RCMP accused of rewriting history of Parliament Hill attack
House of Commons security guards angered over treatment, may boycott planned awards ceremony
A bitter fight has flared up between the RCMP and Parliament Hill security guards over a ceremony meant to honour those who showed bravery during last year's deadly attack on the parliamentary precinct.
Roch Lapensee, the president of the association that represents House of Commons security guards, has written an angry letter to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson expressing shock at what he sees as an inaccurate account of the events of Oct. 22, 2014.
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The RCMP this week issued a news release to announce a private ceremony would be held later this month to award commendations to more than a dozen officers and six House of Commons security guards. In his letter, Lapensee tells Paulson he is astonished the RCMP news release refers to the Commons security guards as "civilians" when their job is to protect Parliament.
"Our members are the clearly identified face of peace and security in Parliament," he writes in French, adding the guards are exposed and targeted more than regular RCMP officers.
Lapensee also accuses the RCMP of rewriting history. He says the force claims it's honouring the six security guards because they helped the RCMP end last year's attack, when he says it was Parliament Hill security personnel who took the lead in tracking down and stopping the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, after the Mounties failed to stop him outside the Parliament buildings.
Lapensee calls this "an erroneous and dishonest revision of the facts" and an insult to the courage of the men and women who stopped the attack.
He's demanding the RCMP retract its news release and issue a new one that's in keeping with the facts. If the Mounties fail to do so, Lapensee says in his letter, he will urge guards to boycott the awards ceremony.
The RCMP issued a statement to CBC News Tuesday responding to some of the concerns raised in the letter, and acknowledging it was a mistake to refer to Hill security officers as civilians. The Mounties blamed the error on the fact that there are two categories of bravery commendations, one for regular members and one for civilians. The RCMP said in the statement it regrets the error and did not intend to devalue the guards' bravery.
RCMP oversee new security service
There has been simmering tension between Hill security and the RCMP in the wake of last year's attack. Guards have been upset ever since the federal government announced in February that the RCMP would take command of all security on Parliament Hill under a new joint Parliamentary Protective Service.
The Mounties' response to the Oct. 22 attack has come under scrutiny. A report by the Ontario Provincial Police in March found what it called "deficiencies in training, pre-incident planning and equipment" by the Mounties in the lead-up to the attack.
The OPP report detailed how RCMP officers hesitated at the doors of Parliament due to directives to never enter the building armed. The report, however, did recommend that RCMP officers who responded to the incident should be commended for their actions.