Vol. 80, No. 4Detachment profile

A male RCMP officer stands in front of a stone building guarding a black SUV while a man stands behind him and a guard in red uniform stands next to building.

Rideau Hall

Guarding dignataries through teamwork

Sgt. Louis Brousseau and reserve Cst. Michel Sorel wait for the Governor General at Rideau Hall. Credit: Martine Chénier, RCMP


Surrounded by 79 acres of trees and gardens, in an area restricted to the public, the RCMP detachment at historic Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ont., is home base for Canada's political bodyguards — the Governor General Security Detail (GGSD) and the Very Important Persons Protection Detail (VIPPD).

The GGSD protects the Governor General and her immediate family, while the VIPPD provides security for Canadian and foreign dignitaries, including ambassadors and chief justices, as well as international visitors, such as heads of state. The unit is also responsible for site security at events attended by the Governor General and Prime Minister.

The building where the two teams work is located behind, and to the left of, the Office of the Secretariat of the Governor General.

The ground floor, once the chauffer's garage, where horses and carriages were kept, now houses a fleet of black SUVs. The façade of the original building remains untouched, but the small, outdated space was retrofitted and renovated this spring, adding much-needed room.

Room to move

"We were cramped with boxes everywhere," says Insp. Jean-Pierre Huard, the officer in charge of VIPPD and GGSD. "Now, we're proud to come to work here. We have a sense of belonging."

Other Rideau Hall occupants include the Governor General's office, the National Capital Commission, which manages the property, and now, the Prime Minister, his family and protective detail.

To accommodate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's temporary stay, officers have increased security on the grounds, adding more cameras, commissionaires and officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes.

For everyone working on the grounds of Rideau Hall, teamwork is the glue. Once or twice a month, all partners meet to discuss upcoming events, initiatives, and health and safety on the property.

"We share our resources, expertise and information," says Sgt. Louis Brousseau, who's in charge of operations for the GGSD unit. "Working together is the only way we can make it happen."

Unexpected changes to the schedule are part of the job at the detachment and officers and reservists must adapt quickly and be flexible in having to reschedule personal plans, work overtime, or travel on short notice.

"Sometimes my wife isn't happy with all the travel, but it goes with the job, you get used to it," says Brousseau.

In his 20 years working private protection, Brousseau has served three Canadian governors general.

For members of the VIPPD, what they do in a day is often dictated by global events, says S/Sgt. Richard Martel, who has been in charge of VIPPD with the detachment for almost two years.

"If there's a terrorist attack in France, there's a good chance that we're going to have to protect the French ambassador here," says Martel.

In addition to the ever-changing nature of close protection, Martel says another challenge is meeting the demands of foreign dignitaries who have specific preferences for security detail, such as types of security vehicles.

To make it all come together, Martel and his team work closely with Global Affairs Canada, which hosts the visitors and works with the foreign government and RCMP on the dignitary's protection requirements.

"I'm just a security guy, I don't know anything about protocol," says Martel. "So they educate us every time we have a visit, and make it very easy for us."

Change and adapt

The thing that makes no two days on the job the same, is also what Martel loves the most.

"We become junkies with this stuff — it's the best job in the world," he says, recalling how driving Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa left a big impression.

The pair were headed to a public event when a potentially risky situation caused Martel to turn to Costa and suggest he alter his plans as a precaution.

"It's not every day that you get to talk to a head of state like he's your co-worker," says Martel.

Costa complied with his recommendation without hesitation and, before returning to Portugal, shook his hand and thanked him.

"He was very gracious," says Martel. "I was very impressed by that."

For Brousseau, it was a trip to Israel with former governor general David Johnston that remains a highlight of his career.

"We went to occupied territory," says Brousseau. "That was very interesting to see both sides of the fence and learn about this historical place."

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