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Evidence of meeting #49 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 decision.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Superintendent Fraser Macaulay  Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operations and Programs, Correctional Service of Canada
Caroline Xavier  Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Michel Coulombe  Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Robert Frater  Chief General Counsel, Department of Justice
John Cousineau  Assistant Director, Operations Enablement, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Good afternoon. I'm very happy to call to order the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's 49th meeting in this Parliament and to welcome our guests.

I want to welcome Mr. Aboultaif and Mr. Vandal as full members of our committee today. We're glad to see you.

Welcome, Minister Goodale, and thank you for accepting our invitation to help the committee pursuant to our Standing Order 108(2) study of the subject matter of supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17.

We'll be considering the supplementary estimates. Just a reminder to the committee that due to scheduling we were not able to consider the supplementary estimates (B) prior to their having been deemed accepted by us and already reported to Parliament. However, not ever wanting to miss an opportunity to spend time with the minister, we are very pleased that he's able to be with us.

The topic of the first hour is the supplementary estimates (B) and other issues related to those, which I'm sure will arise.

In our second hour of the meeting, we'll continue with Mr. Coulombe from CSIS to discuss recent events and the Noël decision in the Federal Court.

Obviously, members, you know you can ask questions of anybody, but I'm thinking that if we could hold most of the questions for Mr. Coulombe until the second hour, it would probably be somewhat more efficient, but the time is yours.

I just want to draw your attention to the working document, the issues and options paper on Canada's national security framework which was sent to committee members this afternoon. Check your inbox and take a look at the issues and options paper. I have not had a chance to look at it yet, but I know in advance that it will be good work, so I thank the analysts for their work.

Mr. Goodale, the floor is yours.

December 8th, 2016 / 3:30 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to be here today particularly on supplementary estimates (B).

I'm very pleased to be joined by most of the usual cast of characters: my deputy minister Malcolm Brown; Michel Coulombe, the director of CSIS; Commissioner Paulson from the RCMP; and Caroline Xavier, who is vice-president of operations at the Canada Border Services Agency.

I would point out that the former president, Linda Lizotte-Macpherson, has retired as of last Friday, and her replacement, John Ossowski, is in the process of arriving. He will no doubt have the pleasure of appearing before the committee on future occasions. In the meantime, Caroline is representing CBSA today.

Fraser Macaulay, assistant commissioner with Corrections Canada is also here, as is Harvey Cenaiko, the chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada.

As you will note from studying the supplementary estimates (B), the department portfolio of Public Safety is requesting adjustments that result in an increase in our spending authorities of $256.3 million. I would like to run through very briefly what the items are that add up to that total.

Canada is, as you know, a safe and peaceful country, but we also know that we are not immune to threats, including natural disasters, terrorism, and other crimes and acts of violence. The women and men of the public safety portfolio, including the department itself and all of the various agencies that you see represented here today, do the essential and often dangerous work of protecting Canadians, and for so doing they deserve and I believe they have our admiration and our gratitude. It's up to us as parliamentarians to support them and their work so that they can continue keeping Canadians safe and protecting the rights and freedoms that we all hold very dear. The items included in the estimates are directed toward that end.

First of all, let me deal with Fort McMurray. As you know, we faced a terrible fire disaster there earlier this year, probably the worst in Canadian history. In coordinating the federal response to that disaster, I got to see some pretty remarkable things, including the courage of the people of Fort McMurray, the determined leadership of local, provincial, and federal officials, the skill and the selflessness of firefighters, police officers, and other first responders, and the tireless efforts of the Canadian Red Cross, and of course, from coast to coast, Canadians gave generously to support those who were so seriously affected.

The Government of Canada has transferred $104.5 million to the Canadian Red Cross, honouring the Prime Minister's commitment to match the individual charitable donations that were made by Canadians in support of Fort McMurray. That accounts for a large portion of the total authorities that are being requested today, those matching funds for the Red Cross.

Also, under the disaster financial assistance arrangements, we made an advance payment to Alberta of $307 million as a down payment on what will be the ultimate obligation to assist Alberta in dealing with this disaster. That amount of money is not in these estimates because it is covered in the main estimates. Every year there's an allotment for the DFAA, and the amount that's required for Alberta is covered in the allotment in the main estimates. The supps deal with the matching money for the Red Cross of $104.5 million.

The second topic is HUSAR, the heavy urban search and rescue teams. That capacity in Canada is something we mentioned in our election platform saying that we would reinstate federal funding to support the HUSAR teams across Canada. They are absolutely indispensable in responding to such emergencies as ice storms, floods, wildfires, building collapses, and so forth.

The previous government made a decision at one point to eliminate this funding. We decided it was of sufficient priority that it needed to be reinstated. In October I was pleased to deliver on the commitment we had made by launching the heavy urban search and rescue program, which will provide $3.1 million annually in funding for these heavy urban search and rescue task forces. This program will not only support and strengthen the four existing task forces in Vancouver, Calgary, Brandon, and Toronto, but they will also help to develop new capabilities in Montreal and re-establish capabilities in Halifax. To this end, $3.1 million is being sought through supplementary estimates (B).

The third major topic is RCMP class actions. Another part of the mandate that I received from the Prime Minister was to take action to ensure that all parts of the public safety portfolio are healthy workplaces, free from all forms of harassment. I've been working on this from the very beginning of our mandate, notably inviting the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to undertake a comprehensive review of RCMP policies and procedures on harassment, and also appointing Sheila Fraser as a special adviser to examine the RCMP's complaints process and the treatment of complainants. That work is ongoing. I expect to hear from both of those processes sometime next spring.

I was also very pleased to join Commissioner Paulson on October 6 for the announcement of a $100-million settlement between the RCMP and a large number of plaintiffs in two proposed harassment-related class action lawsuits, of which $40 million is being sought through these 2016-17 supplementary estimates (B). The remaining $60 million will be accessed in the following year. In addition to the $40 million for actual payments for settlement, there is another $17 million for class action counsel and claims assessment being sought through these estimates. The total amount required to deal with the class actions is $40 million plus $17 million, for a total of $57 million.

I think we should be encouraged by this development and by the eloquent apology that was offered by the commissioner. We continue to advance other initiatives on this very important front of safe workplaces. This is an important step in helping us move forward from a deeply troubling aspect of the history of our national police force to a much different future.

In terms of the claims process, I think it's important to highlight that, totally separate and apart from government, totally separate and apart from the force, an independent process has been set up to actually adjudicate the claims. The RCMP will have no involvement except to make documentation available. The government will have no involvement except to provide the funding. The decisions will be made by the Honourable Michel Bastarache, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who is the independent assessor. He will make the determinations of the appropriate amounts, case by case by case.

On national security, the government continues its work to ensure that Canada's national security framework keeps Canadians safe while safeguarding our rights and freedoms. I'm pleased to report that the unprecedented engagement with Canadians that we have launched right across this country has been very successful, including a series of town hall meetings, round tables, public hearings, personal discussions, and meetings with subject matter experts, as well as quite literally tens of thousands of contributions coming in via email in our online consultations. That consultation remains open until December 15, but already the total number of participants is in excess of 45,000 Canadians. It's a very encouraging number.

Once again, let me thank the committee for the hearings that you held and the report you will make about the advice you would offer the government in relation to the national security framework. We are analyzing all of the input, and we will be putting forward a set of measures that will be designed to achieve two objectives simultaneously: protecting the public, keeping them safe and secure, and at the same time safeguarding the rights and freedoms of Canadians in a free, inclusive, and democratic society.

I also want to note the work the committee has done on Bill C-22. I understand it's now in the process of being reported back to the House, and I will be very anxious to consider that report.

One other matter under national security which involves an estimate in these supplementary estimates (B) is the creation of the office for community outreach and counter-radicalization to violence. That item was earmarked in the budget last spring, and to this end, you will note in these estimates that my department is seeking $2.3 million in 2016-17 to establish and staff the office as well as support the domestic programming and research initiatives through a newly established grants and contributions program called the community resilience fund.

The office will provide leadership on Canada's response to radicalization to violence, coordinate domestic and international initiatives, support programming and research, and enhance our expertise. We simply must become very good at this initiative if we want to retain that fundamental character of Canada as an open, inclusive, democratic society.

Immigration detention is another item I want to mention today. We are requesting $22.7 million this fiscal year to support the Canada Border Services Agency in its implementation of our new national immigration detention framework. A total of $138 million for this initiative was announced in August, spread over a number of years. In this first year we're asking for $22.7 million.

The goals of the new framework include: first, expanding practical, workable alternatives to detention; second, significantly improving conditions at immigration holding centres, including better mental and medical health services; third, reducing our reliance on provincial facilities; and fourth, reducing the number of minors in detention to the greatest extent possible.

Of the funding that's being requested for this year, $21.3 million is being directed to the construction of new immigration holding centres in Laval, Quebec, and in Surrey, British Columbia. These facilities will help reduce the reliance on provincial correctional facilities for immigration detention.

The balance of the funding this year will be used to begin enhancing medical services within our immigration holding centres and to implementing alternatives to detention so that, as much as possible, immigration detention remains a measure of last resort and not first resort.

A great deal is under way. A good many things have been achieved, but there is, of course, always much more to be done. My officials and I are happy to try to respond to your questions today. We look forward to working with the committee on a whole array of national security issues for the future.

Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you, Minister.

For the first round of questioning, we'll begin with Mr. Spengemann.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

It's nice to see you, Minister Goodale. It's good to have you and your team back in front of the committee.

I would like to ask you to give us a bit more of a fine-grain view of your vision for the immigration detention facilities and the changes thereto. Is this analysis one that's driven by numbers? Is it driven by qualitative differences or challenges you have alluded to in terms of youth being detained? How do you see this framework evolve over, let's say, the next five years?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

There are only three federal immigration holding centres in Canada: in Surrey, British Columbia, right at the airport in Richmond, in Laval, Quebec, and in Toronto. Those are the largest intake centres for newcomers arriving in Canada, so logically the federal facilities would be there.

They are often overtaxed in terms of volume. The next resort is to rely upon provincial correctional facilities in the neighbourhood to deal with people where detention is the only alternative.

The numbers, we feel, in these various federal and provincial facilities are simply too high, and we believe the provincial facilities, in particular, are problematic because they are correctional facilities. The people who are being detained for immigration purposes are intermingled—

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

There's a stigma issue, if I can interrupt.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

There is, and we want to get rid of that as much as possible.

The reason for detention is really only in three particular cases. One is when there is a real problem in identifying who the person is. Identification is obviously a critical factor in assessing safety considerations. Often CBSA is not able, with the information available to them, to precisely identify the individual. If there's an identification issue, if there is a flight risk, or if there is a serious risk to the public, then detention becomes an alternative that CBSA can consider as a last resort. The problem with the circumstances of the past and up to now is that there aren't very many other resorts to consider, so detention too often becomes the default mechanism.

We want to improve the three facilities to make sure they can handle more people in a better way and take the reliance off the provincial correctional facilities. Also, we want to make sure that in those federal holding centres the appropriate mental health and physical health services are available, that legal counselling and other counselling is available, and that inspections can be done by the Red Cross and by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as and when necessary, at their discretion. We also want to make sure that there are other physical alternatives to detention. We're discussing with a whole variety of immigrant support organizations what those alternatives might be.

The Toronto bail program, for example, has been used as a good example of what an alternative might look like. There may be electronic means, voice identification, or new technology that could be of assistance. CBSA officers will have a broader array of alternatives to look at to keep the public safe and to make sure that the people who are in the circumstances of detention are dealt with in a proper and humane way. When it comes to children, as much as possible we want to eliminate that altogether.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you very much for that.

Minister, in the transfers under public safety, there's a $41-million transfer from PSEP to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for first nations community policing. This committee had the former correctional investigator of Canada, Mr. Howard Sapers, here recently to comment on the 2016 report. Could you let the committee know your vision of what needs to happen in first nations policing?

The argument we often hear is that our correctional facilities are overcrowded because of the upstream challenges that may exist. Could you give us an update as to what your thoughts are in the context of this $41-million transfer?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Both the justice minister and I have mandate instructions from the Prime Minister to work with all dimensions of the criminal justice system to deal with the very negative consequences of that system for a great many indigenous people. Minister Wilson-Raybould, as you know, has a whole range of laws and procedures under consideration.

One of the dimensions of it that relates to my portfolio is the first nations policing program. That program was established in the early 1990s. The last minister to actually give it a policy facelift was solicitor general Herb Gray in 1996. It hasn't been improved in terms of policy since that time. I give Mr. Gray a lot of credit for what he did back then, but that's over 20 years ago, and it's time to bring the policy up to date. It also has not had a financial increment since 2009.

It is basically a 50/50 arrangement, or almost 50/50—it's 52/48—between the federal government and the provinces. We each contribute an amount to the first nations policing program and then try our best to provide, in consultation with first nations communities, good solid policing services, but with the amount of money that's available and the policy framework that's available today, we're not nearly meeting the need. Probably not much more than half of the communities that could quality for this kind of service actually have it.

The objective here is to bring the policy up to date so that indigenous communities can count on top-notch policing services that are equal in terms of standards and professionalism to the policing services that every other group of Canadians takes for granted, to make sure the cultural sensitivity is there in the way the service is delivered, and to make sure there is adequate financing on a long-term basis.

Many of the first nations have said to us that we should really think of whether or not a first nations policing “program”, which implies that it's temporary, is the right way to go when we're providing a fundamental service such as a police service, and maybe there should be a more comprehensive and permanent basis for the way in which all governments come together to ensure safety in first nations communities.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Clement.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Thank you, Minister, for being here.

I wanted to start by allowing us to elaborate a bit on our exchange in the House of Commons today and talk about that Canada Border Services Agency report on the Mexican drug cartels, and the concern expressed in the CBSA report that removing the visa requirement in fact extends the reach of the violent drug cartels to expand into Canada. In particular, there was a concern that they merely would replace the fentanyl shipments from China that we're trying to crack down on with more cartel shipments from Mexico.

I want to give you the opportunity to respond for a bit more than 35 seconds on that. It was not a concern that I was aware of before this report was made available to a journalist—an internal report of the CBSA—but now it's of grave concern. We do not want to see increases in fentanyl and increased deaths because of fentanyl or any other harmful drugs in our society. We don't want to see the increase in violence that normally attends with the Mexican drug cartel.

On the one hand, you have lifted the visa requirement, and on the other hand, we have this concern expressed by Canada Border Services Agency officials. I want to give you the floor to answer more fully than we could do in Parliament.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Clement, whenever a decision is taken with respect to border arrangements, the decision is taken with a great deal of care and deliberation to make sure that all the proper analysis has been done and that we are accomplishing two objectives. One is a properly functioning, efficient, successful border, and the other is that all of the factors in relation to public safety and security are properly dealt with.

In dealing with inflows of people from every part of the world, CBSA takes their function at the border very, very seriously. Whether or not a person arrives on Canada's shores with or without a visa, they are obviously examined at the border to determine if they can enter Canada. Coming to Canada without a visa isn't a free pass to get in. The CBSA officers do their job at the border to identify if there is any risk or danger: is there a need for secondary clearing; is the person admissible or inadmissible in all of the factors that CBSA takes into account? All of this has been weighed very, very carefully to ensure that we have the police, the security, and the CBSA resources and authorities lined up to keep Canada's borders safe and secure.

We obviously are very concerned, as are our colleagues in the provinces and our colleagues in law enforcement, about this phenomenon that has swept across the country in the last number of months related to opioids.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Yes, sorry to cut you off, but I have limited time, Minister.

I just want to read directly from the CBSA report, which says, “The visa lift will make travel to Canada easier in order to establish or strengthen existing cartel smuggling chains. In the next three years, Mexican drug cartels are expected to expand their presence in Canada by sending operatives and recruiting local airport or marine port workers with ties to Mexico.”

This is not a case of the natural flow of trade. This particular section of the report looks specifically at the visa lift and said that we are creating additional problems for ourselves involving the Mexican drug cartel.

Your point is well taken that CBSA does what it can, but clearly they are raising red flags for all of us. It is our responsibility to respond to those red flags, so how are you responding to those red flags?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

First of all, there has been a long series of discussions with the Mexicans to ensure that we have the appropriate system in place, both in Mexico and in Canada, to keep Canadians safe and secure, and that the visa lift can be done in a way that is successful for both countries.

On the Canadian end of the equation, through the good work of CBSA and law enforcement by the RCMP and others, we are putting in place, as we always do, systems that will protect Canada. CBSA has done its job in flagging an issue that they want themselves and the rest of government to pay careful attention to, and we are, to make sure that this can be done in a successful way.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Could I ask you, Minister, to undertake to this committee and to Parliament to continue to report to us on the efficacy of these ways and means under your disposal and under CBSA's disposal to ensure that they are working to curtail the influence of the drug cartels? In the alternative, can I ask you to have an undertaking with us that if, for whatever reason, those are not working to your satisfaction, you would initiate a review of the visa lift in order to protect the safety of Canadians?

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Clement, it's a fundamental responsibility of government to monitor its programs and its activities. That is especially true in the field of public safety and security. We will be examining very carefully all of the activities we undertake to make sure we're accomplishing the objective that this department has the responsibility for.

I'm happy to share our progress reports with the committee. I suspect that from time to time the committee may ask the question, but even without being asked the question, we'll be happy to keep you posted on the progress we're making.

In relation to opioids in particular, and not related to any particular situation, let me make three or four points.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

If you could make one or two.... I don't know how much time I have left.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

We're running into a bit of overtime—

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Okay. Maybe we'll come back to opioids.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

—but you can have another half a minute. Go ahead.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

We're looking at the border measures that are required to be effective at the border. CBSA and the RCMP have already interdicted a number of shipments, which already shows a pretty impressive capacity to exercise those kinds of controls. We're looking at what else needs to be done to strengthen the situation at the border. As you know, we're already engaged in a diplomatic initiative, with the Chinese in particular, to get international co-operation to stop this scourge at the source.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

We will continue with Mr. Dubé.

You have eight minutes.

4 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, thank you for being here with us.

I'd like to talk to you about Judge Noël's ruling concerning the retention of data by CSIS.

The day after the decision, when you spoke to the media, you were asked whether it was appropriate to retain data on persons who do not constitute a threat to national security. You answered that that question had to be looked at and that you were willing to hear the opinion of both camps to decide how to follow up on that.

Something worries me about those words, and perhaps you could give me some further details on this. I hope you are not opening the door to this type of practice, that is to say the retention of data on persons who are not a threat to national security.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

We are examining all of the facts of the matter, Mr. Dubé, to determine what the appropriate policy should be going forward. As you will know, Mr. Justice Noël himself commented on the fact that the legislation might be needing an update since it was written at a time when the fax machine would have been considered groundbreaking technology. Things have changed since then.

He raised the question of whether or not the legislation itself needed an upgrade and a modernization. We will consider all of the factors that are relevant in these circumstances. Indeed, the national security consultation that we launched some months ago is examining a variety of these questions—