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Security within Parliament

The other organization hidden from public scrutiny, the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons, issued a statement that it is to expand security measures within the Parliamentary precincts, following the tragic loss of life to terrorist actions on September 11 in the United States.

As one whose service in the House of Commons spanned three disparate attempts to inflict death and destruction on its Members, staff, and people in the public galleries of the Commons Chamber, the publisher of expresses unqualified support for all necessary preventive measures consistent with open democracy.

Former parliamentary authorities baulked at the one remaining step that should be taken to shield those whose duty requires their attendance in the Commons Chamber. It is time to consider once again the installation of what is generally termed bullet-proof glass panels in the Chamber itself…If done tastefully, their appearance would present no obstacle to the right of the public to see and to hear their representatives talking, debating, questioning, and acting like jackasses whenever the mood strikes them.

Such a measure was undertaken in the United States Congress during the presidency of Harry Truman, following a gun-firing terrorist attack. It is time a similar step be taken to protect Canada's parliamentarians.

Of the three incidents mentioned above the most serious took place in May 1966, when a deranged individual, Paul Joseph Chartier, planned to toss a dynamite bomb from the Ladies Gallery onto the floor of the House of Commons.

"Providentially, the fuse was mistimed and Chartier blew himself to pieces in the washroom on the third floor as he was preparing the device."

A photographic recreation of the bomb exploding in the Chamber is still used in training sessions for security staff.

A few years earlier, a visitor seated in one of the Members' galleries threw a carton full of animal blood into the centre of the Chamber.

The carton "sailed over the government benches, splattered the suit of at least one member, the Hon Paul Hellyer, narrowly missed hitting a Hansard reporter's elbow, and splashed all over the green carpeted floor."

It could just as easily have been a bomb.

In both instances a plate glass shield would have provided protection.

The third incident had a more speedy resolution.

"Is Trudeau still there?"

"Who is speaking, please?"

"I'm coming to get him!"

"Who-where are you?"

"Montreal. And I'm coming by train."

A quick call to Gene Grace, a member of the Hill security force, resulted in my telephone caller being arrested the moment he stepped off the evening train from Montreal. Apparently, he was well-known to the authorities as a harmless weirdo.

But I've never forgotten his telephone call, as I worked alone that evening in the Hansard office on the third floor of the Centre Block.

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