Good morning. I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 22 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The committee is meeting today to continue its work on the operational security of the parliamentary precinct along Wellington and Sparks Street.
I would like to welcome the following witnesses in the first half of the meeting: Steve Bell, interim chief of the Ottawa Police Service; Michael Duheme, deputy commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Luc Beaudoin, director, Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau.
We are not here to duplicate the work of other committees, so I will remind you of the wording of the motion we agreed to:
That pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(i) and (ii), the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs undertake a study on expanding the federal jurisdiction for the operational security of the Parliamentary Precinct to include sections of Wellington St. and Sparks St.; that the study consist of no less than five meetings; and that the committee report its findings with recommendations back to the House of Commons.
I will also take a moment to remind all colleagues that we will try to adhere to the amount of time we have for questions, comments and responses. Whenever the response is longer, I will provide that time back to our colleagues to ensure the time is not taken away from you. This is so we can be mindful of the work the interpreters do. If we can refrain from interrupting each other, it would be greatly appreciated.
I will also remind all members that we would appreciate all comments be made through the chair. To our guests, as well, we always address comments through the chair.
We will now start by welcoming Chief Bell for opening comments.
I'll remind you that your comments should be no more than five minutes, so if you can keep them to less than five minutes, it would be greatly appreciated.
Please go ahead, Chief Bell.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the chair and committee members for having us here today.
The Ottawa Police Service is the police of jurisdiction for the area we are discussing today. We understand how important this topic is for all Canadians. We all want to see a free, open and peaceful capital that the residents of our city, visitors and Canadians can fully appreciate and enjoy. This is crucial to our democracy.
No one wants to see another unlawful protest as we saw in February. We have worked closely with the our city partners and have already taken steps to ensure that the conditions that led to the unlawful protest do not reoccur. We have also taken an enhanced police posture towards demonstrations and other events in the downtown core. We're working closely with the City of Ottawa to identify exclusion zones where vehicle-based events or protests are not allowed. We saw that this approach was successful during the last demonstration.
The Ottawa Police Service has been policing Canada's capital since the 1800s. Policing is now more complicated than ever. We've adapted and we will continue to evolve as a police service, but as we consider changes moving forward, there are three areas I'd like to briefly discuss: jurisdictional responsibilities, infrastructure and resources.
As the police of jurisdiction in the nation's capital, a city that includes several law enforcement agencies, we have always had a strong sense of co-operation and collaboration. We're used to dealing with questions of jurisdiction. For example, security services on Parliament Hill and with the parliamentary precinct in Ottawa are handled by the Parliamentary Protective Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP is also responsible for protecting certain properties in Ottawa, such as foreign embassies and consulates, and for the security of designated Canadians like the and the Governor General.
Any changes to law enforcement responsibilities within the jurisdiction of Ottawa will need to be clearly laid out. Who will do what and where? What are the exact boundaries? What happens when an incident or event crosses over these boundaries?
If we're going to effectively respond to complex and shifting events, jurisdictional boundaries, responsibilities and collaborative strategies will have to be clearly spelled out. Statutory and regulatory jurisdictions will need to be determined so that whoever has jurisdiction has the necessary authorities and does not need to depend on ad hoc emergency legislation.
The second issue we need to consider is infrastructure. Millions of tourists visit the nation's capital each year. We want to be an accessible and welcoming city. Ottawa should be a modern, livable city where residents can move about unobstructed, but in times of emergency and threat, we need to have the infrastructure in place that could protect key locations and personnel. Without infrastructure that can quickly be adapted for security, we are forced to rely on ad hoc measures like using heavy trucks and buses to block roads, which is a less effective and more disruptive method. We need to have infrastructure that we can put in place quickly and effectively, maintain for the duration of the threat and then reduce where appropriate.
The third issue to talk about is resources. Although we can't predict the exact nature of the next emergency or security threat, we must be prepared to maintain public security and protect the residents of Ottawa in any event. This requires adequate resources, including staffing for response, threat assessments and inter-agency liaison. Where and how these resources will be secured needs to be determined.
This concludes my prepared comments. This is a very important discussion for the City of Ottawa and all Canadians.
I look forward to answering your questions.
Good morning, Madam Chair, vice-chairs and committee members.
I'm Mike Duheme from the RCMP, deputy commissioner of federal policing. I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to be here today.
We support the committee's study on the feasibility of expanding the parliamentary precinct to include sections of Wellington and Sparks streets. As I understand it, the United States conducted a similar review to improve the provision of security services provided at Capitol Hill, following the events of January 2021. We look forward to any of the committee's findings and recommendations that can better address the safety and security of the precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
Like my colleague Steve, I would like to focus my discussion on three themes: jurisdiction, RCMP and the freedom convoy, and our role in PPS.
To begin, Ottawa Police Service, PPS and the RCMP have different jurisdictional responsibilities. OPS remains the POJ, police of jurisdiction, within Ottawa. This means that if there is a violation of the Criminal Code, even on the grounds of Parliament Hill or within the precinct, it is usually the OPS who will investigate, make arrests and lay appropriate charges under the Criminal Code or provincial or municipal laws.
The Parliamentary Protective Service mandate is ensuring physical security throughout the grounds of Parliament Hill and the buildings designated by the Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Commons that form the parliamentary precinct.
RCMP has both a protective policing and investigative mandate in the national capital region to safeguard principal government officials and to investigate federal policing threats related to national security, transnational serious and organized crime, and cybercrime.
Next, as we all witnessed, police services across the country responded to unprecedented and highly disruptive demonstrations and occupations. Throughout the convoy, the RCMP was engaged with its partners through its national capital region command centre.
The command centre promotes real-time, effective, operational coordination among law enforcement and security partners during major events and emergencies in the national capital region. The centre, which brought together representatives from the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Parliamentary Protective Service, the Ottawa Police Service and other groups, such as municipal partners and first responders, therefore enabled commanders directing responses to make timely and informed decisions when working with various policing partners.
In addition, the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ottawa Police Service established an integrated command centre to improve collaboration and coordination of investigative activities to stop the disruption in the nation's capital. The goal was to end the blockade quickly and safely. I believe we all effectively achieved that goal, and I would like to thank all the police officers and law enforcement agencies who participated in this operation.
Finally, I would like to talk about our role within the Parliamentary Protective Service. The operational head of the PPS is a member of the RCMP. However, the Parliamentary Protective Service is a separate entity from other law enforcement partners and takes its direction from the House of Commons and the Senate.
It needs to be clearly recognized that PPS is separate and independent from the RCMP. We have distinct mandates and jurisdictional responsibilities, yet we are always willing to assist our partners as required. All RCMP frontline resources have been demobilized from the PPS, leaving the current director of the PPS as the only remaining RCMP member present at the Parliamentary Protective Service.
In closing, we look forward to the committee's findings and recommendations. I would like to thank you for the time and the opportunity to speak about this important topic.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, I want to begin by thanking you for seeking the views of the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau, the SPVG, as part of the review on this issue.
The testimony of the SPVG will not directly address the expansion of the Parliamentary Precinct. Rather, our reflection will focus on the impact that major events occurring on Parliament Hill have on our policing, our municipality and our community.
I will offer my testimony not only in light of the recent truck convoy protests, but also from previous experiences.
At the moment, the City of Gatineau is the fourth-largest city in Quebec; it has a population of over 290,000. Together with Ottawa, we are the fourth most populous urban area in Canada, after Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
The Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau covers an area of over 342 square kilometres.
In accordance with the Quebec Police Act, the SPVG provides level 3 services. Our police service has over 700 employees, including 390 authorized police officers and approximately 85 temporary police officers. This makes it the fifth-largest municipal police force in Quebec.
As of October 30, 2019, the National Assembly of Quebec has recognized the special situation of the Outaouais, particularly because of its geographic proximity to Ottawa and Ontario. Five bridges separate our two cities: the Cartier-Macdonald Bridge, the Portage Bridge, the Alexandra Bridge, the Chaudière Bridge and the Champlain Bridge. While some of these bridges fall under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, another is under the responsibility of the Sûreté du Québec.
The Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau is therefore unique among Quebec's municipal police organizations because of its proximity to an interprovincial border and, consequently, its close partnership with the Ottawa Police Service, which is subject to the Ontario Police Services Act.
So, although our two organizations are governed by different legislation, we provide excellent co-operation at all levels and mutual support to prevent and solve crimes, whether local, regional or interprovincial, as well as supervision for special events, to name but a few examples.
While police service jurisdictions are clearly defined and governed by legislation that imposes jurisdictional boundaries, crime has no borders, and the issues that we face on both sides of the Ottawa River have a direct impact on our day-to-day work.
It is clear that the current era is undergoing massive social change, which greatly affects police work. It is therefore vital that we take a holistic, in-depth look at these types of events in order to meet the public's expectations and help improve public safety, which is essential to maintaining public trust.
Legal obligations frame police work in Quebec, such as section 48 of the Quebec Police Act, which states that their mission is “to maintain peace, order and public security, to prevent and repress crime [...] according to their respective jurisdiction.” To do so, “they ensure the safety of persons and property, safeguard rights and freedoms, respect victims [...] and co-operate with the community.”
Section 69 of the Police Act reads: “A municipal police force shall have jurisdiction [...] in the territory of the municipality to which it is attached”.
Under our mission, we have the duty to supervise protests in order to ensure the safety of participants, who are exercising a fundamental and recognized right, as well as the safety of the public. It is a fine line for police services to ensure the right to protest while ensuring public safety. This supervision must be conducted while maintaining traffic flow in accordance with municipal bylaws and provincial laws.
This border environment creates a legislative complexity that public safety services must juggle. This requires maintaining a dialogue with the protesters as well as with the various partners and stakeholders involved in such events, be they public, private or community organizations. An event in or around the Parliamentary Precinct may require the involvement of six services: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa Police Service, the Sûreté du Québec, the Parliamentary Protective Service and the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau.
The truckers' protest, which became an illegal occupation, required several operational meetings, as well as meetings with all the police services involved in order to establish an action plan. From a communications standpoint, many hours were also invested in advance to ensure team coordination and consistency in our messaging.
In conclusion, whether or not the federal jurisdiction over the operational security of the Parliamentary Precinct is extended, managing events in the vicinity of this area has undeniable collateral impacts on the entire City of Gatineau. As a police service, we are responsible for implementing the necessary operational structure to manage the numerous issues related to a large-scale protest, including traffic, gatherings, crowd flow, communications, and crime and violence prevention, while maintaining our residents' sense of security.
In order to fulfil our mandate, we must be involved from the first stages of planning, at both the strategic and operational levels. Depending on the scope of the situation and the activities planned, we will be able to adjust our response and be ready to face any eventuality. The current social climate, the increasingly rapid mobilization in various social movements and the polarization of discourse will undoubtedly lead the national capital region to experience other major disruptions of this type. These types of events require transparency and accountability to the public in order to maintain public confidence in police services.
The Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau pledges its full and complete co-operation and hopes to maintain the support of political authorities in carrying out its mission.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Thank you and good morning, Madam Chair, vice-chairs and committee members.
I'm here today representing the Ontario Provincial Police and our commissioner, Mr. Thomas Carrique.
Under the Ontario Police Services Act, the OPP has a unique dual mandate to provide frontline policing services to 328 municipalities across the province, as well as to provide assistance and/or specialized support to municipal services upon their request.
As it relates specifically to the freedom convoy and the associated illegal blockades in the city of Ottawa, the OPP's intelligence bureau commenced reporting to our policing partners on January 13, 2022. As of January 22, daily intelligence reports focused on the convoy headed to Ottawa and the anticipated protest movements across the province. Intelligence reporting was shared with more than 35 Canadian police, law enforcement and security agencies. As the convoy crossed over the Manitoba-Ontario border and travelled across the province until it arrived in Ottawa on January 28, OPP officers professionally fulfilled their duties without incident.
In support of the Ottawa Police Service, throughout the occupation an increasing number of OPP officers and specialized resources from various services became engaged, ultimately contributing to an integrated plan and the establishment of a unified command.
Simultaneously, our members responded to many convoys and demonstrations that consistently and repeatedly emerged in communities across Ontario, including but not limited to the critical blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, the blockade of Highway 402, multiple attempts to block Canada-U.S. border crossings, and demonstrations that posed risks to the area of the Ontario legislature.
In addition, from day one when the convoy entered Ontario, we were responsive to requests for assistance from other municipal police services. This was a provincial and national emergency that garnered international attention. In response, the OPP and more than 20 other police services from across the country worked collaboratively to address public order emergencies that were unmatched in recent history.
Protests and demonstrations are often complex in nature. The role of the police remains that of protecting the public, upholding the law and keeping the peace.
The province's critical infrastructure and highways regulation under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the federal Emergencies Act were effective supplementary tools needed to help protect critical infrastructure and ensure the continuous and safe delivery of essential goods and services, while at the same time maintaining or—in the case of Ottawa—restoring peace, order and public security.
As the committee is well aware, in addition to the critical events experienced in Ontario, the illegal occupation in Ottawa was accompanied by numerous other high-risk freedom convoy related protests and blockades across Canada. The OPP worked collaboratively with the Ottawa Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other policing partners to develop a sustainable and integrated operational plan that was informed by best practices from other high-risk critical events and available police resources, along with concurrent and emerging operational requirements, in a number of police jurisdictions.
Sufficiently trained public order officers were amassed from throughout Canada and deployed in an integrated, strategic and measured manner, which resulted in the collapse of the occupation. The situation and the associated events simultaneously taking place across Canada required unprecedented national collaboration to prevent injury, preserve life and protect critical infrastructure.
I must note, however, that the Ontario Provincial Police's role here in Ottawa is not that of the police of jurisdiction, nor do we have the security responsibility on Parliament Hill. In the matter of the freedom convoy, we provided assistance and specialized support to our partners, the Ottawa Police Service.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have of the Ontario Provincial Police. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I have six minutes to ask a million questions, like a new parliamentarian.
I'm going to take the liberty of asking my questions in quick succession. I would also like all answers to be succinct.
I have made an important observation and I am thinking of the citizens of my constituency when I say this, people who were worried. We don't want this to happen again.
What I have heard is that six police forces are working together. There have been changes after the terrorist act in 2014.
Madam Chair, my question is for Mr. Beaudoin, but perhaps someone else could answer it.
We are talking about a large command centre. When were other police services approached?
Madam Chair, I was not here in 2014, but those who were here mentioned to me that lessons were learned from that event.
There have been adjustments to the RCMP, which has a specific parliamentary service for us. However, this applies to the perimeter of the Centre Block, which is currently being refurbished. However, those adjustments have not been expanded.
If I understand correctly, lessons were learned from the events of 2014 and in 2022, new ones are being learned. In 2030, if something else happens, will we still have to learn from it?
I want to be reassured. There are six police departments. For me to be reassured, we would have to expand the perimeter, have a big command and follow the lead.
Is this what is needed to reassure the citizens and to reassure us, not to mention public safety for the citizens who come to the capital?
Who wants to answer that question? Who agrees with that? Who thinks this is a solution?
Madam Chair, I can answer part of that question.
As was mentioned, six police forces were integrated. In fact, there were many more than six as different police forces from around the country came to assist us.
What happened was an exceptional situation.
In 2014, there were indeed recommendations. There were 67, to be exact, as a result of the events that occurred that year. Most of those recommendations were put in place by the Parliamentary Protective Service and the RCMP. It wasn't really a question of structure, in short.
As the first director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, I can say that in 2015, there was already talk of expanding the operational security of the parliamentary precinct.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will do my best to ask every question through the Chair.
If I may, through you, Madam Chair, I thank all of the witnesses for being here today. I really appreciate their testimony. I reflect on the fact that this was something that we have never seen before in this area or, in fact, in Canada, and that there were some serious concerns.
If I could, through you, Madam Chair, I'll ask a question of Chief Bell. One of the things that we're talking about today is expanding the jurisdiction. In your testimony, you talked about how important it is to have things clearly laid out, so that there can be a collaborative method moving forward with any kind of incident that may happen.
With the expansion of the precinct for Parliament, do you feel confident that those processes are in place, or is there anything that we need to do? Are there any modifications we would have to make to address the issue of a bigger precinct for Parliament?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
With respect to the integrated command centre, in the national capital region, there is the NCRCC, the national capital region command centre. Any big event will have people coming together. It's law enforcement, the fire service, OC Transpo, la Sûreté du Québec across the river as well as SPVG, le Service de Police de la Ville de Gatineau, for a coordinated approach so that everybody knows what everybody's doing at any given time. If a decision is made with regard to a protest downtown, OC Transpo can shift its routes. Paramedics know the routes to take. It's very important.
PPS does this on a daily basis. With any demonstration on the Hill, they have their own command centre to manage this. Depending on the size, that's when you see different partners come on board with that, but you always have a command centre when something of that nature comes along. We deal with it.
Excellent. Thank you so much.
On behalf of all committee members, I would like to thank all the witnesses for your time with us today.
I thank you for your presence and for the information you have given us.
Please know that we welcome submissions, so if there is other information you would like committee members to consider, we would not limit any opportunity to write to us. Please do, through the clerk, provide us any information.
With that, I will suspend the committee for a couple of seconds while we switch over to the next panel.
Thank you. Keep well and safe, everyone.
I'm happy to be here today with two of my officials. Paul Thompson is my DM, and Rob Wright is an ADM.
Thanks for inviting us here today. I fully appreciate the importance of this committee's study on expanding the federal jurisdiction for the operational security of the parliamentary precinct.
Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the unceded territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin people.
As Minister of Public Services and Procurement, I am proud to be leading the restoration work on the precinct. Through this enormous undertaking, we are restoring one of the most important heritage sites in Canada. We are creating a modern workplace for parliamentarians while moving us towards carbon neutrality and climate resiliency. Our goal, working hand in hand with Parliament, is to restore, modernize and preserve the heart of Canada's democracy, and to ensure that it can be enjoyed by all Canadians for many years to come.
Madam Chair, the precinct itself goes beyond Parliament Hill and includes the three city blocks facing the Hill, extending from Elgin Street to Bank Street. It also includes the Senate of Canada Building, with Wellington Street and Sparks Street running through and defining the precinct.
In addition to Parliament, the precinct is the home of the office of the and the Privy Council, and the future indigenous peoples space. The Supreme Court is its next-door neighbour. Suffice it to say, this is one of the most significant spaces in our country. It cradles our democratic institutions, and it is where Canadians come to celebrate, mourn, reflect and express their democratic voices.
As you can imagine, the precinct is a complex environment involving many stakeholders with varying and overlapping areas of accountability.
As custodian for the parliamentary and judicial precincts, Public Services and Procurement Canada is responsible for their operations and for securing the authorities and funding to do so. My department also has an important role to play, not only in the planning and delivery of accommodations but also in helping to operationalize security requirements, which are determined by partners.
Within my portfolio, the National Capital Commission has jurisdiction over federal land use and design, and it is responsible for the visitor experience along Confederation Boulevard. Finally, the City of Ottawa holds responsibility for all municipal infrastructure, including city streets.
When it comes to security, Madam Chair, the landscape is no less complex, as my colleague, Minister Mendicino, will soon describe.
As you well know, recent illegal protests have illustrated the challenges that come with multiple players and jurisdictional barriers. They laid bare issues of ownership and control, security and governance, which, particularly during the early part of the protests, undermined a coordinated and coherent response.
But these issues are not new, and the complexities they bring reach far beyond security. In fact, more than a decade ago, the Auditor General reported that the complex governance and the lack of clarity pertaining to the roles and responsibilities for the parliamentary precinct posed a significant risk for the implementation of the long-term vision and plan. The Auditor General is currently undertaking a follow-up audit that is to be tabled in Parliament in 2023.
Although we have achieved much over the past decade, including a strong record of delivering projects, many of the same risks remain. In fact, I'd say they have increased. Not only has the global threat and risk level continued to evolve, but the complexion of the precinct has changed. Within the next decade, approximately 50% of all parliamentary offices will be located on the other side of Wellington Street, meaning Wellington will no longer serve as a border for Parliament but will, instead, run right through its core.
With a new sense of urgency to address security in the precinct, there is an opportunity to deal with the long-standing issues around governance more broadly.
My department sees significant benefit in working with Parliament, the City of Ottawa and other key stakeholders to help clarify accountabilities, simplify the operational context and streamline decision-making to create a more safe, secure and accessible parliamentary precinct. Of course, one of our main objectives is to ensure access of the precinct to visitors.
When we look at any issue, including security, we need to make sure that we consider how it affects all facets of our long-term vision and plan, ensuring we have solutions that work for local residents and all Canadians so that they can continue to take pride in their national capital.
From my perspective, the key to putting a plan together that will result in real change will be collaboration and coordination, or to simplify it into one word, partnership.
Parliament can count on Public Services and Procurement Canada as a partner in this important endeavour, and I'd be happy to discuss our work on this front.
I look forward to your questions, and I look forward to working with this committee.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will begin by thanking all the committee members for their study and their good work on this important issue.
We are also joined by the deputy commissioner of the RCMP, Michael Duheme, who you now know very well.
The government supports the committee's work to study the operational security of the parliamentary precinct, including sections of Wellington and Sparks streets, as my colleague Minister Tassi just alluded to. We look forward to your findings and recommendations.
In my brief this morning, I’ll speak about the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS as it is well known to all of us, and to the illegal blockades that we witnessed during January and February of this year.
Colleagues, as you know, the PPS is mandated to provide integrated physical security through the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill. It was created following the security challenges that followed the terrorist incident in October 2014.
Shortly after its creation, my office signed an MOU with co-signatories: the commissioner of the RCMP, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. The goal of that MOU was to ensure a clear distinction of authorities and responsibilities.
Today the PPS is comprised of personnel from the former Senate protective service, the former House of Commons security services and, as legislated, the director is a member of the RCMP. The PPS is a separate entity from other law enforcement partners, and it takes direction from the House of Commons and the Senate. This brings me to our most recent security challenge.
Colleagues, in January and February of this year in Ottawa and at various locations across the country, we witnessed illegal blockades that disrupted the lives of countless Canadians. They harmed our economy and endangered our public safety.
During the movement’s early stages, we saw a gain in momentum across the country, with a significant increase in disruptions in Ottawa, just outside from where we’re gathered today. Thousands were incited at our borders, legislatures, monuments and right here in front of Parliament Hill. Wellington Street was overrun by blockaders entrenching themselves with structures and propane tanks. As you recall, the Rideau Centre was shut down, and small businesses were shuttered. The 911 service in Ottawa was flooded with calls.
All of this lasted nearly a month in Ottawa. Before, during and after the illegal blockades in our nation’s capital, the Ottawa Police Service was and is the police of jurisdiction. However, the RCMP was fully engaged with the OPS, the Ontario Provincial Police and other law enforcement partners, as well as the PPS, through the RCMP’s national capital region command centre. This allowed for real-time operational coordination among all partners. The RCMP, OPP and OPS also established an integrated command centre to develop and oversee a joint enforcement plan under the leadership of the OPS.
All of these actions brought a safe end to the illegal blockades, restored order and ensured the safety and security of Canadians. During the blockades, I think we're all aware of the extraordinary service of the PPS in maintaining its operational and physical security in protecting parliamentarians, parliamentary staff, employees and visitors to the precinct and to Parliament Hill.
I would pause to note that I think many of us saw the reports of those illegal blockaders who were deliberately and consciously trying to overwhelm the job that the PPS was doing, pressing beyond barricades and pressing beyond PPS. Indeed, that was a very alarming example of the way in which public safety was undermined. I do want to take a moment to thank the members of the PPS, the RCMP and indeed all law enforcement for the extraordinary work they did in restoring public safety.
I eagerly await the finding of the joint parliamentary committee on the declaration of emergency and the public inquiry into the Emergencies Act that is being led by Justice Paul Rouleau.
With that, Madam Chair, I want to reaffirm that the government looks forward to the committee’s findings and recommendations, and we want to thank you for your time and careful attention to this issue.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I for one, on behalf of my constituents, am quite grateful to this committee for looking at this really important issue. As you know, Madam Chair, I represent the riding of Ottawa Centre, where Parliament Hill is located.
Wellington Street and Sparks Street are very much part of the fabric of my community, and this discussion around whether or not the parliamentary precinct should be expanded is of great importance to my community because, as we have learned, these are issues that are faced by the residents of my community on a daily basis.
I want to thank the ministers for being here today. I'm asking these questions on behalf of thousands of people who reside in this area and hundreds of small businesses that also operate there.
Minister Tassi, I will start with you. You started talking about the restoration project that the Parliament Buildings are going through. Maybe I'll start at 30,000 feet. Can you share with us your vision and your department's vision around the parliamentary buildings?
Through the chair, what do you see in the future for this entire area as we're going through the restoration project?
Thanks, Madam Chair. I'm pleased to respond to that.
We have before us a wonderful opportunity with the long-term vision and plan that was commenced in 2001 and that we're working towards. We really want to create a space that is welcoming, that is safe and that is inviting for people to come to, not only for Ottawa residents but for people across the country and also from around the world. I think we are making great headway on the implementation of the long-term vision and plan.
Right now, you can look at what's going on with Centre Block. That is the most complex heritage rehabilitation project we've ever undertaken. There's a beautiful welcome centre. We can look at yesterday's announcement of block 2 and having the design bid winner announced. We are moving forward on these various matters.
I would add to that, Madam Chair, that the reason this is so important, and the reason we need to have the experts come in and have a collaborative dialogue, as I said in my opening remarks, is that there's so much effort that has gone into the long-term vision and plan we have to make sure that we get this right.
There are three issues that are at question here: ownership and control, security and governance. These aren't new. They're long-standing. The work this committee is doing is important, and we look forward to the collaboration and working with the committee in order to come to a place where we are making the decisions that are in the best interests of Canadians.
Does that mean I have seven minutes? I'm very happy about that. That will give us time to settle in.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Those who know me know that I'm a practical person. I speak for my constituents, but also for all of us, as we have to keep ourselves safe.
I noted some points in the opening remarks that I'd like to address now. A lack of clarity was mentioned, as was simplification. In the previous hour, it was pointed out that six services needed to work together. We then talked about an integrated operational centre, with a view to good governance. We were told earlier that this had been set up in the first week.
Now, I wonder. We were told that the RCMP was responsible for ensuring the safety of parliamentarians, staff, and even citizens. That's not to mention the reason we're here today, which is the expansion of federal jurisdiction for the security of the parliamentary precinct and the simplification of all that. Ultimately, it's always a security issue.
My children and some of my constituents told me that I shouldn't go there, that it was far too dangerous. They asked me how I could get there. I was practically harassed by my loved ones, who told me clearly that I wasn't safe. I said to myself that they shouldn't worry, that the government is there to keep us safe.
I have often been asked why it took so long to take action when we had announced what was coming, and we could see what was developing. It wasn't about motorcyclists, but about truckers. We should have taken the bull by the horns, given the signal and announced that we were going to take control of the situation on behalf of citizens, staff and parliamentarians.
Let's be constructive and assume that we're starting the scenario all over again tomorrow morning. Would you say that enough is enough, that we have to put an end to the conflict and take charge of the situation? Regardless of the parliamentary situation, would we take action? Would we have taken action the week before? I need reassurance. I'll let you answer those questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First off, Ms. Gaudreau, I have to say that I very much like your pragmatic approach.
Your question is important and essential to the work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The government believes that lessons learned from the illegal blockades need to be studied. If it needs to be done, it's for exactly the reasons you've outlined.
Let's talk about police collaboration. How was this good work done last winter?
You have to understand the context. I would like to make it clear that the issue of security for members of Parliament and the people who work on the Hill is a shared responsibility between the PPS, the RCMP and the Sergeant‑at‑Arms.
I think the agreement reached after the truly tragic 2014 terrorist act is working well, as it has strengthened communication.
I hope the committee will come up with some practical suggestions to prevent another blockade.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to congratulate you for speaking in French. I appreciate it.
Indeed, we learned from the events of 2014. We must also consider that the reconstruction of the Centre Block means that we have to revisit the Parliamentary Precinct, I agree.
What hurts me is that we are in the capital and this kind of event has happened. I was a lifeguard. I wanted to save my neighbour, but I was asked whether there was any danger to me. Regardless of the rules, I had to ask myself whether I was intervening or not. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Is there a danger to us? The answer is yes. We don't care about the rules; we want to protect those around us.
People are watching and listening, and I'm a little embarrassed. If we could leave our meeting with recommendations that would be implemented quickly to show people that we are responsible, that would reassure me. We're not in camera, people are watching. We know everything we've missed.
There were 97 recommendations in 2014. Which of these have been implemented? Some probably haven't been.
If we can be assured that we will implement the recommendations received, without parliamentary partisanship, then we can save lives.
Thank you for your continued vigilance.
Rest assured that we will always be on guard. No matter what happens, safety must come first.
I am very uncomfortable having that I witnessed a lassitude before action was taken. Safety was at stake. In my opinion, what is missing from all this is the assurance of a commitment.
I would like to see the pragmatic side that I'm demonstrating respected immediately, not in 2025 or 2030, when there will be a mass murder or some other event.
Thank you, Madam Chair. Those are very important questions.
One thing I will acknowledge is that yesterday, with the block 2 announcement, it was very clear that the indigenous peoples space is going to be respected and honoured. In fact, the winning bidder, when the media asked the first question as to what was motivating this design, talked about the indigenous space, the open piece of that space, and how it focused and looked right at Parliament Hill. It was very much a part of that. The winning bidder also worked with an indigenous architecture firm, from Hamilton, Two Row, which contributed in terms of design content.
With respect to the question of dialogue, these conversations have to take place. I'm happy to turn it over to my officials to talk about what they see in terms of the number of conversations, but you're absolutely right about the conversations with indigenous peoples in that space in order to determine this. What does closing Wellington Street mean? How does it impact that space? What are we going to do in order to ensure that, whatever the plans are for that space, they are honoured and respected with respect to the pathway that we are moving forward? These are all discussions that are extremely important.
There are many partners. You have Parliament. You have the PMO. You have the Privy Council. You have the PSPC. You have the NCC. You have the City of Ottawa. Then you have all the policing jurisdictional issues that vary. PPS is one. RCMP is another. City of Ottawa is the streets.
This is why all these conversations are so important, so that moving forward we get it right in a respectful way that brings the greatest benefit to this wonderful opportunity we have here in Parliament to create a space that is welcoming and inviting for people around the world.
Thank you for that, Madam Chair.
I would ask the minister a following question. It would be helpful to have some sort of stance on what resources would be included. If the committee's going to make wise recommendations then knowing the costs associated with that would be really helpful. Hopefully your department can give us something so that we have it to consider.
It goes back to the question that I asked Minister Tassi earlier around the precinct. We know that there were a lot of challenges with jurisdiction. We heard that from many people during the occupation. For me, I also want to recognize that I saw a lot of challenges, especially for people living with disabilities moving around that space. I had many confrontations in my ways in and out, talking about if they could just move their vehicles a few feet it would make accessibility a lot easier. I did not get very positive feedback from those folks at all, which was frustrating.
If we could go back to that part, could you get us some sort of costs? The other part is, if this does grow, if that is something the government takes on, what will be the fundamental change in terms of jurisdiction and debating who does what and when?
I have another quick question for you, Mr. Wright.
One of the things I look at as a parliamentarian when I come to Ottawa, as there are a lot of large assets—it's very different from my neck of the woods in suburban and rural British Columbia—is whether the Government of Canada does the little things right. One of the things that's been annoying me—I wrote to the Speaker about it—and that I'm worried about in expanding the jurisdiction is your department's ability to handle more responsibility.
I mention this because the ability for your department to manage, say, the replacement of light bulbs in the Valour Building has been a very big challenge for you. In fact, for six months, I've been waiting for new light bulbs, as have many other parliamentarians in the Valour Building. Your department hasn't been able to fix that problem.
Why should the people of Canada trust your department with an expanded jurisdiction when some of the little things, like lighting in an existing building, are so hard to accomplish?
Through you, Madam Chair, thanks for that very important question.
Nathan Cirillo, of course, was from Hamilton, so we know the importance of this specific site, what it means to people and how important it is. This is a perfect example of why this committee is doing extremely important work, and we need to look at pathways forward. The War Memorial presents an interesting case, because as I have said, it used to be owned by four different landowners, but now it's three. The memorial itself belongs to PSPC, but think of the jurisdictional challenges when you have three landowners having to make decisions on moving the pathway forward. Ultimately, we were asked in PSPC to construct a barrier, a fence. It took time, because we had to ensure that everyone was supportive of that, that it was respectful and that was the pathway forward.
That's why I see an opportunity here in this study to look at what the parliamentary precinct should entail. Should it be expanded? Should ownership be streamlined? How can everyone work collaboratively so that we ensure the safety and security of people, but also recognize the importance of these monuments to Canadians across this country?