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Evidence of meeting #35 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 rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Audrey O'Brien  Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons
Kevin Vickers  Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Do they have to perform a test where they're tested on their knowledge of our face recognition? Or is there a time, as in within three months or six months when they're tested on our recognition?

12:10 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

All our new people coming through our training have to pass that. Before they get out on the floor they have to be able to identify all members of Parliament.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Like Madam Latendresse, I still run into the odd person who wants to see my ID or my pin. I don't have an ego. I just think, well guys, you should know this by now. I'll still do it and I'll produce my identification, but I still think....

So the onus is on me when it's their job to know our faces.

So I would just challenge you that maybe there needs to be a three-month period when they're tested regularly on our faces so there is a standard that you uphold. It's not an ego thing. It's more that we're challenged to do a job and we're given access to this place to do a job and I think they have a responsibility to do theirs. I think that's where there can be a conflict. So I would just challenge them, and that standard needs to be high in their job for what they're paid to do and it needs to be a high standard and it needs to be maintained.

12:15 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

Mr. Chair, and Mr. Zimmer, I think there are some excellent points and that's something the director of security and I can...like a retesting every so many months just to make sure that everybody is up.

12:15 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

If I may, as well Mr. Chairman, without wanting to get into a kind of culture of tattling, I do think that if this occurs, it's extremely helpful to get the name of the person and to report that back to the sergeant or to somebody at the table who will get the news back.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Yes, and I have. And Kevin, you've been awesome. Every issue that we've had, you've been more than great, apologizing on behalf of them, and it has been much appreciated, but it's usually after the fact.

When you're told “no” to having access to the chamber, you kind of say, “Okay, I don't want to make a scene in front of my guests I have with me, but nevertheless, here we are.”

I appreciate, and you've always been awesome, and again, 90% of them are great—and it's probably even higher—but it's just that standard needs to be maintained.

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

There is a minute left. Mr. Hawn, is that about what you need?

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Yes, a minute, and I don't disagree with anything that's been said. I agree with everything that's been said.

I just want to recount that on February 3, 2006, when I walked into the Peace Tower for the first time, the very first guard I met said, “Good morning, Mr. Hawn, and welcome to Ottawa.” So they are great.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Great.

Madam Turmel.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

I would like to make a suggestion. I pass through the security point in my car and, until one month ago, whenever there was a new person, they would automatically ask for my ID. Over the past month, I have noticed that there is always an experienced police officer with a new one, but I must admit that that is not always possible. It might help to pass the message along. When someone is in training, there should be at least another person, which would allow them to recognize me. I am seeing this right now. They greet me and say: “It is Ms. Turmel”. I appreciate that.

12:15 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Thank you very much, Ms. Turmel.

We really appreciate it. It is a good practical suggestion. Everyone can benefit from it.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

If I can just interject, I had exactly the same experience as Mr. Hawn on my first day here, way back in 2004. Walking in, I was just amazed that someone said, “Welcome, Mr. Preston”, and they knew who I was.

But of late, with the move to Promenade and some of the other areas in the precinct, we now also run into Senate checkpoints and I, honestly, this year had to show my ID to the Senate guard to walk into the Victoria Building. I thought, okay, this is refreshing, but I had it and I didn't feel it was an inconvenience. It was just, okay, great. From then on we wave and laugh and each time I go through.

But I just want to say that I don't find it an inconvenience to have to live within the security realm of this place. My ID card is in my wallet and that's not an inconvenience. It takes the place of whatever. I may not have my Air Miles card because the wallet gets too thick, but come on, it's not that hard for me to have that and it's not that hard to get dressed in the morning and put the pin on. I just want to make sure I said that.

Mr. Lake.

May 3rd, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses who make our lives very easy around this place on a regular basis.

I have a couple of questions. In Mr. Stoffer's case, clearly the mistake that was made was that he was sent away. They should have looked at the book. Instead, they sent him away, and that was a mistake. Is the officer who did that identified?

12:15 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

I have not been able to do so myself. I've been in contact with senior management of the RCMP, Assistant Commissioner Jim Malizia, who looks after the protective operations, and he assured me that the matter is being looked into and they were going to follow up with the members involved.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

It sounds to me like a mistake that was made by someone who may have been new, but who knows? And I would assume that when that police member or members are told they've made a mistake, they won't do that again.

In the case of the other member Mr. Comartin referred to, this is the first time you've heard of it so I imagine you obviously haven't gotten to the bottom of that at this point.

I guess I want to make a point. First of all, in regards to Nathan's comments about world leaders coming here, I would think that when our Prime Minister goes somewhere else in the world, certainly our security teams have a specific way they would like security to be handled and would have some say in what the security parameters are for that visit. I would think we would have the same accommodation made here and each situation might be a little bit different.

My second comment is that I think it's completely unrealistic to think that none of us would ever get questioned as we're walking in, regardless of whether security guards have actually memorized what we look like in a book. I get questioned still, after six years, on a somewhat regular basis. Probably since the last election I've been asked for ID five to 10 times already, and it's because I'm wearing jeans and a T-shirt when I walk in and I'm walking quickly when I come up to the door. The security guard kind of quickly whips around and naturally quickly asks me for ID. As soon as I say I'm a member of Parliament, I've never actually been asked to pull out identification. Once in a while they'll ask me who I am, if it's someone new, and usually I don't recognize them either. I say who I am, and usually they don't even look at a book. You can almost see them go back in their head to remember the picture, then say that's right and they let me on through.

I would rather have mistakes made that have me as a member asked for ID, rather than a mistake where somebody who may be a threat is let in because security is afraid to offend someone who might look like an MP.

I wanted to put that on the record. You know, there is a simple answer to this. As MPs, we get a pin. We have a pin here for a reason, and if we remember to wear the pin we avoid all of that.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Lake.

I have Mr. Comartin to finish this off today.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Well, I wasn't going to say this, but I mean I simply disagree, Mr. Chair, with both your and Mr. Lake's comments.

We have a long history in the English parliamentary system of protecting this privilege. We have that privilege. I mean, people have literally died for this privilege in England, historically, if you go back. And I think you have to be really careful about making concessions.

Mr. Cullen has already raised the issue of how many more days, or leaders coming in from other countries, where there is minimal security but we decide, the government of the day decides, or officials decide, no, they're taking all that away. This privilege is an individual privilege. It's not a collective privilege. It's an individual privilege of every member in this House, and I think you have to be careful of that.

I want to go back to pursuing this with the RCMP because that's obviously where the problem is. I've had the same experience, Mr. Preston and Mr. Lake, with regards to.... I think I've only been stopped once after my first year here. It was by a new staff member in the West Block and I did have a delegation with me and I was quite offended, and I did make a scene. Fortunately, one of the more senior people was also at the desk and intervened immediately and we resolved it. And again, I'm having the problem, as all of us are, with the Senate staff.

But with regard to the RCMP when we do have these special events, there has to be a better way of doing this. The experience I had this last time.... I've had other ones on other occasions but nothing as severe as this.

So who should this committee be bringing in from the RCMP? In particular, there seemed to have been a decision made to send people through East Block, even if they identified themselves. Who would have made that decision? We need to, at least I need to, find that out.

12:20 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Mr. Chairman, on the business of sending people through the East Block, I can't begin to understand how that happened. That goes absolutely counter to anything that we would have negotiated. When I say “negotiated”, I mean basically going over the arrangements for a particular day.

I look at the notice that the Speaker sent out for next Monday. It does say that barricades will be up for the upper drive, but that's not to say in any way that any member should be stopped there.

My own feeling is that under the circumstances, and given how strongly you feel about this, you may even want to call the commissioner, and not necessarily the assistant commissioner who's in charge of this particular.... Maybe both of them. Because I think that one of the things we struggle with really all the time as the House of Commons, and as representatives of the institution of the House of Commons, is to defend fiercely the independence of the House as an institution, and defend the rights, as you say so eloquently, individually of each member of the House of Commons. Each member has been elected. There are privileges that attend upon that election, and we are dedicated to the protection of those privileges.

I have to say that I've even encountered this in dealing with officials at other levels and in other kinds of conversations, where people tend to think of this as kind of quaint, you know, that it's traditional, and it's really kind of old-fashioned, and it's rather archaic. You think, “No, actually, it's not”. It's absolutely central. It's the beating heart of parliamentary democracy. That's not something you toy with.

Again, forgive me for overstepping my bounds, but maybe calling the commissioner and the assistant commissioner to emphasize that at this level of discussion might be helpful.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Okay.

I have a second one, along the same line of decisions made. I think I'm right on this. When Mr. Netanyahu was here that day, they closed off the west side. You couldn't come up the west side. You only could come up through the east side. You couldn't come up through the centre for sure, because the barriers were completely closed off, but I thought they had closed it off to pedestrians on the west side.

If that is the case, who would have made that decision? Or who makes the decision to shut off coming up the stairways or coming up through the two side driveways or laneways?

12:25 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

The RCMP consults with me and the director of security on security measures.

On that day in question, Mr. Chair, if I'm not mistaken, the upper drive was closed off, but the east and west drives were open, and members of Parliament—or anyone—could come up and walk up the east and west drives.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

So really, the question is.... I think you're saying that it's the RCMP that makes the decision as to what's going to be closed off.

12:25 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

Yes. We're usually consulted. They would ask us if we're okay with whatever proposed measure they wished to implement. Again, it's all based on threat risk assessment, on exactly what the threat risk assessment is, and our security posture would be congruent to whatever that TRA would be.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Would that be the same as what I ran into when I couldn't figure out why the RCMP officers were still there? The Prime Minister had left some time before. In terms of how long the barriers stay up and how long the RCMP stay patrolling the barriers, do they make all those decisions in consultation with your office?

12:25 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

On the length of time the barriers are up, Mr. Chair, as Mr. Comartin points out, usually once the dignitary or the VIP is a certain distance away, there's no need to continue to have those barriers up. I do know that there's a lot of consultation between the RCMP and Public Works as far as just the economics of getting resources in to take them down and payments are concerned.

12:25 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

As I understand it, Mr. Chairman, the barrier at the top of the steps is there not only to keep pedestrians out, but the expectation is, as well, that if there are demonstrations or that kind of thing, there's an actual barrier. But as the sergeant was saying, once the dignitary has left, there's a little door that can open in that where people ought to be able to go through.