Mr. Speaker, last week I sent a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I would like to read it so it will be in the record.
I also sent it to the chief government whip, the Prime Minister, the leader of the official opposition, the leader of my party, and every parliamentarian in this House and in the upper house as well.
I am writing to express concern regarding the motion introduced by your government to give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) responsibility for all security on Parliament Hill, both on the grounds and throughout the Parliamentary Precinct.
First, I support the principle of fully integrated security on Parliament Hill and believe the employees currently responsible for parliamentary security should keep their jobs. They are very competent and no one is questioning their professionalism.
However, I believe we must respect the primacy of Parliament, parliamentary privilege and the separation of powers. Parliamentary privilege is one of the ways of ensuring respect for the fundamental constitutional separation of powers. This privilege protects Parliament from interference. A security force accountable to the government rather than to Parliament could be perceived as outside interference.
Given the limited time allotted for consideration of Government Business No. 14, I wish to make a recommendation. It is essential that the RCMP (the operational lead for the proposed integrated force) ultimately report to Parliament through the speakers of the two houses, not to the government. I therefore urge you to amend your motion to specifically stipulate that the RCMP commander responsible for security on Parliament Hill would report to parliamentary authorities.
Furthermore, I urge you to consult the April 1st, 2012, memorandum of agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia regarding provincial police services.
Specifically, Article 7 stipulates that the “Commanding Officer [of the RCMP] will act under the direction of the Provincial Minister in aiding the administration of justice in the Province and in carrying into effect the laws in force therein.” Therefore, a model already exists in our country that could be applied to the Canadian Parliament, a constitutional institution. That type of arrangement could very easily be expressly included in your motion and in any future service agreement. Article 7 of the 2012 Province of British Columbia Provincial Police Service Agreement is attached hereto.
I also draw your attention to another example in the United Kingdom. The London Metropolitan Police Service provides security services to the UK Parliament under a service agreement. The unit responsible works with the Director of Parliamentary Security, who is an employee of the houses of Parliament and is responsible for making recommendations to the Joint Committee on Security (made up of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords).
In my opinion, the vast majority of Canadians would approve of an arrangement whereby the RCMP is under contract to the House of Commons and the Senate to provide fully integrated security services, and reports to parliamentary authorities. It is a model that allows both [to] respects the separation of powers and the primacy of Parliament, and to ensure its safety through the RCMP. I therefore urge you to amend your motion to specifically state that RCMP security services on Parliament Hill would be governed by a service agreement between RCMP and Parliament of Canada, pursuant to which the RCMP would ultimately report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate.
As I mentioned, I have sent copies to the Prime Minister, the chief government whip, the leader of the official opposition, the leader of my party, and all other parliamentarians.
Why did I send that letter? It is because I am somewhat preoccupied with the fact that Motion No. 14 before us today could be interpreted different ways. I am not the only one who believes that. I have heard the leader of the Green Party and others mention that. It is not clear that it would stipulate that the RCMP, should it be the agency responsible for the integrated security of Parliament Hill, would be doing it under a service agreement by which it would be stipulated that it report to the parliamentary authorities. It is very important that we have that.
I am also a little concerned that the Speaker, after the events on October 22, informed the House that he would ask for a full review of security matters and how we should better integrate the security of parliamentarians, their staff and visitors. We have not seen that report yet. I know there was a committee appointed to look into that, but somehow things were expedited and we have not seen that report.
The Chief Government Whip advised the whips of the other parties on Wednesday of the last week the House was in session, in the afternoon or evening after the caucus meetings, and then proceeded to have a debate on the Friday, a very short day when not many members could address this matter. I was surprised it had been done that fast and then was even more surprised that the debate would end today. That means members have not had a chance to have their respective caucuses discuss this matter among themselves. That would have been a very useful exercise. Unfortunately, it does not seem that will happen.
That is why I considered this matter, did some research and proposed that the government consider amending its motion. The House procedures make it impossible for someone to propose an amendment to the motion once another amendment has been proposed. I can only propose a subamendment, which I will do later in my address, but then I have to address the amendment that has been proposed and not the motion of the government.
That is why I wrote to the government, hoping it would consider this. The government has nothing to lose amending its own motion to make it clear that the intent was not to have the RCMP be in charge of the security on the Hill and report to the government but to report to the House, and to make it clear through a contractual agreement, as has been done in other provinces, as our mother of Parliament has done in England. That would have made things much more clear and less subject to any interpretation or anyone wishing to challenge it and perhaps would have helped the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate ensure that this would happens, as opposed to perhaps being caught in other wishes, desires and pressures. It has not happened, and I am very sorry for that.
I am going to read parts of a text that has been printed in the National Newswatch, written by a lady by the name of Anne Dance. This lady is a history post-doctoral research fellow at Memorial University. She first began researching security and public space as part of the 2008-09 non-partisan Parliamentary Internship Programme. This was published last week. I will not read it all, but I would like to quote some parts of it, as follows:
—some do not seem to understand what Parliamentary Privilege actually is, or why it demands a fierce defence.
Once called Parliamentary democracy’s “beating heart” by House Clerk Audrey O’Brien, Privilege is a set of rules developed to protect legislatures from interventionary or violent governments (i.e. the executive; in Canada, this is the Prime Minister and the cabinet). Privilege prioritizes the work of Parliamentarians. Without Privilege, there is no guarantee that MPs and Senators will be able to control and manage Parliament, reach important votes, or carry out their jobs.
As emerging democracies well know, Parliamentary Privilege does not spring fully formed from a rulebook or constitution. Frighteningly easy to subvert or destroy in the name of patriotism or expediency, it must be carefully cultivated and protected.
Another paragraph reads:
Parliamentary Privilege is the hard-won legacy of centuries of struggle by democratic reformers both at home and abroad. It would be a shame for MPs and Senators to let it crumble without a fight.
I invite colleagues to read the rest of her article.
I am not here on a partisan basis. I am here out of respect for Parliament and its duties and powers, and the separation of powers of the government. We have three branches of government. We should never interfere with the judiciary. I know that in the past unfortunately some ministers did and they had to resign from their job. We respect the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature.
The respect of the division of powers between the legislature and the executive must also be respected. Unless it is specified in the motion that the government has put before us that the RCMP would be reporting to the parliamentary authorities and not to the government, it can therefore be perceived as a way of undermining parliamentary privilege, Parliament's authority and the separation of powers. This should be something that none of us consider, and that is why I have brought it forward.
When I wrote this letter to all, the first response I got was from a friend of mine, who happens to be in the Senate and who happened to be the gentleman heading up the committee, Senator Vern White. He told me it was an excellent letter and that he agreed fully.
I want my colleagues to know that this preoccupation is not just shared by members of the third party or members of the official opposition. I have even had discussions with some of my colleagues on the government side, and it is shared by many of us in this room and of course, as I mentioned, in the upper house. It would have been a wise thing for the government to introduce such an amendment because I cannot introduce an amendment to the motion of the government.
I can only provide a subamendment, which will alter the amendment proposed by the official opposition. That is the nature of our parliamentary procedure. I wish I could have presented a substitute amendment or a substitute motion, but it cannot be done.
Therefore, I will move an amendment to the amendment. I move:
That the amendment be amended a) by adding after the words “fully integrate” the words “by way of a contractual agreement with the House of Commons and the Senate”;
b) by deleting the words “while respecting” and substituting the following “and through which an integrated security body would report to the Speakers of the two Houses so as to respect the division of powers between the executive and the legislature, parliamentary supremacy and”.
The rest of the amendment follows.
The subamendment is proposed by myself and seconded by my colleague from Winnipeg North. My colleague from Mount Royal would have seconded it as well, but he had to leave to attend a briefing on another bill that we will be debating soon, Bill C-51.
I do not know what will become of the amendment, but the House of Commons has to debate the need for the government's proposal to be clear and precise. Perhaps that was the government's intention, but it was not written in the resolution. That is the problem. It has to be specified—