Emergency Management Act

An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair and Mr. Ménard, for that gracious accommodation.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

Let me follow up on the chair's direction. The major problem I have with Bill C-12 is the one you've raised, Mr. Knight, and I think docteur Duplessis, vous aussi, in the sense that the bill in two very peripheral areas doesn't seem to bring in the municipal level of government or the significant agencies that actually deal with the problem, particularly at first phase.

It's a reality that we live in a federated country and the question we put to the officials, perhaps more general than this is, was how do you interact. We were given assurances that in fact the interaction is occurring but it's at an informal level--which is perhaps not a strong enough term, but it's certainly not legislatively mandated because it can't be legislatively mandated.

I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how we get around that conundrum. How do we amend this bill to in effect create the formal relationship between a lower level of government directly and the NGOs?

October 19th, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

I hope many of the remarks and the questions will tie in with Bill C-12, and suggest improvements and so on. I'd ask the questioners and our witnesses to try to focus in, because that's really the purpose of this meeting, to try to improve the legislation if possible.

Monsieur Ménard, from the Bloc Québécois. Go ahead, please.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Knight, Dr. Duplessis, and your colleagues, especially my former colleague and Minister of National Defence, David Pratt, we're grateful that you're here today. I'd like to underline the importance of your presence and who you represent.

The reality of modern governance is that no level of government can deal with a major issue alone, even if the issue is properly integrated across that government's various departments and branches. A government has to work with its opposite numbers at every level. But good governance goes beyond even governments themselves. It involves the market and the academy. Most important, it involves civil society and the volunteer sector that plays a part in it.

These two organizations perhaps exhibit the best practices of modern governance in this country, from the civil society side, the intergovernmental side, and, with FCM, the intragovernmental side. I thank you for that. I think the importance of your role in governance is best demonstrated by what you're doing in emergency preparedness. One thing about Bill C-12 is that we've changed emergency preparedness to emergency management. I wouldn't want to give that away. With proper precautionary action, we might not have to manage an emergency. With the right planning, we might be able to avoid it, or at least mitigate it.

The hardest dollar for any government to spend is a preventative dollar. It doesn't have the urgency. It doesn't have the public imperative. The work that we're considering and that you prepare yourself to practise is immensely important, but it's also the toughest budget to find dollars for. Risk management is just the likelihood of an occurrence multiplied by its consequences. If it's a small likelihood with catastrophic consequences, we had better pay a lot of attention to it. I know that's what you're speaking to today.

I'd like to consider the natural disaster category and leave terrorism and such aside for a moment. We often think we can't avoid the natural disasters, but we can certainly prepare ourselves to react to them quickly. I want to ask your opinion about the possibility of a specific natural disaster. I want to get the value of your experience on how we might deal with it together. I'm talking about the risk of seismic activity on the west coast of Canada and the United States. Some schools that have not been properly updated are particularly vulnerable. Some of them are brick or plaster and 60 or 70 years old.

We know that a major seismic event is going to happen in the Vancouver-Victoria-Seattle area, and this brings in the international aspect that Dr. Duplessis mentioned. We have dozens of substandard schools for our children, while we are in post-and-beam houses or in modern office buildings that are well protected and able to withstand a major seismic event. Our children are sitting beneath piles of bricks and in buildings that will instantly collapse. It seems to me that this is off the radar screen of our emergency preparedness or management. Could you draw on the experience of each of your organizations and tell us how we should be approaching this situation? This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Simply to add the international component to it, Seattle faced a similar situation where they did have a major seismic event that just missed Vancouver a number of years ago, but they reacted immediately to evaluate and then stabilize all of those old structures, of which schools only represent, perhaps, the most emotionally and socially tragic potential emergency. But I value your comments on how we might as a country--

October 19th, 2006 / 9:20 a.m.
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Dr. Pierre Duplessis Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Red Cross

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members.

On behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, I would like to thank you for allowing us to appear before the Standing Committee on public safety and national security.

My name is Pierre Duplessis and I am the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross. With me this morning are my colleagues Don Shropshire, the National Director, Disaster Management, and David Pratt, Advisor and Special Ambassador.

First, I would like to tell you a little about the mandate of the Canadian Red Cross, and then I will be discussing Bill C-12, the Emergency Management Act. The Canadian Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization with a single mandate, to assist public authorities.

We play an important role in all areas of emergency management, namely preparedness, as well as medication, response and recovery.

For that reason, the Canadian Red Cross acts as a liaison between government, civil society and communities. Our efforts worldwide, which may involve the national societies of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, are coordinated in Geneva by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The symbols of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent represent an international movement with 100 million volunteers and members in 185 countries. This movement provides programs and services designed to prevent and relieve human suffering at all times and in all places.

This morning, I would like to stress that the Canadian Red Cross supports the Bill C-12. It provides for the basis of the national emergency management system and will allow the federal government to protect Canadians better.

In our view, it will allow for better coordination between federal institutions and provincial governments and other entities.

We support any initiative designed to establish and straighten leadership and coordination in the area of emergency management in Canada.

In our view, Bill C-12 confirms the importance of emergency preparedness and planning at every level of government. It confirms the leadership role of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It demonstrates to Canadians that the federal government is fully engaged with every facet of emergency management, including working with provincial and territorial governments as well as local authorities and other entities, such as the Canadian Red Cross, in Canada's voluntary sector. This role is indeed critical. For instance, the United States government report on Katrina operations released last February focuses mainly on the inability of various levels of government to properly cooperate and coordinate the relief efforts.

Bill C-12 also shows the importance of promoting public awareness and preparedness across the country. Canadians must be responsible for their own safety and the safety of their communities, and they must be properly informed. In fact, the publication known as “World Disasters Report 2005”, issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, focused on the critical importance of information in disaster preparedness and response. The report showed that people need information as much as water, food, medicine, or shelter. Information can save lives, livelihoods, and resources. It may be the only form of disaster preparedness that the most vulnerable can afford. The right kind of information leads to a deeper understanding of needs and ways to respond.

I would like to discuss specific sections of the bill, raise some issues for future consideration, and suggest some changes. Clause 3, for instance, states:

The Minister is responsible for exercising leadership relating to emergency management in Canada by coordinating, among government institutions and in cooperation with the provinces and other entities, emergency management activities.

The Canadian Red Cross's strategic focus, operational capabilities, and resources make us one of the principal entities in the voluntary sector in emergency management. In fact, I would suggest that the Canadian Red Cross is a national asset prepared to work very closely with all public authorities. The recent memorandum of understanding I signed with the Minister of Public Safety in May of this year is indicative of a very close and cooperative relationship with the federal government.

Importantly, this memorandum of understanding also makes reference to our status as auxiliary to government. This auxiliary status is not something new. It is an integral part of the legal foundations of Red Cross national societies, and dates back to the first Geneva conference of 1863. It also recognizes our founding statute, the Canadian Red Cross Society Act of 1909, and our letters patent of 1970 that broadened the auxiliary definition.

We are tempted to suggest that the Red Cross and its auxiliary status be included in clause 3 as a means of recognizing the important relationship, and educating and informing Canadians about the role of our organization in emergency management. However, we have recently entered into discussions with several government departments through the Canadian National Committee for Humanitarian Law, for instance, with PSEPC in the potential role of lead department.

Our goal is to better define the auxiliary role within the consultative and legislative initiative, in which it would be possible to see our 1909 statute updated and revised. Consequently, until we have the results of that proposed consultation process, I would suggest that any reference to our auxiliary status in clause 3 might be somewhat premature. At the end of the statute provision initiative, the Government of Canada and this Parliament may wish to include a mention of the Canadian Red Cross Society as auxiliary to government within the Emergency Management Act. This could be accomplished as a consequential amendment within the larger statute provision exercise.

Clause 4 of Bill C-12 lists the many responsibilities of the minister, including his coordination role in providing assistance other than financial assistance to a province, and his role in conducting exercises and providing education and training related to emergency management.

Evidence from the United States' Katrina operations report indicates that this is critical to securing and mobilizing appropriate workforce and materials when facing a large disaster. We would therefore urge the minister to take into consideration the resources available through the Canadian Red Cross and the voluntary sector.

The voluntary sector has an important but currently underutilized place in Canada's response to emergencies. While some voluntary organizations like the Canadian Red Cross have well-established roles in emergency response, a much broader range of organizations can and must make a vital contribution before, during, and after an emergency. We, the Canadian Red Cross, can build this surge capacity in mobilizing volunteers in civil society organizations so that their contribution can be effectively applied and useful to government's response.

Clause 5 states that:

In consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister may develop joint emergency management plans with the relevant United States' authorities and, in accordance with those plans, coordinate Canada's response to emergencies in the United States and provide assistance in response to those emergencies.

The U.S. government agency responsible for disaster relief and preparation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, has a statement of understanding with the American Red Cross that describes each agency's responsibility in case of a disaster, and the Red Cross's role in the national emergency support plan. To help fulfil the Canadian government's commitment, the Canadian Red Cross seeks to conclude a similar agreement with PSEPC so that it may be in a better position to cooperate with its American counterparts in times of emergency.

We would encourage the Minister of Foreign Affairs to establish coordination mechanisms that would take full advantage of the Minister of Public Safety's domestic disaster capabilities to support Canada's response to disaster anywhere in the world. The Canadian Red Cross has an unrivalled domestic and international network from which to draw on human, financial, and material resources, with an extensive capacity to help reunite families who have been torn apart by conflict or disaster. The society can offer the Government of Canada an efficient and direct pipeline to distribute international assistance.

Finally, Mr. Chair, let me briefly discuss subclause 6(3), which states that “A government institution may not respond to a provincial emergency unless the government of the province requests assistance...”.

As a humanitarian relief organization, the Canadian Red Cross would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that the primary consideration in determining who responds during an emergency should be informed by the need to safeguard the lives and security of Canadians. Regarding constitutional responsibilities, nothing in the act should preclude the Government of Canada from monitoring and assessing an emergency, and ensuring that all necessary coordination mechanisms are in place for the federal government to support and complement the actions taken by provincial or territorial governments. The humanitarian imperative must always take precedence.

Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for inviting us to present our views. I will be please now answer any questions you may have.

October 19th, 2006 / 9:10 a.m.
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James Knight Chief Executive Officer, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Thank you, Chair.

We appreciate the invitation to be here. I am joined this morning by John Burrett, a senior policy analyst in social development in our organization, and Josh Bates, who works with John.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is, of course, the representative institution of an association of municipal governments in Canada. We embrace 1,450 local governments, and they comprise 87% of the Canadian population among them. We have very strong participation from Canadian municipalities in all parts of the country.

Of course, we're here to talk about Bill C-12. We want to say at the outset that inasmuch as the bill empowers the federal minister to act in cases of emergency and to increase the capacity of the minister to act, we are strongly in favour.

My comments are really on the municipal role in emergencies. I would invite you to reflect on that and possibly enhance the act in a small way.

Of course, the department has said on its website that the Emergency Management Act in part is to ensure that the federal response to an emergency is coordinated and harmonized with other jurisdictions. In our view, this can't really happen unless municipal governments have some kind of presence in the consideration. Municipal governments are the first responders in cases of emergency. They provide many services, as I will demonstrate, that are critical whenever something goes wrong.

In our view, the bill as currently written will not lead to better coordination across jurisdictions because there's virtually no reference to the municipal order of government. We will suggest how that reference can be made explicit.

I think that because the municipal role is often not recognized at the federal level, we do not benefit from some of the funding that is made available from to time to improve our emergency capacities. We think this is inappropriate, as I will show, given the things we provide in this area. Frankly, this lack of involvement wastes resources and threatens the well-being of Canadians.

Municipal governments are the first responders in 95% of emergencies in Canada. Municipal governments are generally responsible for police, firefighting, paramedics, public health, which is terribly important, emergency shelters, and other first response capacities.

The threats that we manage are growing, perhaps even exponentially. Of course there is a constant concern about public health and the possibility of pandemics, such as SARS, which I'll talk about later. There are severe weather events driven by climate change, and we seem to have more frequent events. Major accidents and related toxic spills are from time to time also increasing in frequency simply because traffic is increasing exponentially. And of course there is the ever present threat of terrorism.

Cities are also expected to carry most of the burden for security at events such as major conferences and sporting events. In fact, in many cases we own the facilities in which these large events occur.

Finally, it's important to note that we own much of the critical infrastructure: the water supply systems, which I would say are reasonably vulnerable in this country; the waste water systems; in many cases, the electrical supply systems; the transportation networks, bridges, and roads; and the transit systems, which we have seen in other countries are extremely vulnerable. But we are not at the table when decisions are made regarding national emergency management plans and strategies. We're simply not there.

The only reference in Bill C-12 to local authority is that the minister would work with them through the provinces. There's that one mention, but we think it is inadequate.

Failing to acknowledge formally and fully the essential nature of the municipal role in developing and deploying emergency preparedness policy risks perpetuating the current system and does nothing to change the paradigm that has traditionally seen municipal governments and their front-line agencies left out of critical planning and being under-resourced.

From our perspective, the absence of true municipal integration into overall emergency management plans results in a patchwork of guidelines, resources, and expectations that differ province by province, territory by territory, and community by community. We don't believe other orders of government are therefore getting the full picture and taking into consideration the front-line requirements of municipalities.

Our specific suggestion is that, in the preamble to the bill, the Parliament of Canada could recognize the fundamental role of municipal governments in responding to local, national, and international emergencies, and then a coordinated and efficient response to emergencies requires collaboration among all orders of government. This wouldn't be binding in law, but it would be a reference point that would help in the reflection of parliamentarians and service providers, and the minister, in the event that municipal governments were called upon.

We'd be happy to work with the committee or others in suggesting precise wording, and we have delivered to the clerk copies of our June report on emergency planning, which is very substantial. It was prepared for us by external experts, and it outlines in considerable detail many of the issues we would like to raise.

I want to talk about some specific instances to put in concrete terms what we have in mind.

I don't know if many of you were living in Toronto in the 1970s when a railcar filled with chlorine derailed in Mississauga. It was only through the extremely well-organized efforts of the police and fire departments that lives were saved. The entire city was evacuated. A quarter of a million people were evacuated with remarkable speed and remarkable efficiency, a service provided entirely by the regional police and fire departments.

I remind you of the ice storm. Some of you might have been in Ottawa when that terrible event occurred--or in the Eastern Townships or other parts of Quebec, or in Montreal, for that matter. This was a catastrophe of enormous scale, and of course in Ottawa, where I lived, it was the municipal government that was responsible for finding solutions to all sorts of immediate and challenging problems. The Canadian military was deployed, and that was extremely helpful, but that was some days later. Those first few days were utterly critical, and of course it's the municipal government that was there to do what it could.

I remind you of 9/11, not 9/11 in New York, but 9/11 over the Atlantic Ocean. You've all perhaps heard of the efforts of the city of Gander and its mayor to accommodate their equivalent population. Their population doubled in a few hours, and they were able, remarkably, by marshalling all kinds of local resources, not only to care for the stranded travellers but in fact to give them a Newfoundland experience, which was unique. Claude Elliott, the mayor, went on the international circuit, on television and talk shows, and became somewhat of a celebrity.

I remind you, of course, of 9/11 in New York. Again, who was it who emerged as the leader of the city and obviously the person in charge? It was Mayor Giuliani. That was his role.

I'll talk a little bit more about SARS in Toronto. I had the privilege of attending a briefing given by the then public health officer of the City of Toronto, Dr. Sheela Basrur. She gave this briefing to a group of U.S. mayors who had come to reflect on the Canadian experience and learn from it what they could.

This crisis was managed by the public health department and the police department of the city of Toronto. There was a federal contribution, which had to do with science and identifying the virus. It was useful. And there was a provincial contribution, which was to pass legislation enhancing the powers of quarantine so we could ensure that the affected individuals would not spread the disease. Of course that entails a great deal of support for the individuals who can't leave their apartments.

The amazing story is that Toronto has the largest public health department in North America--this, I didn't know--with 1,700 public health workers. They were able to take 300 of these workers, give them all the police support they needed, and put them in a special building. They proceeded to conduct an investigation of where individuals affected with this disease had been over the past month, and then they contacted those they had been in touch with to ensure they were also quarantined. This was an enormous undertaking.

We are very fortunate that this disease hit a city that has such capacity. If it had hit another city--and in the views of the U.S. mayors, any one of their cities--the capacity would not have existed to control this problem.

This is another stellar example of the critical role played by local governments.

We leave you with these thoughts, and we leave you with our broad suggestion. I think you have more detailed written information from us, but I hope this can facilitate our discussion this morning.

Thank you.

October 5th, 2006 / 10:25 a.m.
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Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Suki Wong

About whether or not our minister would have the responsibility to review or to ensure that there would be backup plans for crown corporations.... The answer would be yes, that “government institution” in Bill C-12 does include crown corporations.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Thank you, Chair, and thank you all for being here.

I'd like to follow up a little bit on what Mr. Comartin was talking about, and that's the connectivity between the federal-provincial-municipal and U.S. operations centre authorities.

What changes do you see coming out--not necessarily as a result of the act but maybe that are covered by Bill C-12--in the connectivity between federal-provincial-municipal and at the federal level with U.S. authorities in response to a situation?

October 5th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Suki Wong

Bill C-12 would replace the Emergency Preparedness Act.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:30 a.m.
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Suki Wong Deputy Director General, Critical Infrastructure Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Thank you.

This legislation does not change the organizational structure of our department. Bill C-12 brings greater accountability to how the federal government responds to and prepares for emergencies. It provides our minister with the authority to set guidelines, best practices, and principles for developing emergency management plans that affect only federal government institutions. So very much this bill brings greater accountability and greater coordination, and it recognizes the need for collaboration of provinces and territories. The scope of the act is very limited to the federal government, to federal institutions.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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James Deacon Director General, National Security Policy, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be here, and I thank you for the opportunity to address this important proposed legislation.

With me are Michael Baker, director general for preparedness and recovery; Bob Lesser, director general for operations; Suki Wong, deputy director general for critical infrastructure protection; and Tracy Thiessen, director general for coordination, who is responsible for our regional offices.

I have short remarks prepared, and if you wish I could simply start with them.

I should note, to start, that I am here in an acting capacity, as the acting assistant to the deputy minister. That said, the two persons who would be best placed to provide you with information on this bill unfortunately couldn't make it. The senior assistant deputy minister herself is unfortunately away on training and is therefore unavailable, and the director general for emergency management policy is out of the country. Nonetheless, my colleagues and I will do our very best to answer your questions today.

Bill C-12 would provide the Government of Canada a new basis on which to meet the challenges of its own internal emergency management activities. It proposes to create the emergency management act in order to address changing risks to Canadians and the need for legislation to help address challenges associated with that.

The Bill strengthens the foundations for the federal role in emergency management and critical infrastructure protection in the 21st century. And it recognizes the need for a coordinated federal response that complements those of other stakeholders and which respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction and authority over provincial emergency matters.

Canada has indeed faced a range of emergencies. Just to name a few, there was the 1998 ice storm in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, the 2003 outbreak of SARS, and the electricity outages that same year in Ontario. We've witnessed numerous floods in Alberta, New Brunswick, and Quebec, as well as forest fires in B.C. Of course, there are many other examples.

Federal efforts must focus on all potential hazards that Canadians could face, including natural disasters, terrorism or crime, cyber incidents, or other impacts on critical infrastructure. In addition, events such as Hurricane Katrina on the United States gulf coast remind us that Canada must be ready to respond to disasters outside of its borders. As we share our inland border with the United States, we must develop emergency plans with our neighbour for mutual support.

One particular lesson learned from the Hurricane Katrina experience was that governments need to have clearly established frameworks in place to facilitate coordination of their efforts, and they need to have these in place well in advance of any events.

In short, Mr. Chair, the risks facing Canadians continue to evolve. This is due, for example, to the increased incidence of extreme weather and the potential for cyber incidents. Bill C-12 aims to bring our statutory framework in step with this evolution. That's why the government has outlined in the proposed legislation how the Ministry of Public Safety and other federal ministries would have the authority necessary to fulfil their roles and to protect Canadians.

Underpinning this proposed legislation are two fundamental principles.

The first is that the Government of Canada understands the need for well-coordinated federal emergency management activity while recognizing and respecting the jurisdictional responsibilities of the provinces and territories. This means in practice that the federal government respects their authority and coordinates federal planning and response with the provinces and territories in partnership, and through them supports local authorities.

The second is that the federal government continues to provide appropriate emergency financial assistance to provinces and territories, building on existing arrangements.

Under the proposed legislation, the Minister of Public Safety would be responsible to exercise leadership by coordinating federal players in their emergency management activities and in cooperating with provincial and territorial governments.

Bill C-12 also recognizes the important role played by other entities, namely non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and the private sector. I would note that the proposed legislation reflects that it's not the role only of the federal government to prepare for risks, but that all governments must work together to prevent or mitigate emergencies, to implement responses, and to help communities recover from the effects of emergency events.

The proposed legislation also sets out the Minister of Public Safety's responsibilities in all aspects of emergency management. In the event of an emergency in Canada, it would be the minister's responsibility to coordinate the federal response.

Through this proposed legislation, the Minister would exercise leadership by establishing policies and programs applicable to federal emergency management plans prepared by other ministers.

Assisting the minister, and in the future under the proposed legislation, is the Government Operations Centre, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, monitoring and analyzing potentially imminent or actual emergencies and which coordinates the response to the incidents. With the centre's assistance and that of other ministers, the Minister of Public Safety can advise the federal government of proposed actions and act as the primary contact to support provinces and territories.

It's also important to note that the bill sets out the emergency management responsibilities for all federal ministers to identify risks; to prepare, maintain, and test plans; and to conduct training in relation to those plans. While those responsibilities are new, the bill reaffirms and focuses attention on the importance of these matters for federal government institutions.

Bill C-12 does not prescribe the specifics of emergency management activities, rather it allows for innovation and the building of community consensus by all levels of government. However, it does provide for the development and implementation of joint programs, national exercises, training, education, and research related to emergency management, and, very importantly, the promotion of public awareness regarding emergencies.

The bill recognizes that promoting a common approach to emergency management, including the adoption of standards and best practices, can enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies in programs at all levels of government, as well as within the private sector. A good example of this is exercise training programs that test emergency preparedness, where we can and do involve the private sector.

Mr. Chair, I noted earlier that the proposed legislation provides for emergency assistance to provinces. Currently to assist a province or territory to recover from a civil emergency or a natural disaster, the Government of Canada may allocate federal financial assistance to that province or territory through the disaster financial assistance arrangements, or DFAA. Nothing in this proposed legislation would change that. In fact, Bill C-12 would become the new legislative vehicle through which the DFAA assistance would be provided to provinces and territories.

Finally, Mr. Chair, when preparing for and during times of an emergency, the government needs to obtain information from the private sector to assess critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and risks, develop emergency management plans, improve warning and reporting systems, and develop better defences and responses. I should note that the information sought is technical in nature; it doesn't include personal information.

Related proposed amendments in the bill to the Access to Information Act are necessary and would allow the government to exchange specific and reliable technical information with private sector partners for critical infrastructure protection and emergency management purposes. Those amendments would encourage information sharing by explicitly recognizing in the Access to Information Act that sensitive private sector critical infrastructure information requires protection from disclosure.

Mr. Chair, in times of emergency, clearly Canadians look to their governments to work together to manage a situation. Preparation for emergencies means that governments must have the capacity to monitor, assess, and prevent identifiable risks and have in place well-tested plans for effective and coordinated action.

Bill C-12, the Emergency Management Act will help the federal Government to better serve Canadians before, during and after emergencies.

My colleagues and I will be happy to respond to your questions.

October 5th, 2006 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

I would like to call the meeting to order. This is meeting number 12 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Today we are having our first meeting on Bill C-12, an act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain acts.

We have officials with us from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I welcome you all to the committee. We look forward to some very helpful discussions.

Mr. James Deacon is the director general for national security policy. Usually our custom before this committee is to allow you an opening statement of whatever length you need, but hopefully not too much more than ten minutes, and then if anybody else would like to make any comments they can do the same.

Mr. Deacon, you can introduce the people who are with you.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

There are three levels of government. I think it only appropriate that we not leave any out, so maybe we need to think about how the provincial aspect works into this.

It's true that municipalities do usually end up first, but if we look at some of the recent disasters, Katrina being one, the question is how we make sure that all three levels of government have an apparatus with which people feel comfortable, and that there's a smooth operation, as opposed to.... It's who has authority over what, and when, and all those things. We want to make sure that Bill C-12 adds to a sense of comfort, rather than adding another layer of bureaucracy that will only make things worse.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Yes; that will be October 5, on Bill C-12. We are going to invite them.

Other groups--the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities--have asked to come as witnesses on Bill C-12. In future meetings, would we like to hear from them as well? Some of these groups are very supportive, I think. Should we ask the clerk to contact these people and try to work them in? We may be dealing with several things at the same time here.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Yes. I envision that we'll have the officials on Bill C-12 for maybe an hour and 45 minutes, and then we can just ask them if they have any questions at the end of the meeting. We can allow maybe 15 minutes or half an hour, depending on how much time they need.

October 3rd, 2006 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

So on Thursday we will have Bill C-12 and the Tanzanian delegation?