By: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The House of Commons defence committee will hold closed-door hearings on the state of security at Canadian military bases, The Canadian Press has learned.
Conservative MP James Bezan, the party's defence critic, proposed the idea, which was recently accepted by the all-party committee, although a date for the investigation has yet to be scheduled.
In the aftermath of a stabbing of two military members at a north Toronto recruiting facility last month, National Defence conceded that some elements of a full-scale security review at its installations were still ongoing 18 months after the terror attacks of October 2014.
Bezan says it's been clear since the 2014 deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo — attacks inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — that members of the Canadian military need better protection.
He says that at some bases, visitors can drive on to the property without being challenged by security, and the incident last month in Toronto shows a need to improve protection at recruiting centres.
Ayanle Hassan Ali, 27, faces nine charges, including three counts of attempted murder, after two soldiers were attacked and injured by a man with a knife. Police said the man said afterward that Allah told him to do it.
Bezan says MPs want to hear from senior members of the military, including possibly the chief of the defence staff, about what measures have been taken, what resources they need and what can be done to improve.
The motion to conduct the committee investigation passed on March 22, the same day the federal budget was tabled.
Bezan says he proposed holding the meetings behind closed doors to avoid compromising security procedures that are already in place, and insisted that findings of the committee can be reported to the public through the House of Commons.
On the face of it, the proposal — which the Liberals voted to approve — flies in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign promise of more openness and accountability in Parliament.
At the time of the stabbing, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said many recruiting centres are "storefront operations" that must balance security and accessibility for the public and that he was confident DND "would make sure security arrangements were always appropriate."
A spokeswoman for the military said the review of so-called force protection was broken up into several smaller components and that measures, including some base security and safety awareness training have already been implemented.
"A review of some security and force protection directives are complete while others are ongoing," Cmdr. Nathalie Garcia said in an email.
"However, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) continuously assesses the threats posed against CAF members and implement appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of personnel. As such, continuous review of force protection is required."