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Evidence of meeting #20 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 division.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Linda Lizotte-MacPherson  President, Canada Border Services Agency
Michael Doucet  Executive Director, Security Intelligence Review Committee
Tanya Dupuis  Committee Researcher

Noon

Liberal

The Chair (Mr. Robert Oliphant (Don Valley West, Lib.)) Liberal Rob Oliphant

Welcome, everyone.

I'm going to call to order the 20th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Welcome, Mr. Garrison, as you are joining us today for the first time in this Parliament. I hope you do well.

Noon

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Also, I'm welcoming our minister, Mr. Goodale.

Before I do that, I wanted to inform the committee of a motion that was adopted in the House on Monday, May 30:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(b), consideration by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of all Votes related to Public Safety in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, be extended beyond May 31, 2016.

I believe that was extended to June 16.

As a result of that motion, we have until June 13 to report back on the main estimates. However, taking into consideration the minister's availability, as well as our committee schedule that's been established, we think it would be difficult to have another time to review both the supplementary estimates (A) and the main estimates. As a result, I let both opposition parties and the government side know yesterday that we would be considering today both the main estimates and supplementary estimates (A).

I wanted to get that into the record of why we're doing it. It's a little unusual, but we're following what the Conservative motion said in the House. As a result, the minister minister will deal with both of them.

Mr. Goodale, welcome. I'm pleased that you're able to be here. Thank you for joining our committee and bringing your officials with you, whom you'll be introducing. I also want to welcome from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, Michael Doucet, the executive director, and Stéphanie Dion, the senior manager of corporate services.

Minister.

June 2nd, 2016 / noon

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, thank you very much.

As you have explained, Mr. Chair, we're doing double duty today with respect to supplementary estimates (A) and the main estimates. I hope we can do them justice in the time that's available.

In addition to the two people from the review committee whom you just introduced, let me introduce the other officials who are around the table: Paul MacKinnon, the assistant deputy minister for portfolio affairs and communications branch in the Department of Public Safety; and from the RCMP, Dennis Watters, the chief financial administration officer; the president of the Canada Border Services Agency, Linda Lizotte-MacPherson; Jeff Yaworski, the acting director of CSIS; Harvey Cenaiko, the chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada; and from Correctional Services Canada, Liette Dumas-Sluyter, the assistant commissioner, Corporate Services, and CFO.

I am always pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the work performed by the department and the agencies entrusted with protecting our public safety and national security all over Canada, both on the front lines and behind the scenes.

Before we get into the precise detail of the estimates, Mr. Chair, I would just like to take this opportunity before this committee to talk about some of the public policy work that has been mainly preoccupying me and my officials over the course of the last little while. The financial implications of these things appear in the various estimates, but I think maybe it's more informative to address the topics by subject matter rather than the specific column in the estimates.

The first thing I want to touch upon is the significant progress we've been making with the United States on issues that affect our shared border. There's nothing economically probably more important to Canada than the well-being of that long, lucrative, undefended border between Canada and the United States. As I've said on many occasions, there are about 400,000 people who move back and forth across that border every day. There is $2.5 billion worth of trade that moves back and forth across that border every day. It's obviously important that it work well.

It was a topic that was clearly addressed when the Prime Minister was in Washington for the state visit with President Obama.

Let me talk for a moment about pre-clearance. This is an initiative that represents a longstanding area of mutual co-operation between our two countries. Pre-clearance strengthens our economic competitiveness by expediting the flow of legitimate travel and trade while ensuring that the perimeter security and border integrity are in place.

During the March visit, our countries reinforced our intention to support the necessary legislation to put our pre-clearance arrangements on a stronger footing. In the United States, the necessary legislative provisions have been introduced in Congress, and as I have indicated publicly before, the Government of Canada intends to introduce the necessary legislation in the House of Commons before we adjourn for the summer.

More importantly, given the many benefits of pre-clearance, Canada and the U.S. have agreed in principle to expand pre-clearance to four new Canadian sites: Billy Bishop airport in Toronto; Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City; the Montreal train to New York; and the Rocky Mountaineer train in British Columbia.

This is a significant opportunity to open new markets and drive economic growth, and we are working with our American partners to implement the agreement and, more importantly, to expand that business relationship. It can well go beyond the four specific sites I just mentioned.

The second thing we dealt with in the Washington visit was an announcement that our two countries will also fully implement a system to exchange basic biographic entry and exit information at the land border. By basic biographic information we're referring to the information that essentially can be found on page 2 of your passport, such as your name and date of birth, as well as the date, time, and location of departure. Essentially, when you're dealing with the land border, one country's entry information will be the other country's exit information, and vice versa.

The collection of exit information would allow the Government of Canada to identify the departure of individuals who may be involved, for example, in Amber Alerts about missing children. At the moment, we don't have that capacity. We will, with this new arrangement. It will provide us with a better ability to identify those who may be travelling for the purposes of terrorism or other serious crimes, ensure that residency requirements for immigration and citizenship applications have been met, and help us collect duties and taxes at the border.

I want to emphasize that the Government of Canada takes its obligation to protect the privacy of Canadians very seriously. To that end, I would note that the Canada Border Services Agency has been actively engaged with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to identify and mitigate any potential privacy concerns with respect to this entry/exit initiative.

Finally, our two countries have agreed to establish a working group on issues related to Canadian and U.S. travellers who experience difficulties with aviation security lists. This includes Canada's Secure Air Travel Act and the United States' secure flight lists. Further to that commitment, on May 10, I announced that we would be forming a Canada-U.S. redress working group, which is now in place. That bilateral working group provides a means for government officials on both sides to communicate more effectively and to reduce incidents of false positives and thus minimize negative impacts on the travelling public.

I am wholly committed to addressing issues experienced by Canadian travellers regarding aviation security lists while at the same time ensuring that our passenger protect program remains a strong and effective security tool for Canada. My department is also working with Transport Canada to develop the regulatory arrangements that will be necessary to the secure air travel regulations. These changes will bring flight manifest screening against the SATA list under government control, which will improve efficiency and address key security and privacy concerns. I know this has been an aggravation to many in the travelling public, particularly including those with young children, and we are determined to make the changes that are necessary to get this job done.

Mr. Chair, let me turn now to the topic of national security and the issue of accountability as it relates to that very important topic. As outlined in my mandate letter, I'm working very closely with the leader of the government in the House of Commons to establish a national security committee of parliamentarians with access to classified information. This new committee will be mandated to review all government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. Its goal will be to ensure that our national security architecture is working effectively to keep Canadians safe, and at the same time to ensure that it is safeguarding Canadian values, rights, and freedoms. In terms of timelines, we intend to introduce the necessary legislation to establish this new committee—as promised during the course of the election last year—before the summer recess.

One other topic, Mr. Chair, that I would like to deal with briefly is Fort McMurray. I want to touch on the massive disaster that we have witnessed there over the course of the last month or so. I know we all celebrate the fact that at least some in that community are now able to move back home and undertake the very large task of trying to rebuild their lives.

The Government of Canada continues to support the people of Fort McMurray in the wake of the devastating wildfires. Every agency and department of the Government of Canada has been thoroughly engaged to make sure that all Canadians stand together, and that is certainly true of the department that I represent and the portfolio of agencies associated with it. The government operations centre, part of Public Safety Canada, has been leading the response coordination on behalf of the federal government. Using the federal emergency response plan, the government operations centre brings together provinces, territories, and key federal departments and agencies to assess the risk that fire poses—the risk not only to Canadians, but also to infrastructure and the economy—and to develop and implement the appropriate response plans.

We were able to respond quickly and, I'm happy to say, completely to every request that was made to us by the Province of Alberta and by the professional emergency management team on the ground at Fort McMurray.

As committee members know, to manage the recovery process going forward—beyond the necessities of immediate response, as we are now in the recovery phase—an ad hoc committee of the cabinet of the Government of Canada has been struck to coordinate federal efforts for the thousands who have been affected. I would also note, of course, the efforts of the local RCMP throughout this entire experience, since the very end of April when the fires began until the present time when people are beginning to move back into the community.

Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, who heads up the division for the entire province of Alberta, and her team throughout Alberta, have been absolutely extraordinary in dealing what needed to be dealt with in that very difficult emergency situation. Now they continue to play a key role in support of the recovery efforts, managing access to affected areas, supporting the restoration of critical services and infrastructure, and the return of residents to the community.

I can assure all members of this committee that the Government of Canada is in this effort for the long haul. Sadly, the recovery will not be quick, simple, or easy. We all have to be there with patient, consistent, and long-lasting support, because that's just what Canadians do in emergency situations like this. We have each other's back and that is certainly the case in respect of Fort McMurray.

As a final note, congratulations to the Red Cross, which has worked extraordinarily well to provide services to raise funds and to contribute to the solutions that people in Fort McMurray have so desperately needed.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be glad to respond to questions.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you, Minister.

Just before I turn to the members of the committee, I want to make sure that you know that our committee passed a motion thanking you for your efforts in the Fort McMurray situation, as well as the department. Sometimes those motions get passed on; sometimes they don't, so I wanted you to know that we had done that a few weeks ago.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I extend those congratulations into every corner of the House of Commons. Members of Parliament on all sides have stood in absolute solidarity on this issue in support of Fort McMurray.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

We begin the seven-minute rounds.

We're going to begin with Ms. Damoff, who will be splitting her seven minutes with Mr. Di Iorio.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Minister, for being here, and all of your officials, and for the fine work that you're doing.

We all know that to keep Canada safe and secure, we need to ensure that the men and women who are working as first responders—and I include our corrections officers in that—need to be at the top of their game both physically and mentally. Given that it's PTSD awareness month and that I know your mandate letter includes working on this issue, and that we on this committee have been studying operational stress injuries and PTSD, could you briefly speak to what your department is doing for the mental wellness of our men and women who are working.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

First responders are extraordinary people, and in this portfolio I have a unique set of opportunities to watch them in action. They are truly remarkable. We call upon them to keep all the rest of us safe, whether they are police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or all of those others who are prepared to put themselves in harm's way to do their jobs and work for the safety and security of Canadians.

Those extraordinary people deserve to know that when they run into difficulty, their country has their back. That's why, in our platform last year and in my mandate letter, the Prime Minister laid out a series of things that need to be done to bolster the nation's support for first responders.

I won't go into the detail now, but one of those is the establishment of a public safety officer compensation benefit. When a first responder is, sadly, killed or seriously injured in the line of duty, this would be a benefit that would provide to his or her family an immediate measure of support.

You've referred to another dimension of what the Prime Minister has asked us to do, and that is the creation of a coherent, comprehensive national strategy to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or OSI, operational stress injuries, among first responders. We have held a series of consultations about what needs to go into that kind of a strategy, drawing on a great many sources of opinion and advice, but most especially first responders themselves on to how they see a national strategy and what needs to be in it.

The work this committee did a few weeks ago in studying the question will be very helpful in the development of that strategy.

What we need to do is to ensure that we have the proper research available and ongoing to fully understand PTSD and OSI in all of its dimensions and implications. We need to assure—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Minister, I'm going to have to cut you short, or Mr. Di Iorio won't get any time. I do know the importance you put on it, and I apologize for interrupting you.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

It's a very important topic.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. A special welcome to you on Italy's Republic Day holiday. That makes us even more pleased to bid you a warm welcome.

Mr. Minister, I would like to talk to you about the preclearance agreement. On what date can people leaving from Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City expect the agreement to be in effect?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

What we agreed to in Washington was a business plan in conjunction with the United States. Understand here that what's required is that we need to persuade the Americans that it is good public policy and it is a good, efficient economic arrangement for them to come into our country and establish customs and immigration facilities on the Canadian side of the border so that people can quickly and efficiently go through that process before they actually cross the border. That's the whole nature of pre-clearance. The challenge here is for us to explain to them and to convince them from a business point of view that this is a good thing to do.

We know from the experience with pre-clearance already that it really is terrific from the perspective of the Canadian traveller. It just smooths the process so extraordinarily. The business negotiation needs to go on between the people who run Jean Lesage airport and the U.S. border agency to work out the fine details of how this can be established. What we did in Washington was to open the door for that negotiation to happen.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Thank you.

Now I would like to deal with the matter of collecting information at departure.

Mr. Minister, I have learned that this information has not been collected for long and I confess that I am happy about that. But it raises a concern. We live in a country that enjoys freedom of movement, and when it appears that this kind of information is being collected by a government agency, concerns about privacy immediately arise.

I have seen the general statements in the document, but could you tell me about the concrete measures that will be taken to protect people’s privacy?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Answer briefly if you don't mind, Minister.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

I have two things to say in response. The information that's involved here is the basic information on page 2 of your passport. In other words, it's not intrusive information. It is what people call “tombstone” details of identification, as well as the date of crossing. It's not information that you wouldn't present to the American authorities when crossing the border—nothing beyond what they require when you enter their country, or vice versa.

Secondly, we have gone through the details of the process with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. We sought the advice of the Privacy Commissioner every step of the way in structuring the arrangement. We wanted to ensure that we could respond to their advice and their questions and satisfy the Privacy Commissioner that this was being handled in a way that was respectful of the privacy of Canadians.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Mr. Miller.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

I wanted to comment on Fort McMurray and certainly to support the government in doing whatever we can to help those people up there. On behalf of the official opposition, we want to pass on that support. I think you're in agreement that all parliamentarians are in support of the people there at this tough time.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Yes, and Ms. Ambrose was very helpful through this whole process.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

I'm glad to hear that.

Minister, you didn't really answer the question about what specifically was being done to make sure that information doesn't get out. We realize that one's name and address may be simple information, but I'd like to know exactly the process that is being used.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Let me ask the president of the CBSA to comment.

12:20 p.m.

Linda Lizotte-MacPherson President, Canada Border Services Agency

Thank you, Minister.

There are a number of things we're doing to ensure that privacy is protected. First of all, MOUs are in place with the U.S. As the minister said, there is no derogatory information that will be exchanged; it's simply basic tombstone information. As well, the IT systems have a very tight security infrastructure built into them. We have been consulting and will continue to consult with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. For example, in regard to some earlier pilot phases with did with foreign nationals, he had recommended that we put up some signage up. As we get feedback or any recommendations from the Privacy Commissioner, we certainly take those into consideration. Of course, we're all required to complete a comprehensive privacy impact assessment, to be shared with the Privacy Commissioner. That will be his opportunity to provide us with some feedback. That will happen once the legislation is in effect.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Can you tell me off the top of your head if you know what the cost is? There's a cost to everything that we do. Do you know the number off hand?

12:25 p.m.

President, Canada Border Services Agency

Linda Lizotte-MacPherson

I don't know the number specifically.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

I would be interested in getting that if we could.