privilege, Senator White said he thinks it’s a healthy discussion and it raises questions that need to be worked out.
So, we have not worked out these questions. Then the article says:
“I was a commanding officer in the RCMP. The reporting structure I had was directly to the commissioner of the RCMP,” said Senator White, Ottawa’s former chief of police.
Then Senator White says further:
The concern is, constitutionally, security and the premises of Parliament Hill are the responsibility of the two Speakers. If the commanding officer heading up policing and security is accountable to the [RCMP] commissioner — who’s accountable to the minister — then the Speakers don’t have a place there. So the question is: where are the Speakers’ responsibilities?
When you review the comments from our honourable colleague, many questions have been raised, and we don’t have the answers to them. It is understood that the RCMP reports to the commissioner, who reports to the minister. That is in the law, the RCMP Act. This motion is not amending the RCMP Act.
Then, of course, he says that the premises of Parliament Hill are the responsibility of the two Speakers. Senator Joyal indicated earlier that that is not exactly the reality. The reality is that the Speaker of the House of Commons has certain responsibilities, and Your Honour, your set of responsibilities are entirely relevant to this institution.
In light of those facts as well as the fact that this motion will become null and void come September, we have to ask ourselves the following questions as an institution charged with taking an objective second look not only at legislation but also at other issues. First, why is this such an urgent matter considering that the internal economy committees of both houses agreed to give a mandate to a group of people who were supposed to report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate, who is also the chair of the Senate Internal Economy Committee? Those are the rules.
First of all, there is a process that needs to be understood. We are here to debate a motion that, in a few months, will no longer be legal. The Senate and the House of Commons were on track to discern the how and the why of the issue.
I would also like to come back to some of the terms of the motion, specifically at the end: “. . . ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff.” It mentions “employment,” but with whom? Will these people remain employed by the Senate? Will they become employees of the RCMP, with all the training that entails in Regina, and at the same pay scale? In the event that these employees suddenly have a new employer, how will they keep the benefits they have accumulated?
It is a major question. As Senator White said so well in his comments to the Hill Times, there is no answer. We are being pushed into accepting a motion to initiate a process that will demand a lot of energy from everyone and require changes to at least two statutes, only to end up with the dissolution of Parliament in September and nothing in return for our efforts.
This motion, and this is my belief, was moved solely for the purpose of serving as an ongoing reminder to Canadians that we are all in danger, as is Parliament. With that in mind, in this constant line of communication, the important thing is to continue to use the word “terrorist” in every possible way. That is what we have before us, and as the arguments I just made demonstrate, the strategy behind this motion, I believe, has no basis.
If the government was serious about the proposed objective, it would have introduced two bills: one to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and another to amend the RCMP Act. Above all, honourable senators, it would have respected the process that the two chambers had undertaken, which involved people with expertise in security.
All that is to say that I am also concerned about what such a change can mean for our Senate security officers. For our part, we are examining these motions from a technical perspective, in terms of procedures and so forth. However, our staff members have a completely different perspective on this motion. It raises concerns for them that are unwarranted, especially given the fact that in September, when the election is called, this motion will no longer be valid.
Those are essentially my arguments. I believe that we shouldn’t spend any more time on this motion. However, given that we must follow the procedures in place, I will comply, but in all honesty and logically, I don’t believe in it.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell:
Thank you, honourable senators. I feel that I have to speak to the comments of the honourable senator from Alberta, whom I quite respect and I treasure her ideas greatly. However, 20/20 hindsight is perfect and talk is cheap.
It’s only through the oversight of the RCMP that we know about the difficulties that they’ve had over the years and the fact that they are the largest police force, the most visible and involved in virtually every portion of the justice system that we know. I think we have to understand that they are under the microscope.
This is not about the RCMP, however. Nobody here is arguing that the RCMP could not set up a security service, could not run a large organization involving security, except for perhaps Senator McCoy. The fact of the matter is that they are qualified.
How long has it been since we’ve been kicking this issue around on the Hill? I’ve been here nine years; it was long before my nine years that there was an attempt to reach an agreement where we would have joint security for the Hill.
Nobody can argue that separate security systems in one building are anachronistic and, quite frankly, dangerous. We agreed on that, but we couldn’t agree on whether the other place or this place would get together and figure out how it would be done. We simply refused to deal with the issue. You would think that when you’ve had people crawling on the roof of your building, even though it was a peaceful demonstration and nobody was in danger, that fact should not be forgotten. Certainly, it should be recognized that people who would want to do us harm would take notice of the incident and the lack of security.
We’ve been forced to act. It seems like I’ve been speaking too much on this, but we did what we were supposed to do here. We set up a subcommittee under the two houses. We met, made decisions and made changes. In all honesty, I don’t know if at the end of the day we still could have ended up with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police being in charge of security on the Hill. The decision wasn’t made as to who should run the security; rather, the decision was made that we required total and full Hill security in whatever form that might take.
What happens to the present security staff? Where do they go? I can tell you with some certainty that they would not be considered on an equal footing with the RCMP. I can speak to that from experience. It’s not that they aren’t good or that they aren’t well-trained. It’s just that they aren’t Mounties. That’s the simple bottom line. What’s going to happen to them? How do we treat them? How do we make them know that we respect what they do and what they have done in the past? What’s it going to cost? God knows the government is chopping here and chopping there as we all try to get our government in order. What’s it going to cost to go through this process?
Right now, costs are pretty minimal as we’ve got the people in place. We just have to figure out how we’re going to go about guarding and how it will work; and then you add the RCMP.
I have no idea what the cost will be, but I can tell you one thing: You can’t sit in a car outside. You cannot do static security on the Hill. Senator McCoy is right in that fact. The danger came through the ranks of the RCMP and got to the Hill. That’s one of the issues we have to deal with when we look at unity.
Do we just unify the security on the Hill? Do we ignore the gate to the door? Well, we ignored the gate to the door the last time, and we know what happened. We believe in looking around the world and visiting different places to see their security. We need security that goes not only to the gate but also outside the gate, as they have in Washington, D.C., where they have overlapping jurisdiction with the Washington police, the Metropolitan Police Department. In the event that anything takes place, they can help; and they’re always on the same wave length and on the same phone line.
What do we know about this incident? We know that a person took a gun and killed a member of the Armed Forces at the cenotaph. We know he came across the street, commandeered a car and drove onto the Hill. Where was security on the Hill that should have been advancing to the front doors, which is where you want to protect? What happened there? We keep talking about hindsight. We’ll find out about that from the OPP. They will tell us what happened. Certainly, there was a breakdown. The fact that we need to go from the Hill to the gate is obvious, I believe. We need to control the whole Hill.
We could do this by changing the RCMP Act and having the Mounties take over. It would seem like the normal course of action. It would seem like the logical thing to do. Yet, we find ourselves in this interesting predicament where we will pass a motion, but, as Senator Ringuette said, we’ll have no force after September, unless of course there is a bill sitting in the pipe to change the RCMP Act or to change the Parliament of Canada Act. However, we have no indication of that happening. You’re going to have to change at least one of them to make it permanent. We’re going to end up with another constitutional challenge; and I’m not sure whether the RCMP has jurisdiction to take over on the Hill.
I would urge you to consider this motion for way down the road. Consider how long it’s going to be in effect. It’s not just going to be in effect for us, as was pointed out by Senator Joyal. This will live on forever, so we had better get it right. This rush to judgment is of great concern to me because we are not taking the time to look at it. We have our security in place right here, but we don’t have it on the whole Hill, I agree; but we aren’t taking the time to figure out how to go about it. We’re saying, “This is what we’re going to do, and once it’s done, then we’ll go back and we’ll do these other things and change these other acts so we can figure out where everybody will fall into place.”
What happens if the Mounties do not agree to a contract that says that the two Speakers are in charge of the Hill and that they answer to the two Speakers? I really ask you to think about this. If you want to know what happens, pick up the phone tonight and call any of the mayors that have the RCMP as their municipal police force. It’s just a given that they serve the citizens of Burnaby, but they answer to the commissioner. They don’t answer to the mayor. They don’t answer to the B.C. police commission. They do not answer to any of the oversight bodies provincially that they are contracted to.
I truly believe that you would need to change the act, and you would need a change in philosophy to have them answer to our two Speakers. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be a fine service. I’m simply saying that we don’t know. We certainly haven’t looked at it past the point of keeping this place safe.
I know that you’re going to vote against the amendment and for the motion and pass it. But remember, 10 or 15 years from now when the wheels fall off the wagon again, they’re going to be looking at us as they say, “What the hell were these people thinking when they did this?”
Remember, it’s sober second thought that we supply here. We’re the ones that take a look to see where we’re going on this and what the pitfalls are. Rushing willy-nilly into this is not doing our job; rather, it’s doing a great disservice to this place.
Hon. Grant Mitchell:
Honourable senators, I have a lot of things to say about this motion.
At first glance, this motion seems straightforward. It seems to address an easy administrative matter, but that is not exactly the case. This is a philosophical question, a question of privilege, a theoretical question about a larger parliamentary issue that goes beyond details and administrative matters.
In my opinion, and my colleagues agree, this is clearly a complex question with many facets that I would like to discuss, including parliamentary privilege and questions concerning the management of Parliament buildings with a different police force, whose traditions and culture are very different from those of our current security officers.
What I’m saying is this may look like — for those who couldn’t understand my French, who are probably the francophones, especially — at face value, at first and superficial consideration that this seems like one of those things: Get ‘er done! It’s easy. It’s administrative. It’s procedural. But, in fact, it isn’t. It isn’t simply procedural or administrative even at the level of organizing and managing it. We have some serious organizational questions that need to be addressed and colleagues have addressed them very well, but I will emphasize and add to them, I hope.
There are also some very important philosophical questions, particularly the questions of parliamentary privilege and of the separation of the Senate and the House of Commons. I will begin with that, because it is a fun story.
I was a parliamentary intern here, which is a scholarship to work in Parliament. Ten Canadian students get it a year. One of the parliamentarians that I worked with 40 years ago, Senator Eymard Corbin, was a senator when I arrived here and this is his chair, so we’ve gone full circle. When I was here — and I can’t remember which side it was — one side of the building had polished floors and the other side of the building didn’t. It was very noticeable and I asked why it was like that. It was because there is such a distinction and such an importance placed upon the distinction between the independence of the two houses and of their management.
There are many traditions throughout the history of this place that are endemic, implicit and explicit in the actual operations of this place right now and that honour that tradition: the separation of these two houses. One of those, I believe, at that time and I think now, is the separation of the security of the two houses. So it may just simply look like security could be run more efficiently by one group, but, in fact, there is an underlying expression of the separation reflected in the way in which we and our guards are structured.
Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that our guards acted extremely well on the day of that event. They did exactly what they had to do, even though none of them were armed. It was one of the parliamentary guards who was the first person to engage that shooter. He was wounded doing it and he wasn’t armed.
As was said by a colleague — I think Senator McCoy — it was in fact a member of the parliamentary staff, Mr. Vickers, who stopped the shooter in the final instance. That’s not to take anything away from the RCMP, who in that video we all saw were pursuing that shooter without cover, often, many of them, down that hall and showing great courage as well. But it is also true that, as Senator Campbell said, that they had the responsibility up to that front door and that shooter made it through that front door. So I think there is a question that they, at least, have to organize and prove that they can organize the outside, before you would imagine that they could properly organize the inside.
That brings me to the procedural — the nuts and bolts. We’re not even clear whether the commissioner wants to do this. In fact, his immediate statement in the press, which may or may not be true, after it was announced, was that it wasn’t finalized and confirmed in his mind at all.
I can imagine the commissioner wouldn’t want to do it for any number of reasons. One is that he has a whole range of pressures on his agenda at this time. He has a whole new reality of dealing with terrorist threats, homegrown terrorist threats and the export of homegrown terrorists right now. He has to reallocate his resources. Three hundred of his RCMP have now been placed into the area of dealing with terrorism. His budget has been cut 15 per cent since 2012. He’s having trouble recruiting RCMP officers because of the tarnished image of the RCMP these days. Again, that’s not to take anything away from the great people in the RCMP, but there are certainly cultural problems.
So I’m not even certain that the commissioner wants to do it. If the commissioner doesn’t want to do it, and can’t be focused on it because he has all these other pressures and can’t make it a priority, then I’m not sure that we would want him to do it.
That leads me to another nuts and bolts question. It wouldn’t be that the commissioner would actually have two bosses: the Speaker here and the Speaker on the other side, which is difficult enough to imagine. The commissioner would in fact have three bosses. He would have the two Speakers; he would have a minister; and he might have de facto a fourth boss, which is his act, which gives him some separation from the minister. Certainly it wouldn’t be the commissioner who would be sitting with the two Speakers to manage this place. It would be a more junior officer who would have less authority, one would think, and therefore might be more prone to difficulties in operating in an environment where he had in fact three bosses: his commissioner and the two Speakers. So there’s that problem.
There’s also a cultural problem. I’m not referring to the problem of the culture that I’ve dealt with, and a number of us have been talking about for several years now, which is the culture of harassment. This is perhaps not completely pervasive, but it’s certainly a factor in the organization. I know that that remains a problem. I expect that might be less a problem for a force on the Hill, because this is a very visible place and there are many powerful people — women, in particular — concerned about those issues. I think that there would be little risk of harassment issues on the force here, although I can’t say that for sure. There certainly would be risk.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: Well, that’s true. I have misspoken myself. It is an organization that is, to some extent, riven with harassment issues and do we want to import those until that cultural issue has been factored? If there is an issue of respect for women, in particular, in that organization, do we want to import that to the Hill until it has been resolved? I would say we do not.
There’s another issue, which is that an argument is made by the RCMP that they are a paramilitary organization and, therefore, they need to be organized and managed differently. They do not need a police com like all the other police forces do because they’re a paramilitary organization. They don’t need a union because they’re a paramilitary organization. I don’t personally believe they should be a paramilitary organization, but I believe that’s part of their culture at this point.
Is that the kind of culture that creates the kind of welcome environment that the Canadian people deserve when they appear on the Hill? I’m not saying that the RCMP are rude or are not considerate people. The young officers that are graduating and coming here as their first appointment seem to be very polite and good with me. However, is a militaristic, paramilitary culture the kind of culture that would be most appropriate to be managing the guards and establishing the protocols for guarding us and the Canadian people within this precinct? That’s a question that we haven’t had time at all to answer.
The other question, though, the higher philosophical question, is the question of privilege. That privilege and its importance have recently been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. I think we are beginning to allow ourselves to be fast and loose with that privilege.
Think of the letter that we were asked to sign and that most of us signed — I regret it in many respects now — written for us by the Auditor General. We signed to say that somehow we could waive our privileges, both solicitor-client privileges and our parliamentary privileges. Without much thought, probably, or with some thought, at least many of us signed that because we thought we were doing the right thing and because we thought that would demonstrate that we were prepared to cooperate. Of course, why would we have to sign a letter to prove that we were prepared to cooperate? But we can’t give up that privilege. It’s not for me to sign away the privilege that was accorded this institution by the Constitution of Canada. We played fast and loose with the privilege of this institution in that instance.
It’s also true that now we’re in a predicament because we rushed through our relationship with this contract with the Auditor General. I guess 40 people find out this week, and that’s public now because I read about it in the newspaper. Who leaked that, I don’t know, but 40 people are actually going to receive — I want to say an accusation letter — their report. Some of that analysis may well be that the Auditor General thinks that a trip or a meeting that a senator decided was absolutely within the purview of their job shouldn’t have been considered to be within the purview of their job. That is us relinquishing our privilege. It’s not for the Auditor General to tell me what my job is. He may be able to comment on what he thinks about the rules, but then to go the next step and even name somebody for doing something that that person legitimately felt was their job? It might even have been within the rules of Internal Economy, which under the Parliament of Canada Act is the final authority on what our job is and how it’s defined.
Again, we’re in a position where we’re beginning to relinquish this very valuable parliamentary institution, parliamentary philosophy, this underpinning, of privilege. Now we’re putting ourselves in a position with this motion, without really even having had time to consider it. It is a motion that we didn’t have any say in writing, I don’t think, that was forced on us not by the other house but by the government in the other house. We don’t report to the government in the other house. They shouldn’t be establishing how it is that we run this precinct — not a minister, not a prime minister. It’s not their role to do that. We are relinquishing our privilege, a very important piece of parliamentary tradition, to a government-driven, government-designed and government-written motion, government being the cabinet, the Prime Minister, the minister.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before you continue, are you asking for five more minutes?
Senator Mitchell: Yes, thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are five more minutes granted? Agreed?
Senator Mitchell: Thank you. I didn’t realize I’d gone on that long. There’s one true law of the physics of speaking in the Senate. When somebody else is speaking, it seems like it takes a long time. When you are speaking, it seems very fast. At least that’s my experience.
I think there are these two philosophical, principled issues. One is the question of privilege, as I say, and it’s not entirely distinct. The other one is the question of the separation of these two chambers. A corollary of that is the separation of that chamber from this chamber and both chambers from the auspices, the control and the direction of government. I think we began a slippery slope in the way we structured the relationship with the Auditor General over the audit in relinquishing privilege. We are furthering that slippery slope now in taking at face value that somebody who reports to government should be running the very critical aspect of protecting this precinct. We are further compounding the problem by accepting, without a suggestion or hint of being allowed to amend it, a motion written for this independent institution by the government. We are here as a check on government, not as employees of government. It is extremely important that we understand that the implication of this motion is exactly that. We are further relinquishing our privilege, and the Constitution says that we shouldn’t be doing that. We have an obligation first to that Constitution, first to the people of Canada, first to maintain the privilege and the independence and the traditions of this place to the extent that they allow us to do the job that that Constitution has defined that we should do.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Colleagues have heard from many on this side about our questions, concerns and reservations in connection with this motion. The fact that we have just rejected an amendment that would have helped to clarify at least one element of our concerns, for me, in particular, intensifies my unwillingness to support this motion as written.
This has nothing to do with a reluctance to have good, solid, effective security on Parliament Hill. I come to work here, too. I don’t want to feel unsafe any more than anyone else does, but, as I suggested earlier today, there remain so many questions, so many unanswered questions. As a number of people have noted, we surely should have learned from our recent experience that it is not a good idea to adopt a motion when we don’t understand what it means. We don’t.
Senator Campbell said that what we do here will have its effect long after all of us are gone, and I fear that’s true because, as we all know, one of the strengths, but also one of the foibles, of the Senate is that change comes slowly, very slowly. Then, when it does come, too often it comes as it is coming now, in a sudden fit of sentiment that, “Oh, we must do something. We must do something, and never mind if we abandon our duty to examine.”
I hope that we and our successors do not live to rue the day. I fear that we and they will. I cannot support this motion as drafted.