Following last week’s attack on Canada’s National War Memorial and Parliament Hill, several common security holes have come to light surrounding the way security is handled at these two important government facilities. In the wake of the attack, which left one soldier dead and sent shock waves throughout the country, many are wondering how security and emergency response can be improved upon in the future.
On Wednesday, October 22, a masked gunman opened fire at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, killing 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was tasked with guarding the monument. Only a few moments later, as many as 50 shots were fired inside the Parliament Buildings, which are situated across the street from the war memorial.
After about 15 long, tense minutes, the gunman, who was later identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot dead by House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The tragic and disturbing attack is still under investigation by Canadian authorities. Already, several common security holes have come to light that are, unfortunately, also found in a wide range of government, corporate, educational and other facilities around the world.
First, authorities revealed that the radios used by RCMP officers and the House of Commons security personnel operate on different frequencies, stifling communication between the two groups – potentially causing dangerous inefficiencies during an emergency. Under this set-up, the Senate and House command centers can listen in on the RCMP radio frequency, but the two groups are unable to communicate directly via radio. To do that, they would have to speak by phone – which is impractical during such an emergency.
In addition, the RCMP is responsible for security on the grounds of Parliament Hill, while the House of Commons and Senate, which are housed within the Parliament Buildings, each have separate protective services. This overlap creates a bit of a problem when it comes to surveillance. The House of Commons has its own security cameras that are monitored 24/7 from an offsite communications center. However, surveillance cameras on the perimeter and outside areas of Parliament Hill fall under RCMP control and are monitored separately by the Mounties at another location.
This week, Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney acknowledged that the security forces protecting Parliament work in silos and need to be better integrated.
Unfortunately, officials will have to deal with some very stringent governmental mandates to rework security at the Parliament Buildings. According to CBC News, Canadian Parliament is its own separate and sovereign jurisdiction, so it may not be possible for the RCMP to take over security on parliamentary grounds. Parliamentary privilege dictates a separate police force for its buildings because it exists “in a legal netherworld.”
Perhaps now is the time for RCMP and Parliament to consider addressing these common security holes by unifying their disparate security systems under one platform. This would enable officials from each group to share video surveillance and access control data, communicate more effectively and respond quickly during an emergency. If RCMP control over Parliament security is not possible, perhaps a common solution can help bridge the gaps in their security plan.
What do you think? Let us know in the Comments section below.