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

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

We will not compromise the effectiveness of the substantive efforts we have been making on the front line.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Okay.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

There are always new ways to use resources. For example, one of the things we are doing as a result of the Beyond the Border initiative is looking at the border and asking how we can more effectively manage that border. My fear, of course, is that many small border crossings don't necessarily make economic sense. Yet they are the lifeblood of many of the smaller communities, both north and south of the border.

How do we work together with the Americans to keep those border crossings open? We are looking at that very strenuously and looking at issues of technology and shared services, including shared facilities. We already share facilities in some contexts. Not many people realize that between the Yukon and Alaska there is a shared physical facility, where the Americans and Canadians work together in the same office, so to speak. Little Gold Creek is the crossing, as I recall.

With technology and shared services reducing the costs of infrastructure, I believe we can maintain these border service officer positions as much as possible. We have had a 26% increase. My intention is not to decrease any of the front-line services. For example, I have said I want the dogs at the land border crossings maintained, because they are essentially drug dogs.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Thank you, Ms. Doré Lefebvre.

Now to Mr. Aspin, please, for five minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for appearing again so soon.

I think this is a great initiative. I congratulate you on your solid leadership.

The opposition has criticized those who work to protect Canadians from the most severe threats, often at great personal risk to themselves. Could you please tell the committee how this strategy will continue to allow Canada to cooperate with our allies, to fight terrorism, and to protect Canadians in accordance with Canadian law?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

The Air India experience was truly a great learning experience—a horrible, horrible event, but out of that horrible event came the silver lining of how we can respond effectively to terrorism.

In a modern age, terrorism knows no domestic boundaries. It is internationally based, and sometimes individuals acting by themselves can suddenly spring up. But in the day of the Internet, it really doesn't matter where you are. You can become radicalized. You can participate in a criminal terrorist act. You can coordinate those attacks. What I see coming from the Air India inquiry, and the Arar inquiry and Commissioner Major—I think it was, though I sometimes loses track of commissions, but who nonetheless did an excellent job—is the emphasis on the sharing of information so that we can share with our allies and others who share our concerns about the threat of terrorism.

We share this information to thwart the activities of terrorists. It has been an extremely positive experience. I think at the same time we have stayed true to the rule of law, to our respect for human rights, because I don't believe that being strong on law and order in fighting terrorists is inconsistent with the rule of law and human rights. In fact, being tough on terrorists preserves the human rights we enjoy and the rule of law we enjoy. So I think information sharing is one of the most important aspects.

The second one is the sharing of resources. The Shiprider program that the Liberals introduced in 2005 on a pilot basis has worked extremely well. Canadians and Americans are on the same ship in the Great Lakes, and borders don't bother them because that ship can cross a border, across water, and as soon as the boat enters Canadian waters, a Canadian officer takes command. Similarly in American waters, it's the Americans who have charge. They have cross-training so that people behave appropriately in accordance with the specific laws in each country. That has worked very well, and it worked very well in the context of the Vancouver Olympics. Of course, that is why of we're bringing forward the legislation in respect of the Shiprider program. I think it's been a very effective program.

So it's about the sharing of information, the sharing of resources, and I think attacking a common terrorist threat.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Thank you, Minister.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

We have one more minute. Maybe Mr. Rathgeber would fill that minute?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

I should clarify—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Oh, maybe Minister Toews would like to fill that minute.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

It was Justice O'Connor who was in the Arar inquiry, and of course Justice Major in the Air India inquiry. I'm sorry about that.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Rathgeber, do you have a question or do you want to wait until the next round?

I see the first hour for our minister is up. I know he committed for one hour. I believe Mr. Davies and Mr. MacDonald will stay.

We aren't going to suspend, but we will thank you for appearing and for the briefing and for answering the questions. We very much appreciate your presence here today, Mr. Minister.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

I want to thank the members on both sides of the committee for the very informative questions they asked and, hopefully, my testimony has provided some insight into where the government stands on these issues.

Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

We'll continue with our meeting. There will be no break or suspension.

So we'll go over to Monsieur Rousseau.

You have five minutes.

June 5th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I assume that you will be able to answer questions as efficiently as the minister.

We have some specific concerns about the statement on page 9 of the counter-terrorism strategy about environmentalists being domestic extremist groups. Last month, we also learned that a group of first nations in British Columbia was under RCMP surveillance because of its stated opposition to Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project.

I have the nasty impression that the Counter-terrorism Strategy is being used by the current government to demonize groups with legitimate claims that represent no real threat to the security of Canadians. In politics, it is normal for pressure groups to directly oppose government or its policies. To stigmatize and demonize those groups is like muzzling—