Dear Prime Minister, Senators, Honourable MPs and Mr. Vandal,
A few weeks past I wrote an Open Letter in order to highlight my concerns regarding my not being allowed to enter the Senate of Canada with my “I ♥ Canada Oil + Gas” shirt as it may offend some people.
Shortly after publishing this, I was inundated with phone calls from Senators, media and people from the general public that were concerned about how this could happen in Canada. After Senator Tkachuk raised his concerns in a meeting of the Committee on Internal Economy, there was an apology issued from Guillaume Vandal, Chief of Staff of the Parliamentary Protective Services in Ottawa, the text of which is below. Moreover, Mr. Vandal called me to discuss this issue, to apologize personally, and to ensure to me that this should not have occurred. This is something which I greatly appreciated and thanked him for.
At the outset, we offer our apologies to the gentleman that raised this issue for the situation he experienced during his tour. The Parliamentary Protective Service expects its personnel to always conduct themselves with professionalism and respect towards parliamentarians, employees and visitors.
In this case, the personnel misinterpreted a message on the visitor’s article of clothing. The staff involved will be receiving operational guidance and training with respect to visitors to the Hill.
Imagine my surprise when I heard over the past weekend that Chris Wollin and his fiancé were visiting the House of Commons and were told that they could not wear shirts identical to the one I wore because you could not wear attire with political messages on them in the building.
When I looked at the guidelines for visiting the House of Commons (or the Senate for that matter) the rules are outlined as follows:
- Participating in any form of demonstration is prohibited, including applauding or wearing clothing with visible political messages.
- Visitors are not allowed to read, write, stand or carry on conversations during the debates.
- Visitors are not allowed to lean over railings or place any articles on them.
- Visitors are asked not to leave or enter the galleries when a vote is in progress.
- When the House adjourns, visitors are asked to remain seated until the Speaker has left the Chamber.
Once again, interpretation has come to bear in terms of messaging that is deemed to be appropriate (or not) within our federal institutions. To be clear the logo in no way advocates for (or against) any one particular political party in this country. The logo is a means to positively support our national energy sector and promote the social and economic benefits it provides to Canadians across the country. There is nothing illegal about working in the energy industry and as such it should not be unfairly treated as a taboo subject, nor should support for it be restricted in parliament.
Oil and gas is our country’s second largest private sector industry and Canada is the fifth largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. Demand for hydrocarbon-based energy continues to grow worldwide and Canadian energy companies have embraced the challenge of responsibly producing our energy resources to meet this demand while complying with the highest regulatory and environmental oversight in the world. If supporting this large and important of an industry is political, it is only because politicians have made it so.
The logo is not a political statement and we kindly ask for confirmation from Parliament that it will not be viewed as such moving forward. We would also like to request confirmation that the appropriate actions have been taken to provide operational guidance and training to the security staff with respect to visitors to the Hill as originally promised so this does not happen a 3rd time. We both wore this logo in Ottawa, not to antagonize, but rather to express pride in our world class energy industry and to help build awareness about the social and economic contribution that we as Canadians get to enjoy because of it.
We look forward to hearing a response at your earliest convenience.
William Lacey Chris Wollin