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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 hill.

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

11:20 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Yes, sir.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Okay.

I want to deal with some specific situations in addition to the one we just talked about with Mr. Stoffer.

Another MP from the NDP, Hélène Laverdière, came to a checkpoint back in March. She did produce identification. She was asked for it and produced it at that time. Then she was directed to go through the East Block tunnel rather than proceed directly to the Centre Block, which is where she was going. She was on duty that morning.

Just so we're clear, the same thing happened to my wife yesterday. She was escorting, because of the concern, one of her former colleagues and her colleague's son up to question period. She was wearing her spouse pin, she identified herself as the spouse of a parliamentarian, and she was directed to go through the East Block. She said, “I'm not doing that.” In the case of Madame Laverdière, somebody else was standing in the same area and indicated that Madame Laverdière didn't have to do that. So she did proceed, as did my wife.

I don't understand, Assistant Commissioner, why—this is two times now, two different people—anybody would be directed to go through the East Block, especially when they've identified themselves.

11:20 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Mr. Comartin, you're absolutely accurate. There is no reason for a member of Parliament or a spouse to be directed to go through the East Block or any other side. They should be allowed, once they've been cleared, to enter the Centre Block or wherever once they pass the screening area.

I will look into that, and I will ensure that this is clear with our members and it's included in our directives for future planning.

In terms of the preplanning phase, as you know, we plan with the Senate and House of Commons. Our folks go through, different people go through, the actual planning stage to look at the whole security picture.

That should have been flagged. I'm going to go back and look at it to (a) see why it wasn't flagged in the planning process, and (b) make sure we don't repeat that.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

You have about 10 seconds, Joe.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Why was I stopped from going to...?

I don't know, Assistant Commissioner; I suppose I'm not comfortable, and I want to be blunt on this, about the sense of seriousness that we would expect when we have somebody like the President of Israel here.

Anyway, I'll come back to that in my next round.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Sure.

Monsieur Garneau, you have seven minutes.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Fellow colleagues will be relieved that I don't have a speech bubbling up within me, but I would like to thank the assistant commissioner for his opening remarks.

I think you've addressed my concerns. I think I understand why things went wrong last March and I think you've reassured me that the chances of something like this happening in the future are very, very small.

I have no further questions.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

What a very efficient use of time today, Mr. Garneau.

I have a lot of others on the list, though.

Mr. Albrecht is next.

May 8th, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Assistant Commissioner, for being here today. I as well am encouraged by your opening comments, and I do value very highly the work of you and your force. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was privileged to be in France, at Vimy, where one of your colleagues accompanying us certainly did your force and all Canadians proud.

I'm encouraged especially by the tone throughout your opening remarks, the tone of your openness to input and to modifying to improve the process, and also your openness to collaboration with the different security forces here on the Hill. But I would just like to say that in terms of the seriousness of the potential danger that any of these instances present, for me, as a member of Parliament, I would rather have my privileges curtailed in some way than to somehow compromise security.

We go through security every week in our airports and so on. There are some complaints about all of that. For me, as a Canadian, I am thankful for those people who are ensuring that the protocols are followed and that we are in fact assured that once we arrive in this place, we're safe. I just want to get that on the record.

In one comment you made, near the bottom of page 2, you talk about the 300 demonstrations that occur annually on the Hill. You said that 12 demonstrations in the past year have “posed significant security challenges due to violent or aggressive behaviour” of some of the demonstrators. My question is, is there a log or a record kept in terms of the groups that are consistent repeat offenders, such that they would be screened more seriously if they apply for a permit in the future? Are you aware of any way that we can mitigate those numbers of violent occurrences?

11:25 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Well, certainly I'm aware that there is a committee our folks participate in that reviews the requests for permits and demonstrations on the Hill. Of course, that's one of the factors that's considered, amongst many.

But also, when you look at the vast majority of groups that are demonstrating/protesting, you see that everyone is peaceful. It really comes down to individuals most of the time, so we try to focus on the individuals who are committing the criminal acts, not the groups.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

That's my concern. We want to protect the right of Canadians to present their views in front of Parliament. I think it's one of the democratic processes that we all value, on all sides of issues. It would be a concern to me if there's a small group of people who consistently create problems, in that there's a potential somewhere down the road that we're going to say, for example, “Hey, this is just too big a problem and we're going to have to put a security perimeter way out on Wellington.” I just would hesitate to see that day come.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I have a bunch of Mr. Albrecht's time left if anyone would like it, or we'll wait for the next round.

Mr. Zimmer, you have two minutes.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I would like to concur with my colleague. I would much rather be here talking about the odd lapse, I guess, in terms of being overprotective of Parliament Hill, as opposed to having this conversation after having lost somebody because there has been a crack in our defences.

I would like to thank you for what your forces do on a daily basis for us and for Parliament Hill. Again, for the amount of time it takes to produce our ID, to me, that's a small cost for what is.... I mean, it's protecting all of us and protecting heads of state, so I concur in that way.

I will ask you a question, though, with regard to your knowledge of the way other democracies work. Is it a similar process in Washington? Do people have to provide ID for entrance? Is it the same in England? What is your experience?

11:25 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

My understanding is that parliamentarians at Westminster have to produce a card for access.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Okay. That's all I need.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Madame Latendresse, you're next.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

I have a brief question related to the examples that Mr. Comartin just gave you.

So that we understand the situation, I would like to point out that the individuals were arriving on the Hill. They had not yet reached Centre Block. In fact, we are wondering how parliamentary privilege and access to the Hill is dealt with generally?

This is how it happened. She was near East Block and was told that she would have to go through the tunnel. How does it work and what are we supposed to do when we are on the Hill, but outside the buildings?

11:30 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

There is a difference between the way things worked beforehand and what we are going to do in the future. Changes have been made. For example, on March 2, there were two security perimeters; one at the lower drive and the other at the top drive. However, we had to eliminate the lower drive perimeter so that people could get to the five access points located at the top of the Hill. Now, once you have crossed one of these access points, depending on where you are, you will be able to continue. If you wish to go to Centre Block, you could continue and have access to the building.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

We will be able to do this without having to go through the previous security measures.

In Westminster, England, there are nearly 600 members of Parliament. It would certainly be more difficult to memorize the faces of 600 individuals.

11:30 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

For RCMP members, this would include all parliamentarians and, of course, those of the Senate.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Do you want to share that time, Mr. Cullen?

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Sure, I'll take a couple of minutes.

Thanks for coming. This is a difficult task for you, to balance this. It's an unusual environment around Parliament Hill, particularly with respect to parliamentarians and our access on these heightened security days, so you have my...I don't know if “sympathies” is quite right, but hopefully my understanding.

This is probably before your time, but just for interest's sake, you mentioned at the beginning of your speech the number of protests that you deal with in any given year. I'd be curious to get a sense of the number of protests over, say, the last decade. Are we on a trend toward increasing, or are we decreasing? Is your job becoming more complex that way? Do we see more arrests, more people taken off the Hill?

You don't have to answer that now. If you know it, great, but you can also get that to us later.

As well, the incidents that have been mentioned by all parties are often in connection with a visit from the head of state from either Israel or the United States. I assume you have special protocol arrangements with those. Are there other nations on the list that require that different type of protocol arrangement with your force when they come here?

I'll leave it at those two questions. I'm not sure how much time I have left, so we'll go from there.

11:30 a.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

To start with your second question, yes, we do have protocols and arrangements with different countries. I shouldn't say “protocols”; I should say we negotiate security arrangements in the sense that we look to see the level required according to threat assessments. We have a threat risk assessment prepared, and then there will be advances conducted by the visiting country, no different from what we do when we travel abroad with our Prime Minister, let's say. At that point there will be different things discussed.

At the end of the day, the RCMP and the partners here are the ones who control security and decide upon what level we're going to put in place and what it will look like.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

This is anecdotal—again, I don't know your world and what you have to deal with—but as a parliamentarian over the last eight years, there is a palpable difference when it's a president of the United States or a leader from Israel. I don't get the same difference when....

I think we have a leader from Poland coming next week. Is that right? My expectation is that it will seem like the same day on the Hill. I know you have final say, or I assume you have final say. Is the arrangement different?