Parliament is Our House - Keep It “Open”

Despite the concerns of Members of Parliament that the Parliament Buildings not become a fortress, the house of Commons security service is again increasing security measures.

According to the Ottawa Citizen NDP MP Yvon Godin and Liberal MP Garth Turner have both expressed concerns over the new measures:

NDP MP Yvon Godin said he has visited legislative assemblies in other countries where uniformed guards carry weapons and he felt it to be intimidating. "Parliament is a place where I want people to come in and feel like home," said Mr. Godin. "I don't want people to come in there and see people with guns."

"I don't know what the threat is," said Mr. Turner. "I don't understand, as a guy who works in these buildings all day like you, why we need people to protect us with sticks and guns."
As one who worked on Parliament Hill for 33 years I have never felt in danger, even before the security measures initiated after “9/11".

Parliament makes decisions to send Canadians into harms way whether as police officers or military personnel, often justifying the decisions on the basis that these Canadians are protecting our democratic way of life or fighting for democracy. They should be willing to take a small risk to keep Parliament democratic and open to the people.

The security services are focused on security and unfortunately they do not seem to understand that Parliament is a special place - it is the Common Peoples House, thus, the House of Commons. The people must have access to their lawmakers and to the lawmaking process. They must be able to freely watch democracy in action and have free access to their representatives without feeling intimidated.

And of course there is the symbolic aspect which should not be dismissed. Symbols are a way for a society to express its values. Armed guards within Parliament can be seen as being symbolic of a police state or military rule. Do we really want to send that message to Canadians.

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