Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Patrick Tanguy. I'm the assistant deputy minister responsible for emergency preparedness and programs at the Department of Public Safety and I'll be the first one to speak.
First of all, I want to give members an overview of the role of the Department of Public Safety.
Public Safety is responsible for providing leadership relating to emergency management in Canada and ensuring a coordinated response to events affecting the national interest, including terrorism and human-induced and natural disasters.
In 2004, following a wide range of emergencies, the Government Operations Centre was created by the Government of Canada in order to provide a centralized, stable, 24-7 facility to coordinate and support a whole-of-government response to these events. As such, the Government Operations Centre is the principal means by which the minister of public safety exercises a leadership role in establishing an integrated federal approach to emergency response, as mandated in the Emergency Management Act.
The mandate of the Government Operations Centre is to support response coordination of events affecting national interests, as I was saying previously. It is—and it's important to focus on this—an interdepartmental, response-focused asset of the Government of Canada, working in support of departments and agencies at the national level.
The Government Operations Centre is charged with the following functions: to provide definitive national-level situation awareness to partners and senior decision-makers; to provide 24-7 watch and early warning for government, and in support of partners' mandates; to ensure a whole-of-government response capability; to ensure the efficient use of Government of Canada strategic assets and, when offered, provincial and territorial assets. This is a key asset for the minister and the deputy minister community to get the mechanisms and advice to support their direction.
During operations, the governance of the Government Operations Centre is in accordance with the federal emergency response plan.
What is the federal emergency response plan? It is the Government of Canada's all-hazards response plan, designed to harmonize federal emergency response efforts with those of provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. The plan outlines the processes and mechanisms to facilitate an integrated Government of Canada response to an emergency.
I will now take a little time to talk about the situation in Lacolle.
In early 2017, there was a notable increase of migrants seeking refuge in Canada through Emerson, Manitoba. That trend did not ease at all during the following summer months and the number of asylum seekers increased significantly, particularly near the border crossing at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, in Quebec
The increase in the number of asylum seekers created significant strain on the resources available to federal authorities, who play a key role in process processing asylum seeker claims, and on provincial authorities, who provide lodging, medical and social services.
Last August 4, the Government Operations Centre activated an event team to ensure the ongoing whole-of-government coordination of the federal response to manage the influx of asylum seekers arriving in the area of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. Subsequently, from August 4th to August 28th, departmental liaison officers and subject matter experts from the Canada Border Services Agency, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Shared Services Canada arrived at the Government Operations Centre to identify key requirements for interim lodging, a triage centre and a joint processing centre.
On August 7, the province of Quebec requested federal assistance for temporary shelter for the asylum seekers. That same day, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of National Defence promptly accepted the Quebec government's request for federal assistance in dealing with the asylum seeker situation.
It is important to recognize that the Government Operations Centre, the GOC, is working closely with all the partners.
I would like to close with a word on the role that the GOC will play in the strategic response plan.
Based on the lessons learned from the events at Lacolle, and in cooperation with the responsible departments and agencies, we are developing contingency plans so that we are able to respond as well as, or better than, we did before, to another influx of asylum seekers.
I will finish there, Mr. Chair,