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

April 2nd, 2009 / 9:20 a.m.

Jim Judd Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Was your question about sharing information with states that engage in terrorist activity?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Let me be specific. Are we continuing to share information and intelligence with Egypt and Syria?

9:20 a.m.

Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Jim Judd

As a general proposition, we don't comment on whom we exchange information with. This is a matter of policy. But I can tell you that we have, in part because of Justice O'Connor's report, changed how we deal with information exchange. It is done with the most scrupulous care to avoid any such problem ever arising in the future.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Mr. Ménard.

9:20 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Welcome, minister. I'm pleased to see some enthusiasm on the part of young and new ministers. I understand that you are not yet responsible for a lot of things that are going poorly, but I would like to get a clear idea of your desire to correct them.

You spoke, in particular, about three oversight agencies: those of the RCMP, the Correctional Service of Canada and one other. I note from your proposed budget, however, that there are significant budget cuts for those three governing agencies. The amount allocated to the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been reduced by 16.3%, that of the RCMP External Review Committee by 27.7%, while that of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission has fallen from $8.7 million to $5.1 million, a 40.3% reduction.

Can you explain to us why these kinds of cuts have been made to these oversight agencies?

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Each of those issues can be addressed separately, and each has its own reasons. The Office of the Correctional Investigator is being provided the budget that it has said it needs to do its job. That is my understanding of the number that has been arrived at.

As for the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, the previous funding that gives the appearance of a cut was a large portion of integrity funding, a one-time funding that expired. The amount that is carried forward is the usual amount. I will be seeking additional funding, so that the complaints commission can carry out its mandate. This will be based on their assessment of the level of funding needed to carry out their mandate in responding to complaints.

As for the RCMP External Review Committee, I'm a little less expert on that. Perhaps I could ask Mr. Sweeney to help me.

9:20 a.m.

D/Commr William Sweeney Senior Deputy Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

I'm not in a position to answer that, Minister. The external review committee is independent of the RCMP, and we don't deal with their budget issues.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Myles.

9:25 a.m.

Myles Kirvan Associate Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister's Office, Department of Public Safety

For the external review committee, the funding was temporary. It was shown in previous years as temporary funding and was made available for our backlog of cases.

9:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

In addition, I see that the increase to the Correctional Service of Canada's budget is only 1.4%. However, for a number of years now, for more than five years, at least, the correctional investigator has been telling you that funding for the treatment of mental illness in the prisons—a growing problem every year because a large percentage of inmates suffer from mental illness—is inadequate and that this situation has persisted.

He also notes that only 2% of the Correctional Service's budget is for inmate programs. However, these are generally programs designed to prepare inmates for rehabilitation and their return to society.

In addition, as Minister of Justice, you regularly announce to us that you want sentences to be longer and you introduce bills that always give us the impression that judges don't impose harsh enough sentences. Consequently, provision should be made for an increase in the number of inmates in prisons.

Don't you believe that a 1.4% increase in the budget will necessarily force you to choose one of those priorities? Which of those priorities are you going to drop?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Of course, in government we're always choosing among priorities, and one of the ways we do that is through the strategic review process, to look at making savings where we can and apply resources where they're required more significantly. Correctional Services has gone through a strategic review process like that this past year, which is reflected in the current numbers, and it was one of the reasons why what appears like a relatively modest increase is actually a much more significant increase in the very priority areas that you indicated. Savings have been made in other areas where things were not done efficiently, or programs did not work well, in order that resources could be redirected to much higher-priority areas.

For example, on the mental health front, we will now be having assessments in the first 90 days after intake into a federal penitentiary for all individuals. Previously we didn't have that kind of mental health assessment of every individual going into our prisons. That's a new program that will be introduced. I think that is actually coming on stream this month across the entire penitentiary system. For example, in that 90-day intake period there was never any programming offered, and with shorter penitentiary sentences overall, that meant less treatment and less rehabilitation for prisoners.

A lot of what the strategic review did was provide some money to begin to introduce programming into that first 90 days. As well, there was an overall look at the relevance of programming. There has been some attention, for example, to the closure of the prison farms. Those were costing a net loss for six farms of $4 million a year. We felt that money could be more adequately redirected to programs where people would actually gain employable skills, as virtually nobody who went through those prison farms ended up with employable skills, because they were based on a model of how agriculture was done 50 years ago, when it was labour intensive, and not capital intensive, as it is today. That might have been fine while they were in prison, but it didn't provide usable work skills. We are taking that money and redirecting it again to programs that are more likely to provide employment-based skills. This will continue.

One of the difficulties, particularly on the mental health front, is that the challenge is in part money and that more resources are being provided, but part of it is the simple ability to hire the skilled personnel. There's a need for psychiatrists, psychologists. We could give them all the money they want, but it's simply difficult to find enough available in the marketplace who are willing to work within our prison system. There is a shortage of that, so Corrections Canada is placing increased focus and attention on recruitment and retention of mental health workers, whether it be nurses, psychologists, or psychiatrists. It will take time for that to have an effect.

9:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

I'd like to ask you one final question. I understand a lot of your explanations.

You said in response to a question by my Liberal colleague that you intend soon to establish the integrated oversight committee recommended in the O'Connor report and by many other stakeholders.

By what deadline do you promise to establish that integrated committee? Do you have a budget to do it? Do you intend to establish a parliamentary committee to oversee these security agencies? By when are you going to introduce a bill to act on that promise, which has been made a number of times?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

We're out of time, but if you have a brief response, go ahead.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Very quickly, obviously we will be waiting until we see Mr. Major's recommendations before we publicly introduce a solution. A solution will require legislation, so it will have to make it through the parliamentary process. I don't expect you will see costs for it out of this budget year, but the associate deputy can help me if I'm wrong on that.

9:30 a.m.

D/Commr Marc-Arthur Hyppolite Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada

That's correct.