A majority of the security personnel on Parliament Hill, some of whom are armed, have not had thorough background checks and routinely have access to sensitive information despite a lack of official clearance, federal officials say.
The situation applies to two groups of non-police officers employed by the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS): protective officers who carry guns and work mostly inside parliamentary buildings, and detection specialists who screen vehicles and visitors before they enter secure areas on the Hill.
The PPS was created in 2015 to beef up security in the Parliamentary precinct eight months after a gunman killed a soldier and stormed Centre Block. It combined the former Senate and House of Commons Protection Services and the RCMP’s Parliament Hill Security Unit with the RCMP in charge of the operation. However, government officials say most of the non-RCMP personnel in the PPS have not had screening equivalent to that of the RCMP officers.
The RCMP, with intelligence-sharing agreements around the world, regularly shares findings about potential threats throughout the PPS. For example, the RCMP can provide intelligence to non-police officers that comes from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), even though the recipients lack the necessary security clearance.
When PPS was created, the RCMP began to apply its own screening to all of the members of the new service. About 100 of the non-RCMP security workers received it. It includes fingerprint checks, financial inquiries, a loyalty assessment by Canada’s spy agency and, in some cases, in-person interviews. Clearances are periodically reviewed.
However, the two unions representing officers who had worked for the House of Commons and Senate objected to the change, and it was stopped before all employees had gone through the screening, PPS spokeswoman Melissa Rusk said. It was replaced by a process called a site-access check.