Parliament has an official sergeant-at-arms, after four-year wait

By The Canadian Press
July 4, 2019 - 7:30am

OTTAWA — The federal government has officially appointed a new sergeant-at-arms for the House of Commons, four years after the appointee took on that role in an acting capacity.

The Prime Minister's Office announced Thursday that Patrick McDonell has assumed the position permanently, having done the job since 2015.

In an emailed statement, the PMO said McDonell's work during the "period of transition" had been exemplary. It added his appointment process had been rigorous, as well as "open, transparent and merit-based." The statement did not specifically address the length of time it took to confirm the acting sergeant-at-arms to his full position.

McDonell went through a federal appointment process the Liberal government revamped in 2016.

McDonell is the former deputy sergeant-at-arms and was previously involved in running security for both the House of Commons and Senate. He served for over three decades in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in similar security roles in Ottawa and overseas.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for the safety and security of the House of Commons and also performs ceremonial duties such as carrying the mace, the symbol of the authority given to the House of Commons by the monarchy.

While the role has traditionally been mostly ceremonial, McDonell is replacing former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, who helped end a terrorist attack on Parliament Hill in 2014 by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. 

Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian reservist at the National War Memorial, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, before storming into Parliament, where RCMP officers and Vickers shot him.

Vickers was later appointed Canada's ambassador to Ireland, where he served until early this year. He left to go into politics in New Brunswick.

Before Vickers was appointed in 2006, the office had been vacant for a year since his predecessor's death.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

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