Evidence of meeting #36 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was security.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Commissioner James Malizia  Assistant Commissioner, Protective Policing, Protective Policing Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

We'll call our meeting to order.

We are still studying an order of reference and a question of privilege relating to the free movement of members around the precinct.

We have a guest with us today from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Is it Deputy Commissioner...?

11 a.m.

Assistant Commissioner James Malizia Assistant Commissioner, Protective Policing, Protective Policing Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

It is assistant commissioner, Mr. Chair.

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Okay.

Mr. Malizia, you've been with us before. You were with us not that long ago on the other study of privilege we were doing. We were suggesting this morning that you could become a permanent member if you come one more time. Pick out a good chair for yourself.

I understand you have a few opening remarks today. Let's go through those, please, and then the members will have some questions for you.

11 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure for me to join you here today to address the question of privilege relating to the free movement of members of Parliament within the parliamentary precinct.

I would like to thank you for extending us an invitation to provide you with the most recent update on this important issue.

As you know, the RCMP has a mandate to protect the grounds of Parliament Hill. Furthermore, we are also mandated under the Criminal Code with protecting visiting international protected persons such as heads of state or of government and foreign diplomats while in Canada. The RCMP recognizes the need to balance security and access, but we also recognize that the implementation of security measures cannot override the right of MPs' access to the parliamentary precinct.

As the committee is well aware, Parliament Hill represents the physical embodiment of Canadian democracy, culture, and values. As such, it has become a preferred site for individuals to hold peaceful protests and demonstrations. Unfortunately, its symbolic and functional relevance also positions it as a focal point to attract negative or potential criminal acts by those who wish to interfere with its functions.

Our police officers have diverse operational policing backgrounds and bring maturity, professionalism and experience to our Parliament Hill detachment.

For example, Constable Vladimir Napoleon is a seasoned police officer working out of our Parliament Hill detachment. He served in Surrey, British Columbia, where he worked as a uniformed police officer responding to calls for service. He was also a member of British Columbia's integrated homicide investigation team investigating the Surrey Six murder case related to street gangs.

Constable Annie Delisle served in Carnduff, Saskatchewan, where she investigated a large variety of criminal offences. She also served in Pond Inlet, Nunavut and Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, where she conducted numerous investigations related to illegal sales of tobacco products and drug trafficking.

These two police officers are reflective of the quality of RCMP members that are working every day on Parliament Hill. I am proud of having these highly-skilled police officers. These members are intelligent, adaptable and are trained to solve problems in sometimes challenging and stressful situations.

Securing the grounds of Parliament Hill and providing the safest environment possible for parliamentarians and the public at large requires us to work in close collaboration with all of our security partners, including the Senate and House of Commons security services. The RCMP involves both security agencies in the planning of all operational visits, demonstrations, or events implicating Parliament Hill.

Along with the Senate and House of Commons security services we have set up a master security planning office. This joint initiative on security matters is designed to strengthen the security culture, enhance interoperability, coordinate activities, and establish efficient processes to share intelligence.

Over the years we have identified a number of opportunities to work more closely together. For instance, we have daily conference calls to share operational information and activities. There are memoranda of understanding in place to facilitate the sharing of intelligence and access to RCMP radio frequencies. There is a tripartite training project to facilitate joint training exercises. For example, the RCMP provides immediate action rapid deployment training for active shooters to the House of Commons security services.

All three agencies manage events using the incident command system. This ensures standard command, control, and response during a visit, demonstration, or event. The RCMP has integrated the Senate and House of Commons security officers into our national capital region command centre during all major events.

As you know, some security upgrades have been completed, including changes to the Vehicle Screening Facility to accommodate the screening of an average of 400 vehicles per day. Additional security enhancements are being implemented to further reduce the risk posed by unauthorized vehicles to all parliamentarians, employees and visitors.

What occurs off Parliament Hill sometimes impacts upon what happens on the Hill. On average, there are more than 300 demonstrations annually on Parliament Hill and more than 400 within the national capital region. The majority of protests are peaceful; however, in the last year there were 12 demonstrations on Parliament Hill that posed significant security challenges because of the violent or aggressive behaviour of some demonstrators. In addition, the utilization of social media by protestors for immediate mobilization has elevated the level of complexity and planning of security around these events.

In addition to protests, our members were also involved in securing 12 high-level visits in the past year, which required enhanced security measures and increased vigilance. One of these high-level visits occurred on March 2, 2012, with the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister.

Media reports have provided a picture of the current environment for Israeli interests. It is essential that we maintain a high level of vigilance when the Prime Minister, the President, or other dignitaries visit Canada. Under such circumstances, the complexity of our mandate increases, requiring enhanced coordination of specialized units from within the RCMP and with other law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of the international protected persons and the locations visited.

On March 2, the RCMP was required to significantly bolster our regular Parliament Hill resource deployments in order to provide the appropriate level of security for the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Needless to say, a breach of security screening measures could have had significant consequences. The heightened level of security on the Hill during the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu required us to be extra vigilant in order to ensure valid accreditation. All deployed resources were briefed and given specific instructions for the day. Members on duty that day were advised to facilitate access to parliamentarians and challenge those without accreditation. These are standard instructions. We were also fortunate to receive assistance from the Senate security service, who assisted us at security checkpoints with quick identification and screening of senators and Senate staff.

Our regular Parliament Hill resource deployments are issued the Directory of Members of the House of Commons for quick reference and identification of parliamentarians. Unfortunately, we did not have an adequate number of booklets to distribute to the members being mobilized from other areas within the RCMP.

This has been identified as a deficiency, and going forward we have acquired a sufficient number of directories to issue to all members deployed on Parliament Hill for future events.

Since March 2, the RCMP has also taken additional measures to improve future visits. This includes: working with the Senate and the House of Commons to have their personnel at key checkpoints along with our members to quickly identify parliamentarians; placing experienced Parliament Hill members at key access points; updating orientation for our members to further enhance their ability to visually recognize parliamentarians.

I have provided the following direction to the officer in change of protective operations: should RCMP members not recognize parliamentarians, they shall immediately refer to the directory of members for quick identification and access. Operational pre-planning will ensure that during special events, MPs will continue to have access for entry through Centre Block. Security perimeters will be stood down at the end of each special event or visit.

RCMP Parliament Hill members take pride in keeping parliamentarians and those who visit and work on the Hill safe and secure. We are continuously reviewing our procedures and processes to improve our operations and remain committed to continuing the important work we do daily with our security partners.

Thank you.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you very much.

I will go first to Mr. Lukiwski for seven minutes, please.

May 8th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Assistant Commissioner, for appearing.

Let me first say that I have untold respect for the RCMP and all that you do. I have a long history with the force, frankly. I live in Regina Beach, but part of my constituency is Depot. One of my dearest friends is Bill MacRae. If you know anything about RCMP history—and I know from your knowing nod that you do—you know Mr. MacRae's past history with the force. I should also tell you that I have a very personal involvement. My mother's first husband was an RCMP officer who was killed on duty at Depot. So I have a long history and involvement and abiding respect for the job that you do.

I want to say thank you for everything you do, not just on the Hill for parliamentarians, but for all Canadians across Canada. I know the force has been under some pressures lately, from a public relations and public image standpoint, but I'm sure the new commissioner, Commissioner Paulson, and all officers, commissioners, and assistant commissioners will be able to resolve those challenges and continue with the great work you do. I want to get that on the record.

The reason we're here, of course, is to try to see if we can come up with some solution to some of the problems we've had in years past with visiting dignitaries coming and members of Parliament not being granted access to Parliament Hill. I know my colleagues in the NDP will have some specific questions about that.

You referenced it in your opening comments, and you mentioned that during yesterday's visit by President Peres, you actually had some security from the Senate staff assisting your forces in identifying senators and allowing them passage. I asked the sergeant-at-arms when he was here last week about the level of cooperation between the security forces inside the precinct and inside Centre Block and the RCMP. He referenced, quite correctly, the fact that the RCMP has jurisdictional authority outside of the buildings.

My question is, quite simply, why couldn't there be, on a regular basis, that level of cooperation that you saw yesterday, with security staff inside simply going out to your force and asking if you need a hand in identifying some of the members? They have, I think, enhanced training on recognition of members of Parliament. Is there, in your opinion, a problem there? I think I used the term “a pissing match” between the two security forces. Why couldn't it just be as simple as, on a regular basis, a standing operating procedure: whenever there's a visiting dignitary coming to Parliament Hill, there would be a joint identification force, if we want to call it that, with security members from inside assisting your forces. Is that something that could or should happen, and would you comment on whether it will happen?

11:10 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Sir, in fact, it is a conversation that I did have with Mr. Vickers recently, in order to have that implemented on an ongoing basis. My understanding is that yesterday there were House of Commons security personnel outside assisting us, which greatly facilitated access for parliamentarians. It is a best practice and it is a way of doing business going forward.

In fact, when we talk about interoperability amongst all security agencies—this includes Ottawa Paramedic Service, Ottawa Fire Services, and Ottawa Police Service—we each have specialties and areas of expertise. It's to everyone's advantage to be able to come together, integrate, and provide the best possible service in the most efficient manner. Certainly it's a best practice for us to keep moving forward together, and it should mitigate the issue at hand.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Yes, I think it would, because, as you mentioned, one of the problems that we're discussing today was the fact that you didn't have as many directories for identification of pictures, but we all know that a lot of times pictures you see in a directory are not the same as what the individual actually looks like. As my colleague beside me pointed out, you could have your picture taken while you were sporting a beard and then the day of the visit you're clean-shaven.

Secondly, I think a lot of people have a bit of an ego when it comes to putting pictures in directories and they may have a more flattering picture in the directory than they actually appear—present company excepted.

I would suggest that the directory, while it would be helpful, would not actually solve the problem in some cases. I think that interoperability you're talking about would be the answer. I would certainly encourage you and the parliamentary security forces to work together at all further visitations.

11:15 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Thank you.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Chair, that's about it for me. Some of my colleagues may want to take the rest of my time.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

There are about two minutes left.

Mr. Reid, I see your hand. I'll give you those two minutes.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I want to just follow up on this with what happened yesterday. Just by coincidence, we had something happen in my office that let us see how flexible the new arrangement is of having House of Commons and Senate people present. I was quite impressed.

What happened specifically was that, as I was leaving the Hill, I realized that I didn't have my parliamentary pin with me. I had on the same pin that I'm wearing today, to promote awareness of childhood illness. But I could see that there was a House of Commons person there, so I stopped and said, “If I leave the Hill, am I going to have trouble getting back on?” He said, “No, I know who you are.” Down I went, off the Hill.

As I was leaving, I passed a photocopy repairman who had been up in my office fixing a computer—sorry, photocopier. He'd had to leave the Hill to get a missing part. He came back and was denied entrance. He trotted down, grabbed my coattail, and dragged me back up. When I said “This guy is with me”, they let me through, but they said I had to take him to all the various checkpoints inside. I was able to get him back to the office.

So something that could have been difficult, not just for me but for a guy who has no particular privileges here and who does have a legitimate reason to be here, was, I thought, very well resolved by the way in which you and the House of Commons and Senate security were working together. My hat is off to you for that.

11:15 a.m.

A voice

We're glad you weren't arrested—

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Well, here's the real question: is your computer fixed?

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

It was the photocopier, and it's working just fine, thank you.