Evidence of meeting #44 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was terrorist.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • John Davies  Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
  • Michael MacDonald  Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Thank you, Mr. Scott.

We'll now move back to the government, to Ms. Hoeppner and Mr. Aspin.

June 5th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you. I will be sharing my time with Mr. Aspin.

Mr. Toews, I want to thank you for your strong commitment, which you articulated very well, to keeping Canadians safe and to putting the priority of the safety of Canadians first.

We brought you here today to speak about our strategy to counter terrorism. There seems to be more of a focus on CSIS and oversight, which is important, but I think it's also important to note that CSIS does an excellent job for our country. I think we are a model throughout the world for the work we do. As much as oversight is obviously very important, it just seems quite interesting to me that the opposition would rather focus on possible suspicions of CSIS as opposed to our strategy.

So I'm going to bring us back to our strategy for countering terrorism. I want to ask you about the whole part of our strategy where we have terrorist listings.

I want to ask you—or your officials, if they would prefer to answer—about the ability of terrorist organizations, if they're not listed, to try to raise money within Canada. So it's not so much about direct radicalization, let's say, or violent acts in Canada, but about the way that possible terrorist organizations would try to use Canada to raise money, and how listing them can help stop that. This affect Canada as well as the rest of the world, protecting them from terrorism.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Well, like ideology, I think that money is the lifeblood of terrorism. These organizations absolutely require money to carry out their evil intentions.

That's why the approach of the Government of Canada has been multi-faceted in terms of the reporting mechanisms and the agreements, for example, that we've signed with other countries, including with the Americans, in terms of the transfer of moneys that raise suspicions—even things like the $10,000 limit in terms of deposits crossing borders. It's not simply organized crime that needs to move cash; it's also the terrorists.

The more disconcerting issue, of course, is the intimidation of communities here that may have an ethnic, a cultural, or a religious connection to these terrorist groups, and the fact that individuals are extorted to provide money. Again, this requires not necessarily new laws, because whatever form the extortion is in, it's illegal, whether it's done by a terrorist, by organized crime, or by an ordinary criminal. What we need especially in this context is the cooperation of the individuals from the communities where they are being extorted. The most effective means to fight terrorism, other than security agencies themselves, is community involvement in this respect.

I think Mr. MacDonald has some comments to add.

4:15 p.m.

Michael MacDonald Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

I'll be brief.

The efforts to combat terrorist financing are an extremely good example of both international and domestic efforts dovetailing together to achieve an objective. Coming out of 9/11, that's one of the main objectives that the international community had, where the United Nations Security Council began listing certain entities associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and countries in their domestic legislation would implement those efforts to take those listed entities by the United Nations in a consolidated fashion and put it in action in domestic law.

Very briefly, listing achieves two primary objectives. One, as the minister has mentioned, is that it takes away the money, the ability to finance. In effort, we're denying, which is one of the pillars of the strategy, the terrorists' or terrorist groups' efforts to raise funds to do activities. But we're also addressing support. You'll note, in the Criminal Code listing, provisions that it's an offence to support a terrorist entity or to provide funds, for example, to a terrorist entity.

So you're taking a very consolidated international effort to a domestic effort and achieving two very effective purposes at the same time.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have about 20 seconds.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

That's fine, Mr. Chair. Maybe we'll get a second round.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

All right. We'll come back.

Madame Doré Lefebvre, please, for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Minister. It is very good of you to come back to the committee to testify.

My question is about the Security Intelligence Review Committee. I understand that you have a great deal of confidence in that committee, but I wonder why the position of chair is still vacant seven months after the resignation of the former chair. There were allegations of conflict of interest because of his links with international arms dealers.

But the committee has still been without a chair for seven months. Why has he not been replaced? Do you have any plans to do so?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Yes, we do. It's a government decision that will be made by cabinet.

I agree with you that there should be a chairman there on a permanent basis. I'm very pleased with the acting chair at this time, but for the purposes of continuity and implementation of its own program, I think a permanent chair is always preferable.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Have you set a timeline? How long will it take for the committee to have a permanent chair?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

That's a decision that cabinet will make.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

We have been provided with a document on Canada's counter-terrorism strategy. I agree with a number of the points, especially the ones in the annexes. I agree, for example, about the importance of the Canada Border Services Agency in dealing with terrorism in Canada.

However, the recent budget shows $143 million in cuts in border service officer positions. How are we going to manage to maintain or strengthen the service if the Canada Border Services Agency budget is slashed?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Like other agencies, Public Safety and the agencies that report to government through Public Safety have all had to take a look at their programming to see what is the most effective utilization of their resources.

Let's remember, Public Safety has been one of the largest recipients of taxpayer dollars over the last number of years, especially since 2006. In fact, we have increased the number of border service officers by 26% since we came into office. It's a very, very significant increase.

Front-line border services are not being impacted detrimentally in any way. In fact the DRAP exercise, the deficit reduction action plan exercise, focused on what administrative savings we could make without cutting front-line services.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

So you can assure us that no front line border service officer positions will be eliminated.