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Politics RCMP official says trading blame will fuel tensions between agencies

RCMP Officers race up Parliament Hill following reports of a shooting on Wednesday, October 22, 2014.

Cole Burston/The Globe and Mail

A senior RCMP official has called on House of Commons security officers to refrain from finger-pointing about what happened during the Oct. 22 shootout at Centre Block, suggesting doing so will fuel tensions between the different agencies that provide security on Parliament Hill.

"I think it's very premature for folks to make those types of comments, because the review is still not finished," Assistant-Commissioner Gilles Michaud said in an interview. "Once the review is done by the OPP, then we will have a clear picture as to what really transpired inside those walls."

His comments come after a Globe and Mail report Monday, outlining tensions that have emerged between House of Commons security and Mounties over the shooting response, and the aftermath, including competing narratives of the final shootout that killed the attacker.

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The Ontario Provincial Police is examining what took place inside Centre Block, while the various police bodies involved in the incident are reviewing their handling of the lockdown in Ottawa and other police work in the ensuing 24 hours. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial before heading to Parliament Hill, where he ran through the main corridor of Centre Block carrying a rifle, until a fatal showdown with security.

House of Commons officials, including Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, were riled when RCMP publicly played video of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's approach to Centre Block one day after the shootings, revealing the placement of cameras, sources have said.

House of Commons security also received misleading and dated information from Mounties on the day of the shootings, the sources said, and RCMP and House of Commons officials offered competing narratives of the final shootout, including who fired the fatal shots at Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau.

Assistant-Commissioner Michaud also confirmed that the RCMP are bringing rookie Mounties to the Hill as a stop-gap measure to beef up policing in the wake of the shootings.

He said that dozens of RCMP officers were reassigned from their regular duties in October and November to work on Parliament Hill. Investigators working on priority and sensitive files were spared, but he acknowledged that national security took a priority over other matters.

"The first month – from Oct. 22 until the end of November – definitely had an impact on National Division, in the sense that we had to take resources from across the division to reassign temporarily to Parliament Hill," he said.

Those officers have since been replaced with officers straight out of training at Depot Division in Regina, which Assistant-Commissioner Michaud insists is a temporary measure. "I definitely want something that would be more stable in the long run," he said. "But it's very difficult for us; there are a number of reviews that are ongoing right now and until those reviews are completed and we have a better sense as to what the long-term security posture should be, I think we have to be careful not to make any quick decisions that we may regret in the future."

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The reviews of the shooting will need to be analyzed before the RCMP decides on a long-term solution to ensure security on Parliament Hill.

"It's not just about bodies, it's also about processes, governance and so on, all those aspects need to be looked at. That is why it will take a few months before all of that is done," Assistant-Commissioner Michaud said.

There are three bodies that carry out security duties on the Hill: The RCMP patrols the grounds surrounding the various buildings, while teams from the House of Commons and the Senate are in charge of their respective areas inside the buildings.

After the shooting, it was announced that House and Senate security would soon be merged, and that all House of Commons guards would be armed.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer outlined other changes, saying fewer people would be allowed on public tours, guards would be locking more doors and MPs would receive additional funding to secure their riding offices.

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