Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak to this motion.
I would like to start my remarks by thanking and congratulating all of the wonderful security staff we have here on Parliament Hill, particularly in light of the events on October 22.
When I reflect back on my first days here in Parliament in 2011, I remember when I arrived how impressed I was by how quickly each one of the security staff knew us personally and individually and how friendly and responsive and supportive they were. Since that time, in just a few short years, many of us have come to know one another on a first name basis. We have had wonderful chats about family, friends, our interests and hobbies, and the regions of the country we come from.
This is important, because at the basis of any great security system and organization are the people behind it and the people they serve. I can tell members that not only do they serve us well because of that personal connection and time they give us, but they also do that for the Canadians we invite here each and every day, 365 days a year. We need to be able to maintain that and support them in the job that they do in that regard.
I have always been very impressed with how members of the security staff put such personal emphasis and energy into the work they do, invariably beyond many of the other things that we can provide in terms of tangible security features, be that equipment, training, or operational strategies. The personality and the personal effort and energy that they put forward in understanding the client base that they serve is probably the single biggest factor in determining everybody's security here on Parliament Hill, and for that I thank them.
Of course, since October 22, a day none of us will soon forget, I have noticed the continued vigilance of our security services here on the Hill and across the parliamentary precinct.
Today's motion speaks to the integration of services. It was mentioned earlier in debate that on Parliament Hill and the parliamentary precinct, and in fact within approximately 150 metres of Parliament Hill, we have five different security or police agencies. We have the House of Commons security, Senate security, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ottawa Police, and some level of jurisdiction extended to the Ontario Provincial Police in this region.
Four predominate, and we want to make sure that those services are integrated and working well together. Indeed, they have performed that function for many events, many times, for many years, and they will continue to do so well into the future.
I need to stress that this motion, which is well outlined, is very clear about a couple of things.
The motion speaks about integration. It does not speak about replacement. This by no means and in no way will replace the dedicated men and women who serve us here in this building and in many of the other buildings across the parliamentary precinct. It is about making sure that the services here, the men and women in uniform—be that House of Commons security, police services, or the men and women in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform—are able to communicate and work together effectively.
In my opinion, we owe this to Canadians not only in the sense that they expect us to have a secure, safe, and focused government able to do the business that Canadians expect us to do free from a threat of being interrupted with violence, but also in the sense that they also expect us to make sure that we are able to protect and serve people we invite here every day. I also believe that we owe this to the men and women in uniform.
We owe it to them to make sure they have the best and most integrated system possible, so that they are not in jeopardy, so that they are not at greater risk, so that surprises do not arrive on the doorstep unknown to them, and so that they have the longest and greatest opportunity to anticipate, prevent, and deal with any threat of any level or any crisis that arrives on our doorstep.
It is not just a threat of violence. Emergency situations and crises do not just boil down to armed people storming Parliament Hill, as we saw on October 22. It is about occasions that we cannot always anticipate, such as fire, earthquakes, other emergency-related events, medical emergencies, mass casualties, crowds, and protests. It is not always about highly dramatic and highly dangerous situations; it is also about serious situations that can occur in any security environment, especially here on the Hill.
We have a responsibility, of course, to make sure that all services that exist in and around the parliamentary precinct are able to deal with all of those security events.
The continued access and safety of all Canadians is another reason we need to make sure services are integrated to the greatest and most effective level. After the events of October, Canadians said to us loudly and clearly that they still wanted access to Parliament Hill. Being able to have free and relatively uninterrupted access to the Hill is still a very important part of Canadians' fundamental belief.
We have provided that for them. We have not overreacted. We have been very focused on the objectives that we have in understanding the threats we faced on that day and that we may continue to face. As I mentioned, threats are not just from encounters of direct violence but also from any other emergency situation that could occur here.
We owe it to those people to make sure that our security systems are sound and provide confidence to parliamentarians, support service staff, and security staff, as well as to our guests, and that we maintain, as best we can, free and clear access to Parliament Hill and to Canada's Parliament.
The precinct is larger than the House of Commons itself. As I listened to the debate this morning, I noticed that a lot of focus was on the events of October 22, which led up the pathway of the Parliament grounds and in through the front doors of this place. We spoke a lot about the impact of the security services and the relationship between the RCMP and our internal security services right here on the Hill in Centre Block.
However, the parliamentary precinct stretches from the Supreme Court all the way over to East Block. It is a large precinct. In between are open grounds that are monitored and managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. There are transportation systems here. Parliamentarians move freely in and out of buildings. We move in and out of security jurisdictions. We move in and out of silos. We move in and out of communication systems. We move in and out of different operational strategies. We move in and out of different uniforms and protocols. It only makes sense that we merge those protocols and procedures and integrate them in a manner that makes sense so that there is a common thread and a common flow to them.
At the same time, as this motion clearly indicates, we need to respect the clear independence of the respective houses and ensure something that is absolutely critical to every member in this House, which is that the positions of the men and women of the security staff are protected. We have watched them do a great job, not just on October 22—which we have made a great deal of, and rightly so—but every day since I have been here, since the day we arrived, since the day I walked in.
I know I am not a remarkable-looking person, but I will never forget when I walked in the door of La Promenade. I was amazed at how quickly one of the security staff called me by name and directed me in. I could not believe he knew me, as I had just got here. This goes back to my introductory remarks about how well the security staff know their client base and how well they know their people.
When we start to integrate that and make sure that every security service on the Hill does that job equally and with the same level of interest, intent, and focus, we are all going to be that much safer for it. We are going to be that much more confident in what we do. We are all going to be able to focus on the task at hand. We are going to be able to feel tremendous support and confidence when we invite people here. We are going to know that each and every day, we are doing the right things for Canadians.
I am going to talk quickly about the value of integration. As a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I have some experience in this field. I had a 20-year career in law enforcement that was very diversified, ranging from safer community neighbourhoods to corrections, park law enforcement, conservation law enforcement, and private sector security. I understand the nature of security silos. I understand the nature of security and policing, and the commonalities, synergies, and differences between the two.
I am going to give a quick example that will help to illustrate the point of making sure that we have integrated security services. It is not unique. We are not breaking new ground here. This is done all over the country for a whole host of reasons.
There was one occasion when I was hired as a contractor to run the security services for the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Yukon. A private firm ran the security contract for 90 security employees. Of course, there were hundreds of other volunteer security staff, and they were working outside of the mandate and the operational control of the company. In addition, the city, which was served by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was responsible for the entire venue, including emergency response and the coordination of different volunteer and paid security forces at the different venues, from athlete villages to athletic sites to the celebration grounds to the opening ceremony grounds.
At that time, if we, the volunteer force, and the RCMP had established our own silos and had separately said that this is our job and our mandate and this is what we do, we would not have been able to keep the athletes and the visitors that we invited there safe. Not only that, we would not have been able to have those games go off with such success. That is because security is the cornerstone for everybody to be able to enjoy what they do and focus on the task at hand, whether it is their athleticism or their enjoyment as a spectator and fan.
What did we do? The RCMP took the lead, despite the fact that it did not have a primary mandate of dealing with the athletes village security, which the company I was working for did. We made sure that we integrated our communications. We met nightly to talk about the events of the day. We had briefings.
This is what integration means. It is the integration of communication and the coordination of clearly defined roles. It is about joint training, which is of tremendous benefit to everybody and would be a tremendous benefit here. It is about joint briefings, information sharing, intelligence sharing, established chains of command and reporting, and interoperability of systems, tools, and equipment. That is obviously very important when multiple security and police forces are working together. Interoperability is so important, particularly with communications systems, as well as with tools and training.
In the response here on October 22, different tools that would otherwise not have been used by services here were being brought into this place. It is not just important, it is critical that the men and women working here know what those tools are and how to use them and how to integrate with them. We have denied them that opportunity thus far. We now have the opportunity to make sure that we are giving them the introduction to those tools, systems, and procedures and giving them the breadth of tools and operating abilities that the RCMP has. We are going to open a field of opportunity, training, and knowledge up to them that is only going to make them better at what they do, and they are already tremendous at what they do.
We took advantage of these kinds of opportunities to integrate systems when I worked at the Canada Winter Games. When we did that in bringing all those forces together, there was no power struggle. There was no, “You're better than us; we're better than you.” It was not about that, and it is not about that here. It was about ensuring that we were able to put those kinds of discussion aside for the ultimate task at hand, the safety and security of our clients; the safety and security of the fans, the spectators, and the athletes; and the successful delivery of a wonderful set of games in our territory. That, of course, is not unique across this country. It goes on all the time. It happens with all kinds of major events and organizations. It happens at the municipal level, in different policing and security environments.
As I said, we are not cutting new ground with this. In fact, the parliaments of Australia and the United Kingdom have already gone down this road.
The example I gave of the Canada Winter Games in 2007 is not the only example of where we have integrated services, where we have ensured that one agency can work with, talk with, train with, and communicate with another. I've done that throughout my entire career, whether with parks or with conservation law enforcement and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in reaching out to community groups and partners to form partnerships, and ensuring that what we were doing was always in the best interests of the client base we served, and not at all a discussion about one agency or one organization having greater control or responsibility or being better than the other. As soon as discussions go down that road, we forget the main focus and task at hand, our primary mandate, which is to ensure the effective operation of government here on behalf of the Canadian people.
I am not asking for integration for my personal safety and security. More than anything else, I am asking for integration for the safety and security of the dedicated men and women, be those RCMP or House of Commons security, of our services so that they can be safe and effective, and so that when they are on the front lines and are confronted with any kind of emergency, be it a violent threat or medical emergency or act of God or natural disaster, I can sleep well at night knowing that we have given them the tools they need to do their jobs right and that we have not denied those to them because we were worried about how it would be taken as one service looking better than the other.
I will stress again that the motion has absolutely nothing to do with quality of service of one organization versus another. We cannot allow ourselves in the House to be drawn into that kind of debate, because that is not the case. This is 100% about ensuring that we fulfill our responsibilities as a government to abandon any tradition that has kept us in the Dark Ages and from ensuring that Canadians are safe, that the men and women who work here are safe, that the people we invite here are safe, and that the primary focus of the House can be the task at hand, which is not focusing on threats coming through our door but on threats that are coming from overseas to our shores, and that we can focus on daily Canadian business with the confidence that the men and women here who are protecting us will able to do a perfect job so we can get to the orders of the day and the business of the day with pride, confidence, and comfort in our security and are not interrupted and not affected by the events that are troubling North America and, indeed, the globe, or by any other event that could arise here, and that Canadians can rest assured day in and day out that we are here in our House.
In conclusion, we thank the men and women who work in this place each and every day for what they do. We know what they give up to be here. We know what they have risked in the past and will risk in the future. For that, we thank them and look forward to giving them all the tools they need to do the right job for Canadians.