Parliamentary Press Gallery opposes planned security measures
The sun sets behind Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, November 5, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, February 24, 2017 11:38PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 25, 2017 3:20AM EST
The Parliamentary Press Gallery is opposing a plan to fingerprint and conduct criminal background checks on journalists who cover Parliament Hill.
The gallery announced its formal opposition on Friday during its annual meeting.
Press gallery president Tonda MacCharles, who covers Ottawa for The Toronto Star, said the 150-year-old organization already has a process to accredit journalists “based on the need for access to the Commons and committee venues.”
“No one has shown us any historical case where a journalist has posed a risk to security, nor any threat assessment that shows this is a problem,” she told CTV News in a statement. “On principle, the gallery opposes the idea that parliamentary journalists should be vetted by the RCMP. We don't know why this is necessary, nor how in practice it would work, and we believe it has the potential to breach our freedom to report, a violation of our constitutional right to do so.”
According to a fact sheet provided by the House of Commons, an independent security assessment and internal audit in 2015 concluded that “mandatory site access security screening should be conducted for all individuals who regularly access buildings within Parliamentary Precinct.”
Under the proposed security measures, which were made public on Friday, new members of the press gallery would be fingerprinted by the RCMP and checked against a database of people with criminal convictions.
If there’s a match, the journalist could be refused access.
According to the proposal, the revised screening process would take an average of 20 days to complete.
If approved, the new security measures would take effect in the spring, the document said.