Evidence of meeting #14 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was security.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jim Judd  Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
  • William Sweeney  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Myles Kirvan  Associate Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister's Office, Department of Public Safety
  • Marc-Arthur Hyppolite  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada
  • Stephen Rigby  President, Canada Border Services Agency

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Great. Thank you.

In terms of the transformation agenda, I've toured some of our prisons recently, and I certainly heard from the prisons how happy they are with some of the changes that have been made in regard to drug detection, be it drug-sniffing dogs or ion scanners. I wonder if you would maybe just highlight a few of the things and the importance of some of those measures from the transformation agenda, and outline where we might be going in the future.

Mr. Hyppolite, if you have any comments you'd like to make on that as well, I'd welcome that.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The concern is that we have an increasing gang presence in prisons. That is part of the changing profile. As an adjunct to it, there is also an increase in the presence of drugs in prisons, if you can believe it. You wonder how they get in there, but apparently they do, and they continue to.

Part of what the Sampson report sought to do was identify ways in which we could limit that. It's a very important issue from the perspective of those who work in the prisons, for their safety and maintaining a safe prison population. The presence of drugs and their influence contribute to all kinds of difficult behaviours among prisoners, which put those who work in our prisons at risk.

Ion scanners have been introduced to deal with questions of visitors bringing in contraband, with some success. I'll ask Mr. Hippolyte to speak to that. Drug-sniffer dogs are not everywhere. They're not dealing with everyone coming in, but there is that resource available, and increasingly available in the prisons.

Perhaps you want to add to what I've said.

10:10 a.m.

Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada

D/Commr Marc-Arthur Hyppolite

I am very impressed. You're very familiar with the things that are happening in the penitentiaries.

Obviously, as the minister mentioned, we have serious challenges with respect to gangs, substance abuse issues, and organized crime. In some parts of the country it's more serious.

On the transformation agenda, we have made some very, very significant wins. There are quick wins in the area of employability and drug detection. We have an entire drug strategy. We also have adopted a series of static and dynamic measures such as ion scans, drug detections, staffing to eliminate the entrance...to eliminate throw-overs. We also make sure we have a communications strategy so the visitors know about our zero tolerance against drugs. We also make sure we have interaction and partnership with law enforcement, so that when visitors get caught introducing drugs, there are normal prosecutions that take place as a deterrence.

Our staff, obviously, receive information, and then we monitor all these activities seriously. We've seen an increase in terms of violent incidents, drugs, and gang activities as well.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you. We'll have to follow that up on the next round.

Mr. Holland, please.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, these questions are for you specifically, if I could. Mr. Judd is going to remain; I'll follow up on some of this when Mr. Judd leaves.

This strikes me as remarkable. We had Mr. O'Brian come before the committee. This is a gentleman who has been a manager with CSIS since its inception in 1984. In fact, he had enough authority that CSIS sent him to come before this committee to testify for two hours. Now I feel as if we're being told to just pretend he wasn't here; ignore what he said.

Let me ask you very directly. Do you believe that information obtained by torture is unreliable and should not be used by the agencies under your ministerial control?

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

I'll respond to a couple of aspects of what you said. First, in terms of Mr. O'Brian's specific comments, my reading of them was that he was engaging in a kind of philosophical discussion of a hypothetical situation, not akin to what--

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

It wasn't hypothetical for Mr. Elmaati or Mr. Arar.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

What Mr. Ignatieff responded to in his book, The Lesser Evil, where he went on at quite some length about the occasions in which torture--

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Can you answer the question? It is a direct question about something very serious, and that is the use of torture. Do you believe it is unreliable? Do you believe the agencies that are under your direction should be using information obtained by torture?

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

You've raised several issues.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

I'm asking that question, Minister.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Okay--

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

A point of order. You have to give an opportunity for the minister to answer, sir.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

In terms of information obtained by torture, the view of the government and I believe the practices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service are quite clear. Information that has been obtained by torture is not reliable. It should not be relied upon. There is ample understanding in the world that this is the case. That's why western democracies do not engage in torture to gather information, because it is not reliable. It's also because it's a fundamental violation of human rights, but the probative value is limited as well. As an intelligence service, I know Mr. Judd is reluctant to explain their operational practices, but they gather intelligence from everywhere in the world. It's a giant pot. All the intelligence that goes into CSIS perhaps is intelligence that people gave to CSIS. They've had it come to their attention. Part of their job is to evaluate its probative value, and if there's any evidence that it's come by way of torture, they do not rely upon it.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Unfortunately, both the examples in Guantanamo Bay, the reports of Iacobucci and O'Connor, would beg to differ with what you just said.

Let me ask you a very clear and direct question. Would you immediately provide a ministerial directive stating what you just said so that there is no ambiguity, so that people like Mr. O'Brian or others working for CSIS who are involved in information gathering have no confusion on the matter? Would you provide a ministerial directive where you state unequivocally that information obtained through torture is unacceptable in all circumstances?