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Evidence of meeting #14 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was agencies.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim Judd  Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
William Sweeney  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Myles Kirvan  Associate Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister's Office, Department of Public Safety
Marc-Arthur Hyppolite  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada
Stephen Rigby  President, Canada Border Services Agency

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Of course, in government we're always choosing among priorities, and one of the ways we do that is through the strategic review process, to look at making savings where we can and apply resources where they're required more significantly. Correctional Services has gone through a strategic review process like that this past year, which is reflected in the current numbers, and it was one of the reasons why what appears like a relatively modest increase is actually a much more significant increase in the very priority areas that you indicated. Savings have been made in other areas where things were not done efficiently, or programs did not work well, in order that resources could be redirected to much higher-priority areas.

For example, on the mental health front, we will now be having assessments in the first 90 days after intake into a federal penitentiary for all individuals. Previously we didn't have that kind of mental health assessment of every individual going into our prisons. That's a new program that will be introduced. I think that is actually coming on stream this month across the entire penitentiary system. For example, in that 90-day intake period there was never any programming offered, and with shorter penitentiary sentences overall, that meant less treatment and less rehabilitation for prisoners.

A lot of what the strategic review did was provide some money to begin to introduce programming into that first 90 days. As well, there was an overall look at the relevance of programming. There has been some attention, for example, to the closure of the prison farms. Those were costing a net loss for six farms of $4 million a year. We felt that money could be more adequately redirected to programs where people would actually gain employable skills, as virtually nobody who went through those prison farms ended up with employable skills, because they were based on a model of how agriculture was done 50 years ago, when it was labour intensive, and not capital intensive, as it is today. That might have been fine while they were in prison, but it didn't provide usable work skills. We are taking that money and redirecting it again to programs that are more likely to provide employment-based skills. This will continue.

One of the difficulties, particularly on the mental health front, is that the challenge is in part money and that more resources are being provided, but part of it is the simple ability to hire the skilled personnel. There's a need for psychiatrists, psychologists. We could give them all the money they want, but it's simply difficult to find enough available in the marketplace who are willing to work within our prison system. There is a shortage of that, so Corrections Canada is placing increased focus and attention on recruitment and retention of mental health workers, whether it be nurses, psychologists, or psychiatrists. It will take time for that to have an effect.

9:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

I'd like to ask you one final question. I understand a lot of your explanations.

You said in response to a question by my Liberal colleague that you intend soon to establish the integrated oversight committee recommended in the O'Connor report and by many other stakeholders.

By what deadline do you promise to establish that integrated committee? Do you have a budget to do it? Do you intend to establish a parliamentary committee to oversee these security agencies? By when are you going to introduce a bill to act on that promise, which has been made a number of times?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

We're out of time, but if you have a brief response, go ahead.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Very quickly, obviously we will be waiting until we see Mr. Major's recommendations before we publicly introduce a solution. A solution will require legislation, so it will have to make it through the parliamentary process. I don't expect you will see costs for it out of this budget year, but the associate deputy can help me if I'm wrong on that.

9:30 a.m.

D/Commr Marc-Arthur Hyppolite Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada

That's correct.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

So that would be a future year's item.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

Mr. Harris, please.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for coming to the committee, Minister.

I too wanted to ask about the integrated oversight mechanism proposed by Justice O'Connor. It's pretty clear that Justice O'Connor had a full opportunity to hear from everyone concerned about the need and the issues. He studied oversight mechanisms throughout the world and did considerable work on preparing this and presenting it as his recommendation. It's been accepted apparently by everyone except you, sir, and your government. The fact that there's another inquiry on now and there may be another inquiry next year seems to me to be frankly an excuse not to act on very compelling recommendations, a very significant need explored. The fact that there is another inquiry ongoing should not stop you from acting on the very thoughtful and comprehensive study and recommendations made by Justice O'Connor. Why? Respond to the fact that this is just an excuse to put off dealing with a very important recommendation and a significant need.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

There's not much that I would disagree with in what you have said. In politics there's always a tremendous pressure on politicians to act, to show action and to show results quickly. One has to balance that against making considered decisions.

Were we at the start of the Air India inquiry, I might agree with you that it would be the time to act; however, as that inquiry is completed and my understanding is that the findings of Mr. Major are apparently very close to being completed, if not already completed—I heard some suggestion that it may be off for translation, but I don't know what the exact situation is—we are so close that it seems to me to make sense to wait that last little bit longer to get it right.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

To be fair, Minister, we're not talking about quick action. We're talking about a report that's already two years old, and there's been plenty of time to act by now. I realize you weren't in the portfolio for all that time.

My colleagues have asked this question, but it seems to me to be rather a different position that this government took with the case of Mr. Maher Arar, in which very shortly after the O'Connor report came down the Commissioner of the RCMP came and made a full apology on behalf of the RCMP, from the approach you're taking—saying it's before the courts—in dealing with the case of Messrs. Almalki, Elmaati, and Nureddin. It was before the courts then, I submit to you, and it's before the courts now. This has nothing to do with whether or not the government can come before this committee to say that it apologizes to these individuals for what has happened to them.

What has changed, and what is different about them? Why are you treating them differently, and why are you ignoring the fact that these individuals were also harmed by actions of this government and its agencies?

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Again, I'm simply going to do the prudent thing that a Solicitor General does and not comment on a matter that's before the courts.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

That's an excuse, I suggest to you, Mr. Minister.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I think it's the prudent thing to do.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

It's an excuse, particularly when parliamentary privilege is available for this particular situation.

Mr. Minister, you submitted that public safety was better off with the actions taken with respect to the RCMP, the CBSA, and other matters, and yet we see a decrease in the main estimates for the RCMP of some $29 million, a decrease for the Canada Border Services Agency of some $4.8 million, and the CPC has been mentioned—$2.6 million. How is it that people should feel safer when the budgets for these organizations are decreased?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

First, on the issue of parliamentary privilege and speech, I think that might be fine to extend if I were concerned about some personal prosecution of myself, that I could avail myself of parliamentary privilege. But I can tell you, I spent much of Saturday night reading a decision of the courts that was extensively filled with comments from Parliament that played into the decision-making. We have to be cognizant that what we say has consequences. The words I speak in the Solicitor General portion of my role may have weight that affects those issues.

In terms of the adjustments that appear as decreases for the Canada Border Services Agency, largely what you see there is simply a realignment of funding between fiscal years. There are matters that were originally budgeted to apply in this year—for example, eManifest—a lot of which will be moved on to subsequent years through the implementation, and therefore you don't see an actual reduction in the operating budget and in what they're going to need to do. It's really a re-profiling of money between the years.

What appears as a net decrease for the RCMP again has a lot to do with the fact that there's been a decision to leave until later, in supplementary estimates, a lot of the funding that deals with the revenue side, the contract policing money that comes in. Some of this gets into boring accounting, but the fact is that overall the RCMP is increasing the amount of money it has available for its significant obligations.

As I said, the total appropriation doesn't include the projected $80 million to $90 million that you'll see for the federal share of incremental contract policing; that will show up in supplementary estimates, as well as some additional funding that was there for the Olympics. Overall, you'll see that there is additional funding to allow a $50 million increase of re-spendable revenues. That's $79.2 million less a $20 million decrease. So overall, you'll find the RCMP has increasing resources to deal with the issues they need to deal with.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

I have limited time. A lot of Canadians are very appalled at the sad death of Ashley Smith in federal custody after spending eleven and a half months in segregation suffering clearly from mental illness and desiring mental health assistance, in fact filing a grievance to do so, which wasn't even looked at until a couple of months after her death.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator recommended a whole series of actions, and the complaint was that they had not been acted upon. I have limited time, but I hope I get the chance again--

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Just pose your question, please.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

One of the recommendations that he made in his annual report for 2007-08 was that the Correctional Service, in its training initiatives, make it a priority for the current fiscal year to ensure that all front-line employees are trained in dealing with mentally ill offenders.

Can you tell me, Minister, whether that has been done and how much money has been allocated for that? Has this process started, and have people been trained?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Yes, a lot of changes have been happening in there, and now mental health training has been developed and has been provided to front-line staff, both institutional and community staff. They've all received that training. As well, suicide prevention training has been provided for all staff who have regular interactions with prisoners.

The Ashley Smith issue is an important one because it's not about Ashley Smith, although it is. It's all about the whole change in our corrections system. There has been major change. I know I don't have a lot of time on this, but in a nutshell we de-institutionalized the mentally ill in our provincial facilities in the seventies, and since that time, and increasingly and likely into the future, we are simply re-institutionalizing the mentally ill in prisons. We are criminalizing the mentally ill. That's a big major issue that we need to spend a lot of time on. It's an issue that involves the provinces and the health care system, and it's something, as I've said in the past, that I intend to make a major focus and priority.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

Mr. Norlock, please.

April 2nd, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister, and your officials for coming this morning. I'd like to touch on something that concerns me. It was the Munk Centre report on cyber espionage, which, as they stated, is an issue whose time has come. I'll just read you a few excerpts from their second report in the Information Warfare Monitor, and then I'm wondering if you and/or your officials can comment on the issue and how we're preparing to deal with it.

The investigation ultimately uncovered a network of 1,300 infected hosts in 103 countries. Up to 30% of the infected hosts are considered high-value targets and include computers located in the ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs.

They say--and I think they're correct--that this raises more questions than it answers. It does point to a particular area of concern to many in the world and to me. We must be careful to say that they're all allegations, but there is some weight to them. It says that some may conclude that what we lay out here points definitively to China as the culprit, and of course they talk about strategic domains in cyberspace that redress the military imbalance between China and the rest of the world, particularly the United States. Then they quantify it by saying that China has, of course, the world's largest Internet population, and then they say something that I think we all need to know, which is that the Internet was never built with security in mind.

I'm just going through some of the issues. They say:

This report serves as a wake-up call. At the very least, a large percentage of high-value targets compromised by this network demonstrate the relative ease with which a technically unsophisticated approach can quickly be harnessed to create a very effective spynet.

I wonder if you and/or your officials can comment on that.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

The question of cybersecurity and cyberwarfare is really the new frontier. It's the new frontier in national security, and it's the new frontier in defence and military issues. It's one that governments are going to have to pay increasing attention to. It is also the new arms race. It's where every time you come up with a solution or a defence, there's someone on the other side trying to match you step for step.

I think it's fair to say that the Munk Centre report is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are very major problems out there in the private sector and in the public sector. Canada has been working through the Communications Security Establishment, and I think we have been very diligent in working with government departments to ensure that measures are taken to provide optimal protection.

I have a greater concern for the private sector. Some of our big institutions, the banks, have done a good job. But when you get further out there, not all, I think, are sensitive enough to the issues. You can understand, in challenging economic times, even in unchallenging economic times, that the notion of diverting significant resources to defensive protective measures in a business that's trying to make a go of it is not always immediately obvious. So I think we have a role as a government in trying to assist and persuade and heighten awareness on that front.

We have been working on developing a national cybersecurity strategy, which you will hopefully see sometime in the next year. A lot of it will be cumulative and will include what's already going on. There is a lot of activity already going on. But I believe there will also be new initiatives and directions in which we need to go. This is a major concern. It occupies us and our allies. The Americans are engaged in a very similar, almost identical parallel exercise, as are many other countries in the world. It will be something that will occupy us I think for years to come, because as we know, technology keeps changing.

We just saw--well, we may not have seen, since it may have become dormant, for obvious reasons--that virus yesterday. The architecture behind that virus is an example of the things that can be done and are done on the Internet today that we have to be aware of, especially as our business sector and our economy becomes more reliant on the Internet for business mechanisms for our financial systems, and frankly for things like our critical infrastructure.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

This next question has to do with the Correctional Service of Canada, so the minister or the deputy can respond to it.

In my riding, I have Canada's largest federal penitentiary: Warkworth. I have been there several times and have taken an extensive tour of the facility. I must say, we hear a lot of negative things. There is, of course, justification for some of them, but what we don't hear is some of the positive things. I'd like to hear some comment on that.

One of the positive things is the repair of some of our larger military vehicles that is occurring there. Of course, there's CORCAN. They're making furniture, which helps to raise some funds and, more importantly, teaches trades to people. On the tour, one of the trades being taught was sandblasting. I was told by the instructor that save for one person, every single man--because it's a men's prison--who has received his certificate in sandblasting has had a job, often before leaving prison, and we never see him again. I wonder if you could comment on that and on what we're doing as a government to expand on that to help people, first, to get an education, because we know that one of the common denominators for criminal behaviour, of course, is the inability to read and write appropriately, and then, of course, there is getting a trade so that you don't have to rely on a life of anti-social behaviour.

I wonder if you would comment on that.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

You have time for a brief response.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

In terms of CORCAN activity, the job skills stuff, you'll have some up-close contact with some of their work when in the next 12 months they'll be reupholstering all the chairs in the parliamentary restaurant. So that'll be an opportunity for you to inspect the product and work of the folks at the Correctional Service of Canada who are receiving job training.

There is a real challenge on this front. I think there are some success stories, but there's also a recognition in the Correctional Service that we have to do a better job of having people leave in terms of rehabilitation. The most important thing is employability and job skills that are relevant. That's why the strategic review looked to divert resources from programs that were not providing job-relevant skills to new programs that would provide more relevant skills.

The chair is shutting me down.