Evidence of meeting #169 for Public Safety and National Security in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Evan Travers  Acting Director General, Law Enforcement and Border Strategies Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Brian Sauvé  Co-Chair, National Police Federation
Michelaine Lahaie  Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jacques Talbot  Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Department of Justice

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I call the meeting to order.

I see quorum. It is well past 3:30 p.m., and I see that the minister is in his place. The minister is obviously pretty serious, because he has taken off his jacket. I think we're ready to proceed.

As colleagues will know, we did have an understanding as of last week as to how this session on Bill C-98 would proceed. That agreement has changed. In exchange, there won't be any further debate in the House.

The way I intend to proceed is to give the minister his time, and perhaps when he can be brief, he will be brief. We'll go through one round of questions and see whether there's still an appetite for further questions. From there, we'll proceed to the witnesses and then to clause-by-clause consideration. I'm assuming this is agreeable to all members.

That said, I'll ask the minister to present.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

In the spirit of brevity and efficiency, I think I will forgo the opportunity to put a 10-minute statement on the record and just speak informally for a couple of minutes about Bill C-98. Evan Travers and Jacques Talbot from Public Safety Canada are with me and can help to go into the intricacies of the legislation and then respond to any questions you may have. They may also be able to assist if any issues arise when you're hearing from other witnesses, in terms of further information about the meaning or the purpose of the legislation.

Colleagues will know that Bill C-98 is intended to fill the last major gap in the architecture that exists for overseeing, reviewing and monitoring the activities of some of our major public safety and national security agencies. This is a gap that has existed for the better part of 18 years.

The problem arose in the aftermath of 9/11, when there was a significant readjustment around the world in how security agencies would operate. In the Canadian context at that time, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency was divided, with the customs part joining the public safety department and ultimately evolving into CBSA, the Canada Border Services Agency. That left CRA, the Canada Revenue Agency, on its own.

In the reconfiguration of responsibilities following 9/11, many interest groups, stakeholders and public policy observers noted that CBSA, as it emerged, did not have a specific review body assigned to it to perform the watchdog function that SIRC was providing with respect to CSIS or the commissioner's office was providing with respect to the Communications Security Establishment.

The Senate came forward with a proposal, if members will remember, to fix that problem. Senator Willie Moore introduced Bill S-205, which was an inspector general kind of model for filling the gap with respect to oversight of CBSA. While Senator Moore was coming forward with his proposal, we were moving on the House side with NSICOP, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, by virtue of Bill C-22, and the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency which is the subject of Bill C-59.

We tried to accommodate Senator Moore's concept in the new context of NSICOP and NSIRA, but it was just too complicated to sort that out that we decided it would not be possible to salvage Senator Moore's proposal and convert it into a workable model. What we arrived at instead is Bill C-98.

Under NSICOP and NSIRA, the national security functions of CBSA are already covered. What's left is the non-security part of the activities of CBSA. When, for example, a person comes to the border, has an awkward or difficult or unpleasant experience, whom do they go to with a complaint? They can complain to CBSA itself, and CBSA investigates all of that and replies, but the expert opinion is that in addition to what CBSA may do as a matter of internal good policy, there needs to be an independent review mechanism for the non-security dimensions of CBSA's work. The security side is covered by NSICOP, which is the committee of parliamentarians, and NSIRA, the new security agency under Bill C-59, but the other functions of CBSA are not covered, so how do you create a review body to cover that?

We examined two alternatives. One was to create a brand new stand-alone creature with those responsibilities; otherwise, was there an agency already within the Government of Canada, a review body, that had the capacity to perform that function? We settled on CRCC, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which performs that exact function for the RCMP.

What is proposed in the legislation is a revamping of the CRCC to expand its jurisdiction to cover the RCMP and CBSA and to increase its capacity and its resources to be able to do that job. The legislation would make sure that there is a chair and a vice-chair of the new agency, which would be called the public complaints and review commission. It would deal with both the RCMP and the CBSA, but it would have a chair and a vice-chair. They would assume responsibilities, one for the RCMP and one for CBSA, to make sure that both agencies were getting top-flight attention—that we weren't robbing Peter to pay Paul and that everybody would be receiving the appropriate attention in the new structure. Our analysis showed that we could move faster and more expeditiously and more efficiently if we reconfigured CRCC instead of building a new agency from the ground up.

That is the legislation you have before you. The commission will be able to receive public complaints. It will be able to initiate investigations if it deems that course to be appropriate. The minister would be able to ask the agency to investigate or examine something if the minister felt an inquiry was necessary. Bill C-98 is the legislative framework that will put that all together.

That's the purpose of the bill, and I am very grateful for the willingness of the committee at this stage in our parliamentary life to look at this question in a very efficient manner. Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Minister.

With that, we'll begin the first round of questions of seven minutes each, starting with Ms. Dabrusin.

I just offer a point of caution. I know all members are always relevant at all times about the subject matter that is before the committee, and I just point that out. Thank you.

Ms. Dabrusin, you have seven minutes.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Thank you.

I was very happy to see this bill because, Minister, as you know, pretty much every time you have been before this committee, I have asked you about CBSA oversight and when it would be forthcoming, so when I saw this bill had been tabled, it was a happy day for me.

You talked a little about the history of the bill. You talked about Senator Wilfred Moore's bill and how you dealt with the different oversights in Bill C-59 and NSICOP.

Why did we have to wait so long to see this bill come forward?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

I think, Ms. Dabrusin, it's simply a product of the large flow of public safety business and activity that we have had to deal with. I added it up a couple of days ago. We have asked this Parliament to address at least 13 major pieces of legislation, which has kept this committee, as well as your counterparts in the Senate, particularly busy.

As you will know from my previous answers, I have wanted to get on with this legislation. It's part of the matrix that is absolutely required to complete the picture. It's here now. It's a pretty simple and straightforward piece of legislation. I don't think it involves any legal intricacies that make it too complex.

If we had had a slot on the public policy agenda earlier, we would have used it, but when I look at the list of what we've had to bring forward—13 major pieces of legislation—it is one that I hope is going to get to the finish line, but along the way, it was giving way to things like Bill C-66, Bill C-71, Bill C-83, Bill C-59 and Bill C-93. There's a lot to do.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Yes, thank you.

It's my understanding that when budget 2019 was tabled, there was a section within the budget that referred specifically to the funding for this oversight. Am I correct on that?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The funding is provided for. It will be coming through the estimates in due course. We're picking up the base funding that's available to the CRCC, and then, as the responsibilities for CBSA get added and the CRCC transforms into—I have to get the acronyms right—the PCRC, the public complaints and review commission, the necessary money will be added to add the required staff and operational capacity.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

You touched upon it briefly when you were talking about the different mechanisms and the decision for it to extend within the RCMP review system. Perhaps you can help me to understand it a bit better. Why not a separate review committee for the CBSA specifically? Why build it within the RCMP system and then expand it, as opposed to having a separate oversight?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

It's simply because the expertise required on both sides is quite similar. It's not identical, granted, but it is quite similar. There is a foundation piece already in place with the CRCC. There are expertise and capacity that already exist, and the analysis that was done by officials and by Treasury Board and others led to the conclusion that we could move faster and we could move more cost effectively if we built on the existing structure and expanded it, rather than start a whole new agency from scratch.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

One of the issues that's come up is that I've had questions from constituents about privacy issues crossing the border, for example, border guards being able to access information on telephones and the like. How would this oversight be able to deal with that privacy issue?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

If an individual thought they had been mistreated in some way at the border, or if their privacy rights had been violated, or if a border officer conducted themselves in a manner that the traveller found to be intrusive or offensive, they would have now, or as soon as the legislation is passed, the ability to file an independent complaint with the new agency. The agency would investigate and offer their conclusions as to whether the procedure at the border had been appropriate or not.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I have a quick question, as I only have about a minute and a half left.

In the context of someone whose phone was being looked at and the basis for it being looked at was a national security concern, or what was proposed as a national security concern, would that go through the PCRC or would that go through...? How would that be managed between the different oversights?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The agency is going to be set up in such a way that wherever the person, the traveller, goes with their complaint...they may complain directly to the CBSA, not knowing there is a separate agency, or they may complain to the separate agency, or they may take it to NSIRA, the national security agency. If it's a grey area, the three possibilities—CBSA itself, the public complaints and review commission or NSIRA—will make sure that it lands in the right agency that has jurisdiction to hear it. There may be some jurisprudence that has to develop, informal jurisprudence, at the administrative level about what constitutes a national security complaint or question versus simple objectionable behaviour.

That will take time, but we will make sure that no complaint ends up in the wrong place. Wherever you go with your complaint, the agencies will ensure that it lands on the right desk and gets heard by the right authority.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I'm out of time.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Ms. Dabrusin.

Mr. Paul-Hus, for seven minutes.

June 17th, 2019 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister Goodale, we're talking about organizations that are the subject of complaints. There's currently a complaint regarding the funding provided by Canada Summer Jobs to the Islamic Society of North America. It has been acknowledged and documented that the organization provided funding for terrorism purposes.

Has your department or any agency that operates under your department been informed of this issue or involved in the case?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Are you referring to the one that was referred to in question period today?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Yes.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

That is an issue that the employment department is examining. The funding involved was through the jobs fund and, as I understood the answer in the House today, the minister is asking her officials to investigate to ensure that whatever the decision-making process was with respect to that funding, it was fully and properly conducted. The matter is in fact being investigated.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you. I had urged members to stay with what we're on, which is Bill C-98. I'm not quite sure how a jobs funding application has much to do with Bill C-98, so I'd encourage the honourable member to direct his questions to Bill C-98 issues, please.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

I was putting into practice the basis of the bill, which is the fact that Canadians are filing complaints. It's the same principle.

Let's go back to the commission, Minister Goodale. Is the commission currently experiencing any delays in the handling of complaints? Does it already have an excessive workload? Will adding more powers, duties and functions with regard to the Canada Border Services Agency create even more issues, or is everything fine?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Certainly, the expanded agency will have more work to do. At the moment, the CRCC looks exclusively at issues related to the RCMP. Under the new configuration, the review agency will examine both the RCMP and the CBSA. Presently—

4 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Actually, sir, do you know if there are some delays in the treatment for the RCMP—

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The CRCC I believe will be available to you later this afternoon—