This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Skip to Content

Motion to Recognize the Necessity of Fully Integrated Security throughout the Parliamentary Precinct and the Grounds of Parliament Hill and to Invite the RCMP to Lead Operational Security


Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of February 5, 2015, moved:

That the Senate, following the terrorist attack of October 22, 2014, recognize the necessity of fully integrated security throughout the Parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, as recommended by the Auditor General in his 2012 report and as exists in other peer legislatures; and call on the Speaker, in coordination with his counterpart in the House of Commons, to invite, without delay, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead operational security throughout the Parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, while respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses, and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary Security staff.

Hon. Serge Joyal: I think we should try to understand very well the process that is proposed to us today in this motion. I concur with Senator Carignan. The objective essentially is to improve the security on the Hill. By improving the security on the Hill, we maintain our parliamentary duty to exercise our responsibility freely, and that's what we all want to attain as an objective. I don't think anyone would question that. On the contrary, as honourable senators have mentioned in many of their interventions, many reports in the past have advocated or proposed that.

I quote the Auditor General's 2012 report at paragraph 73:

A next step could be to unify the security forces for Parliament Hill under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more efficiently and effectively.

That was the report. The report didn't mention the RCMP — let's be clear here. The report mentions a single point of command. It might be the RCMP; it might be another group charged with this responsibility. The Auditor General's report never mentioned, in any of the reports I have been consulting recently, that it was recommending the RCMP. That's the first point.

The second point is the comment that the administration made regarding that recommendation — the administration's response.

It's under paragraph 78:

Agreed. The House of Commons Administration will develop an overall security policy along with appropriate policy objectives and performance measures. It is anticipated that these will be in place by 2015.


That's on page 23 of the report.

What do we have today in front of us? We have a motion that will, in fact, invest the RCMP with the "lead operational security throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill." This is the core of the decision that is being asked of us to be taken. I repeat: To charge the RCMP with the "lead operational security throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill."

What are we doing? We are deciding, on a simple motion, to take the privilege that we have on our precinct and give it to the RCMP as the lead operational body. In other words, from then on, once we have voted on this, the master of everything will be the RCMP. That's clear, in my opinion. That's essentially what we want. We want to unify; we want to be more efficient; we probably want to have a higher level of professionalism; we want, as honourable senators have mentioned, to bring down silos and make sure there is one command. But in doing that, we are not keeping it under our control; we are giving it to the RCMP. According to the RCMP Act, to which the RCMP is responding, section 5 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act reads:

The Governor in Council may appoint an officer, to be known as the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to hold office during pleasure, who —

— and I insist —

— under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force.

Who is that minister? Section 2 of the act reads:

"Minister" means the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

What are we doing? We are taking the responsibility we have to direct our own affairs in relation to the precinct and giving it to the RCMP. The RCMP, according to their constituting act, answers to whom? They answer to the Minister of Public Safety. Who is the Minister of Public Safety? It's the executive government of Canada. Who is the executive government of Canada? It's the cabinet; it's ultimately the Prime Minister.

I'm not saying that we should not do it. I'm saying that to do that, we are doing something that we have to be sure that legally we're doing it in the right way. Can we do it simply by a simple motion? In other words, can we abolish the privilege that we have now to control our precinct and give it to a minister of the Crown? That's essentially what it is, under the responsibility of a minister of the Crown. If we're doing that, and we think it's the thing we should be doing, we have to do it legally; we have to do it properly.

Hence the question: Can we abolish the privilege that we have in relation to security by a simple motion? We have the Parliament of Canada Act, which states very clearly how the administration of our precincts should be conducted. If we are to abolish a privilege, the question is: How do we abolish privileges? Is it, for instance, our freedom of speech in this chamber? This is a privilege guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. We have freedom of speech here, as long as we remain in this chamber. You and I and all of us can say anything we want here, and nobody can really bring us to court for something we have said. Can we, on a simple motion today, decide to abolish that? This is a very serious question.

If we choose the approach that the government is proposing, which is to take the responsibility of security that we have and ultimately give it to a government agency that is responsible to a minister of the Crown, which will answer to that minister for the Crown for the money, for the direction, for the preparation, for the impact it will have on the other resources of the RCMP and so on and so forth, there are all kinds of implications that every one of us will understand easily. Can we do that by a simple motion? This is the question that this motion raises.

I'm not saying it's not the thing we have to do. I'm asking you: Is it the proper vehicle today to do that? Should we make sure that, in turning over the privilege we have to control our security that we do so according to the Parliament of Canada Act and in respect of the responsibility that in this chamber we attribute to various committees who report to this chamber? We control the recommendation of those committees and the decision we take always remains within our exclusive control.

From then on, we won't be the only one to control those decisions. It will ultimately be, as far as the RCMP is concerned, in the hands of the Minister of Public Safety — whoever he is, member of a cabinet under the direction of a prime minister, whoever is the prime minister. This is what this motion implies.

I was here on October 22 when those events happened. The next morning we had a meeting, I remember very well, in Room 160. My first question was, "Who is responsible for the security in the Senate?" I asked myself that question. I am as concerned for my life as anyone. But what we are asking today is for the benefit of increasing our safety and the conviction that we work in the environment, as Senator Carignan has mentioned, without any undue pressure or fear that when we come here, we risk our lives.

This is what it is, essentially. I want to make sure that we're doing things correctly. If we have to abandon that privilege and bring in a minister of the Crown to rule and to be involved in that, we have to be very sure of what we're doing and we have to do it properly, according to the Constitution and the way that, in our parliamentary tradition and law, we can amend or abolish parliamentary privilege. That's essentially what this question raises.

I think this is an important question, because we are in a moving, evolutionary context. When our privileges are at stake, we have to be sure that we know the future implications of what we vote on. We have voted on a motion here that involves our privileges, and I'm not sure that we were very sensitive or cognizant of the implications when we voted on that motion. Today we are trying to wrestle with it. That's another debate for another day.

In relation to this one, if we are again to take a decision that will determine for the future a fundamental element of our privileges and our control of those precincts, it should be in full respect of the law of Parliament. With that, I think that nobody will question the end result, but at least we would know that we are moving on safe ground, on ground that we will understand and control very well. If we are ready to relinquish that control to the hands of another authority, then we will do it and we will understand it in the full knowledge of the implications for the future, as much for the Speaker and the person who will be in this chair as for our successors in this chamber, because the decision we're taking today on this motion will have spillover effects on many other aspects of our future work.