That's very good, Mr. Chairman. Thank you and members of the committee very much.
I am pleased to join you for a second week in a row.
This time I will tell you about the important work of the Public Safety portfolio and about our funding priorities, as set out in the Main Estimates 2017-18.
With me at the table, Mr. Chair—I think most members of the committee will know these familiar faces—are Malcolm Brown, deputy minister of public safety; Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Michel Coulombe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; Don Head, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada; Tina Namiesniowski, executive vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency; and Harvey Cenaiko, chair of the Parole Board of Canada.
The weighty task of ensuring that Canada is well placed to address the public safety issues that we face falls, in large part, to these people and to the women and men under their direction. I'm sure all members of the committee would join me in offering our gratitude for the service they perform.
I also note that this may be the final committee appearance on the estimates for Michel Coulombe, who is retiring as the director of CSIS at the end of next week, and also for Bob Paulson, who retires as commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the end of June. These are two of the toughest and most important jobs in the public service of Canada. I want to thank both Bob and Michel for their dedication, their courage, and their skill in discharging their heavy burden of responsibility to all Canadians.
In recent days we have been witness to the impressive work of another key unit within my department, and that is the government operations centre, known affectionately to everyone as the GOC. This is the unit that has been coordinating the federal response to the flooding that has swept across several provinces. The government operations centre performed this same function exactly a year ago now, when we were combatting the fires around Fort McMurray. Indeed, whenever and wherever there is an emergency situation in Canada, the GOC is on duty.
The deployment of more than 2,400 Canadian Armed Forces personnel across Quebec was probably the most visible dimension of the federal response to this year's flooding, as coordinated by the government operations centre. The Canadian Armed Forces were welcomed and widely praised for their timely and skilful help.
Several other federal departments were also engaged, including Environment and Climate Change Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Transport Canada; the Canadian Coast Guard; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; the Canada Border Services Agency; the Public Health Agency of Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada; and, of course, the RCMP.
The GOC also works very closely with all relevant provincial governments and provincial emergency response agencies, as well as critical auxiliary organizations such as the Red Cross, in a whole-of-society effort to respond to these emergencies.
While conditions appear to be improving across the country generally, we should note that well over 5,000 people were displaced from their homes because of flooding this spring. They will have a very mucky mess to face upon their return and recovery, and we know they will need our ongoing support and assistance.
We also extend heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the raging waters in both Quebec and British Columbia.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank both the RCMP and the CBSA, particularly their officers on duty in Emerson, Manitoba; in Lacolle, Quebec; and in a number of other border communities. They have been managing the spontaneous and challenging arrival of asylum seekers in a professional and measured way, enforcing the law and keeping Canadians safe. Their work has earned them the praise of many local people, as well as the United Nations, and they certainly deserve our praise, as well.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Emerson to thank the officers, both CBSA and RCMP on duty, and to thank the community. It is not an easy situation. There are no easy solutions, but we are dealing with it in a firm, measured, and responsible manner.
In the context I have just outlined and at all times, Canadians expect everyone within the public safety portfolio to keep Canadians safe, while at the same time safeguarding our rights and freedoms. Our role as government, and as parliamentarians, is to ensure these agencies have the resources they need to get the job done. That brings us directly to the subject of the numbers before us in the main estimates for 2017-18.
As members will have noted in reviewing the estimates, on a portfolio-wide basis, total authorities being sought will result in a net increase of $209.4 million, a 2.5% augmentation over 2016-17 for a total of $8.7 billion. Across the whole portfolio, the most substantial increases include $64.1 million for the settlement of class action lawsuits against the RCMP, $44.1 million to the CBSA to maintain and upgrade federal infrastructure assets, and $41 million to Correctional Service Canada, mostly due to the growing cost of prescription drugs to treat hepatitis C and the cost of contracted community beds for mental health care.
More narrowly, for the Department of Public Safety, its 2017-18 reference level reflects a net decrease of about $44.4 million, and most of that results from the completion of contributions to the province of Quebec for the response, recovery, and decontamination costs associated with the train derailment and explosion at Lac-Mégantic. Since that disaster occurred in 2013, a total of $120 million, identified under the financial assistance agreement, has been paid out, and my department is now working with the province to address any additional eligible requests.
Mr. Chair, I had some comments to provide with respect to supplementary estimates (A), but I will save those for another time when you return to that topic.
I would like to mention briefly a few of the other priorities not specifically connected to the estimates that my portfolio is working on. First of all, I want to thank the committee once again for its report on Canada's national security framework. The recommendations are being very carefully monitored as we move forward with additional measures to keep Canadians safe and safeguard rights and freedoms. The tens of thousands of public contributions to our consultations on this topic are also informing our way forward and they are, all of them, available for public review online.
Another matter of collective concern is the quality and seriousness of sexual assault investigations. Recent reports have highlighted issues regarding the way various police forces across the country investigate this crime. I raised this matter with the commissioner of the RCMP and on February 9, Commissioner Paulson directed each of his provincial and territorial commanding officers to review past sexual assault cases, work which is now complete.
National headquarters has also reviewed a sample of historically unfounded cases, or at least the label of unfounded was attached to those cases. The RCMP's contract and aboriginal policing branch at national headquarters is reviewing all of those divisional reports, as well as the sample of historical unfounded cases to understand the national picture, and to develop an appropriate and coordinated response to address the issue. The RCMP has committed to sharing the results of its review with Canadians once it is completed. I want to thank the force for being proactive in this regard.
The bottom line is that no victim of sexual assault should ever fear that their case won't be taken seriously by the investigating authorities.
On a related noted, budget 2017 included $100.9 million over five years to establish a national strategy to address gender-based violence. The strategy will include measures implemented by the RCMP, among other things, as well as a centre of excellence within Status of Women Canada.
Finally, before I take your questions, I want to quickly highlight a few of the other important investments proposed in budget 2017 that would support some key priorities for the Public Safety Canada portfolio. That includes $57.8 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and then $13.6 million per year thereafter, to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. This is part of our commitment to implement the recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest, with additional measures yet to come.
The budget also pledged $80 million over four years, with $20 million then ongoing, starting in 2018-19, to support the establishment of the community heroes award to support families of public safety officers who have fallen in the line of duty. Public safety officials are working diligently now to finalize the program's design.
The budget also doubled the funding for the security infrastructure program, which helps vulnerable communities better protect themselves against hate-motivated crimes.
As one final thing I would note, there is a meeting scheduled in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, toward the end of this month to deal with the issue of emergency measures and emergency planning. All federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for these things are expected to attend. We will be very much going over the lessons learned from Fort McMurray last year and from the floods this year to make sure that we have the very best possible emergency management framework, strategy, and plan in place—federal and provincial, seamless across the board—to be able to react to these circumstances in an efficient and effective way that keeps Canadians safe.
All of this furthers the overarching objective of the public safety portfolio, keeping our communities safe and secure, while at the same time protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians and the values of openness, inclusion, and diversity that make our country an example for the world.
With that, my officials and I would be happy to try to answer your questions.