Mr. Speaker, Canadians look to us as parliamentarians to help ensure their health and security in their daily lives. It is our responsibility to put in place measures that protect Canadians.
Since the Centre Block of Parliament in which I stand today was constructed in 1916, there have been security incidents in and around Parliament. Thankfully, the consequences were always much less severe than they could have been.
Throughout the decades, Parliament has taken responsibility to adapt its security measures for the safety of everyone who has the pleasure of entering these walls. The tragic events of October 22 serve as stark reminder that some people still seek to cause harm for harm's sake.
Luckily for the staff, visitors, and parliamentarians who were in the building that day, our loyal and brave security teams were able to successfully neutralize the threat. We can never be grateful enough for those who put themselves in the line of fire to help protect all of us.
I am proud of the openness of our Parliament. I am proud that more than 1.5 million people choose to visit the seat of Canada's democracy every year. I am proud that each year 300 demonstrations take place just outside these walls. Our ability to disagree with government decisions, to be allowed to publicly express this disagreement, and to be able to do so safely is fundamental to our right of free expression.
Our House of Commons committees had the pleasure of hearing from more than 3,700 witnesses in 2014. Our colleagues from the other place got to hear important testimony from more than 1,700 people in 2013. Add to this the 4,000 staff who work at all levels of our Parliament, and one realizes the magnitude of the responsibility that we all share to ensure their safety. That is why we support this motion. Whether a young Canadian is visiting Parliament for the first time, learning about the history of our country, or a minister of the crown is hosting a meeting, we must ensure that everyone is protected at all times and at all places under our control.
We are all grateful to the parliamentary security team who have protected Parliament. I think it is very important to make it clear to the people who have given years of service to the protection of all Canadians who come to Parliament that we wish nothing more than that they continue their admirable work they have always done. All of us encounter members of our security teams on a daily basis in Parliament. I know that close links and friendships have developed between many of my colleagues and the security staff.
I believe it is important that this motion specifically mentions that we would be “ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff.”
It is equally important that this motion asserts the respect of the privileges, immunities, and powers of both Houses of Parliament. I was happy to see the motion recognize both these issues.
If we return to the events of October 22, let us not forget the brave and rapid actions of all our security forces members who were in this very building, like Constable Son, who confronted a dangerous man and was injured while fulfilling his duty to protect others, and like all the security forces members who bravely charged down the Hall of Honour to put an end to the threat we all faced.
As times change, Parliament must adapt to offer the best protection possible to the people who enter its grounds. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do so efficiently, all the while respecting the people who will continue to protect this place for many years to come.
As members know, the Auditor General prepared a report that recommended an integrated security team back in 2012. It is the provisions of this report that are being respected to through the motion before us and through our position on it.
Concerns have been raised with respect to the separation, and these are extremely valid concerns that are specifically addressed in the motion. What has to be paramount here is the safety and security of all people who enter this place. That safety and security is best served by an integrated force, which was recommended by the Office of the Auditor General in its 2012 report, and that is what the motion recommends
It is important to bear in mind that the motion is an invitation for the RCMP to take charge of this integrated force. All of the details will be worked out in the fullness of time, but the basic principles are set out that the assurance of continued employment for the valued members of the House of Commons security team will remain, and that is important. The distinction with privileges and immunities will also be maintained.
It is very important that politics not allow us to get ahead of ourselves in this discussion. This is a starting point, with general principles being set out, and that is the manner in which we should move forward
The Liberals will support the motion, and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on it.