Evidence of meeting #29 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was national.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Margaret Huber  Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Calvin Christiansen  Director General, Border Operations Centre and Major Events Directorate, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
  • Charles Reeves  Associate Chief of Protocol and Director, Official Events Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Doug Goodings  Executive Coordinator of Certification and Accreditation, Ontario Fire College, Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario
  • Stewart Kellock  Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association
  • Robert Kirkpatrick  President, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • John Sobey  Director, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • Glen Gillies  Honour Guard Member, Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard, National Alliance of Canadian Emergency Medical Services Honour Guards

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Good morning, everybody. We'll get started.

Welcome to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Today we have two groups of witnesses. The group we have before us today will be here from 11 o'clock until 12 o'clock .

From the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, we have Margaret Huber, Charles Reeves, and Andrea Hudson. We look forward to your testimony.

From Canada Border Services, we have Calvin Christiansen.

We will have seven-minute opening remarks, and then we'll move to questions and answers for the remainder of the hour.

This is on our review of national protocol procedures.

In no particular order, we'll start with Margaret, who is Chief of Protocol of Canada. It sounds like we've invited the right person to our study on protocol.

The floor is yours.

11:05 a.m.

Margaret Huber Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

My name is Margaret Huber, and I have the honour of acting as the Chief of Protocol of Canada. The Office of Protocol is located within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and I report directly to the Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. While housed within Foreign Affairs, the Office of Protocol provides protocol support and advice to the Governor General and the Prime Minister, as well as the DFAIT portfolio ministers. The Office of Protocol also provides guidance to other federal departments, as well as to provincial and territorial offices of protocol.

The chief of protocol is considered to be the most senior protocol officer for high-level international visits to Canada and outgoing state, official, and working visits, as well as for overall issues relating to the entitlements and special status granted to the foreign diplomatic community in Canada. That includes a number of international organizations, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.

The Office of Protocol manages and facilitates the presence and work of the foreign diplomatic community in Canada and across Canada, since we're a very large country. This includes about 8,000 diplomats and their families. We support official international visits and events of the Governor General, as well as official visits and events, both abroad and in Canada, of the Prime Minister and the ministers of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade portfolio.

Two divisions within the Office of Protocol may be of particular interest to this standing committee. The first is the official events division, headed by my colleague with me today, Charles Reeves. This division delivers DFAIT's official events management program in support of incoming official and working visits hosted by the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers and their official visits abroad.

This division delivers auxiliary, logistical, and courtesy services in respect of certain official events of the Governor General here and abroad. It also fulfills an overall advisory role regarding official events and hospitality for the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. This division has also played a supporting role for the Department of Canadian Heritage in the delivery of events for the incoming royal visits, such as last year's visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It will again be playing such a supporting role in the upcoming visit to Canada of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The official events division has also provided support in the delivery of state funerals, most recently the state funeral for Jack Layton in 2011.

The second division that I believe may be of interest to the standing committee is the official visits division, also represented here today by Andrea Hudson, the deputy director. This division coordinates visits to Canada by official guests of the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and DFAIT portfolio ministers, funded from the government hospitality allotment with which we are entrusted. For each visit, this group ensures coordination with Rideau Hall, the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office, the RCMP, Health Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, parliamentary protocol, provincial and/or territorial protocol offices, foreign missions in Canada, Canadian missions abroad, and various DFAIT divisions. As you can see, we're great believers in collaboration and coordination and working together.

As part of the oversight for incoming visits to Canada, this division defines standards of treatment for state, official, working, and private visits of heads of state, heads of government, ministers, and guests of government. Standards of treatment provide general guidelines for a visit in areas such as accommodation, local transportation, security, gifts, hospitality, and ceremonial elements.

I would also like to provide clarification with regard to visit designations. For a state visit of a foreign head of state to Canada, ceremonial elements may include an official welcome by the Governor General, military honours at Government House or the Canada Reception Centre, usually depending on the time of the arrival, a tree-planting ceremony at Government House, an official welcome on Parliament Hill, a 21-gun salute, wreath laying at the National War Memorial or the Peacekeeping Monument, a state dinner or luncheon, flag street lining in Ottawa, and red carpet for arrival and departure.

An official visit is the highest visit designation for a visit by a foreign head of government to Canada, as opposed to head of state. Ceremonial elements are similar to a state visit. Ceremonial elements can include an official welcome by a federal representative, military honours, official welcome on Parliament Hill, a 19-gun salute, wreath laying at the National War Memorial or Peacekeeping Monument, some form of official hospitality, flag street lining in Ottawa, and red carpet for arrival or departure. There is, as I mentioned, a certain degree of flexibility, depending on the circumstances and the wishes of our guest.

For all ceremonial elements, protocol works in close collaboration with other departments to work out the details of each event. In some cases, protocol leads, while for other events, we rely on the expertise of colleagues to lead on event logistics, for example, events on the Hill in which we work very closely with parliamentary protocol.

The official visits division also coordinates official travel abroad of the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and portfolio ministers, funded from the international conference allotment.

For 2011, the official visits division coordinated a total of 168 high-level visits, 132 outgoing and 36 incoming. Notable visitors to Canada included the President of Colombia, the President of the Czech Republic, the Prime Minister of the U.K., the Prime Minister of Kuwait, the Crown Prince of Brunei, and of course we currently are enjoying the visit of the President of Israel.

In addition, the official visits division manages the Canada Reception Centre, which includes an airport terminal lounge at the Ottawa airport and hangar 11 for dedicated aircraft. The hangar is used by our Prime Minister and Governor General for domestic and international flights, as well as by international high-level dignitaries visiting Ottawa. For example, President Peres arrived on a dedicated aircraft and will also be departing on a dedicated aircraft.

Lastly, this group that Andrea is representing also delivers the national airport courtesy program, intended to facilitate security clearances and greeting privileges for high-level foreign dignitaries transiting through or visiting Canada. As you can imagine, this group is especially busy during periods around the UN General Assembly, major conferences taking place in North America, or on other occasions. Each such clearance does require extensive coordination with my colleagues at the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and airport security authorities across Canada.

As my CBSA colleague reminded me earlier today, every airport is different, so we do make sure that the appropriate facilities are in place.

In 2011, approximately 800 courtesy clearances were facilitated in this way by the official visits division.

I would be pleased to answer any questions that the honourable committee members may have. Thank you for listening and for inviting me to be here today.

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you.

Next we will have Mr. Christiansen.

11:15 a.m.

Calvin Christiansen Director General, Border Operations Centre and Major Events Directorate, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Good morning, Mr. Chair, and to the committee. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today about Canada Border Service Agency's protocols and procedures team and the role it plays in working with our partners for major events.

My name is Calvin Christiansen, and I am the director general of the border operations centre and major events directorate of the operations branch at the Canada Border Services Agency.

To put the agency's role into perspective, I'd like to begin by providing an overview of the CBSA's mandate.

The CBSA is responsible for providing integrated border services that support national security and public safety priorities and facilitate the free flow of persons and goods, including animals and plants, that meet all of the requirements under program legislation. The CBSA administers over 90 acts and regulations on behalf of other government departments and agencies, and is primarily responsible for enforcing the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CBSA provides services at approximately 1,200 service points across Canada, including 117 land border crossings, 13 major international airports, five marine port facilities, 444 small-vessel marina reporting sites, and three postal processing plants.

As such, while our international events team assists with significant national events, it does always with our mandate and legislative principles as the core guiding principles.

In addition, the CBSA is mindful of the service-level expectations of Canadians. Within the traveller stream, border services officers question people upon arrival to determine if they and their personal goods meet the requirements of applicable legislation and regulations to enter Canada. Border services officers will then make a decision to grant entry or refer a person for further processing—for example, payment of duties and taxes, issuance of a document, etc.—and/or for a physical examination.

When significant events are being planned, such as a royal visit, music festival, sports event, or concert, the CBSA must be involved in the planning to ensure that Canada's immigration and customs laws are followed. All foreign dignitaries entering Canada must demonstrate that they meet Canada's entry requirements, including the presentation of proper travel documents, such as a passport. The same rules that apply to Canadian residents and visitors to Canada also apply to foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

The international events and convention services program provides guidance to tourism and the international business community about the CBSA's visitor and goods admissibility requirements. Border procedures and processes are streamlined through the team with the goal of easing border crossings through pre-arrival strategies.

We have nine regional coordinators across the country who have successfully contributed to more than 1,300 international events each year.

In addition, I should add that not all of those international events involve the clearance of a dignitary who is coming for an event, but this is just the scale of the international events we deal with.

In addition, information and guidance on CBSA admissibility requirements for organizers of large events taking place is available through the regional coordinators or through our office in Ottawa.

As these events focus the eyes of the world on Canada, normally attracting significant media attention and exerting significant pressures on CBSA resources, the Major International Events Coordination and Facilitation team plays a critical role in ensuring the CBSA is operationally prepared and ready for spikes in activity related to large events such as the winter Olympics and the upcoming Pan American Games.

The unit provides information for event organizers involved in promoting Canada as a destination for their events. The major focus is to facilitate the border crossing process by providing guidance to all key partners and participants on Canada's admissibility requirements and potential remission entitlements for visitors and goods.

The national courtesy and expedited clearance program manages, authorizes, and maintains information on requests for all official courtesy and expedited clearance privileges. The objective of the national courtesy and expedited clearance program is to facilitate the presence in Canada of visiting foreign dignitaries who qualify for courtesy or expedited clearance.

A courtesy clearance involves the streamlining of CBSA formalities in which the primary and secondary inspections are amalgamated to ensure the efficient and secure passage of the individual or the delegation.

Courtesy and expedited clearance procedures ensure that the CBSA has the necessary information in advance of the arrival of the qualified individuals. Courtesy or expedited clearance procedures do not exempt the legislative requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or the Customs Act.

Expedited clearance is the facilitation of CBSA formalities in which the primary questioning is performed in an accelerated manner, usually at the special services or crew counter at major international airports. The program serves as the key point of contact for courtesy and expedited clearances that may be requested by DFAIT's Office of Protocol, Heritage Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Supreme Court of Canada, or provincial offices of protocol.

While the CBSA has in place specific teams to provide expert information and guidance regarding special events and visits, it relies heavily on partnerships to ensure smooth, incident-free processes. These partnerships are mostly at headquarters with other federal departments; however, there is significant work done at the provincial, regional, and municipal levels where the actual events do take place. It's the guidance at the local level that ensures these events are successful, and this is where evidence of the CBSA's expertise is seen.

The CBSA processes millions of travellers each year at our 13 international airports, and we process, in total, about 1,500 courtesy or expedited clearances each year, so that's the combination of what we have from DFAIT and from other organizations. In some instances, we'll refer to an event, but the event will have several people attached to that event as well. The majority of these take place in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

The CBSA works hard to maintain our levels of service, and we continue to improve our service through various traveller processing initiatives, such as NEXUS and advanced border clearance terminals. So this continues to go on in the background while we have courtesy or expedited clearances happening.

The Canada Border Services Agency is a proud participant in Canada's national tourism strategy. We continue to provide a high level of service and working-level advice and guidance to organizers of special events at the national, provincial, and municipal levels. By ensuring secure and efficient border management processes, the CBSA plays an integral role in their success.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening statement. I'd be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Christiansen.

Now we will move to our question and answer time. These are seven-minute rounds for the question and the answer, and I will start with Mr. Calandra.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for coming.

Ms. Huber, can you just guide me on how one becomes the chief protocol officer for Canada?

11:25 a.m.

Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Margaret Huber

Well, I'm just lucky, I guess.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Outside of luck....

11:25 a.m.

Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Margaret Huber

I am a career diplomat. In previous incarnations I worked closely with the Office of Protocol. For example, as a geographic director general responsible for our relations with north Asia and the Pacific, I had close collaboration on high-level visits to and from that area of the world. I developed a great respect for the expertise of colleagues within the Office of Protocol.

There are few of us, in fact, who are what I would call amateurs. Most have years of expertise in various areas, such as Andrea Hudson. But it also helps the office that it includes people like Charles Reeves, like me, who have also served abroad a great deal and who have seen standards of treatment of protocol in other countries. My most recent incarnation was in fact as ambassador to Jordan and Iraq.

I can tell you there is great diversity in terms of protocol around the world, but there are basic principles that remain the same under the Vienna Convention, for example, and under the principles of reciprocity of treatment—how our high-level visitors are treated when they are abroad.

Sorry, that's a rather long-winded answer to a basic question. I apologize for going on.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

That's fine. There's obviously not a school of protocol, I assume, where someone would go to learn. A lot of it, then, I assume, is based on experiences both at home and abroad. How do you ensure consistency? I know the answer, but how important is it to get protocol right? If you screw up on a visit either by our Prime Minister or a foreign dignitary, a small thing could cause a big problem. So how do you avoid a screw-up? And when you bring new people in, how do you avoid their making mistakes?

11:25 a.m.

Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Margaret Huber

We're very conscious that the details are exceedingly important. Any successful visit or event is made up of a million and one details—doing proper advances, thinking of all the possibilities, and being alert to unavoidable last-minute changes, which happen all the time. We are very conscious that in protocol we are dealing with guests of Canada, whether they are visitors or foreign diplomats who are posted to Canada. We're fortunate, if I may say, to have dedicated officers working on this, not only in the Office of Protocol, but among the many strategic partners with whom we work, whether it's CBSA, parliamentary protocol, or the long list of partners I mentioned earlier.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

With events that take place in Canada, how do you ensure consistency with Canadian tradition? I'm assuming there's a manual you would follow. How do you ensure that Canadian tradition is always respected during an internal visit from a foreign dignitary or when the Governor General visits other communities? How closely do you work with protocol departments in the provinces? Guide me through a post-visit debriefing. I assume that after a visit, either from a Governor General or a Prime Minister, you will review what went right and what went wrong. How do you make changes, and make sure that those changes get communicated nationwide?

11:30 a.m.

Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Margaret Huber

First of all, prior to a high-level visit we would be consulting with a broad range of partners. We'd also be looking at our records of previous visits made either by that individual or by the person holding the office the individual represents. We would be consulting with our mission in that country. We would be looking at what sort of treatment would best serve Canada's interests in terms of making proposals for a program that would be of interest to the guest. For example, if it would mean travel to other cities within Canada, we would consult with the relevant provinces or municipal offices of protocol. We would consult on the program with colleagues across town, working very hard throughout the visit to make sure it was a true expression of Canada's respect for the guest, that it would be honouring the visitor, and operating mightily to avoid the kinds of slip-ups you referred to, while recognizing that sometimes last-minute changes are necessary.

After each major visit we have an internal review to discuss what worked well, what we should be doing to maximize felicitous results, and what didn't work so well and needs even more careful scrutiny and attention next time.

So, yes, we do try to learn from the past.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Calandra.

Mr. Cash.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank everyone for being here. I'm sure, given the fact that the President of Israel is here right now, there's probably a lot for your team to be doing. So we doubly appreciate your being here.

You've mapped out, Ms. Huber, a very complex story. The story is really about how very professional people within our civil service work together in order to pull off the best result for Canada, either here or abroad. There's unanimous agreement that those things are executed brilliantly 99.9% of the time. That 0.1% is just because we're human.

But what I want to get at here is this. Given the complexity and the fact that, as you've said, you need to be flexible as well and respond to certain circumstances as they come up—and of course you're dealing with a multiplicity of other agencies and their agendas, etc.—is it a good idea to try to set in stone these procedures?