Evidence of meeting #84 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 funding.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Malcolm Brown  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Gilles Michaud  Deputy Commissioner, Federal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Anne Kelly  Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Peter Hill  Associate Vice-President, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Let us commence the 84th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

We have as our witnesses Minister Goodale and a variety of departments represented by various people. I'll leave the minister to introduce them.

We are under some time pressure, colleagues, as the minister has to be out of here at 9:45 sharp in order to be able to give a statement in the House on behalf of Minister Seamus O'Regan.

We will turn it over to the minister, who needs no introduction and therefore will get none.

8:45 a.m.

Some hon members

Oh, oh!

8:45 a.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm very pleased, I think, to have the opportunity this morning to speak to the committee about my portfolio's supplementary estimates (B).

Assisting me today is Malcolm Brown, who is the deputy minister of Public Safety.

We have Gilles Michaud, deputy commissioner for federal policing in the RCMP.

We have David Vigneault, who is the new director of CSIS.

And I believe, David, this is your first appearance in that capacity before a parliamentary committee.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Peter Hill is the associate vice-president in the programs branch of CBSA.

Anne Kelly is the senior deputy commissioner for the Correctional Service of Canada.

I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to you this morning on supplementary estimates (B). We are requesting these authorizations in order to continue to ensure the safety of Canadians, while protecting our rights and freedoms.

Before I get into the estimates, though, Mr. Chair, I want to take a moment to recognize that we are meeting this morning only a few days after Constable John Davidson of the Abbotsford Police Department was shot and killed in the line of duty.

In our jobs, we are privileged to meet police and other public safety officers and to deepen our appreciation of the difficult, dangerous, and absolutely indispensable work they do. We certainly share in the pain and in the profound sense of loss when an officer falls in the line of duty. I know that all of you join me in offering our sincere condolences to Constable Davidson's family and friends, to Chief Rich and his colleagues on the police force, and to the entire community at Abbotsford.

Now we turn to the matter at hand. The public safety portfolio in these estimates is requesting adjustments resulting in a net increase in authorities of $223 million. As always, our objective is to keep Canadians safe, while at the same time safeguarding rights and freedoms. In my remarks this morning, I will briefly explain how the authorities we are seeking in these supplementary estimates would do that.

The largest chunk of this funding will go to the RCMP, including over $60 million to implement the salary increases announced in April, which will be paid retroactively going back to January 1, 2015. We are also seeking over $28 million in integrity funding. I was pleased to note that the recent economic update also included an additional $100 million to support RCMP operations and the RCMP External Review Committee. This funding reflects some of the remedial measures that we took after the RCMP underwent over half a billion dollars in cuts between 2011 and 2015, to ensure RCMP members have the resources and support they need to keep doing their job of protecting communities and the country.

As you know, we've also passed Bill C-7, to bring the RCMP labour relations regime into compliance with the charter and with a judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada. That will, for the first time ever, give members of the force the right to bargain collectively. That legislation received royal assent in June, and the process of certifying a bargaining agent is now under way.

As all members will know, two studies on harassment in the force were completed earlier this year, one by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission and the other by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. Both of these reports are informing our way forward as we continue working to ensure the RCMP provides its employees with a safe and healthy workplace. Of course, that objective applies to every department and agency of the Government of Canada.

We've stepped up recruiting, with the RCMP training academy in Regina graduating 938 new officers in the fiscal year 2016-17. That's almost triple the number from 2013-14. The current year should generate another 1,100 new graduates, and then more than 1,200 in 2018-19. I've had the privilege of attending several graduation ceremonies at Depot, and welcoming Canada's newest Mounties to an organization with a long and proud history. You can be assured that I will keep doing everything I can to make sure that the RCMP's best days lie ahead of it, despite its fantastic history.

The RCMP is also included among the recipients of the $274 million over five years that we announced this past summer to support law enforcement bodies in their efforts to combat impaired driving.

In these estimates, Public Safety Canada, CBSA, and the RCMP are seeking a combined total of $20.1 million for the implementation of an initiative to build capacity to address drug-impaired driving.

We also recognize the importance of public education. That's why my department is seeking an additional $2.5 million to raise awareness about the risks and consequences of drug-impaired driving. This funding will support an upcoming advertising campaign to discourage Canadians, especially young and new drivers, from driving after using drugs. It will also build on a social media campaign we ran last March targeting young drivers and their parents.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. This funding and the important new legislative measures in Bill C-46 are important parts of our efforts to prevent, detect, and punish impaired driving and to keep our roads safe.

Some $9.2 million is also being sought for the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP, and CBSA related to the new cannabis framework to be implemented next year. These include measures to ensure that organized crime is kept effectively out of the new legal system for dealing with cannabis and to beef up interdiction at the border.

Mr. Chair, we are also seeking authorities related to some of the extreme weather events Canadians have experienced this year. Severe flooding caused a great deal of damage to homes and communities in several provinces across Canada this past spring, particularly in Quebec and Ontario. As well, this summer's wildfire season in British Columbia was, as we know, one of the worst in recent memory. We are deeply grateful to the brave firefighters and other first responders who answered the call, as they always do, as well as the many ordinary—or, rather, extraordinary—Canadians who filled sandbags, volunteered at shelters, and generally stepped up to help friends, neighbours, and strangers in need.

When a natural disaster strikes, one of our key partners is always the Canadian Red Cross. The organization contributed greatly to a number of relief activities this year, including distributing immediate financial assistance to evacuees. We are pleased to contribute to the Red Cross, including $1 million to support its flood relief efforts across Canada this past spring and $38.6 million to support its relief efforts related to the B.C. wildfires. These transfers account for a portion of the total authorities we're requesting today.

Finally, Mr. Chair, the Correctional Service of Canada is requesting $12 million to address the needs of vulnerable offenders in the federal corrections system. Over 70% of male offenders and almost 80% of female offenders meet the criteria for some type of mental disorder, including substance abuse and misuse. To ensure that they receive proper care, you will recall, budget 2017 proposed investing $57.8 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, and then $13.6 million per year thereafter. These funds are for the expansion of mental health care supports in federal correctional facilities and follow up very specifically on advice we have received over time from the correctional investigator. CSC's requests for additional funding in these estimates are part of upholding this important commitment.

We also included in the budget over $110 million to support the reintegration of previously incarcerated indigenous people and to advance restorative justice approaches, and we have introduced, as you know, Bill C-56 on administrative segregation.

As you can see, we are focused on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide safe and secure environments conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety, and the protection of the public.

Mr. Chair, it's a big portfolio with lots of detail. I'll leave the detail at that and look forward to the next period with some questions.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Minister.

Our first round of seven minutes goes to Mr. Spengemann.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, Minister Goodale. It's good to have you with us, along with your senior staff. Thank you for taking the time.

I would like to echo you personally and on behalf of my constituents in Mississauga-Lakeshore, in expressing my condolences on the death of Constable Davidson to his family, his colleagues, and his friends.

Mr. Chair, this is a year that has been marked by several tragedies and attacks within or against faith-based communities, beginning with the shooting in Sainte-Foy in Quebec City earlier this year and ending most recently with the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Minister Goodale, you have had the opportunity to address the committee on this issue before. It's an important issue. My community in Mississauga—Lakeshore has a very active faith-based dialogue at the moment, which my colleagues and I are engaged in along with the faith leaders. The security infrastructure program is one that remains of interest to many faith leaders, specifically, but not limited to, Jewish and Muslim leaders. Could you give the committee an update on the interest in this program, the recent expansion of this program, and where you see it heading in the months and years ahead?

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Thank you, Mr. Spengemann.

The program you're referring to, the security infrastructure program, began several years ago. I think it's fair to say it began on a modest and experimental basis to see if it was of value for governments to invest in identifying community groups and organizations, often religious-based or culturally based, and other minorities that feel vulnerable, such as the LGBTQ community. It became clear that there was a very real need for this program to help the communities to identify their vulnerabilities and then to better protect their facilities.

As a result of our analysis of the small program that had begun, we felt it was justified to expand that program. We broadened the criteria. We regularized the intake process for applications so that they occur twice annually on a regular cycle, and now the funding can be used for a broader range of security activities.

We've now gone through two cycles of intake for applications, and I think it's fair to say that the program is fully subscribed if not oversubscribed.

A great many communities are making very good use of this funding to improve their security whether that's through fencing, closed-circuit television, lighting, protective materials on windows and so forth or through training their own folks on how to deal with security issues. It has been very well received. Announcements have been made across the country to a broad range of groups and organizations.

We will be monitoring the benefits of the investments to measure as much as we can how well those investments have served the community, but so far all of the signals are very positive except for the fact that it's probably oversubscribed, which is a good sign.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you very much, Minister.

Keeping our communities safe is one part of the equation. You're also involved in work to counter radicalization to extremism. On that front, I want to ask you a question.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 137th Annual Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in St. Petersburg, Russia. The assembly, comprising 156 nations, passed a resolution that is a declaration on promoting cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue.

As I mentioned, my city of Mississauga is currently engaged in a very active interfaith dialogue alongside members of Parliament, my colleagues.

How does interfaith dialogue and greater cultural understanding intersect with the work your department is doing through the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence?

9 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

It's a critical part of the whole effort, Mr. Spengemann. Every time we can get people from that vast Canadian mosaic to sit down with each other and learn more about each other and develop relationships with each other, broaden understanding, and reach out and work together, all of that makes our society that much stronger. The Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence is working with a broad variety of experts, agencies, academics, and community organizations across the country to encourage higher levels of understanding and also to do the hard work of identifying the factors that lead to radicalization and to violence as well as the kinds of steps that can be taken to intervene in the right way with the right people at the right time, before the fact, to try to head off tragedies before they happen. Will that succeed in every case? Obviously not. But it's an endeavour that is well worth undertaking.

What your faith-based groups are doing is a natural complement to what the Canada Centre would be promoting and encouraging. I would also note that within the department we also have the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security. It consists of about 15 representatives of various ethnocultural organizations across the country that come together on a periodic basis to learn about how our security systems function and to offer advice or to raise issues or concerns where they think there may be some issues to resolve. There was a meeting of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable last weekend, and it was a very useful session.

9 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Spengemann.

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Motz, you have seven minutes.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to echo the comments of the minister and Mr. Spengemann with regard to the condolences to Constable Davidson's family and friends, to the policing community in Abbotsford, as well as to the policing community across this nation.

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for being here, and thank you to your officials for being here.

I want to focus part of my questions on the immigration end of things in CBSA. Your government is committed to admitting nearly a million immigrants in the next three years. We've seen the impacts of Operation Syrian Refugees. We've seen the impacts, this past year, of illegal border-crossers.

Mr. Minister, you and I had some conversations at the immigration committee earlier this fall in which I suggested that the illegal border-crossers were causing significant pressures on staff, that the interview times had been reduced, that people weren't showing up for secondary interviews, that people weren't being located across the country, and that people were disappearing and were not able to be found. It caused some consternation, and people were curious as to whether public safety was at risk. You assured Canadians that public safety and national security were never at risk.

Although I would like to believe you, I'm not naive enough to suggest that this is completely the case. CBSA front-line officers aren't completely convinced of that, and neither are some members of the Canadian public.

Sometimes past behaviour is a predicator of future behaviour. A redacted version the CBSA's internal audit of Operation Syrian Refugees has been posted online. I've learned from those who have access to the unredacted version that there are some things that are somewhat troubling in there. Screening times have been reduced from 30 days down to 96 hours. Security screening was not done, or not done properly, in a number of those cases. Sometimes, the open source for screening was in fact social media; this was redacted from the document.

The audit recognizes that there were extreme pressures placed on the teams involved in Operation Syrian Refugees and that resources were working numerous hours of overtime in order to ensure the operation's success.

What is troubling is that removed from the report was the sentence that said there was a risk that the processing of Syrian refugees did not comply with key legislation or with the delivery instructions of OSR, which is the Operation Syrian Refugees program.

If that's the case, we know from CBSA's internal audit that the illegal border-crossers have caused interview times to be reduced from the normal eight hours down to under two hours, and that question 2 on the form for those coming into the country, about why they are seeking asylum in Canada, isn't even being asked.

With those things happening, Canada is expecting what some reports suggest will be a quarter of a million more attempted illegal border crossings.

My question, sir, boils down to where are you expecting the resources to come from to address both the increased levels of immigration and the increased levels of illegal border crossings? Front-line officers are telling us that this is having an impact on the normal flow of legal immigrants into this country. As my staff tell me and other MPs' staff tell them, the normal processes are backlogged significantly.

I'm just curious to know where in your budgets the resources are going to come from to try to meet the demands that we are being faced with in both the legal immigration process and the illegal immigration process.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Motz, I'll say two things.

First of all, many of your comments were with respect to the Syrian project at the beginning of 2016. That project, as you point out, was a very large humanitarian effort, and it was undertaken in a very short time frame. In order to accomplish that objective of bringing that number of people out of the risk that they were in in Syria and bring them to Canada, we put together a security screening system that was designed by Immigration and Refugees Canada, the CBSA, the RCMP, and CSIS. Through that period of time, I was constantly in touch with the heads of all of those organizations to be assured that the screening system was strong and appropriate to meet that challenge.

I remember specifically asking the director of CSIS and the commissioner of the RCMP, “Is this sound and solid and will it work?” and their answer in both cases was yes. In fact, they offered that at a news conference at the very beginning of the process, saying they were satisfied with the security elements that we had put in place to be able to do this humanitarian project and do it safely.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Minister, I guess I ask the question again. We know the pressures are there. We've heard from witnesses that they are under enormous pressure with the current regime of illegal border-crossers. I just don't know where the resources will be coming from. I don't see—

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

They're not in supplementary estimates (B). That's not a part of this request, but as you know, under the parliamentary process, there are several supplementary estimates that come forward when they're required. You can be assured that these agencies—IRCC, CSIS, the RCMP, and CBSA—are constantly monitoring their resources, especially in relation to the border issues. To the extent that it is feasible, they reallocate and reassign within their existing budgets. When they need more, they are not bashful, let me assure you, about coming to ministers and asking for further supplementaries to be included, and then we go to Parliament and ask for the exact numbers.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Nor are the rest of us.

Thank you, Mr. Motz.

Mr. Dubé.

November 9th, 2017 / 9:10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, thank you for being here. To the different agency heads and officials, thank you, as well.

I just want to go back to an issue I've raised with you before in the House, Minister, with regard to the current workplace climate that exists at CSIS and the lawsuit that is ongoing.

The last time I had the opportunity to ask you about it, you, of course, mentioned how seriously this was taken and you said that you would get to the bottom of things, which seems to me to contradict the submission that was made by CSIS essentially brushing away these allegations, saying the case should be thrown out, that there was no merit to it, or that the allegations were dealt with appropriately. Mr. Vigneault released a summary of a report that essentially says there is an issue, and employees do feel that management is not being accountable for these very serious allegations.

The first thing I'll do, of course, is to renew the call that I believe there should be a broader investigation into this. I just want to hear from you how you square this circle. On one hand, you say to us that these are very serious allegations, while on the other hand, a submission in court states that they have no merit and that the case should be thrown out.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

First of all, Mr. Dubé, thank you for raising the issue. I know that you take this very seriously, and I appreciate that. That's part of our parliamentary accountability process.

When this issue first emerged, the new director of CSIS was on the phone to me immediately to tell me what he was learning about that particular situation and to make his view abundantly clear that, although it had not yet been investigated, if the description that was emerging was, in fact, true and accurate, it was a situation that was unacceptable and that needed quick and effective correction.

I believe very sincerely that Mr. Vigneault takes this subject matter with great seriousness and is taking all the necessary steps to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible and to do what is necessary to remedy the situation. Bear in mind—

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Part of why it is difficult to provide elaborate commentary about this in the public arena is that there are legal proceedings under way, and while other participants in the legal proceedings are free to comment, we aren't. That's part of our dilemma. There are things perhaps we might like to say, but discretion says, “Not now”—

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

—which is part of the challenge I have when I see the submission that essentially says the claims have no merit. If that's all we have to go on and nothing can be added to that, then essentially that is saying the allegations are being argued to be untrue or—

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Well, our legal system, through the courts, is an adversarial system, and each side says a lot of things in order to make their points—

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Of course. I understand that, Minister, but there is also the possibility of settling should the allegations be found to be true, instead of putting these folks through this process. That is an important point, but I appreciate the crash course on our judicial system.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The case has only just begun. There are steps under way....

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

I want to ask you once again about the notion of investigating this behaviour more broadly beyond the allegations being made in this court case, because I believe it is of the utmost importance. I hope you share this sentiment with me, because the fact of the matter is that if there are allegations of things like Islamophobia, for example, and those communities are working with CSIS on a variety of public safety issues, as far as I'm concerned—and I'm sure for members of the committee and Canadians more broadly as well—that is deeply concerning. That's why I ask: will you initiate an investigation to ensure that this type of discrimination and behaviour is not seeping into any work being done by individual bad apples, though they may be in the agency?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

I will take every step necessary to make sure that the essential work of CSIS in defence of Canadian safety and in defence of Canadians' rights and freedoms is not in any way compromised.

We're at the beginning of a process, Mr. Dubé. Bear with us. I think your objectives and ours are very much the same.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

We'll likely have a chance to talk about it again.

With the time that's left, I want to go back to another topic we've had a chance to debate in the House recently, which is the no-fly list. Of course we can debate the legislation and the changes that are a part of Bill C-59, but I just want once again, on behalf of the families who were here in Ottawa on Monday, to ask you when we will see the money for that redress system. Beyond the legislative changes—which have merit, I will agree with you on that—the funds are required in order to put the system in place. That would be my first question. When will we see that money?

The second question is where the dollar amount that's been floated out there comes from—it's escaping me—the $78 million or whatnot that was brought out at one point? What do you see as the costs associated with putting that system in place?