I call this meeting to order.
Good morning, everyone.
Welcome to meeting No. 36 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The committee is meeting today to resume its study on expanding the parliamentary precinct to include parts of Wellington Street and Sparks Street.
Our first panel consists of officials from CSIS, who will provide the committee with a security briefing on their work.
Our second panel consists of witnesses and organizations who have been recalled to committee to provide additional information.
I would like to let the committee know that all of our virtual witnesses have undergone the pre-committee connectivity and audio test.
In panel one we are welcoming today Cherie Henderson, assistant director, requirements, and Newton Shortliffe, assistant director, collection.
Before we start, I remind everyone that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair.
Ms. Henderson, please go ahead with your opening statement. Welcome to PROC.
Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Cherie Henderson and I am the assistant director of requirements for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. I am joined today by my colleague, Newton Shortliffe, the assistant director of collection. I would like to thank you for the invitation to speak to you today and to respond to your questions.
I would like to begin by speaking briefly about the mandate of the service, to help situate the activities of CSIS at home and abroad. All our activities are grounded in the CSIS Act, which clearly articulates our mandate and authorities.
First and foremost we investigate threats to the security of Canada. Our act defines the threats we are authorized to investigate: espionage and sabotage, foreign interference, terrorism and extremism, and subversion.
We provide advice to the Government of Canada on these threats, including through the production of intelligence assessments and reports. CSIS may also take measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada.
Lastly, at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of National Defence and with the consent of the Minister of Public Safety, CSIS may collect foreign intelligence within Canada in relation to the intentions, capabilities or activities of a foreign state.
Importantly, CSIS is specifically prohibited from investigating lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, except when it is carried on in conjunction with activities that constitute a threat to the security of Canada. We are also bound by and uphold the charter rights of all Canadians.
As indicated in our 2021 public report, which I invite you to read online, the key national security threats facing Canada—foreign interference, espionage, malicious cyber-activity and violent extremism—are all accelerating and evolving.
We continue to see uncertainty regarding the global balance of influence, with shifting power structures posing new and complex challenges to the international rules-based order. These include the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine in February of this year.
Here at home, foreign interference poses one of the most important strategic threats to Canada's national security, targeting Canada's sovereignty and democratic institutions. Last year CSIS released a report to the public on foreign interference threats to Canada's democratic process. In our report we advised Canadians that foreign states and their proxies target politicians, political parties and electoral processes in order to covertly influence Canadian public policy and public opinion, and to undermine our democracy.
We are also increasingly seeing states leverage media to spread disinformation or run influence campaigns designed to confuse or divide public opinion, interfering in healthy public debate and political discourse.
Additionally, here and around the world, the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the unpredictability of the current threat environment and in some cases exacerbated the threats.
One of those is most certainly the threat from ideologically motivated violent extremism, or IMVE, which is fuelled by extreme views around race, gender and authority. It is a threat that thrives on division and festers in the online space. We continue to see an increase in IMVE attacks in Canada and around the world. Lone actors remain the primary IMVE threat, as demonstrated by the tragic June 2021 attack in London, Ontario.
As our director told the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency this past May, in the case of the “freedom convoy”, CSIS was concerned with the threat of IMVE, and specifically the potential for serious acts of violence.
The combination of major disruptive events like the pandemic, the ever-increasing influence of social media and the spread of conspiracy theories has created an environment ripe for exploitation by influencers and extremists. This environment has the potential to inspire individuals to commit acts of violence.
In the lead-up to the “freedom convoy”, CSIS closely monitored known IMVE threat actors to assess any threat of serious acts of violence. This operational posture was informed by context. For one, CSIS had observed a rise in anti-authority violent rhetoric, particularly as it related to public health measures. CSIS was also aware of the opportunities that large gatherings and protests could offer IMVE actors to carry out acts of violence and recruit like-minded individuals.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I really appreciate your being here, Ms. Henderson.
I noticed that when you talked about IMVE, you said it thrives on division. I notice that the divisive policies of the government when it came to vaccine mandates wasn't included on the list of things you just gave when it came to the convoy threats, but that's fine. I would just like to have that noted.
When the government says things about its own citizens and takes a divisive approach in its political strategies, I think it creates or exacerbates the very real problems we have with the state of the mental health of a lot of Canadians and some of the people who were inspired to do the things they're doing, but I don't want to get involved in that. I think we're going to have an opportunity to talk about these kinds of things in the next study, on foreign interference and so on.
I will move on now to dealing with the issue at hand, which is the operational security of the parliamentary precinct.
University of Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew has stated that intelligence failures are more often not in the collection of information but in the failures of sharing, analysis and execution. Given the lessons learned from the 2014 Parliament Hill shooting and more recently from the convoy, would you say that intelligence information is being shared properly within the parliamentary precinct? Furthermore, would increased co-operation between all parties in the national capital preclude the need to expand the parliamentary precinct?
As the assistant director of collection, I am responsible for all the regions that are responsible for the investigations on national security issues that the service does.
When there is a major incident such as the convoy incident, incident groups are created. This is led by law enforcement. Different partners will participate in that and will interface with those groups in order to share information to ensure that intelligence can be passed and to have discussions about what is going on.
The service did participate in those structures during the convoy. I know that our capital region, which is responsible for the national capital region, has an excellent relationship with parliamentary security, as well as with the RCMP.
I don't know if parliamentary security, however, participated in the particular incident group in which we were interfacing during the convoy, because the point of these groups is to create a single point of contact in and out at the working level so that we reduce the amount of fog that might otherwise be created by the information flows.
As a former member of the Board of Internal Economy during that particular process, I would suggest to you that more work needs to be done in sharing that information.
I believe the advice we were given as parliamentarians in various debates here in the public sphere was largely done without knowing the information that we probably ought to have or should have known. I would like, if you can.... I don't want to put you on the spot right now, but I think there needs to be a way for parliamentarians to engage in the debate on issues as important as the ones we're discussing here today, so that at least parliamentarians can have actual informed debate rather than speculating. There was a lot of speculation and a lot of uncertainty about what was true and what wasn't true insofar as what the intents of some of the people involved in the convoy were.
Given that Wellington will be seeing many changes over the next few years, including the new block 2 plan and renovation to the Parliament, as well as the West Memorial Building and the heating and cooling plant, do you believe that the expansion of the precinct should be left to a panel of experts? Should you be providing advice as one of those experts?
There was an NDP MP here who I didn't agree with much and who said that as parliamentarians we shouldn't be picking out the colours of the drapes in the building, but we should be providing oversight rather than actual planning. Do you think that should be left to a panel of experts and, as such, have you been consulted as a potential member of that panel?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I can finish off, if that's okay for the committee.
What I will say is that CSIS was also aware of the opportunities that large gatherings and protests could offer IMVE actors to carry out acts of violence and recruit like-minded individuals.
Finally, CSIS was concerned about the threat posed by lone actors. That is why, throughout the events of January and February, CSIS remained engaged with the RCMP and other law enforcement partners to ensure timely sharing of information.
As I've mentioned, the service is mandated to investigate a variety of threats to the security of Canada, and that is what we work on every day in collaboration with domestic and international partners.
I understand that your study centres on expanding the federal jurisdiction for the operational security of the parliamentary precinct. From a CSIS perspective, we understand that our institutions and parliamentarians can be and are at risk. Tragic past events have shown as much, almost eight years ago to the day. That said, the service acts on its mandate regardless of where the threats emanate from or are directed.
To conclude, although our work at CSIS is often undertaken outside of the public eye, I want to ensure this committee that the service is steadfast in its commitment to keep all Canadians safe.
Thank you for your question. I am going to answer in English, so that the nuances are clearer.
What I would like to say is that CSIS looks at and investigates threats all across the country. Those threats could potentially be directed at any area or any individual. We collect that information, analyze it, develop our assessments and provide it to the other bodies. Those bodies, such as the RCMP or relevant police services, can then use that information to help assess the threat with regard to a particular situation.
While we may not be commenting particularly with regard to the parliamentary precinct, we can speak and provide information with regard to the threats we are seeing across the country—or in some cases, what we are seeing around the world—that are impacting the situation in Canada.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the witnesses, because they have taught me a lot about CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. I understand clearly that the role of CSIS is to inform us about potential threats.
I am going to offer some context for the matter at hand: we want to avoid a recurrence of an event like the one that occurred in 2014, an event for which the parliamentary precinct did not have all of the security resources needed for taking action.
I also understand that it is difficult for CSIS to say whether or not an expansion would help it assess threats, so I am going to ask much more specific questions in connection with the chronology of events.
What was the date when CSIS looked at a potential threat? When did it inform the Ottawa Police Service, the Parliamentary Protective Service, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?
Thank you. That's helpful. You've answered my question.
We have heard, of course, that there are multiple jurisdictions, specifically around Parliament, and that sometimes figuring out who is in charge of what and when feels like a bit of a challenge.
I'm just wondering, from the perspective of your department, if it would be easier to deal with future events on this scale if they ever happen again? Having the jurisdiction expanded, would that make any significant difference in your ability to do your work?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the witnesses.
Ms. Henderson and Mr. Shortliffe, I would like to understand the process of discussions by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with the police services, in particular the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the RCMP, a little better.
What level of information do you share with your police partners? For example, an investigation is underway concerning a national threat. We know that some police services are very cautious about disclosing their information so as not to interfere with their own investigations.
In the case of an event like the one we are talking about, what level of information did you communicate to the RCMP about the investigations underway, whether or not they concerned the events that took place in Ottawa?
As a general rule, what will mean that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service does or does not share information?
Thank you for your question.
I'll reply in English to make sure I'm clear.
The trigger for sharing information is related to whether we perceive a possible threat to the security of Canada. As you mentioned earlier, we investigate the activities of certain individuals who we believe may be engaged in threat-related activity.
As Ms. Henderson has said, this is a discussion that goes on all the time with our law enforcement partners, particularly the RCMP. This is done through a number of different venues. It is done at our headquarters level, through headquarters-to-headquarters meetings, where we discuss, for example, what can be passed officially that law enforcement might be able to use in their own investigations.
There's also tactically a conflation that occurs at the regional level between the regions and the integrated national security enforcement teams on specific individuals we are both aware of. This is to ensure that we are essentially not tripping over each other in our investigations and that key threats are identified.
One of the most important roles is that if we become aware of information that, for example, is a threat to life or a threat of serious violence, we will find a way to get that over into the hands of law enforcement so they can take action as quickly as possible.
Beyond that, we have challenges—
I am going to interrupt you again. I understand. Thank you.
You did answer and you confirmed that there are several levels to go through. When information is provided, it has first gone through several levels of approval at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS. A number of people have seen the information.
As a result, when the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency received documents from the government indicating that while the convoy was in place, CSIS was not worried about explaining and sharing information with the public, we can understand that several authorities within CSIS had seen and approved that declaration.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Through you, I'd like to thank the witnesses for being with us today.
For the purposes of this study and focusing on whether or not the protection of the parliamentary precinct should be expanded, in terms of physical security we were talking about focusing on whether or not Wellington Street and perhaps Sparks Street should be closed to vehicular traffic, and whether the jurisdiction over the security of those streets should move to the Parliamentary Protective Service.
One of the witnesses who came forward, former Senator White, brought up a situation—we also heard it from the PPS—which was that during the illegal occupation, there were trucks parked on Wellington and there was no intelligence to understand what was in those trucks. One of the concerns was obviously that we all know what happened in Oklahoma City.
In terms of CSIS expertise and intelligence gathering, whether it be using cyber and so on and so forth, would CSIS be in a position to provide intel of that nature, given the fact that it's physically here on Wellington Street? I'm just trying to understand. Would CSIS have been able to ascertain what was in those trucks, given that you're not physically on the ground? It is the police who are on the ground physically. Unless someone is actually putting this information out there, I think it would be hard to assess. Is that correct?
Obviously I can't comment on specific operational activities that occurred, but I can speak a bit more generally about how we do our investigations.
We have a number of authorities under the CSIS Act. The CSIS Act permits us to investigate, to the extent that it's strictly necessary, threats to the security of Canada. We use a number of methods for doing that, including interviews, surveillance and things like that. We can apply for Federal Court warrants for intrusive techniques. To do a search of a vehicle, for example, would require a Federal Court warrant, and you'd have to be able to demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a threat in order to get that warrant. That's in the CSIS Act.
The practical application is that sometimes we're in a position to provide useful intelligence and sometimes we're not.
Given that the City of Ottawa essentially closed Wellington to vehicular traffic a few months ago, other than the parliamentary buses, which I think are able to pass in front and so on, it has eliminated that risk in the sense that vehicles cannot be parked on Wellington.
In terms of the coordination, we've heard a bit about how CSIS will be pulled in, or if you are aware of information that would be beneficial for the other partners to be aware of.... If the Parliamentary Protective Service were to take over the jurisdiction of, say, Wellington and Sparks, would having...I don't want to say “one less partner” to deal with, because obviously you'd still be working with Ottawa city police and so on and so forth, but would having a streamlined approach be beneficial?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just have one question for the witnesses, and that is about what happened in 2014 as compared to what is happening today. I did not get an answer earlier as to who stepped in and who raised the red flag. I don't know whether it was the Ottawa Police Service, the RCMP, the Parliamentary Protective Service, or someone else.
Since the witnesses told us in their testimony that it has now been eight years, have they observed, in the course of their work, a difference in operational activities, a difference in the strategy for ensuring the security of the parliamentary precinct?
At that time.... What we tend to do—and Newton spoke about this—is we really closely monitor all the opportunities that could potentially arise in this type of environment. We're closely keeping an eye on the potential for anyone to incite or lead to engaging in violent extremist activities.
While, as I noted before, we do not monitor legal protests, we certainly keep an eye out to make sure we're aware of anything—any outward influences, external influences—that could lead to potential serious violence.
We also continue to monitor other streams of intelligence reporting so that we can collect and get a better picture. That's why it's so fundamentally important that we continue to communicate, because each agency engaged will have a small piece of the picture that could help create that better picture. Again, it goes back to really good communication and information-sharing, and breaking down any barriers that prevent that sharing ability.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It's good to be here again today. I've appreciated the testimony we've heard so far.
During the course of the testimony, we've heard that the engagement of CSIS is based on whether or not they perceive a possible threat to the national security of Canada and at what level.
My question goes to the documents that were tabled with the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency. According to those documents, the national security adviser's briefing to the cabinet on the protests the night before the invocation includes the comment, “CSIS/CSE: No concerns at this time.”
Can you shed some light on the service's lack of concern about the protests even the night before the Emergencies Act was invoked?
During the protests, a few individuals, with perhaps a flawed understanding of the Constitution, promoted a so-called manifesto, which was rightly dismissed. However, some members of the Liberal government claimed this represented an attempt to overthrow the government.
On the other hand, the special joint committee heard evidence just last month from the Parliamentary Protective Service and from our Sergeant-at-Arms, who used to head the RCMP branch for protective policing, that they did not consider this to be a serious threat to national security at all. In fact, Mr. McDonell said, “I didn't take that comment seriously.”
Does the service share the perspective of the House's own security professionals?
That's a very interesting question.
I have been in this business now for almost 31 years. I would say that what we are seeing right now is unprecedented. We have threats facing us on all levels.
Today, we're speaking specifically about the IMVE threat that we are watching across the country, but we are also dealing with threats from foreign interference in our democratic processes, espionage and efforts to undermine our economic security. We're watching what is happening with Russia and the invasion of Ukraine.
From my appreciation of 30 years in this seat, we are in a very unprecedented threat environment at the moment. As we have been monitoring the IMVE threat, it has continued to really increase over the past few years. I think it is unprecedented.
Welcome back for our second panel today at the procedure and House affairs committee.
I would like to welcome our guests. We have with us Michel Bédard, who is the law clerk and parliamentary counsel. From the National Capital Commission, joining us by video conference, we have Alain Miguelez, vice-president, capital planning; and Tobi Nussbaum, chief executive officer. We also have Trish Ferguson, deputy chief with the Ottawa Police Service, who is joining us by video conference. Then, in person, we have Larry Brookson, chief superintendent with the Parliamentary Protective Service.
I would like to start with Mr. Bédard.
Welcome. You have up to three minutes for your opening comments.
Thank you Madam Chair and members of the committee for your invitation to appear today.
My name is Michel Bédard, and I am the interim law clerk and parliamentary counsel of the House of Commons.
The Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel provides comprehensive legal services to the House of Commons and its members. I trust that my testimony today will assist the committee in its study on the extension of Parliament Hill and the parliamentary precinct.
Under the Parliament of Canada Act, the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS, is responsible for all matters respecting physical security throughout the parliamentary precinct and Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill is defined in the act as “the grounds in the City of Ottawa bounded by Wellington Street, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and Kent Street.” The “parliamentary precinct”, also defined in the Parliament of Canada Act, includes the premises used by the House of Commons, the Senate, their members and other parliamentary entities. They “are designated in writing by the Speaker of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Commons”.
The practice has been for the Speakers to make a joint designation that is tabled before Parliament.
The Government of Canada, through the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, has ownership and general care over the grounds of Parliament Hill and the parliamentary buildings. This is, however, subject to the House’s right to administer its internal affairs free from interference, which is usually exercised under the authority of the Speaker as guardian of the House’s privileges, and that of the Board of Internal Economy pursuant to its responsibility over the premises of the House.
In addition, decisions pertaining to the use of the grounds of Parliament Hill are taken under the authority of the Committee on the Use of Parliament Hill. The Committee is co-chaired by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms and the Director of Senate Corporate Security on behalf of their respective Speakers. Its membership also includes representatives from various government departments.
The Parliamentary Protective Service's mandate is limited to physical security; it does not police the Hill or the parliamentary precinct, and its protection officers are not peace officers. The police of jurisdiction for Parliament Hill and the parliamentary precinct is the Ottawa Police Service. However, their conduct of business within the precinct must take into consideration parliamentary privilege.
If Parliament so wishes, Parliament Hill could be expanded to include parts of Wellington Street and Sparks Street by making an amendment to the definition of “Parliament Hill” that is found in the Parliament of Canada Act. This will extend the PPS mandate to provide physical security on these streets.
I know that both streets are currently owned by the City of Ottawa. Making these streets federal property will make it easier for PPS to fulfill its mandate.
I would be pleased to answer any questions members may have.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Good afternoon.
I am happy to be with you again today.
I am accompanied by Alain Miguelez, vice-president, capital planning and chief planner at the National Capital Commission.
In our role as principal planner of the NCR, we are pleased to be here with you today to provide our observations on the long-term impacts of the closure of Wellington Street.
In June we had the opportunity to highlight the importance of rethinking the stretch of Wellington Street in the parliamentary precinct as the symbolic heart of our nation along Confederation Boulevard. We discussed with you at that time how its reimagining should occur in the context of a number of ambitious capital and city building projects currently under way. These include projects such as the Cliff plant, the Alexandra Bridge replacement, the revitalization of the former Nepean Point and, of course, the rehabilitation of Centre Block.
We feel that this reimagining could also usefully think about studying and enhancing the street in its entirety from the Portage Bridge all the way to the east where it meets Rideau Street, which is an important intersection at the heart of our capital. This exercise could also fit well with an exercise that the NCC is currently engaged with, which is the renewal of one of our master plans, the capital core area sector plan, which will set out the vision for this area for the next 10 to 15 years.
From the NCC's perspective, it is also an opportunity to reimagine the space and contribute to an enhanced visitor experience and overall public realm, and to reconsider how the public will interact with the parliamentary precinct and experience the site of Canada's seat of government. This could include animation of the area and opportunities to build on the NCC's work with PSPC, expanding and complementing the current retail offerings on Sparks Street. This would give parliamentarians, their staff, residents and visitors a new way to interact with the area, while also contributing to the economic recovery and sustainability of the core of Canada's capital.
On the question of public transit, which I know we discussed in June, the work of the NCC transit office is well under way. This office will work and help the advancement of la Société de transport de l'Outaouais's tramway project. We see this project as a vital part of the reimagining of Wellington Street and a crucial step in enhancing interprovincial transit options.
In the longer term, the National Capital Commission hopes that the interprovincial transit loop will be implemented.
Good afternoon, and thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for inviting me here today.
I am Acting Deputy Trish Ferguson, and I'm responsible for overseeing information, investigations and serious and organized crimes at the Ottawa police.
We've been following the discussions at these committee meetings, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to again offer the perspective of the Ottawa police.
The testimonies we've heard and our recent experiences in policing large events in the city have confirmed the three priorities we previously identified to you. These are jurisdictional responsibilities, infrastructure and resources.
As you're aware, the Ottawa Police Service is the police of jurisdiction for the city of Ottawa. In fulfilling this role, we rely on co-operation and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies. As such, the service is used to dealing with questions of jurisdiction; however, the occupation we experienced in February confirmed the need to further clarify and even reconsider matters of jurisdiction around the Wellington corridor.
Jurisdictional boundaries within and around the parliamentary precinct need to be clearly defined. Collaborative strategies and responsibilities also need to be clarified in order to ensure that, in times of crisis and emergency, the statutes, regulations and authorities are already established and understood by all parties. This is particularly critical for situations in which events spill over established boundaries.
The second issue we ask you to consider is infrastructure. Since February, we have had several large events in Ottawa, such as “Rolling Thunder” and Canada Day, and we currently lack physical infrastructure that can easily and quickly be put in place to protect key locations and personnel. These events again stretched our resources thin, in part because we lacked adequate security infrastructure. For example, we had to bring in heavy trucks to establish a vehicle exclusion zone around Parliament. This was less effective and less reliable than security infrastructure would have been if we had set up, for example, bollards and protected pedestrian areas.
The third issue, as we discussed before, is the need for adequate resources for the police service. We must be prepared to maintain public security and protect the residents of Ottawa, no matter the size and scale of events. We also know that we cannot continually call on police from other jurisdictions across the province to help police events in our city. The demands placed on our service in the past year have strained our members and highlighted the need for adequate resources so we can safely and effectively respond to the needs in our communities, make intelligence-led threat assessments and enhance inter-agency collaboration.
Members of the Ottawa Police Service are committed to protecting Ottawa as an open and peaceful capital city, one where residents and visitors can move freely and that everyone can fully enjoy.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to answering any questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the promotion.
Good day, Madam Chair, honourable MPs and fellow witnesses.
I am happy to see you here again today to continue our discussion about operational security issues in the parliamentary precinct. I would remind you, as the acting chief superintendent of the Parliamentary Protective Service, that these discussions are of considerable importance for my colleagues and me.
While my opening remarks are brief, I will take this opportunity to raise a few points that were identified in my last appearance.
The service is responsible for the physical security of parliamentarians, staff, employees, visitors, buildings, grounds and assets on Parliament Hill and the precinct. Therefore, how the service trains its employees, how the employees engage with one another, how they collaborate and build their respective networks with our valued partners and how the service overall carries out its commitment to continuous learning and improvement are all critical components in how well our human assets can perform their duties and deliver security services to this community.
Beyond these distinctly human capabilities, and as I mentioned in my previous appearances, the service must also rely on how physical barriers and technologies need to be incorporated in order to better deliver the mandate. This stays true regardless of the precinct boundaries.
Operational preparation and the Parliamentary Protective Service's response capacity therefore depend on how human resources, physical barriers and technology function together to create an integrated physical security system that serves our parliamentary community as well as possible.
While security information can sometimes be sensitive, I recognize that today's meeting is being conducted publicly. Please trust that I will contribute to the discussions as openly as I can.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for your question. I am going to answer you in English, because I am more comfortable in that language for the technical terms.
You're asking if there are existing structures that could be put in place. From a policing perspective, I think we have many partners throughout the world who are policing capital cities and who we could potentially rely upon for best practices for any existing structures.
We have changed our processes in a number of larger demonstrations based on what we've seen around the world and on some of the trends that have taken place. I think back to Nice, France, several years back. That incident altered the way we respond to major events here, in terms of making sure that we are considering all potential threats and sources of threats. I believe that's something that could be put into place.
There are places where we'll keep the area open and free at times when everything is fine, but where we can have some infrastructure that would be rapidly put in place should we face a moment of threat or crisis.
I want to talk to you a bit about a little incident that happened to me on Wellington Street. At this time, the most dangerous thing on Wellington street is that it is a street with no real purpose. There are cars driving on it and pedestrians walking around pretty much everywhere in the street, plus bicycles and scooters; it is an absolutely dangerous place.
I have to tell everyone that last spring, I almost lost my life on Wellington Street. It was when the traffic lights were still operating to control vehicle traffic. One of my colleagues stopped me at the last minute, just before a car flattened me.
I want to thank the Parliamentary Protective Service, which helped me bring this up with the municipality of Ottawa. I wrote to the mayor of Ottawa and received a reply from a political staffer. However, because a traffic study had to be done, it took a month before the traffic lights were removed and stop signs put up, when it could have been done in two days.
At present, the lives of parliamentarians and users of Wellington Street are being put in danger by maintaining the street's undefined status. What can we do to improve the situation and protect the parliamentarians and visitors who are currently using this artery?
Is it the role of parliamentarians to go and do traffic control and tell people to stop and pay attention? I don't think so. When politicians are allowed time to make decisions to protect people, we have cases like mine, where it took me a month to get an answer.
I don't think we are best placed to decide the best measures. Do you sincerely think that parliamentarians, elected representatives, are best placed to make decisions about the security of a place like Wellington Street?
That's great. Thank you. I really appreciate that comment, because I think that will be key as we move forward.
I'll continue with you, Mr. Nussbaum. You were last here in June. We've had some major events, as the deputy chief was pointing out, since then, mostly of a festive nature, thankfully, including Canada Day. We've also had the sombre moment of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
What has been the experience, from the NCC's perspective, of the closure of Wellington thus far from vehicular traffic?
In terms of the events we witnessed in the capital this past season, I think they went off very well. We had events like the Ottawa Jazz Festival in Confederation Park. We had the Ottawa Bluesfest at LeBreton Flats Park, and, of course, we had the Canada Day celebrations and National Indigenous Peoples Day.
I think the experience was positive. People understood that Wellington Street was closed, so they made their plans with that in mind. We have an interest, shared I'm sure with the City of Ottawa, in increasing use of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit. There's an understanding now, as the city moves to its phase two extension of that project, that more and more we want citizens who are coming to events in the core of Canada's capital to arrive there by other means than private vehicle, whether it's transit, walking or cycling.
The Wellington Street closure was well known, and as a consequence we didn't see the kinds of tie-ups we might otherwise have expected.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We really did get a lot of answers to our questions in the earlier meetings, but we see that a plan is taking shape. We have heard a lot about how there are concerns relating to infrastructure, resources and jurisdictions. Ms. Ferguson confirms this.
According to Mr. Bédard, it is possible, under the rules of the House of Commons, for us to perform our role and responsibilities better. Mr. Brookson says he has learned a lot and can make very clear recommendations. In the last testimony, there was a discussion of the six services associated with the command centre and the usefulness of working together. And last, Mr. Nussbaum talked about how important collaborating and coordinating are.
The crucial question is how to go about it. At present, we are talking about expanding the boundaries of the Hill, but more than that is going to be needed. During the five minutes I have, I would like each witness to explain precisely what we are missing for achieving the objective of the security of parliamentarians and Hill employees and having the necessary authority that each of you may have, and the resources.
I know that you have some items that can be added to the report, because this is our last chance at present.
I will start with Mr. Brookson. What are we missing? What do you need?
For the Ottawa Police Service, I think what we really crave from this committee is a delineation of jurisdictions and statutes for roles and responsibilities. They need to be clear for all parties and encompass contingencies for times of crisis and emergency.
The Ottawa Police Service would continue to respond to any criminal acts that take place within the parliamentary precinct, which is as it happens right now, and we really want to make sure our members are provided clear lines as to where their role begins and where the parliamentary precinct police role would end.
Any changes to infrastructure that we're seeking would absolutely be necessary to make sure it respects the rights of parliamentarians to freely access any of the parliamentary buildings and the precinct itself. We would like to make sure that whatever key pieces are put in place in terms of infrastructure will allow for freedom of movement but also give us the capability to quickly and efficiently restrict access, particularly for vehicles, in response to a security threat.
That is something that I think has been highlighted already, that we haven't been able to do wholeheartedly on Wellington right now. The member who reported almost being struck by a vehicle.... Those are situations that we are very sad to hear about. We would like to be able to put something in place that is clear and doesn't put our members at risk.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank the witnesses for all of the testimony we've heard and for spending this hour with us. My first question will be for Mr. Brookson.
Living through this, I kept walking through that convoy every day and thinking, “Why are we here?” I don't understand, and I'm wondering what information the PPS received from the OPS prior to January 29. What input was there?
I'm still confused, when I look back, that all of those trucks were blocking our place of governance for the whole of Canada.
Okay. I'll leave it at that.
As we're having this discussion, I want to make sure citizens are well aware, because we know there are people living in the area where we're talking about expanding the jurisdiction.
To clarify and put on the record, if it was turned into federal jurisdiction, which would really allow for a lot more security for this place—you've made that very clear, Mr. Brookson, through testimony—would there be any interruption for citizens? If they were in trouble and they had to call 911, would that just continue as is?
Through the chair, Mr. Brookson talked about the accessibility still. We have blockades up. I appreciate that I can get across that street a lot more easily when I'm going to different meetings that I have to attend, but I still see people driving through and I often think that I don't think they should be doing that. Of course, they are doing that.
I will first come to you, and then I will come back to the deputy chief to ask a question about that.
If the jurisdiction was expanded, what kinds of changes would be there to provide more security for that space? How would we monitor it? What capacity would the PPS have to monitor that? If somebody drove on or came onto that space thinking they were going to take a shortcut, what powers would that department have?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
This is not our first chance to have a conversation, Mr. Brookson.
I think there's a reasonable expectation that Canadians have access to their parliamentary precinct. In the spirit of maintaining the openness that's here—the openness that's been here since I've been here, which is 2006—and seeing people come and go off the grounds and be on the front lawn of Centre Block, I can't wait for the day for that to be open again, to get Parliament looking the way it used to look.
Notwithstanding that, I've also seen significant security upgrades here. Basically, there are barricades now. We have two tiers of security even within our own precinct, not to mention the potential third tier that we're talking about, which is the outer boundaries of the parliamentary precinct and even the national capital region. In listening to your answers, I can understand where you're coming from. Your perspective, your mandate, is that you want to be able to secure this area as much as possible. Given those two solitudes, I don't think we can physically just restrict access and vet every single human being who wants to come in and out of the downtown core or even to the parliamentary precinct. I don't know if that's humanly possible. That means we have to rely not solely on physical infrastructure; we also have to rely on intelligence infrastructure.
I'm not sure what you're willing to share here, but based on conversations we've had in other places, I was left with the impression that the Parliamentary Protective Service was not treated as an equal partner in the eyes of the joint services that are providing security and protection and the sharing of intelligence. If we're going to extend your jurisdiction and your mandate, I would be remiss in my duties to protect people if you did not have the same capabilities to...or were not seen as being an equal partner with the Ottawa police and the RCMP, or an equal recipient of information from somebody like CSIS.
Can you tell me, if we were to recommend at this committee that the PPS expand its area of responsibility, that I can make that recommendation confidently, knowing that the PPS is completely capable and completely in the loop in the intelligence infrastructure of downtown Ottawa?
First and foremost, certainly not within this service is the objective or the goal to put fencing and barbed wire around the parliamentary precinct, but I appreciate the extent of that question.
This service belongs to Parliament. It doesn't belong to the RCMP. It doesn't belong to Ottawa Police Service. In supporting Parliament, this service truly tries its best to work in the shadows. We're not here to impede. We're not here to obstruct. We're here to serve. That's the objective of the service, and that will continue.
With respect to our partners, the service has made leaps and bounds in the past few years in, first of all, being recognized. We know the service that was here before. Everybody just saw that service and didn't recognize or understand what the Parliamentary Protective Service was. That has changed significantly over the last two and half years.
Regarding intelligence, I know only how it's provided. I can't speak to what's being held back. I'm very comfortable with what I am receiving. That's from all security partners. I'm not going to name them all, for obvious reasons, but with all security partners, I'm well comfortable on that. If something's coming our way, my phone will ring or the team's phone will ring.
That comes through, whether it's the Ottawa Police Service, the RCMP, CSIS or our partners over.... We've done a lot of work over the last three years with the multi-jurisdictional response initiative. This is an initiative that was born out of the 2014 incident. We've run tabletop exercises at that level—the commanders, who are my counterparts in all these services, because we can't do it alone—as to what the respective roles and responsibilities would be in a critical incident.
That work continues between the service and the Ottawa Police Service specific to critical incidents that the service would have control of. We all know how long a critical incident lasts for. It is roughly three to five minutes, then it's over. The service, as I've said before, has been built to sustain the first 90 minutes, understanding the length of time that it takes to get other partners to come in and assist.
Again, we've run the tabletop. Deputy Chief Ferguson has spoken about the tabletop exercises that our two services have done because, quite honestly, it's these two services that work hand in hand on a day-to-day basis.
I hope I've answered your question. I'm quite comfortable with the information we're receiving and the partners that we've established at all those levels.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'll be quick, as I'm sharing my time with Mr. Fergus.
Mr. Brookson, we just heard that Wellington Street has the jerseys between Bank and Elgin. We know the traffic lights have been removed on the corners of Metcalfe and O'Connor. We actually have not seen any police presence on Wellington.
I witnessed construction workers almost getting hit while trying to cross at the corner of O'Connor and Wellington yesterday. Walking here this morning to come to committee—my office is in Valour—we witnessed a car literally slalom through the jerseys and race down the street because the driver knew there was no police presence and there were no traffic lights. It's a quick shortcut now. I actually feel less safe crossing street now on Wellington.
Given the fact that , when she was minister of procurement, said that 50% of parliamentary buildings are going to be south of Wellington within the next eight years, can we get this settled once and for all, so that parliamentarians, people who work on Parliament Hill and visitors don't get hit?
Can you comment, please?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The City of Ottawa, not the Ottawa Police Service, governs all the traffic and the safety measures that need to go in place. The service has been working with the City of Ottawa, too, as these barriers start to get manoeuvred. They are going to continue to get manoeuvred, particularly with the winter coming and the need for snow removal. It's not that I'm pleased about any of that, but that's just what's going to be happening.
We continue to work with the Ottawa Police Service and, as Deputy Chief Ferguson has indicated, they don't have the resources to put somebody there. This is where the service, which I'm responsible for in delivering this mandate, will reach out to the Ottawa Police Service and come up with something.
Now, if this means the service has to take on a resourcing requirement from the Ottawa Police Service, our partner, then I'm prepared to do that. It's not appropriate for us to be risking any of our parliamentarians crossing Wellington Street.
Through you, Madam Chair,
As I have explained before this committee several times, it is to have authority over Wellington Street, and maybe Sparks Street, so we can close them in the event of some threat or other. In my opinion, that is what was missing.
Following the discussions I had with the Ottawa Police Service, I had asked at that time that Wellington Street be closed, but that request was not agreed to, for one reason or another.
I'm going to answer in English because there are technical terms.
For the exterior, humans will only get us so far. That's why we have technology to increase our capability. The exterior, on what can happen out there, is where the technology and the sensing capability needs to take place, whether it comes through cameras or existing technology, as well as effective barriers.
My biggest concern is vehicles being used as threats or weapons, whether they're large or small vehicles being weaponized. In terms of effective barriers and the technology, it's not necessary to have more guns on the Hill—I think we have enough—but we need other things to help.
Thank you. Since you've left it with us to do this important work, we appreciate that.
I really want to thank all witnesses for taking the time to join us today. The work you do is appreciated and noticed. I'll give a special shout-out to Mr. Brookson and the PPS. We really appreciate the work of your men and women in uniform. They're always here. I have to say I appreciate them wholeheartedly.
With that, I hope you all have a really good day.
With committee members staying for 30 seconds, today is the conclusion of our witnesses for the parliamentary precinct study. We will enter into doing the report. The summary of evidence, as we've already agreed, has turned into the foundation of the report, so most of it is written.
What I will ask is for analysts to compile any of the additional information into that report so that it's up to date. I would ask colleagues to submit their recommendations—in both official languages—to the clerk by Tuesday, so we can get that turned around, get into the next steps and try to keep ourselves moving.
Go ahead, Madame.