PPS: Putting people at the core of protection

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The Parliamentary Protective Service was, in its own words, “created out of a crisis” the October 2014 shootings on Parliament Hill that left many injured and a soldier on sentry duty dead. Over the past seven years, it has evolved into an organization which aims to be people-centred.

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“While crisis is part of our culture, we are learning to focus on people: those who are part of the spaces we protect, and those whom we employ to deliver our mandate,” says chief operations officer Albéric Bilodeau.

The Service was formed with the merging of Senate and House of Commons security services, as well as certain RCMP resources, into one integrated entity tasked with providing protection on Parliament Hill.

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Corporal Jacynth Mantha was originally part of the House of Commons security team before amalgamation. “The sense of unity, and that we are one, is a feeling I can’t really describe,” she says.

“There’s always someone there to help you out, whether it’s a front-line person who’s physically there to give you a hand, or an administrative employee who is only a phone call or a short walk away.”

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From professional development and addressing diversity and inclusion to the response to COVID-19 and the Trucker Convoy in Ottawa, Mantha is impressed with how the organization has risen to recent challenges.

“I’m really happy to be part of an organization where I feel a sense of belonging. As an LGBT woman, working for a service whose mandate is protection and security, I feel that I’m valued. And that makes me get up in the morning and feel excited about moving our mission forward.”

Bilodeau cites a well-known axiom: “I read this in a book once: culture is what you have when no one is looking.”

He says that the Service works “in a high-risk/high-impact/low frequency environment,” meaning that long stretches of business-as-usual give them time to anticipate the next crisis, which makes stress part of the job.

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“Our operational employees, be they protection officers, detection specialists or dispatchers, for example, never know what the day might hold in store for them. This is where we’ve shifted to focusing not only on potential threats, but also on our employees themselves,” Bilodeau says. “It’s a focus that goes beyond performance: it’s about mental health, engagement, inclusion, and making sure that employees feel appreciated at work.”

The Service’s challenge with COVID-19 was providing support for its operational staff, who make up 85 per cent of the organization’s employees. At the same time, remote work options had to be arranged for the rest of the staff.

Bilodeau talks about the urgency that went into acquiring personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing kits, and initiatives like weekly coffee chats, mental health and wellness checks, or delivering IT equipment to employees to make sure both operational and support staff were “feeling valued, whether working from home or coming in to work”.

When lockdowns began, Mantha was training employees, and she praises the Service for how it supported them. “There’s a sense of togetherness that really made us bond. Today, new employees feel that they’re coming into something that was created from strong foundations.”

Bilodeau says that if the Service’s current approach to delivering its mandate had to be summarized in five words, these would be: “People, engagement, belonging, partnerships, and learning.”

This story was produced by Mediacorp in partnership with Postmedia, on behalf of the Parliamentary Protective Service.


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