POLITICS

Parliament Security Union Leader Unsure Of RCMP Takeover

05/28/2015 10:56 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - It was House of Commons security personnel who wounded and ultimately killed Michael Zehaf Bibeau, the gunman who ran past the Mounties and into the Parliamentary Buildings last October.

But now, the historic security force is seeing its command of Parliament Hill's interior removed and placed in the hands of the RCMP — a move the head of its union says they are taking personally.

"There was recognition by the Speaker of the House; we were recognized in the House," Roch Lapensee said Thursday after appearing at a Commons committee studying the change.

"All that is nice, but at the end of the day, we're being pushed aside and told that in the future, someone else is going to make the decisions for you."

The bigger issue for Lapensee, however, is whether the changes will actually make the Hill any safer.

Several investigations are underway into how security forces responded on the morning of the shooting last Oct. 22 and what needs to change. Those findings or recommendations have yet to be made public.

In February, the government announced it would end nearly 100 years of having an independent security unit inside Parliament, arguing the use of distinct forces wasn't proving to be an effective approach.

The changes were announced one month after the defacto head of the Commons security team, sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, was appointed ambassador to Ireland.

Vickers is credited with ending Zehaf Bibeau's rampage that morning, which began with the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and ended in a shoot-out steps from the Library of Parliament.

Vickers declined to comment Thursday on the new proposed security plan, choosing instead to highlighted the work of his colleagues — including one who was shot by the gunman and other who used his body as a human shield to protect MPs.

"It was a collective, team effort that day by a wonderful, remarkable security team," Vickers said outside an unrelated event on Parliament Hill.

The new plan, which is buried in the government's latest budget bill, would create the Parliamentary Protective Service, directed by an active member of the RCMP who would report to the Speakers of both the House of Commons and Senate, as well as the Mounties.

The union's opposition isn't about a turf war, said Lapensee, noting that the legislation does ensure the 225 members of his team keep their jobs — at least for now.

It's about the broader spirit of how Parliament is policed and the risks of changing that, he said.

"If we are going to name somebody who is going to run security on the precinct of Parliament, which basically answers to the minister and the RCMP commissioner and both Speakers of the House at the same time, confusion may occur," he said.

"That's when the executive and legislative can mix together and that's dangerous for parliamentary privilege, which has existed since the Constitution."

The Speaker of the House of Commons told a separate committee Thursday he is sensitive to those concerns.

— With files from Jordan Press

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