'Unified security force' to patrol Parliament Hill following Ottawa shooting

House and Senate security officers will soon be patrolling the parliamentary precinct under a single point of command.

House of Commons Speaker calls change a 'crucial step'

House of Commons and Senate security will soon follow a single 'senior executive' that reports to Parliament's two speakers. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

House of Commons and Senate security officers will soon be patrolling the parliamentary precinct under point of command.

The new security structure was announced Tuesday, more than a month after an armed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau gained access to Parliament Hill's Centre Block after shooting and killing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the nearby National War Memorial then hijacking a ministerial car.

Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed near the Library of Parliament by Kevin Vickers, the Commons sergeant-at-arms, and RCMP security.

In the wake of the attack, the communications between various security and police forces with jurisdiction on Parliament Hill has come under scrutiny, as has the division of security between the two houses of Parliament.

According to a statement issued by the Joint Advisory Working Group on Security, a single "senior executive" will head up the new force, and will report to both the House and Senate speakers through their respective clerks.

An accompanying memo sent to MPs notes that "a number of operational changes have been made" since last month's shooting.

'Extension of close working relationship'

"Notably, a joint Senate and House of Commons operational management team was initiated, which is now meeting on a daily basis," it points out.

"Weekly joint meetings of senior security officials are also taking place. Joint training of front-line employees has also been implemented."

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer called the agreement "a crucial step towards achieving the improvements required of an open and secure Parliament.”

His co-chair, Senator Vern White — a former chief of police — agreed.  

"This is an extension of the close working relationship that the Senate Protective Service and House of Commons Security Services already have in place."

Although no specific timeline is provided, the statement says that both the House and Senate "are committed to continuing to implement these changes rapidly."

with files from Kady O'Malley