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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you very much, Chair.

In a word, what is really different about this strategy that departs from a previous approach?

Obviously, we haven't been sitting idly by since 2001. There's been coordination. The idea that we suddenly discovered coordination would be wrong. Did we somehow wake up recently and say, “Well, you know, we haven't been doing this. We should be doing that”?

Really, what is different about this strategy? Is it just a consolidation of existing practice with some looking into the future and planning steps that need to be taken in the future? What really is the crux of this?

4:55 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

That's a fair question. I think it's the first time an all-of-government view of the threats facing Canada and Canadians has been put in one place. It's also the first time that the core principles driving the security intelligence community have been put in one place, which I think is an important achievement. Perhaps when you read it you just take it for granted, but getting 12 to 15 members of the security intelligence community to put in one place the principles that we will abide by—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Basically, this really is a pulling together in Public Safety....

4:55 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

It's a pulling together of approaches for the government, on behalf of the government.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Yes, on behalf of the government.

4:55 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

Also, when you look at the conceptual framework, it's the first time we've put in one place organizing principles for ourselves as a way to help set priorities going forward.

In one sense, yes, it's pulling together things that have existed for some time. Certainly in the national security world, most Canadians aren't completely aware of all the laws and institutions that exist—and that was an important aspect—and what the threat is to them and also to our allies. Many of our allies have similar kinds of things. Theirs are not exactly like this strategy, but they are similar. It's a very important tool for us to have something like this that we can actually hand over and say....

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

How long has this consolidation, if you will, of government resources been going on? Is this plan the culmination of a five-year process or a 10-year process, beginning with 2001?

4:55 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

What you have before you took about a year and a half to pull together. I don't know how you march backwards from there and say what was there and what wasn't. But it was, in terms of an effort, an all-government effort. It took about a year and a half to put together.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Are you operating on a high level of—not abstraction, but of governance and coordination? Or are you really getting into the nitty-gritty of things, such as the protection of our water infrastructure, for example?

I was at a conference a year and a half ago. There was an expert from England who had secured, against the threat of terrorism or just simple mischief, all the water filtration plants in England. He had contracts in other countries. He told me point blank that they're just not there yet.

Are you aware of that aspect of things, as well? Are you also aware of airport security issues? In 2005 I had the opportunity to go to Israel with the Liberal Minister of Transport to investigate security in the transportation system—airports, ports, and buses.

Has that fed into this strategy? Has all that intelligence fed into this strategy? Are you dealing with those kinds of issues?

4:55 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

Maybe I will start, and Mike can weigh in.

On critical infrastructure, such as water systems and so on, there is a plan, a critical infrastructure plan, for Canada. You're seeing only half of the national security branch from Public Safety. The other components are cyber security and critical infrastructure. There's quite a detailed plan at the federal level for working with the provinces to protect critical infrastructure. There are also, in the Beyond the Border agreement, arrangements and agreements to work more with the U.S. on that issue.

On the issue of aviation security, Public Safety, my group in particular, leads the passenger protect program. We have a big role in this area of aviation security, obviously with the Department of Transport, which is more the front-line operator in managing security.

It's hard to write everything in one strategy. A lot of these specific things cascade down. We could talk afterwards.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Davies.

You'll have to get it into another question, Mr. MacDonald, somehow.

We'll move to Mr. Goguen, please, for five minutes.

June 5th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The exchange of information between partners is one of the key elements of the strategy, nationally and internationally. I would like to go back to one of Mr. Rousseau's comments. He said that the aboriginal groups who were protesting peacefully were being targeted and he asked why so many resources were being devoted to that. You said that the target was not aboriginal groups but illegal activities.

As I recall, we had the October crisis in the 1970s. That was before CSIS was established. The target was not the people of Quebec, but the illegal activities of the FLQ. Subsequent to the October crisis, we had the three-volume MacDonald Commission report that looked into certain activities of the RCMP and into public safety. We found out that various government bodies were exchanging a huge amount of information with no regard for people's privacy. Then we had the CSIS Act that made some exchanges of information legal.

What steps are presently taken to facilitate the legitimate exchange of information between various government bodies? Let's start at the national level.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Goguen.

Mr. Davies.

5 p.m.

Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

John Davies

One aspect of exchanging information is day-to-day contact. There's a lot of discussion among the operators, the front line, to share information. In terms of, say, the relationship between the RCMP and the service, there are a lot of different, newer protocols to ensure they work well together, that they de-conflict on issues and activities. The RCMP leads are a big step forward with regard to integrated national enforcement teams.

One of the issues that was noted as a priority in the Air India action plan was the improvement of domestic information sharing among federal departments. The concern is that the ability to lawfully share information that is relevant to national security is mitigated through a patchwork of legislation, and so on, which creates a risk aversion to sharing. One of the issues the government is committed to look at in that action plan is how to improve that, to improve the culture of risk aversion to sharing, to manage decisions and talk to lawyers, to get to a bit more of a presumption of sharing, where everyone is comfortable with a lawful basis to share. So that's certainly something we want to do.

There's a commitment in the Beyond the Border action plan to work more with our U.S. counterparts on sharing information. The first step there is understanding each other's privacy regimes, the Constitution and the charter, in sharing and being clear on what is a lawful basis for the security agencies to share.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have two minutes left.