Recent protests sparked security debate at Sask. Legislative Building

Plans to hire a new security team for the Saskatchewan Legislative Building is dominating debate during Question Period. Recent protests outside the building have sparked a $1.67 million plan to hire 11 armed constables.

The province has raised concerns about who might be in those crowds when protests take place.

“Police services and agencies across the country have seen an increase in public safety threats and risks associated with not only the pandemic but also heightened political rhetoric,” Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Christine Tell said.

The armed 11-member legislative building security force would be controlled by the Ministry of Justice. It would replace the current four-member team of former RCMP officers who work under the direction of the House Speaker.

“We need a security unit that can actually take the intelligence, take the information and do what’s necessary to protect this building, people in this building and the surrounding grounds,” Tell said.

The new security team would be given access top-secret intelligence on people who may have a “grudge” with government.

“That’s very concerning because history shows that governments do not always behave in a way that was intended,” Independent MLA Nadine Wilson said.

It will come with an estimated annual cost of $1.67 million dollars.

“You know, if I were in Government and not wanting to spend $1.67 million on a new legislative security force, my first question would be how can we empower what already exists,” NDP Deputy Leader Nicole Sarauer, who is also the party’s justice and policing and corrections critic, said.

The government didn’t provide a clear answer as it pushes forward with its plan.

“We need a professional security service led by people who actually know what they’re doing,” Tell said.

The proposed security change has become the most contentious issue in the final days of the Spring Sitting of the Legislature. The opposition believes building security should remain independent of government as is the case in the House of Commons and other legislatures. The matter will come to a vote this month and is expected to pass.