Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding public safety and the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park regarding taxation.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
That will bring the debate to an end at this time. The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands will have approximately three minutes of questions and comments when we resume debate on this bill.
When we started statements by members, there were five minutes for questions and comments for the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.
The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way who sits on the public safety committee, as I do, gave some reports as to what was said at committee. Without going line by line as to where she was wrong and turning it in the opposite direction from where it was, I am going to ask the people out there who count, the people of Canada, to go to the blues of the public safety committee and read what was actually said. It will be remarkably different from what the member said.
The member also says she does not like the title. They wanted to change the title, and that was ruled out of order, just as in the House when something is ruled out of order. They think, if we cannot play the game their way, it is all bad.
She says some of the drug addiction programming was cut back. The evidence was that it was not cut from $11 million to $9 million, but that there is actually some $20 million. We are verifying that. Therefore, Canadians out there should go to the blues. They should not believe any of the talking-head politicians in here. They should go to the blues and read what the witnesses actually said.
The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands was mentioning it. In a previous Parliament, the public safety committee went to other countries. They said Canada has some of the best programs available. We went to Norway. Sixty per cent of the programming in its prisons is from Canada. I ask the hon. member from across the way to read the study into drug addiction and mental illness in our prisons, and she will find some of that evidence.
The member went on and on about the short title. She mentioned double bunking. Actually, the evidence before our committee was that the additional beds going in were reducing the amount of double bunking. She needs to get her story straight.
Therefore, I am just going to suggest to Canadians out there that they go to the blues and actually read them. They will be remarkably different from what she said.
Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Intergovernmental Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise and contribute to this important debate on a motion put forward by my colleague, the Chief Government Whip.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks that began in a parking lot in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20, 2014, and that moved to the National War Memorial on October 22, 2014, and ended only a few minutes later with the dramatic death of a gunman at the hands of the RCMP, the parliamentary security forces, and the then sergeant-at-arms, I think it is fair to say that this motion was inevitable. The harrowing events of those days, which we all remember, brought a number of things to the attention of all parliamentarians.
First, it showed us the courage, professionalism, and capacity of the RCMP detachment on the Hill; the bravery of the House of Commons and Senate security services and the former sergeant-at-arms; as well as the professionalism and rapid response of the Ottawa Police Service. We all recognize the great job they did that day, and we are eternally grateful for their willingness to stand on guard every day for us here at the heart of our democracy.
On October 22, 2014, their years of training paid off. They advanced in the face of fire and the situation was brought to a safe conclusion. However, October 22, 2014 also brought into sharp relief some really concerning facts about security here on Parliament Hill.
For example, on October 22, 2014, there were four different jurisdictional police/security services. They were the House of Commons, the Senate, the RCMP, and the Ottawa Police Service. The possibility for wires to get crossed with this many points of accountability is high. When dealing with the security of the elected legislators of our nation, the hundreds who support us, and the thousands of citizens and visitors who come here to watch us work, those risks cannot continue.
Many Canadians would be rightly concerned about the fact that there are so many different jurisdictional security services with responsibilities for various parts of the Hill. Bureaucratic silos are an impediment to security, integration, and overall preparedness, which 9/11 showed to the world. On that terrible day, thousands of people died, including 24 Canadians. Our appreciation of the world of security and risk changed forever.
October was a far less catastrophic wake-up call than 9/11, but it was a wake-up call we cannot ignore.
In the aftermath of 9/11, with all of the resulting investigation and introspection, it became clear that all of the evidence had been there to take pre-emptive action, but that no one had put it together. No one had put it together because the various agencies were not sharing information the way they should have done. We cannot let that same type of silo mentality compromise the safety of Canadians, Canada, our visitors, or our institutions.
Although not directly related to this motion, Bill C-51 would go a long way to breaking down the silos that exist between the various agencies making up the security system of Canada. The passage and implementation of that bill would be essential to giving us the tools we need to plan and implement common sense, effective security measures in the parliamentary precinct.
It is imperative that security within the parliamentary precinct be integrated and enhanced. This leads to Motion No. 14, which we are debating today. Motion No. 14 calls on the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate to invite the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to lead operational security throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament while—and this part is important—respecting the privileges, immunities, and powers of the respective Houses, and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and respected Parliamentary security staff.
When we say “respecting the privileges, immunities and powers of the respective Houses”, that means you, Mr. Speaker, and your colleague down the hall in the Senate. You have the authority. The RCMP would not be reporting to the government; it would be reporting to the House of Commons and the Senate through you and your counterpart.
This motion would advance the recent efforts by the House and Senate to integrate their forces, but it would not replace them. It is the next step. In the face of a rapidly changing and evolving threat environment, we need to ensure that these efforts continue to be carried out effectively and efficiently in the face of evolving threats.
Let me talk about those threats for a moment. CSIS tells us that it is keeping track of somewhere around 140 people of interest. We can be pretty certain that the actual number that we should be concerned about is much higher. That points to the need for Bill C-51 and the sharing of security information.
ISIS is actively recruiting in Canada and many other countries around the world. Some of that recruiting is targeted at individuals or vulnerable communities. Some of it is more general, seeding destructive, terrorist thoughts into regrettably receptive minds that might also be suffering from mental illness.
Some say that the acts in October, 2014 were not terrorism, but merely related to mental illness. Who of sound mind would carry out those kinds of actions, anyway? I suggest that this would be a misunderstanding of terrorism and the things that make terrorism work.
I am pretty sure that the two killers of our soldiers in October, 2014 were not members of ISIS per se, but they were certainly influenced by the fundamentalist ideology that ISIS spews.
Without knowing who they are individually, these are the kind of people ISIS counts on to be random hand grenades spread around the world just waiting for their pins to be pulled. They do not know when they are going to go off; they just know that they are.
This integrated approach being proposed is essential, and it is in line with the recommendations from the 2012 Auditor General's report that recommended unifying security forces on the Hill, “under a single point of command, making it possible to respond to situations more efficiently and effectively”. One chain of command, one point of accountability.
Of course, access to Parliament Hill must remain for Canadians and visitors, but it must be balanced with very real security concerns. Countries like the United Kingdom and Australia have similar approaches to security, and their experiences have shown that security forces can be integrated while still respecting the privileges of all parliamentarians.
This plan will do nothing to alter or negatively impact the existing immunities and parliamentary privileges of senators and members of Parliament, including the right of members to come and go unimpeded.
It does mean, however, that we as parliamentarians might be asked from time to time to show ID to security personnel, for example. That does not restrict access. It just confirms identification. I know that it is the job of our security forces to recognize this, and they do a very good job of it.
On my first encounter with security personnel on entering Centre Block under the Peace Tower as an MP in 2006, I was greeted by name and welcomed to Ottawa. I was impressed then and I have been impressed ever since. That does not mean that from time to time a member of that security force may not recognize someone and may ask for identification, which every one of us should have available all the time. That is just plain common sense.
This does not constitute a breach of privilege, as was recently alleged, and is not a reason for any member to spring into self-righteous indignation. All parliamentarians must face the reality that our security environment here in this place has changed, and we must adapt to it. That does not mean casting aside our ease of access, though it does mean being prepared to be asked for ID from time to time, even if one is a parliamentarian. That is just plain smart security.
When it comes to integrating parliamentary security, the RCMP is clearly the best equipped to provide operational leadership in terms of command, control, and coordination and to lead security on Parliament Hill. It does not mean that they would do it all. It means that they would lead it.
They have a national presence with access to rapid response training, security assessments, and intelligence that is essential to meeting today's evolving threats. They have the experience and the tools to effectively implement and manage a complex security system. They have been doing that for a long time.
Importantly, these new security measures would have oversight from a parliamentary authority, contrary to what is being suggested by the opposition. Again, Mr. Speaker, this would come through you and through your counterpart down the hall.
One force in Parliament and another force outside it simply does not make sense. We must support full integration throughout the entire parliamentary precinct under the operational leadership of the RCMP.
To those who claim that this is in some way a demotion of existing House of Commons security personnel, let me address that very clearly. It is not. The existing parliamentary security personnel are valued and respected, as they should be. Their continued employment will be consistent with all existing collective bargaining agreements, to the question from my hon. colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands. Those who suggest otherwise are simply trying to play politics at a time when our focus should be on every part of our security apparatus working together to get the job done.
This is a measure that is long overdue after another tragic wake-up call of the kind that our allies have also experienced around the world, most recently in Australia, France, and Denmark.
To honour the memories of Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent, and the security personnel who put their lives on the line that day and every day, we must take action to improve our security on Parliament Hill. To do otherwise would be sticking our heads in the sand and would not be appropriate for a serious G7 country.
This change to security on Parliament Hill is overdue and will balance liberty and security at our national legislature. We owe that to the people who count on us. It is just plain common sense.
Mr. Speaker, the government needs to understand that there is a world of difference between the government and Parliament.
We are talking about the security of Parliament, not the security that the government is responsible for. The fact that it would attempt to ram this through without agreement is unacceptable.
I think all of us here accept that we have to act with some urgency. This is not something that can sit on the back burner and have a review of it happen whenever it happens.
I want to add my voice to support the members for Ottawa—Vanier, and Saanich—Gulf Islands. The member for Ottawa—Vanier asked, at the very least, whether we could not stop for a moment to see if we cannot reach an agreement whereby all the members here are comfortable going forward.
This is not a matter of whether we should do something, whether we should combine the two services in terms of security, the other place and here. We all agree with that. That is the easy part. The hard part is who is in control. In this Parliament, and in all parliaments, the separation of government from parliament is superior. We need to ensure that no matter how this is structured that the government at the end of the day does not call the shots, pardon the pun, on what happens vis-à-vis security in Parliament. That is the problem with the government rushing it through.
There is ample time for the government to consult with all members in all caucuses, to ensure that for once something that they say is the right thing, we can actually say is the right thing. The government saying it is not good enough, and it does not address the important parliamentary principles that are stake. There is a separation between the government and the Parliament, and this motion crosses every line. It is unacceptable and fixable, if the government, for once, would just be reasonable and allow others to have their say.
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. This is a very clear demotion.
For the Conservatives who say it is not, that they object and consider it unfair, they should read the motion as presented, a motion which the Prime Minister is trying to force through the House today.
The government House leader has said the government will impose closure because it does not want a debate on this. I know there are some Canadians who are very interested in this. They want access to Parliament Hill. They want to ensure we preserve our rights and freedoms.
Those Canadians who are listening to us today should contact their Conservative members of Parliament to tell them that this is very poor treatment of courageous men and women who deserve better. They should also tell them they want to preserve the kind of checks and balances we have always had in our system, the separation of power, as well as access to the front lawn of Canada.
Canadians phoning Conservative MPs in the next week will make a difference. Hopefully some Conservatives will break their whip and vote for Canadian democracy.
The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
The electoral district of Saanich--Gulf Islands (British Columbia) has a population of 115,724 with 91,822 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
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