Preserving order in the House
Pat McDonell, a retired 30-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who’d risen to the rank of assistant commissioner of the Mounties by the time of his retirement in December 2010, was named acting Sergeant-at-Arms of the Canadian House of Commons recently.
The Ottawa native – and brother of former Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Ontario Provincial Police detachment commander and fellow high-ranking RCMP officer Mike McDonell – has a strong Glengarry connection.
His parents, Francis and Kay McDonell, live in Loch Garry, and he has a number of aunts and uncles in the Loch Garry/Greenfield area.
Mr. McDonell replaces former Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was appointed Canadian Ambassador to Ireland in January.
The News recently conducted an interview, via email, with Mr. McDonell.
The results of that interview, in a question and answer/Q & A format, follow:
Q: Is this a temporary/interim or permanent posting?
A: My current position is Deputy Sergeant- at- Arms and Director General, House of Commons Protective Service. I have been in this position since August 2014 on an indeterminate (permanent) basis.
The position of Sergeant-at-Arms is a Governor- in-Council (GIC) appointment and that position is currently vacant.
That said, in the interim I have assumed the ceremonial role of the Sergeant-at-Arms. I share the responsibility for security in the Parliamentary Precinct with my peers from the Senate and the RCMP.
Q: What does this promotion and title mean to you?
A: I am very proud to be leading the House of Commons Protective Service in this period of great change. We have a highly skilled team that is dedicated to keeping Parliamentarians, employees and visitors safe and secure.
Prior to joining the House of Commons, I was Director of the Senate Protective Service. I have nothing but great things to say about that team as well.
I am also very honoured to be performing some of the Sergeantat- Arms’ ceremonial duties, including leading the Speaker’s Parade.
Q: I know you were on duty during the shooting incident on the Hill last fall. How would you describe that experience?
A: The best way to describe the incident is surreal. While I have been in a lot of difficult situations in my nearly 30 years with the RCMP, it is very different to be tasked with protecting your friends and colleagues. These are people that I talk to every day. Furthermore, it was the first time in our history that Parliament underwent such an attack.
That said, I knew that the Protective Service personnel were well-prepared for such an incident and that we were in good hands.
Q: How long were you Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms and how did you attain that position?
A: I still hold the title of Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms and Director General, Protective Services, and achieved it through a competitive recruitment process.
Q: What are the duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms?
A: The Sergeant-at-Arms performs many ceremonial and administrative duties.
Bearing the mace, the Sergeantat-Arms precedes the Speaker as he or she enters and leaves the Chamber each day.
The Sergeant-at-Arms occupies a desk at the Bar of the House when the House is sitting, and in accordance with the Standing Orders, the Sergeant-at-Arms is also responsible for preserving order in the galleries, lobbies and corridors of the House.
Q: In conclusion, if you don't mind me asking, how old are you? A: I am young at heart.
*** Mr. McDonell is not the only person with Glengarry ties to hold the title of House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms.
Since Confederation in 1867, there have been 11 sergeants-atarms – including Mr. McDonell and Audrey Elizabeth O’Brien (2005/2006), both of whom have held the title on an acting/interim basis.
The first Sergeant- at- Arms, Donald William MacDonell ( 1867- 1892), was a Cornwall native who served as lieutenantcolonel (commanding officer) of the 4th Battalion of the Stormont Militia – a predecessor unit of today’s Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders.
William John Franklin, who held the title from 1945 to 1960, was born in Pendleton, but moved with his parents to the Laggan area when he was a young boy.
A soldier with the Canadian Army in the First World War, he later commanded the Glengarry company of the 154th SDG Highlanders, and was named commanding officer of the Highlanders in 1932.
He was appointed House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms in the summer of 1945, with Prime Minister Mackenzie King – also the by-election victor for the Glengarry riding – making the announcement during the Glengarry Liberal Association’s annual meeting at Alexander Hall in Alexandria on August 24. Mr. Franklin died in October, 1976 at the age of 83.