Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to be here today as part of your study on the question of privilege regarding the free movement of members of Parliament within the Parliamentary Precinct. Thank you for the invitation.
As you said, Mr. Chair, I am joined today by Mark Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House of Commons and by Mike O'Beirne, Acting Director of the Parliamentary Protective Service.
My understanding is that members of the committee wanted me to take a few minutes to elaborate on the current structure and governance of the Parliamentary Protective Service and its mission throughout the Parliamentary Precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
Since its creation in 2015, the parliamentary protective service has been working to establish itself as an independent parliamentary entity. As members will know, the PPS is responsible for the physical security of the parliamentary precinct. While the director of the new service is a member of the RCMP, the parliamentary protective service is legally separate from the RCMP, and the director is directly accountable to the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament.
For the House of Commons, it is my role as Speaker to determine the objectives, priorities, and goals relating to the security of the precinct. This is done in consultation with the director of the PPS. In turn, the director works with the House administration to define our security and access requirements. In this regard, the corporate security office acts as our liaison and main point of contact with the parliamentary protective service.
Pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, the governance of the new service was given to the Speakers of the Senate and of the House of Commons. Through the memorandum of understanding signed in 2015, it was determined that:
[...] the authority of the Parliamentary Precinct is vested in the Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Commons, as the custodians of the privileges and rights of the Members.
The Director of PPS is consulted by both Speakers when setting objectives and priorities, and the director is also responsible for planning, managing and controlling operational parliamentary security.
At the core of its mandate, the parliamentary protective service must provide for the security of all members, while respecting the privileges, rights, immunities, and powers of the House of Commons and the Senate. As indicated in the memorandum of understanding, the parliamentary protective service shall “be sensitive and responsive to, and act in accordance with, the privileges, rights, immunities and powers of the Senate and the House of Commons and their Members”.
Those privileges, rights, immunities, and powers include the right of members of the House of Commons to unimpeded access to Parliament Hill and the parliamentary precinct at all times and for all purposes. In addition, members of the PPS must not deny or delay access to a member and are expected to identify members by visual recognition. In doing so they may rely on the directory of members of the House of Commons or on their own knowledge. Failing this, they are to look for the member's pin, and if not in view, ask to see their House of Commons identification card, or any other piece of identification. I think we can assume that means normally government identification, of course government-issued ID.
While I know the Parliamentary Protective Service is working hard to ensure the protection of all members of Parliament, there is still room for improvement on how best this can be achieved. I look forward to an upcoming report from this committee, so that security services can be improved and long-term solutions can be implemented.
Both I and the Speaker of the Senate will continue to work closely with PPS on any recommendations coming from the committee or the House.
In closing, I am confident that Superintendent Mike O'Beirne, acting director of the parliamentary protective service, will be more than pleased to make himself available to the committee throughout your study in order to help you with your deliberations and answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Chair, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. If you agree, I will give the floor to the acting director of the parliamentary protective service for a few comments. Then, I would be happy to answer questions from members of the committee—unless you want to deal with my questions first and wait to deal with him later, whichever you like.