The October 22, 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, like previous acts of violence on Parliament, spurred increased media scrutiny of the Parliamentary Precinct's security. This winter I published a follow-up paper in the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law that assesses changes to Hill security and related House and Senate debates. I wanted to understand the implications for parliamentary privilege, the set of rules created to ensure MPs can carry out their work.
Before the attack, I argued that together Hill administrators, security staff, Parliamentarians, and ordinary Canadians balanced the many competing priorities on Parliament Hill, making it a unique sort of public space. In my new article, I found that this continues to be the case. On paper, new arrangements to manage Hill space demote the sergeant-at-arms and emphasize the government’s authority over that of the legislators. In practice, however, there is still space for compromise; affirming Parliamentarians’ control over the legislature remains a priority among the individuals charged with managing Hill space. At the same time, Canadian Parliamentarians have been slow to clarify how privilege should be applied in a 21st century Parliament, leading to some ambiguity and wildly divergent interpretations of its role and value.
The new article is available through the LawSource subscription service. If you are interested in reading it but cannot access it, please contact me by email.
Citation: “The Evolution of Parliamentary Privilege and Security on Canada’s Parliament Hill.” Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law IX, no. 3 (2015): 457-470.