POLITICS

RCMP Head Bob Paulson Cautions Hill Security Change Not Finalized

02/05/2015 12:30 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT

The head of the RCMP told the Mounties that he's had only preliminary discussions about them taking over security on Parliament Hill, even though the government yesterday announced a motion to invite them to take the lead.

In an internal email sent Wednesday and obtained by CBC News, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson noted media reports that the RCMP were taking over operational control of security in the Parliamentary Precinct that includes buildings on and around Parliament Hill.

"While I have been engaged in some preliminary discussions with officials, I must write to you today to caution that there are a lot of steps to be taken before this becomes a reality," Paulson wrote.

Paulson told the Mounties to "refrain from speculating about what this may mean, or the form this may take," and said the House and Senate security have proven themselves as highly competent and capable security professionals.

"If this develops as reported, we look forward to working within an integrated security model," Paulson wrote.

CBC News reported Wednesday that Government whip John Duncan is set to introduce a motion as early as Friday to "invite, without delay," the RCMP to lead Hill security, overseeing both its own officers and Parliament Hill security guards until a final plan is approved.

A similar motion is expected be tabled in the Senate as well. Both houses will have to sign off on the proposal before it can go forward.

Already a dispute between NDP MP, 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.

The RCMP would be obliged to respect the privileges, immunities and powers of both the House and Senate, and ensure "the continued employment" of the current parliamentary security team.

But that scenario has already run into problems, with New Democrat MP François Lapointe complaining in the House Wednesday evening that the RCMP stopped him on his way into Centre Block, the building that houses the Senate and the Commons.

MPs are supposed to have free and unfettered access to the House of Commons.

According to Lapointe, he was heading to the chamber for question period when he was stopped by an RCMP officer stationed outside the Senate entrance. The RCMP officer asked the MP to show his MP pin or his ID to prove his identity.

Unfortunately for Lapointe, he didn't have either his pin or his ID badge on him, at which point the RCMP officer told him that he needed a pin or a badge, or he wasn't going in. When Lapointe suggested that he could confirm his identity by asking the Hill security guards inside the doors, the officer apparently refused, and told him, "It's the RCMP who decides now. No pin, no pass, you don't go in."

Lapointe has asked the Speaker to find a prima facie breach of privilege, which would send the matter to committee. That decision could come as early as Thursday. The procedure and House affairs committee is already studying a similar breach of privilege from last fall.

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