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Evidence of meeting #32 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Les Linklater  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Peter Hill  Director General, Post-Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency
Jennifer Irish  Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Michael MacDonald  Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Public Safety Canada
Alexandre Roger  Procedural Clerk, House of Commons
Joe Oliver  Director General, Border Integrity, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Marie Estabrooks  Manager, Biometrics Policy (programs and projects), Emerging Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency
Chuck Walker  Director General, Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Alain Desruisseaux  Director General, Admissibility Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Sean Rehaag  Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Representative, David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights - University of Toronto
Audrey Macklin  Representative, Professor, Faculty of Law and School for Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto, David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights - University of Toronto
Barbara Jackman  Lawyer, As an Individual

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Sorry, Ms. Estabrooks, were you going to add to that?

10 a.m.

Marie Estabrooks Manager, Biometrics Policy (programs and projects), Emerging Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

I think Mr. Linklater has adequately responded.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Okay. Great.

How fast would the fingerprints be checked? I know this isn't CSI. They're going to send this over to the RCMP. How long would that person likely be held?

10 a.m.

Manager, Biometrics Policy (programs and projects), Emerging Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Marie Estabrooks

We estimate that in secondary processing it will add, at maximum, seven minutes to the examination.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

That's not very intrusive, so that's really good.

I know in this country, unfortunately, we've had several instances of criminals who have been deported multiple times and have regained entry multiple times. How is this system going to be able to combat that kind of an occurrence? Some of these have been very serious criminals who have committed very serious crimes.

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

Right. I think the minister gave a list of individuals who had been deported multiple times who had come back to Canada by using false documents or impersonating someone else.

By locking in the identity of all individuals who require a visa before they come to Canada, we'll be able to eliminate the potential for misrepresentation or individuals trying to use tampered documents that are not their own. We will have the capacity to be able to identify individuals before they even arrive at a port of entry by denying them a new visa because of their adverse history. Or essentially, we will be able to—at the port of entry if required—take enforcement action if the identity of the individual in front of the officer does not match that which is in the database.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Then they're held, and I guess the RCMP would look into those individuals. Or are they just turned away?

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

It would start with the CBSA at examination and then of course we would see how events play out. The idea would be that the individual would be denied access and returned. But if they chose to make a claim for refugee status, we would have to accept that if they were determined to be eligible.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

CBSA is not here, but I would wonder how many people have already been caught? Oh, sorry, you are. I was thinking of the other gentleman, my apologies.

How many people have already been caught fraudulently trying to get into Canada? I know you don't have biometrics in place to do that yet, but have you been able to catch anybody doing that already?

10 a.m.

Manager, Biometrics Policy (programs and projects), Emerging Border Programs, Canada Border Services Agency

Marie Estabrooks

We do have a number of examples where biometrics has helped us identify people. I don't have exact stats in front of me, but it certainly is a tool that allows us to identify somebody who's using a fraudulent document or a different name. It's a huge advantage at the border.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Now the database we would have on biometrics, that would be transferrable with other allies like the U.S., the U.K., Britain, that sort of thing? You would have the process in place to be able to exchange information quickly?

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

Perhaps I'll ask the RCMP to supplement, but as I said in my initial remarks, what will happen is that we will take the biometrics overseas and they will be transmitted to the RCMP, who will actually store and do the checks on our behalf.

April 30th, 2012 / 10 a.m.

C/Supt Chuck Walker Director General, Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

That's correct. As far as standards go, the biometric standard is consistent between the countries that were named earlier. In fact, we have a body called the International Information Consortium, which consists of the U.K., the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. They communicate regularly on standards with respect to the exchange of biometric information, so really it's a question of appropriate agreements in place, as was spoken about before the break, and the manner in which the information is shared.

From the technical perspective, there is no issue.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

You talked about time and resources. What impact will this have? Things are time and money as well, and it costs the country when we're bogged down in administrative processes. What impact will that have on simple efficiencies, on simple budgets for CBSA and others?

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

In terms of implementation of the project, I mentioned that we would be looking to set a fee for biometrics, so we would be cost recovering a portion of the expenditure associated with taking the biometric.

We are looking at expanding our network of visa application centres around the world, to be able to ensure there are a number of points of service available where individuals can go to have the biometrics taken, as is the case for a number of countries. The U.S., the U.K., for example, are also using these types of services.

I won't say there will be no impact on individuals seeking to apply to come to Canada, but the benefits, as you pointed out from your own experience with NEXUS, and the investment of going forward to provide the biometrics is ultimately helpful for further facilitation as the identity has been locked in.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Ms. Sims.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

I have to stipulate that I'm one of those who is very protective of any invasion of my privacy, so I always have lots of questions around biometrics. It's not that I have anything to hide, but I always worry about where that data is going to go.

My understanding was that in Bill C-31, the biometric limitations that are spelled out there were only going to be used to determine identity. But beyond that I'm gathering there is all kinds of sharing that goes on, so maybe you could further outline for me how the biometric information we are collecting for this purpose under Bill C-31 could be used beyond that.

10:05 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

I'll ask Mr. Desruisseaux to respond.

10:05 a.m.

Alain Desruisseaux Director General, Admissibility Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

The biometrics will be collected for immigration and border management purposes. Beyond that fact, the biometrics information will be shared with CIC and the CBSA. As Les Linklater mentioned, it will be stored by the RCMP and the information will be used for law enforcement as well—and there are real benefits to that check if there are any known criminals who would try to enter Canada—and also to facilitate travel.

In some cases, the information can be used to collect additional data with respect to information that has been collected at crime scenes, which may also support the work of law enforcement agents when it comes to victim identification. So there are several possible uses in this area.

There are very strong privacy safeguards that will be developed. CIC has been working very closely with the Privacy Commissioner and her office. Canada has among the most robust rules in this area, and it is certainly the intent to pay a lot of attention to that dimension.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Have privacy impact assessments been done under clauses 6, 9, 30, 47, and 78? Have they been done already?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Admissibility Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Alain Desruisseaux

There is one that was done already with regard to the services that will be contracted to the VACs. There will be others coming, which we hope are going to be public.

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I think it becomes really important for this committee, and for us, to know that those have been done before we start looking at the legislation more. If you want me to, I can repeat the clauses, but I'm hoping that you got them the first time.

This is a huge issue, and this is the kind of thing, as you know, that makes most Canadians nervous, because we really do value our privacy, not that we have anything to hide. Right now there is a limit. It's a photo, and it's going to be fingerprints. Those are the only two biometric data we're talking about.

Has there been any thought given to elements or sub-elements that could be used? Do you have other plans in the works?

10:05 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Les Linklater

No. At this point, the international standards really do rely on fingerprints and face recognition. That is a standard we will move towards. Much like the Americans, under the perimeter strategy announced by the Prime Minister and the President, we're looking to ensure that we have complementary technological approaches.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Also, I realize that the information is going to be housed with the RCMP, but I want to know which other government institutions and non-government institutions—the private sector and other groups—could have access to that. Who can access the information once the RCMP has it? We really do want to have specificity rather than just generalities.

10:10 a.m.

Director General, Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

C/Supt Chuck Walker

Certainly. There are two ways to access the information we keep in the identification data bank at CMP PPU 030, which is described in Info Source. That information is verified through the use of biometrics. However, there is a criminal-name index capability through the CPIC system, the Canadian Police Information Centre, that will enable a user to at least determine whether there appears to be a record in the identification data bank. But it always comes with the caveat that the only way to be certain it's the same person is through the submission of fingerprints.

With respect to the exchange of biometric information, that's achieved through the real time identification system the RCMP has implemented over the last several years. The only agencies that can connect to that system are agencies that are approved through privacy processes, such as the CBSA and the police. For civil screening purposes, following the requirements of privacy, and with the informed consent of the individual, a private fingerprinting company, which has been accredited by the RCMP and has been connected to the system, can also submit prints electronically to RTID to receive a response.