NEWS

RCMP takes security reins on Parliament Hill

02/04/2015 11:05 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
The RCMP is taking over the transition plan for security on Parliament Hill in the wake of the Oct. 22 attacks, a plan that could see the House of Commons' sergeant-at-arms become a largely ceremonial position.

During the transition, the national police force will be the lead agency in charge of security on the Hill, overseeing both its own officers and Parliament Hill security guards until a final plan is approved, sources tell CBC News.

The outstanding question is: To whom will RCMP and Hill security personnel ultimately report.

There are three possible options:

- The status quo, which has security forces on Parliament Hill reporting to the speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons. This option is seen as unlikely.

- The commissioner of the RCMP, Bob Paulson, or a designate of his choosing.

- A shared or duo responsibility between Parliament and the RCMP.

Security personnel on the Hill were being told they would keep their jobs under the new plan, but it is still unclear whether, or how, specific duties will be reassigned between RCMP and parliamentary guards. There are currently about 220 House of Commons guards and 100 Senate guards.

Former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers was essentially the equivalent of a parliamentary police chief.

Vickers became a household name after being credited for ending the storming of Centre Block on Oct. 22 by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Last month, Vickers was appointed Canada's ambassador to Ireland. After his departure, changes were immediately made to the role of sergeant-at-arms.

In a memo to all House staff on Jan. 28, it was announced that acting Commons clerk Marc Bosc will assume a larger share of the sergeant-at-arms' duties.

Bosc announced in the memo that some services that reported to the sergeant-at-arms will now report to him, including the Members' Service Directorate and Business Management Services.

But Heather Bradley, spokeswoman for Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, said the sergeant-at-arms remains director of protective services.

McDonnell will also continue to carry out ceremonial duties, including carrying the Mace into the House of Commons chamber each day.

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