Thank you, Mr. Chair, for welcoming us back to this committee during your hearings on consular services. I'll start with a few remarks on the work of the consular team, to update you since we last met in October. Then I'll pass it on to my colleague David Drake, the director general of the counter-terrorism, crime and intelligence bureau of Global Affairs, followed by James Malizia, assistant commissioner for national security and protective policing at the RCMP.
Since our last appearance, we've seen a continued increase in the number of new consular cases abroad. While the nature and breakdown of cases has remained stable, the total number of new consular cases opened in 2017 was 4% higher than that of 2016, an increase of over 11,000 cases.
The program remains committed to the process of consular modernization to meet the increasing demand. For example, we have conducted public opinion research with Canadian travellers to better understand their preparations for travel, what information they need and their expectations when it comes to consular services. While we are waiting on the full results, it is clear that Canadians continue to expect high standards of service that should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Since we last met, we have continued to invest in training, including conducting introductory training courses for our new, dedicated consular officers abroad. We've delivered courses on mental illness and consular services, in response to trends we've seen, to approximately 80 consular officers at locations around the world, and we've ensured that our mid-career consular officers across Africa have participated in advanced training, including on arrest and detention issues. These initiatives help to maintain and reinforce the professionalism of our dedicated consular service, which is a separate stream of the foreign service category.
In rising to meet these expectations, we're going to rely in part on technology. Our Going Digital initiative will provide Canadians with the information that they need in real time through the mobile channels they are most comfortable using and will connect them ever more quickly to consular services when they need help.
We are improving assistance to Canadians with new services such as the digital Ask Travel initiative, which we discussed in October, and the Travel Smart app.
A new and improved case contact and emergency management system is also being rolled out by 2020. This more robust system will modernize our consular case record management system. It will facilitate the identification of consular trends and challenges and it will help us to better track service delivery to ensure continued consistency and high standards.
This investment in technology is just one part of the considerable resources that Global Affairs Canada is devoting to improving its ability to provide quality consular and emergency management services.
I should note in this regard that the cost of providing consular services continues to significantly exceed the revenues that are collected from the consular service fee. For example, in fiscal year 2016-17, the cost of consular services was $131 million, of which $105 million was collected through the consular services fee.
We will soon be conducting a regular review of our resourcing and costing methodology in order to update it and to continue to ensure effective, consistent levels of service and the appropriate allocation of our resources overseas.
Other aspects of our strategy are focused on international cooperation. Consular officials are meeting regularly with counterparts on a bilateral basis to resolve case-specific and systemic challenges and learn from best practices.
Additionally, our international work continues apace. Our hosting of the Secretariat of the Global Consular Forum means that we maintain excellent contacts with the consular services of over 40 countries, not only traditional like-minded allies but also new emerging partners. These initiatives are helping to facilitate our co-operation on consular matters and have resulted in new partnerships with direct benefit to Canadians, including, for example, targeted discussions this year on issues such as dual nationality, services to children, and other emerging challenges.
On the communications front, we're continuing to look at new ways to reach more Canadians. Every year the consular outreach team travels across Canada to meet travelling Canadians and travel industry representatives at industry events, fairs, and conferences, and they are also surveying arrivals at major airports. The team promotes timely travel advice, the importance of travel insurance, the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and its benefits, and key publications with relevant travel information on specific issues.
We are also reaching out to Canadians through public information campaigns, such as our recent spring break campaign, which included a technical briefing for the media, specific web pages, and a strong push on social media in an effort to highlight some of the key ways Canadians can ensure their own safety and security while travelling. We will shortly be launching a similar campaign that takes place annually in advance of hurricane season.
Finally, we'd like to thank the committee for its attention to consular services. We very much look forward to the results of this study, which will further contribute to the development of our consular modernization strategy.
I will be happy to respond to further questions after my colleagues have a chance to deliver their own opening remarks.