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Evidence of meeting #3 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 funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stephen Rigby  President, President's Office, Canada Border Services Agency
William Elliott  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Don Head  Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada
Myles Kirvan  Associate Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister's Office, Department of Public Safety

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

The problem of gangs is a very real one. It's not just in prisons. Obviously, in the community crime is increasingly coming from street gangs. By the estimates of the Correctional Service of Canada, close to 10% of the prisoners in our prisons have gang affiliations, almost all of which they had before they entered prison.

So with regard to the issue of transfers and the impact of transfers on our national anti-gang strategy, I'm going to ask Mr. Head if he has any comment.

4:45 p.m.

Don Head Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada

Thank you, Minister.

I'll address the issue you raised about the special handling unit, which is our most secure facility. We use that facility to hold the most dangerous individuals within the system, and we currently have a capacity for about 90 of those types of individuals. On any given day we have between 65 and 75 individuals held at the special handling unit.

We have been looking at whether there is a need to create a second special handling unit in the country, probably out towards western Canada—this one is located in the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines complex—to see whether that will give us the ability to manage some of the most dangerous individuals who are involved in organized crime or severe violence within the institutions. Normally, though, what happens is that we try to manage the gang members in the same province. We're well aware of the issues of transporting the issues or concerns associated with one gang that is moving into the territory of another or trying to establish a territory that didn't exist before.

Sometimes we're not able to do this—you're absolutely right—and we have to move them between institutions or between regions. We have five regions. That's how the country is divided up in our organization. We have the ability in each medium- and maximum-security institution to hold problematic inmates in what's called segregation units, so we're able to take them out of circulation if they are causing problems. But if we get a large influx or a large number of individuals who are causing problems, then we have to look at moving them across the country.

On the flip side, in the case of one of the challenges we have right now, we're starting to see some gains from the activities we're undertaking to get offenders to disaffiliate from gangs and then safely place them somewhere so that they are not continually influenced by existing gang members.

As for the latter part of the question, as we go forward we are assessing what our needs and capacities are for placement and for programs and interventions and, just as important, what to do as these individuals move back out into the community. Even though we can contain them for a period of time, we're concerned about what happens once they go back out under community supervision or reach their warranted expiry. We're taking all of that into account as part of the revised anti-gang strategy we're pursuing within the organization.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

We'll go over to Mr. MacKenzie now, please.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, my colleague across the table indicated that we had made a number of announcements, and he was concerned about the effect of those announcements.

In one of the announcements, I recall that what the Prime Minister committed was an additional 1,000 members to the RCMP. But another announcement we made was of a stipend for recruits at the RCMP college, which had been eliminated some time previously. My understanding is that when recruits went to the RCMP academy, they weren't paid. I believe sometime last year an arrangement was made to see that they received moneys while they were there in training. I think this has been standard. I certainly saw it, as I think many others did, as an opportunity to aid recruitment.

Do you know or can you tell me how we've made out with respect to adding these 1,000 people? How many additional people have joined the RCMP since that time?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I'll ask the commissioner whether he has anything to add at the end of this.

The recruitment campaign by the RCMP has been very vigorous and active. They have been out in the community with their “We're hiring” campaign, with all kinds of different approaches to raise profile and attract people. It has been meeting with success. From 2005-06 to fiscal year 2007-08 there was a net increase of more than 1,500 RCMP officers, and that continues to grow. Recruitment is going very well. There are strong classes of cadets going through. Obviously, the more than 1,500 well exceeds the 1,000 recruits that was our commitment. We still have more to do, of course, to meet all our targets and keep the force strong and continually deal with the ongoing attrition and retirement, but I think progress is going very well.

In total, approximately 1,900 recruits are going to be enrolled in the training academy for 2009-10. That's a pretty good result, which is in part related to that marketing campaign, in part related to the benefit of the cadet pay that is in place.

Do you want to add anything, Commissioner?

4:50 p.m.

Commr William Elliott

Yes, perhaps with respect to graduates. The minister spoke about enrolment. We will graduate this fiscal year, the year ending March 31, 2009, just over 1,400 new police officers.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Does that give an added number to where we were, additional to the past?

4:50 p.m.

Commr William Elliott

Yes, we anticipate that by the end of this fiscal year there will be attrition, members leaving the force, of just over 700, so we will add double that number to our ranks.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Okay. I appreciate that. That the announcement was made and the results were obtained is what's important, I think.

I did see something on television, which is not necessarily the best way to judge, showing that in British Columbia you had a recruitment day. There was a hall booked. I don't know whether you saw it or heard from your people, but my understanding, from what I saw and heard, was that the hall was full of people looking to join the RCMP.

4:55 p.m.

Commr William Elliott

I guess the good news is that we have so many recruiting events across the country on an ongoing basis that I'm not familiar with that specific event, but I have heard similar reports. There was an event last week in Fort McMurray. Normally we might have half a dozen or ten people there, and we had more like 70.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Obviously there's not an issue at this point with recruitment.

4:55 p.m.

Commr William Elliott

Not at the moment, no. People are applying in record numbers and we are enrolling people in record numbers.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Are you sharing your time with Mr. Stanton?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Yes.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

Mr. Stanton.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

How much time is left?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

One minute.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Very quickly, Minister, one of the things that I know Canada has been working very closely on is the western hemisphere travel initiative. I wonder if you could update us on what progress is being made there, especially in light of the importance of travel as well as business between Canadians and our counterparts to the south.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Yes. The objective for us on the western hemisphere travel initiative was to get as many people as possible ramped up with the travel-compliant documents by June 1 of this year, which is the new projected date for implementation.

There has been very strong success. We have 16,811,551 people with passports as of December 31, 2008. We have 187,000 with NEXUS cards, 65,000 with FAST identification, and then there are enhanced drivers licences, the new thing with the provinces that have done it. There's a very small number so far, only 521, but still, that's pretty much on target for where we wanted to be at this point. We're in very good shape in terms of meeting our targets.

There's another statistic that I think is significant and which also will be of particular interest when I chat with the homeland secretary from the United States. It has to do with how many people crossing the border right now have travel-compliant documents. I believe the number for us is that 79% of our travellers already have it. We have still a bit of a gap there, but for the Americans coming across, it's 76%.

So right now, looking at the progress, ourselves against the Americans, the western hemisphere travel initiative is their initiative, and we're doing a marginally better job of already having our travellers with travel-compliant documents to meet those needs. It's not necessarily a good thing that they aren't as far on as we would like them to be, but it is a point to make that we've been working very hard and very vigorously to meet the objectives of that program to make it work. I think that shows strong good faith on our part. It's obviously good for our travellers and for Canadians and it's a demonstration for the Americans.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Garry Breitkreuz

The minute is up, so we'll have to go to Mr. Oliphant.

February 11th, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Congratulations, Minister, on your appointment. I'm hoping it slows down your ten percenters that come into my riding.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I have long had an affection for that riding.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

You're going to be too busy for that, I'm sure.

My question, I hope, ties together a couple of the topics we've had tonight: corrections and crime prevention.

Mr. Head might remember my interest in corrections from my days in Whitehorse, when we shared our time there. I was an advocate and a chaplain in the jail there, the territorial facility.

We know there's a disproportionate number of first nations people serving time in our jails. Some of that is systemic. Some of that is circumstantial. There are many, many studies on this.

My concern is that the crime prevention activity being undertaken by your department does not efficiently or effectively target first nations communities to actually help them. When first nations people arrive in jails, the programs are often not culturally sensitive, and they are not helping them deal with some of their issues while they're there. Nor do they help them prepare to go out into the community.

I think this is a national tragedy. I think all Canadians have to bear a responsibility for this. I'm hoping that you, as a new minister, can begin to look at this in an integrated way. I'm wondering what you plan to do.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I apologize for not having fully answered the question earlier on the national crime prevention strategy, but I was stopped by Mr. Holland from doing that.

I didn't get to the third group, which was aboriginals, who are the focus of those programs, and northern communities. They have become part of the new, restructured, refocused program, as I said: the young and those at risk in terms of gang activity; offenders released into the community; and aboriginal northern communities. Those are sort of the three target areas. So they are, as part of the refocused program instituted in June, one of the targets. Hopefully, we'll be doing a little bit more on the front end.

I was in Vancouver a few weeks ago and made the announcements on the crime prevention strategy there. There are five programs we are funding. I made the announcement at an aboriginal friendship centre. Several of them focus on aboriginals--young people--in that community. They are all focused on young people and on diverting them from gang or criminal activity. That's an example of how we are doing that. They are very good programs. I was impressed with the people involved, with the leadership involved, and I'm optimistic that they will yield real results.

One of the problems with these things is that measurement is a tough thing. But you can actually look at individuals who are involved and see what they do down the road. Do they end up going into lives of crimes? Of course, they are long-term, and they take long-term efforts.

In terms of the corrections facilities themselves, I know that there have been considerable efforts made over time to integrate the presence of elders within, for example, the prison system and at parole board hearings. They are increasing the number of parole board hearings that involve having an elder present. So I know that there are considerable efforts being made on that front. There is more to be done, I expect, but I'll ask if Mr. Dion or Mr. Head have anything they want to add.