Ontario legislature gets first female sergeant-at-arms
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 16, 2017 1:10PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 16, 2017 4:43PM EST
TORONTO -- Jackie Gordon, a former police officer, has been named the Ontario legislature's new sergeant-at-arms -- the first woman to hold the job.
Gordon spent 34 years with the Halton Regional Police Service, the last 12 of those with the rank of inspector, and before that she said she held almost every position in the organization.
But she did not want to talk much about her appointment in terms of being the first female sergeant-at-arms, who will lead the legislative security service.
"I just intend to be as competent as I can in the role and focus my efforts on raising the performance levels of the team and not focus so much on who held the chair before me," she said. "So I think it's more about being competent and not so much whether I'm a woman or not."
Her policing experience will serve her well, she predicted.
"We're always assessing security, and dealing with the public, dealing with buildings, administration, budgets -- all of those things are very similar in policing," Gordon said.
"The part that probably gives me the most sleepless nights is carrying the mace and doing the ceremonial side of things. That certainly will be a new responsibility for me, but I plan to rehearse and make sure that I don't trip on my first day."
Gordon took over the role Monday, after the former sergeant-at-arms, Dennis Clark, retired last year after serving for 19 years. But her first day of ceremonial duties in the legislature will occur when politicians return Feb. 21 from the winter break.
Women's Issues Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris congratulated Gordon on her appointment.
"This is a historic moment that demonstrates Ontario's leadership and progress on promoting gender equality and opportunity for Ontarians across government, businesses and not-for-profits," she said in a statement.
"Ms. Gordon's extensive qualifications make her an excellent leader of the legislative security service, and an excellent role model for women's economic empowerment and equality. I am proud to serve in a legislature with a female sergeant-at-arms."
Speaker Dave Levac said Gordon is "eminently qualified" for the job.
"We think we've got the cream of the crop," he said.
In addition to being responsible for security in the legislature, and guarding the ceremonial mace -- used to symbolize the authority of the Speaker in the House -- the sergeant-at-arms is also in charge of legislative properties.
"(It is) a job at least as important as sergeant at arms because she is responsible for the operation, maintenance, restoration and renovation of this beautiful heritage building that we all love so much," Levac said.
Some members of the legislative security service are armed with handguns, a change enacted after the Parliament Hill shooting in 2014 prompted a security review at Ontario's legislature.
Armed Ontario Provincial Police officers used to provide security at the legislature until its own security force was created in the late 1990s.
Gordon said the job is an honour and a privilege, and one of her first tasks is to navigate her way around the large legislative building -- she has been lost twice already.