Mr. Speaker, we are all proud Canadians, and we all recognize that the House of Parliament is an important symbol of Canada's democracy. It really exemplifies who we are and what we are, and the history is an expression of what we stand for as humanity and as a beacon in the world.
We have visitors here. They are not just parliamentarians and the people who work here. Tens of thousands of people come to the parliamentary precinct every year. They tour the grounds freely and at any time, day or night. As such, the precinct is an obvious target for those who wish to hurt Canadians and impede our way of life.
It is our responsibility as elected officials to take the measures to ensure the safety of all Canadians, especially those who work to support this bastion of democracy. That is why we believe we must enhance security. Most of my colleagues in the House agree with that.
Where we do disagree, to a certain extent, is how we will do this, because we have to meet the evolving threats. Canadians and their elected representatives are safe when they are inside this precinct or, at least, they thought they were. Of course, October 22, 2014, changed that thought.
Regarding enhancing our parliamentary security, I was very fortunate to sit on public accounts committee, like my friend across the way. The Auditor General's 2012 report recommended a unified security force for the precinct under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more effectively and more efficiently. Sadly, as parliamentarians what have we done about that? Obviously, we have not done enough.
The time for action is now. The integrated security model we are debating today is in keeping with that recommendation of the Auditor General, balancing the level of access to the public, while ensuring that the security threats and rifts are alleviated.
Security forces have always been present on Parliament Hill, but these threats did not really manifest until recently. We live in a different world from that of 30, 40, or 50 years ago, when the idea of terrorism did not really exist. As we, visiting delegations and others witnessed on October 22, 2014, either in our committee rooms or in our respective offices on the Hill, that threat is very real. If it is taken lightly, innocent people will become victims.
Let me just speak for a second about our security forces of which we are so proud. On behalf of all parliamentarians and Canadians, I honestly thank each and every one of them. They did most of the right things on October 22, 2014. I say “most” and not “all” because there are lessons to be learned. However, our Hill security was absolutely incredible. We have witnessed that first hand as we have had the opportunity to work with it.
We are not saying that one is better than the other or that we have to pick and choose. This is a team approach. It is a team that works together here. We are a team of parliamentarians. Whether we agree or disagree a little bit now and then, we are a team going forward. We try to make the right decisions for the right reasons to help Canadians across the country.
However, we do need a seamless and integrated system, and that has to be led by one entity. That entity should have a national presence, with a connection to all of the other things beyond just security at the door here. Security is not just guarding the precinct. It is rapid response training. It is security assessments. It is intelligence. It is observation. It is surveillance. It is the whole ball of wax that encompasses what it means to keep people safe. It is also our armed forces. It is a coordination of everything. We cannot have more than one group or individual disseminating all of that information. It just does not happen and it cannot happen effectively.
That is why we have to come to the point where the silos of operation are one thing. The silos of management and command have to be totally eliminated so we have one integrated command in order to be effective.
Other countries, such as our allies, the United Kingdom and Australia, have pursued integrated security models at their locations. However, on the day of the attack here, there were four silos of authority with different jurisdictions, as all of my colleagues know.
There were our respected House of Commons security and our Senate security, all responsible for their respective bodies, and they did their work well. There was the RCMP in charge outside, between the front doors and the front gate, where there were a lot of things done well, but there were obviously errors and omissions there. As well, we had the Ottawa city police beyond that point.
The bureaucracy of these four silos stands in the way of bringing us proper security.
The motion we are debating today calls on the Speakers of the House and Senate to invite the RCMP to lead operational security. The RCMP would not run the security of this entire precinct lock, stock, and barrel, but simply operate as a point of command and take responsibility for ensuring that it builds a collective team to come up with the model that we need to make security work well here. This is the administrative starting point, in my mind. It is not the end run. This is the administrative starting point that is going to take us to where we need to go.
A unified approach is critical to ensuring security on the Hill. As a matter of fact, it is not only critical but essential. That is why this government is proposing to fully integrate security throughout the precinct under the operational leadership of the RCMP, thus providing one chain of command and one point of accountability.
Somebody has to be the bottom line that we can go to and ask what is being done and how it is being done. In this particular case, the RCMP will work with the Speakers and the various other levels of justice, administration, and security to come up with the best means to do this. This would allow for access to all types of resources.
The only administration that has the resources we need to encompass the entire range of security, including surveillance, communication, international relationships, terrorism, or cyberattacks, is the RCMP. That does not mean that the RCMP will manage and micromanage every department here to tell all the departments how to do their jobs. Members of the existing parliamentary security, as has been mentioned by all of my colleagues who spoke before me, are highly valued and respected. We respectfully honoured them and their bravery as they marched into the House and got a standing ovation from every person in this room because we were so thankful for the wonderful job they did on our behalf. They serve a variety of functions, not just in the House of Commons, and this will continue under the integrated security unit.
I want to stress that all decisions related to the integrated security unit will ensure continuous employment. This is not a question of just getting rid of a few people and bringing in others or saying they do not have responsibility for something anymore and that someone else will do it. There are going to be responsibilities, but there still has to be one chain of command. That is the point.
Over the coming months, a detailed implementation plan will be developed in consultation with all the people involved. It will outline a phased approach to the implementation of the fully integrated security model, while ensuring that the rights and privileges of Parliament and its members continue to be respected, as per the Constitution.
As I have said, that is explicitly in the motion. Were it not in the motion, quite frankly, as a member, I could have had some difficulty, because I want to respect what we have here. I want to respect the parliamentary tradition and the history, values, and principles that we have in civil society, but that does not mean we can operate without an integrated command.
It is our objective to implement this transition as soon as possible, in partnership with all the security partners. I really believe speed is critical. The need exists. We cannot just sit around and wait for months or years, because we are absolutely sitting ducks in this place and in this precinct. That is a sad situation. We have to come to terms with that reality.
As a number of my colleagues said, if it had been a serious, planned attack by multiple people carrying automatic weapons, many of my colleagues might not be here today. That is the reality. We have to get off our butts and deal with this, and we have to deal with it now.
I know there will probably be questions from my colleagues. I respect them very much for their contributions today. I am expecting a colleague whom I work very well with to get up shortly. I will certainly wait for their questions and see if we can work together on this issue.