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 agencies.

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 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister, and your officials for coming this morning. I'd like to touch on something that concerns me. It was the Munk Centre report on cyber espionage, which, as they stated, is an issue whose time has come. I'll just read you a few excerpts from their second report in the Information Warfare Monitor, and then I'm wondering if you and/or your officials can comment on the issue and how we're preparing to deal with it.

The investigation ultimately uncovered a network of 1,300 infected hosts in 103 countries. Up to 30% of the infected hosts are considered high-value targets and include computers located in the ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs.

They say--and I think they're correct--that this raises more questions than it answers. It does point to a particular area of concern to many in the world and to me. We must be careful to say that they're all allegations, but there is some weight to them. It says that some may conclude that what we lay out here points definitively to China as the culprit, and of course they talk about strategic domains in cyberspace that redress the military imbalance between China and the rest of the world, particularly the United States. Then they quantify it by saying that China has, of course, the world's largest Internet population, and then they say something that I think we all need to know, which is that the Internet was never built with security in mind.

I'm just going through some of the issues. They say:

This report serves as a wake-up call. At the very least, a large percentage of high-value targets compromised by this network demonstrate the relative ease with which a technically unsophisticated approach can quickly be harnessed to create a very effective spynet.

I wonder if you and/or your officials can comment on that.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The question of cybersecurity and cyberwarfare is really the new frontier. It's the new frontier in national security, and it's the new frontier in defence and military issues. It's one that governments are going to have to pay increasing attention to. It is also the new arms race. It's where every time you come up with a solution or a defence, there's someone on the other side trying to match you step for step.

I think it's fair to say that the Munk Centre report is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are very major problems out there in the private sector and in the public sector. Canada has been working through the Communications Security Establishment, and I think we have been very diligent in working with government departments to ensure that measures are taken to provide optimal protection.

I have a greater concern for the private sector. Some of our big institutions, the banks, have done a good job. But when you get further out there, not all, I think, are sensitive enough to the issues. You can understand, in challenging economic times, even in unchallenging economic times, that the notion of diverting significant resources to defensive protective measures in a business that's trying to make a go of it is not always immediately obvious. So I think we have a role as a government in trying to assist and persuade and heighten awareness on that front.

We have been working on developing a national cybersecurity strategy, which you will hopefully see sometime in the next year. A lot of it will be cumulative and will include what's already going on. There is a lot of activity already going on. But I believe there will also be new initiatives and directions in which we need to go. This is a major concern. It occupies us and our allies. The Americans are engaged in a very similar, almost identical parallel exercise, as are many other countries in the world. It will be something that will occupy us I think for years to come, because as we know, technology keeps changing.

We just saw--well, we may not have seen, since it may have become dormant, for obvious reasons--that virus yesterday. The architecture behind that virus is an example of the things that can be done and are done on the Internet today that we have to be aware of, especially as our business sector and our economy becomes more reliant on the Internet for business mechanisms for our financial systems, and frankly for things like our critical infrastructure.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

This next question has to do with the Correctional Service of Canada, so the minister or the deputy can respond to it.

In my riding, I have Canada's largest federal penitentiary: Warkworth. I have been there several times and have taken an extensive tour of the facility. I must say, we hear a lot of negative things. There is, of course, justification for some of them, but what we don't hear is some of the positive things. I'd like to hear some comment on that.

One of the positive things is the repair of some of our larger military vehicles that is occurring there. Of course, there's CORCAN. They're making furniture, which helps to raise some funds and, more importantly, teaches trades to people. On the tour, one of the trades being taught was sandblasting. I was told by the instructor that save for one person, every single man--because it's a men's prison--who has received his certificate in sandblasting has had a job, often before leaving prison, and we never see him again. I wonder if you could comment on that and on what we're doing as a government to expand on that to help people, first, to get an education, because we know that one of the common denominators for criminal behaviour, of course, is the inability to read and write appropriately, and then, of course, there is getting a trade so that you don't have to rely on a life of anti-social behaviour.

I wonder if you would comment on that.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

You have time for a brief response.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

In terms of CORCAN activity, the job skills stuff, you'll have some up-close contact with some of their work when in the next 12 months they'll be reupholstering all the chairs in the parliamentary restaurant. So that'll be an opportunity for you to inspect the product and work of the folks at the Correctional Service of Canada who are receiving job training.

There is a real challenge on this front. I think there are some success stories, but there's also a recognition in the Correctional Service that we have to do a better job of having people leave in terms of rehabilitation. The most important thing is employability and job skills that are relevant. That's why the strategic review looked to divert resources from programs that were not providing job-relevant skills to new programs that would provide more relevant skills.

The chair is shutting me down.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Yes, sorry. We can follow this up in the next round. I think it's worth doing.

Mr. Oliphant, please. It's a five-minute round.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Thank you, Minister.

First I want to express my strong concern and regret that you and your government have yet to issue an apology to Mr. Almalki, Mr. Abou-Elmaati, and Mr. Nureddin.

Failing that, have you taken all steps to ensure that Mr. Justice Iacobucci's findings regarding these men have been taken into account and that they may travel freely and have their reputations restored?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

In terms of the implementation of the actual recommendations of the committee, I believe the bulk of them have been implemented. In terms of travel restrictions, I know in the case of Maher Arar, we made our view on that quite clear to the American government. I am not familiar that there were concerns relating to the others or problems they encountered.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

I'd like to let the minister know that Mr. Almalki's family was recently detained at an airport and underwent extraordinary search measures and questions based on their family name. I'm wondering whether the minister was aware of that and if there are steps this government can take, or if you as minister can ensure that Canadians can travel once their names have been cleared.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Well, certainly I'm not going to comment publicly on any individual case, but if you gather up the facts, I'd be happy to have those looked into and get back to you.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

With respect to the estimates, I'm going to follow up on the concerns about the budget. You said this is an important committee to you. Do you follow the proceedings of this committee?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Yes, I do.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Were you aware of Mr. Kennedy's testimony as a witness a few weeks ago?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Generally, yes.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Were you aware that he strongly suggested that this government is starving his agency, noting that the RCMP budget continues to increase, and over five years has increased dramatically, meaning more officers, more activity, more good work? At the same time, his agency has been starved, meaning fewer activities, even though there are more police activities, and less oversight. He stated that very clearly in this committee, yet you said just a moment ago your agencies have all felt fully funded.