Evidence of meeting #91 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was case.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Heather Jeffrey  Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Emergency Management and Security, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
David Drake  Director General, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Intelligence Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Commissioner James Malizia  Assistant Commissioner, National Security and Protective Policing, Federal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

No problem. It is important for us to understand.

So essentially all options are on the table, minus the options that are not on the table. Is that fair?

5 p.m.

Director General, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Intelligence Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

David Drake

Minus what has been said and that has been made clear. Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Okay.

In the time I have remaining, I want to ask about some of the issues raised by the Joshua Boyle case. I appreciate that you don't want to comment on the particulars of an individual case, but when an individual travels to go hiking in Afghanistan, is this the sort of thing that might raise red flags or that you might approach in a different way than if the person were, let's say, not undertaking actions that immediately raise red flags?

5 p.m.

Director General, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Intelligence Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

David Drake

To start with, some of this is in retrospect. One need not comment on the individual case. In the end, we have to actually do our very best to get Canadians out. That becomes the issue. If there are other issues involved, obviously we're going to look at those as well in any case, and I understand you're not talking about a particular case.

First and foremost, we are focused on helping the Canadian, and then if there are other issues, we will deal with those as well. That's about as much as I can say. We are completely focused on trying to free our Canadian, and we will do whatever we can to do that. That's our job.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Malizia, the RCMP is also involved in the protection of public officials. Clearly, in the context of a consular situation, you would have had a variety of information on Mr. Boyle. He met with the Prime Minister on December 18 of last year. Hypothetically, if concerns had been flagged during that consular process or there were impending charges, I assume that information would have been shared with the Prime Minister's protective unit, which is also under your jurisdiction, right?

5 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Again, I won't be commenting on any specific case, but there are processes in place that allow us to verify individuals who are meeting with the Prime Minister. As you stated, in the interest of fulfilling our protective police mandate, those processes exist, and they are there for that reason.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you, Mr. Genuis.

We'll now go to Ms. Vandenbeld, please.

March 27th, 2018 / 5 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much.

I'd like to follow up on what my colleague, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, was talking about in regard to families who may choose to pay ransoms.

You indicated that you would provide information in terms of whether it's legitimate or if there are security implications. Would you also advise the family that it is illegal and that they could face criminal charges if they were to pay ransoms, or, for instance, if somebody gave them the money for the ransom, that the person who gave them the money could face charges? Is that something you would say to the family?

5 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

As we work with the families, we do of course explain the potential for criminal offences depending on what happens within a case. Let me say this: we're very clear to state that it is not and has never been in the public interest for us to pursue criminal charges—whether they be for terrorist financing or facilitation—with any family member, nor have we ever investigated or considered laying charges towards any family member.

The work we do is really in terms of ensuring that the family understands the risks associated with any types of negotiations and the impacts they are going to have on the safety of the hostage. Again, our primary focus is really the safety of the hostage.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Can you explain the concern around comfort letters?

5 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

There is no concern around comfort letters.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Okay.

If we were to decriminalize the payment of ransoms by families, what ramifications would that have, first of all in terms of the larger picture, but also in terms of how you would engage those families?

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

I don't think we would engage them any differently than we do now. We would continue to advise them as we do.

It would have to be a very particular case. You would have to have a situation in which a member of a family who is a spokesperson would decide to go above and beyond the negotiations for the release of the hostage and, let's say, would be willingly and knowingly supplying funds on a side track.

However, I really wouldn't see any difference in the approach.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

What about in terms of larger ramifications? If, let's say, this committee were to recommend decriminalizing in those limited kinds of cases, what would the larger ramifications be?

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

I really don't see any major ramifications. At the end of the day, if there's an offence that's being committed outside of the actual negotiation for the release of a hostage, then we would pursue it, but that would be extremely rare, if it happened at all.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

That's very helpful. Thank you.

In terms of the information the RCMP or Global Affairs might have with regard to a case, if a family decides they wish to pursue a ransom payment or go outside of the RCMP, who owns that information? Does the family have a right to information about what's been done on the file or on the case with regard to contact and that kind of thing?

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

I just want to make sure I understand your question.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

For instance, if a family were to look at an outside agency, to—

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

Yes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

—a third party agency to pay a ransom or insurance or something like that—or the employer, for that matter—would they have the right to information that perhaps the RCMP had from working on the file regarding whatever kinds of engagements there had been up to that point?

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

A private contractor would not have access to our criminal investigation holdings. What they would have access to is the same information the family has been privy to.

Let's remember that the family identifies a main negotiator. All of the information that has flowed between that family member and the hostage-takers will be, of course, disclosed by the family to this private contractor, but anything else that would be on a separate track, anything that would really deal with a criminal investigation, would not be released, no.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

In terms of the dual mandate, the primary mandate, as you said, is the safe return of the Canadian, but there's also a secondary mandate, which is to capture and prosecute the terrorists, the criminals. Is there ever a conflict between those two mandates?

5:05 p.m.

A/Commr James Malizia

There is not a conflict between the two. It's a matter of ensuring there are parallel tracks that need to be paid attention to from the onset of the hostage-taking.

Right from day one we go to great lengths to ensure that the family is well aware that the primary focus in attention is the safe release of their loved ones, and then, at the same time, that if we do have an opportunity to lay charges and prosecute some of these individuals down the road, they would be potential witnesses.

There is an explanation with respect to the dual tracks, but they don't conflict with each other.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Okay.

How much time do I have, Mr. Chair?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

You don't have any time, Madam Vandenbeld, but thank you for asking.

Colleagues, that would probably take us to the end of our discussion over the last hour or so. We'll need about 20 minutes in camera to do a few other things.

I think this is an extremely important discussion. We're aware that the Senate has looked at this issue once and is apparently thinking of looking at it in a different way again, so there's a lot of interest in consular affairs.

I think that's because the world is becoming a much smaller place and there are a lot of people moving around. Obviously, Canadians who can afford to travel are travelling in larger numbers all the time, and I think the importance of the work you do is becoming more pronounced as we see what that means on the ground in particular parts of the world. For example, I spend a lot of time in South America, and that's becoming more of a destination as people see it as a place to go, but there are some issues that surround those kinds of regions and the countries there.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to spend some time with you.

I would like to have you answer one thing for the committee. There have been some witnesses who have talked about more formal processes and agreements with other states, other countries, vis-à-vis our abilities to go into those countries—and vice versa—to work with our agencies. They talked about looking at doing that in a more formal setting, versus an ad hoc approach whereby maybe we ask for permission to go in. I'd be very interested in knowing if consular affairs and Global Affairs are looking at other ways we can make it easier for you to do your job. I'd be interested in that kind of background information at some point.

Again, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much. I'm sure you'll look forward to our report, as Global Affairs and the RCMP always do. Thank you, and it's very much appreciated.

Colleagues, we'll take a short break and then go in camera. Thank you.

[Proceedings continue in camera]