RCMP's Parliament Hill security takeover to begin 'immediately'

After a combined total of just four days of parliamentary debate, both the House and Senate have signed off on a controversial proposal to hand over control of Parliament Hill security to the RCMP.

Motion passes House, Senate despite concerns over parliamentary independence

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, seen here shaking hands with Const. Samearn Son during a special House ceremony to honour efforts of Hill security guards on Oct. 22, has already written to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson about 'next steps' in having the Mounties take over policing on Parliament Hill. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

After a combined total of just four days of parliamentary debate, both the House and Senate have signed off on a controversial proposal to hand over control of Parliament Hill security to the RCMP.

The Conservatives used their majority to curtail debate on the motion in both the House and Senate.

In a joint statement, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer and his Senate counterpart, Pierre Claude Nolin, said that they've already sent a letter to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to "discuss next steps," but the integration process is expected to begin "immediately."

"Since Oct. 22, 2014, considerable work has been done, such as arming all uniformed personnel, improving communications and emergency notification systems and implementing numerous physical enhancements to security systems and buildings, as well as other enhanced security measures," the statement notes.

It also notes that the ongoing unification of House and Senate security is also "progressing well," and stresses that the "experience and expertise" of the current Hill security team "will be vital to shaping this new era of security" within the parliamentary precinct.

Questions remain

The statement does not provide additional information on how, precisely, the new arrangement will preserve the separation between the legislative and executive branches of government.

It also remains unclear whether RCMP officers dispatched to the Hill will report to the speakers, or the commissioner.

Both the New Democrats and the Senate Liberals raised those concerns during the abbreviated debate, with both parties proposing separate, but similarly themed amendments to explicitly state that the ultimate authority would continue to rest with Parliament, not at RCMP headquarters.

OttawaVanier Liberal MP Mauril Belanger made a similar suggestion in a letter sent to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney before the House voted on the motion.

Ultimately, the House adopted the motion with the combined support of the Conservatives and the Liberals, with the New Democrats, the Greens and Independents Manon Perreault and Jean-Francois Fortin voting against it.

The Senate motion passed on a voice vote on Tuesday night after the Liberal amendment was resoundingly defeated by 37 to 16.

After news of the proposal was leaked to the media earlier this month, Paulson sent out a staff-wide bulletin to make it clear that the plan was still very much in development.

"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.

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