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.