Mr. Chair, thank you for the invitation to appear before this committee on this important study.
I will focus my comments today on the role of the RCMP internationally, including coordination with relevant government departments in providing assistance to Canadians who find themselves in difficulty abroad. I will also briefly touch on our unique role with regard to high-risk travellers.
Let me start by providing you with an overview of our international footprint.
The RCMP has a broad and varied international presence, and is called upon to deal with situations that run the gambit from Canadians who have been arrested or detained abroad to more complex cases like Canadians kidnapped by terrorist organizations.
Supporting domestic and international criminal investigations, participating in international peacekeeping operations and capacity building, and working within the information sharing networks of INTERPOL and EUROPOL and, where appropriate, aiding Canadians abroad are all components of the RCMP's international policing program.
Underpinning this broad mandate, the fundamental objective of the RCMP is to combat global criminal activity and to provide for the safety and security of Canadians, including those located globally.
Fostering a robust international presence provides the RCMP with an invaluable means to advance Canada's policing interests by maintaining strong collaborative relationships with law enforcement agencies and organizations around the world. The RCMP has access to a global support network, which it can mobilize in urgent situations. For instance, in locations where the RCMP has less-established relationships, we can leverage the resources of our Five Eyes partners and other like-minded countries to expand our reach and influence.
As of March 2018, 39 liaison officers, four regional manager liaison officers, and 12 criminal intelligence analysts were posted to 26 strategic international locations. Our international footprint, global partnerships, and influence, however, fuel the belief that the RCMP has the ability to investigate crimes or assist Canadians in other countries without restrictions. This is simply not the case. Some key limitations to operating internationally include the fact that the RCMP has no jurisdiction to conduct investigations in a foreign country without the consent of the host country, and that the Criminal Code only allows for certain offences that have been committed abroad to be prosecuted in Canada.
However, once foreign jurisdictions consent, investigations are undertaken by the RCMP and conducted in co-operation with local authorities, and the gathering of evidence would be consistent with the Canadian law and charter standards.
I want to now focus on a couple of areas in which the RCMP has significant involvement. I will touch on the work that the RCMP undertakes in relation to internationally abducted and missing children and then turn your attention to the kidnapping of Canadians abroad by terrorist groups. In all of those situations, we work closely with our Government of Canada partners to ensure an effective whole-of-government approach.
The RCMP's National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains becomes involved when an abduction has or may have crossed national borders, and assists and coordinates in missing children cases. It also investigates child abduction cases, where it assists and supports Canadian law enforcement agencies.
Federal-level coordination is undertaken in the case of internationally abducted children. Once a criminal investigation is initiated, we work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as with our Canadian partners to identify, intercept and recover missing and abducted children.
Parental abduction is a criminal offence in Canada whether or not there is a custody agreement in place. The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains assists investigations in an effort to return missing children to their parent or legal guardian. The centre plays a key role in international parental abductions through its links to all Canadian and U.S. police agencies and to most foreign law enforcement. Additionally, the centre has developed strong partnerships domestically and internationally with non-law enforcement entities, such as the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Missing Children Society of Canada.
Turning now to the issue of Canadians kidnapped for ransom, in conjunction with our Government of Canada partners the RCMP plays a role in responding to Canadians taken hostage abroad by terrorist organizations. Our primary goal in these investigations is to ensure the safe release of Canadian hostages. The RCMP must also gather and document evidence that would permit, whenever possible, the laying of charges and the successful prosecution of the perpetrators. The Criminal Code gives Canadian courts the jurisdiction to try certain criminal acts, such as terrorism and hostage-taking, that occur beyond our borders. These investigations are some of the most complex, lengthy, and resource-intensive that we conduct.
Hostage takings often occur in high-risk areas and in countries with questionable human rights records. As I have mentioned, the RCMP is dependent on the host country and must adhere to their legal requirements. We do this while trying to ensure the release of hostages and to gather necessary evidence that could be eventually utilized in a Canadian prosecution.
While these types of investigations may be challenging for the RCMP, they are nothing compared to the long-term difficulties faced by the families and victims of terrorist hostage-takings. In concert with Global Affairs Canada, the RCMP provides as much support as possible to the victims of these crimes through family liaison officers. Their role is to keep families as well informed as possible on the situation, and on the Government of Canada's efforts to secure the release of their loved ones.
Family liaison officers and investigators also assist the families of victims through various investigative strategies, including, but not limited to, the collection of evidence that may be needed to advance the investigation and support an eventual prosecution. The efforts of the family liaison officers continue long after the resolution of the hostage-taking, as the victims and their families may also be called to relive their experiences before the courts.
Despite these challenges, we have had successes. You have heard from Ms. Lindhout herself about her terrible ordeal at the hands of her kidnappers. Our undercover operation, which lasted five years, resulted in the arrest, trial, and conviction of Ali Omar Ader for her hostage-taking.
I mention this case because it demonstrates that the RCMP can bring perpetrators of extraterritorial crimes to face justice in Canada. Our efforts may take years, perhaps decades, but our commitment is long term.
I also mention this case because, while the outcome was ultimately successful, there were lessons to be learned. We have recognized this and are taking these lessons to heart. By drawing from this experience and from the lessons gleaned from each hostage-taking incident that the Government of Canada has been involved in responding to, the RCMP strives to improve our efforts in the future.
I would also like to highlight briefly another area where the RCMP becomes significantly involved with Canadians abroad. In this case, however, it pertains to individuals who have travelled abroad to engage in terrorist activities. The RCMP has a dual role in both investigating and repatriating these individuals, known as high-risk travellers.
Leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group is an offence under Canadian law. It is also an offence for any Canadian citizen or permanent resident to commit an act outside of Canada that would be considered a terrorism offence if committed in Canada. Therefore, investigations of a high-risk traveller's activities continue throughout their period abroad. We do this in order to collect the necessary evidence to charge them, even in absentia, but also to understand just what threat they may pose to Canada and to Canadians should they decide to return.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the right to return to Canada, despite what criminal activity they may have been involved in while abroad. However, repatriating citizens involved in terrorist activity can be challenging. For instance, they may no longer possess a valid passport, as it may have been revoked or destroyed in theatre. They may also be listed under the Secure Air Travel Act or the no-fly lists of our allies, which prevents them from boarding an airplane.
Therefore, Government of Canada partners work together to facilitate the repatriation of Canadians. The Managed Returns Committee, led by our Global Affairs Canada partners, helps us coordinate this collaborative effort by facilitating an interagency assessment of the risk a returnee may pose. Each individual case must be assessed and decisions made based on the evidence presented. This process allows us to collectively manage their return home and to assess and mitigate any threat they may pose during, and after, their repatriation.
The RCMP has a significant role to play throughout the process. For instance, we may deploy officers abroad and we may seek as well to take security measures in that regard.
Further, it's important to also note that not all returnees may continue to pose a threat. Some may now be disillusioned with the cause. In such cases, we will focus our investigative resources on those who continue to pose a threat, while leveraging countering radicalization to violence, or CRV, initiatives and our police of jurisdiction partners and community partners to work with those who may no longer be interested in violence.
Thank you for providing me an opportunity to speak to you today on this important subject. I look forward to your questions.