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Evidence of meeting #44 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was terrorist.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

John Davies  Director General, National Security Policy, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Michael MacDonald  Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you, Chair.

Welcome, Minister.

I just want to refer to page 17 of the strategy, where it says that Canada will also be involved in “increasing interaction with non-traditional partners Canada has less history in dealing with.” What do you mean by that, more or less?

4 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Traditionally, we have been a part of the so-called Five Eyes: the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Americans, the British, and us. Those have been our traditional partners. What we've come to realize is that the threat of terrorism impacts upon other countries that we do not necessarily have close security relations with. In fact, some of the trips I've had abroad deal with building up those types of relationships with other countries so that we can enter into security agreements with these individuals.

As I indicated, those types of agreements, although very important, also raise new issues. How do we share information with these individuals? They may not all have the same type of democracy we have, for example. They may not have the same adherence to the rule of law that Canadians have. So with each country then, we have to look at them and ask: how do we share information appropriately with this type of an ally?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

You seemed to mention before that these agreements with these new, non-traditional partners for the sharing of information will have to respect the privacy rights of Canadians and so on. Who's going to determine which independent government agency or organization is going to determine whether these agreements are in the interests of protecting Canadians' privacy, or are not unreasonable in terms of what they contain? Is it the Privacy Commissioner of Canada?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Well, in fact, it is, to a great extent, the Privacy Commissioner in Canada who informs us about some of the steps we should be taking on the agreements that we are making.

June 5th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Surely you know, Minister, that a lot is going to be put on the shoulders of the Privacy Commissioner. She will supposedly be required to scrutinize the measures that you've introduced under Bill C-30. Now she'll have to vet agreements with non-traditional partners, yet her budget has been cut. So how is she going to get all of this work done?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Well, I haven't had that discussion with her. Every time my department has engaged the Privacy Commissioner, she has been very proactive in wanting to involve that office in the analysis. Right now that office is involved in the Beyond the Border initiative that we have with the Americans, which the Prime Minister and the President signed.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Yes, that's another thing she has to deal with. That's a third thing, so she really needs more resources.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

There are many more than three things that she has to deal with.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

No, no, it's the three new things on top of everything else she's doing.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

However—

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I'd like to move on to another topic.

Obviously, you mentioned you don't want CSIS to be engaged in illegal activities. You obviously don't want to be blindsided by shady behaviour on the part of CSIS. Therefore, you need to keep an eye on what the agency is doing, for the good of your own position and for the good of Canadians, which is why it is quite surprising that the government is getting rid of the position of Inspector General.

I believe there were over 20 people in that office who were dedicated to ensuring that CSIS followed the law and that you as a minister would not be blindsided. In fact, I think you appreciated the role that the Inspector General has played. If I'm not mistaken, you said at one point in 2010 the following: The Inspector General performs an important review function that supports me in my role as Minister and ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies.

I think you need those resources. I'm just wondering why you weren't able to get the resources you needed or you weren't able to get cabinet approval to maintain a position that you have said was valuable to your work.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

In fact, the reorganization has done nothing to change my substantive ability to keep an eye on CSIS and, more importantly, not just my keeping an eye on CSIS through Public Safety. Remember, the Inspector General was not an independent office; it reported to CSIS. It was not an independent organization.

Public Safety can carry out much of the same function; plus, we have strengthened SIRC, the independent review agency, which can conduct the same types of functions the Inspector General carried out.

The only difference is that we've eliminated about $800,000 annually in administrative costs. We have not diminished the capacity in any way to look at the substantive activities of CSIS and to ensure that they are co-operating.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

But the Inspector General had very specific powers under sections 30 to 33 of the CSIS Act, which the department, in reviewing itself, would not have.

As a matter of fact, what's interesting about this budget—which is much, much more than a financial plan for Canada—is that it gives the department the ability to review the services-specific activities and provide the committee with a report on review, if it considers that a review by the service would be inappropriate.

The department doesn't have the same powers, as far as I can see, that the Inspector General had under sections 30 to 33 of the CSIS Act. I think it's a bit problematic that it's in a budget and that we seem to be weakening your ability to get the information you need.

Let me—

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Scarpaleggia. We're going to have to cut that off. You'll have to get an answer in the next round, because his time has expired.

Mr. Scott, for five minutes in the second round.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for coming in.

I wonder if I could ask just a few questions that I think require only short answers before asking one that goes to the heart of the rule of law question that you've brought up.

As my colleague Mr. Garrison referred to it, we do have the concluding observations of the recent Committee Against Torture, and a couple of the recommendations go directly to the heart of the rule of law principle in the resilience document. One effectively recommends, in very strong terms, that Messrs. Almalki, Elmaati, and Nureddin be compensated in the same way, albeit not necessarily at the same level, as Mr. Arar. This is a specific case, but it very much goes to the heart of the question of security intelligence and what we do when it goes wrong.

So the quick question is, does your ministry, in tandem with any other ministries, have any intention of adhering to this recommendation?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

This is a matter before the courts. I won't get involved in that.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

The Arar commission report, which has long been lauded for its recommendations with respect to models of oversight of national security intelligence operations, is also referenced by the Committee Against Torture. I'm just wondering if there's any short way you can tell us whether that is still under consideration.

The O'Connor commission report referenced models of surveillance. Could you indicate whether you're moving entirely in a new direction, including strengthening SIRC? Could you give us information on that?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

In respect of SIRC and the whole issue of oversight, I want to emphasize that the elimination of the Inspector General in no way limits my ability to get information out of CSIS. If Public Safety can't get that, which is essentially acting on my behalf in the same way that the Inspector General did, I can request that SIRC do an investigation into that. So the oversight remains exactly the same and we save $800,000 in administrative costs.

As a result of the Air India inquiry action plan, we will continue to preserve the effectiveness of the review mechanisms that are already in place, such as in SIRC, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner.

So I think that we have the full ability to hold CSIS accountable, either through administrative directions of the Department of Public Safety or through a request to SIRC.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you very much.

So I understand that you have pretty much settled on the system you would like to have.

With respect to the rule of law, you did mention non-traditional partners being part of the security-sharing apparatus transnationally. Mr. Scarpaleggia brought that up as his core question.

We have experience. We've had almost 10 years of experience, for example, with Afghanistan. We know that CSIS was in the field. We also know that other intelligence agencies were there. I'm wondering whether or not there are any active studies going on about lessons learned with respect to CSIS or any other intelligence agencies that you have to be cognizant of with respect to intelligence acquisition in Afghanistan.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

I can't say that I've received a specific briefing on Afghanistan solely. I've certainly had briefings on many countries and our involvement, in the intelligence we have received from many countries, but I don't quite know what you're saying in terms of lessons learned. I can tell you that SIRC, CSIS, and Public Safety continue to learn on a daily basis and that I as the minister continue to learn on a daily basis.

I think the plan itself that we came up with is part of that learning experience. I like the word Mr. Davies used when he said that this is an “evergreen” document. We will continue to learn and we will continue to improve the strategy, but we think that the fundamentals of the strategy are correct in the four principles that we have identified. I'm pleased that the New Democrats are supportive of those four principles.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Thank you, Mr. Scott.

We'll now move back to the government, to Ms. Hoeppner and Mr. Aspin.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you. I will be sharing my time with Mr. Aspin.

Mr. Toews, I want to thank you for your strong commitment, which you articulated very well, to keeping Canadians safe and to putting the priority of the safety of Canadians first.

We brought you here today to speak about our strategy to counter terrorism. There seems to be more of a focus on CSIS and oversight, which is important, but I think it's also important to note that CSIS does an excellent job for our country. I think we are a model throughout the world for the work we do. As much as oversight is obviously very important, it just seems quite interesting to me that the opposition would rather focus on possible suspicions of CSIS as opposed to our strategy.

So I'm going to bring us back to our strategy for countering terrorism. I want to ask you about the whole part of our strategy where we have terrorist listings.

I want to ask you—or your officials, if they would prefer to answer—about the ability of terrorist organizations, if they're not listed, to try to raise money within Canada. So it's not so much about direct radicalization, let's say, or violent acts in Canada, but about the way that possible terrorist organizations would try to use Canada to raise money, and how listing them can help stop that. This affect Canada as well as the rest of the world, protecting them from terrorism.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Well, like ideology, I think that money is the lifeblood of terrorism. These organizations absolutely require money to carry out their evil intentions.

That's why the approach of the Government of Canada has been multi-faceted in terms of the reporting mechanisms and the agreements, for example, that we've signed with other countries, including with the Americans, in terms of the transfer of moneys that raise suspicions—even things like the $10,000 limit in terms of deposits crossing borders. It's not simply organized crime that needs to move cash; it's also the terrorists.

The more disconcerting issue, of course, is the intimidation of communities here that may have an ethnic, a cultural, or a religious connection to these terrorist groups, and the fact that individuals are extorted to provide money. Again, this requires not necessarily new laws, because whatever form the extortion is in, it's illegal, whether it's done by a terrorist, by organized crime, or by an ordinary criminal. What we need especially in this context is the cooperation of the individuals from the communities where they are being extorted. The most effective means to fight terrorism, other than security agencies themselves, is community involvement in this respect.

I think Mr. MacDonald has some comments to add.

4:15 p.m.

Michael MacDonald Director General, National Security Operations Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

I'll be brief.

The efforts to combat terrorist financing are an extremely good example of both international and domestic efforts dovetailing together to achieve an objective. Coming out of 9/11, that's one of the main objectives that the international community had, where the United Nations Security Council began listing certain entities associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and countries in their domestic legislation would implement those efforts to take those listed entities by the United Nations in a consolidated fashion and put it in action in domestic law.

Very briefly, listing achieves two primary objectives. One, as the minister has mentioned, is that it takes away the money, the ability to finance. In effort, we're denying, which is one of the pillars of the strategy, the terrorists' or terrorist groups' efforts to raise funds to do activities. But we're also addressing support. You'll note, in the Criminal Code listing, provisions that it's an offence to support a terrorist entity or to provide funds, for example, to a terrorist entity.

So you're taking a very consolidated international effort to a domestic effort and achieving two very effective purposes at the same time.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much.