Evidence of meeting #99 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 video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Commissioner Daniel Dubeau  Acting Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
John Ossowski  President, Canada Border Services Agency
Malcolm Brown  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Dennis Watters  Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jacques Cloutier  Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Anne Kelly  Interim Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Charles Lowson  Assistant Director, Collection, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'll call the meeting to order, if the witnesses would take their seats. This is the 99th meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It's a famous number in Canadian hockey, famous for Mr. Gretzky's saying, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” I'm sure Mr. Goodale is going to tell us where the puck is going to be on supplementary estimates (C).

“Number 99” of the Canadian government, Mr. Goodale, I'm sure you'll introduce your team.

11 a.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Obviously, I'm pleased to have this opportunity once again to speak to this committee today, in particular about my portfolio's supplementary estimates (C) for 2017-18, as well as our interim estimates for 2018-19. I would be remiss if I didn't also include a few brief remarks about some significant new investments that were announced this week in budget 2018.

The team, Mr. Chair, includes deputy minister Malcolm Brown, whom the committee is very familiar with; the president of CBSA, John Ossowski, who is with us once again; and Dan Dubeau, the acting commissioner of the RCMP. Dan has appeared before this committee in a number of capacities over a great many years, but I would note that today may or may not be one of his final appearances. He has been serving as the acting commissioner since last summer—about an eight-month period, I believe—a tremendously important, difficult challenge, which he has discharged with great skill and ability.

Dan, thank you very much for your service over many years in the RCMP.

11 a.m.

Deputy Commissioner Daniel Dubeau Acting Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Thank you.

11 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Karen Robertson is here, deputy directory of administration and the chief financial officer of CSIS.

Anne Kelly is with us once again, representing the Correctional Service of Canada, previously as assistant commissioner, now as newly installed acting commissioner. She is replacing Don Head who retired a few weeks ago. Anne is assuming the top responsibilities in the CSC while the search process goes forward for the new commissioner.

Finally, we have Jennifer Oades, who has just been appointed as the new chairperson of the the Parole Board of Canada, replacing Harvey Cenaiko.

You have a team who has partly been here before and partly brand new. We're glad to have the opportunity to present today.

As usual, our priority is keeping Canadians safe while simultaneously safeguarding rights and freedoms. That's why I was pleased with a number of elements in the budget last Tuesday, because it includes significant investments that will advance both of these objectives.

Some of those initiatives over the next five years include $507 million for Canada's first comprehensive cybersecurity plan; over $50 million in research and treatment for post-traumatic stress injuries among public safety officers; $33 million to help border officers stem the flow of opioids into Canada; $14.5 million to set up a hotline for victims of human trafficking to access the help that they need; $20.4 million in mental health supports for women in correctional facilities, over one third of whom are indigenous; $173 million to ensure we can continue to securely and effectively process asylum seekers in accordance with Canadian law and all of our international obligations; and $4.3 million to reopen penitentiary farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay correctional institutions. This was a valuable program that was unfortunately shut down between 2009 and 2011. There has been very substantial community support for reinstating the farms near Kingston, and I look forward to showing what they can achieve for rehabilitation of offenders and therefore better public safety.

I look forward to returning to this committee in the future with funding details related to to all of these issues. For now, let me turn to the estimates before us and use the remaining time to discuss some of the highlights.

To start with, we are upholding our commitment from last year's budget to establish a grant program, beginning in 2018-19, to support the families of first responders who fall in the line of duty. The memorial grant program for first responders will provide a lump sum, tax-free, direct payment of up to $300,000 to the families of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics who die as a result of their duties. The effective date for that program is April 1. That includes volunteers, auxiliary members, and reservists. In the coming year, we'll be seeking $21.9 million for this important new grant program. Supporting the families of public safety officers is the least that we can do when their loved ones lose their lives protecting all of the rest of us.

We also have to ensure that the brave women and men who keep our communities safe have the resources they need to do their tough jobs. To that end, we are seeking $70 million through the supplementary estimates (C) in program integrity funding for the RCMP. I would note that this week's budget includes an additional $80 million for the RCMP in the coming year. We are providing this funding as we undertake an integrity review of the force to ensure that the RCMP have the resources they need and where Canadians need them.

On a similar note, the CSC, the Correctional Service of Canada, is requesting a funding increase to maintain operations that were affected by budget cuts in 2014. As you may recall, that budget imposed an operating freeze for fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16 on all departments. During that period, departments were not funded for increases in salary expenditures resulting from collective agreements and the ongoing impact of those adjustments. Financial implications from the collective agreements process amount to $105.7 million for fiscal year 2017-18. That is what the Correctional Service of Canada is now seeking to cover that shortfall.

Supplementary estimates (C) also include a request for $144 million related to security for Canada's presidency of the G7, including hosting the leaders summit in Charlevoix this spring. Security operations include advance planning and preparations well in advance, including site visits, scenario developments, and risk assessments. I know the RCMP is working with the community to ensure that residents are properly informed and to ensure that the security of participants and the public is properly protected.

Mr. Paul-Hus, I know you have a request outstanding for the appropriate briefing for you with respect to these security arrangements, and we will make sure that information is provided to you.

Also, while it is not technically funded within my portfolio, I want to note that the new multi-party national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians is now up and running. These estimates include $2 million for the Privy Council Office to support the establishment of the committee's secretariat. I have heard anecdotally from a variety of members on that committee that they are pleased with the way it has started its work, and I certainly look forward to the good work that NSICOP will do.

There is much more that I would like to discuss this morning, but to close my remarks let me just focus in on two particular points with respect to Bill C-59, the national security legislation that is moving closer to clause-by-clause consideration.

One of those points is this. There is, I believe, a drafting error that has come to our attention, and it has to do with CSIS querying the datasets in exigent circumstances when they are properly authorized to do so by the director. The threshold in the legislation as drafted says that such a search could be conducted if it would in fact provide the desired intelligence. Of course you can't know that with 100% certainty in advance, so we would propose a change in the language that would talk about a threshold of likely to produce. That would enable CSIS to perform the queries in exigent circumstances, and of course all of that is scrutinized after the fact by the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.

The second matter relates to testimony I read regarding ministerial directives on information sharing. As you know, I released those MDs last fall for the first time. Some of your witnesses expressed an interest in having a legal requirement that the ministerial directives be made public. I think it is an excellent idea, and I would encourage members of the committee to consider making that change in the legislation.

Mr. Chair, my officials and I are proud of the important work that we all—and when I say “all”, I mean to include the vigilant members of this committee—continue to do to ensure the security and safety of Canadians and we're happy to try to address your questions pertaining to the estimates.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Minister Goodale.

Up first, for seven minutes, Ms. Damoff.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

Minister, thank you for being with us again, and to all of your officials thanks not only for being here, but for the fine work that you do for our country. It's much appreciated.

I'm guessing you probably have some idea about what my question will be, because I usually ask you about this when you come to committee. As you know, our public safety officers risk their mental health when they come to work every day. It's something this committee has been seized with, in terms of our report, which was unanimous, and it's certainly something I've been seized with since I was elected. So I was quite excited, when I read the budget, to see there was $20 million going into funding to support our public safety officers' mental health.

Minister, I first want to thank you, because I know that's something you personally have been working on since you were first appointed. I wonder if you could speak just a little bit about the importance of the work that's going to be done. I realize it's not in the estimates, but it is something that we've talked about a great deal here at committee.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

It's a very important field of public policy, Ms. Damoff. You point out the very good work that was done by this committee and the report that was drafted, and I know you had a strong hand in doing that.

There have been motions on this topic that have been presented in the House of Commons. I presented one in the opposition four or five years ago. Mr. Doherty from the opposition—and I hope he's recovering well from his illness—has presented one as well.

I think this is an issue that completely transcends any partisan considerations. We all share the earnest desire that our public safety officers who put themselves in harm's way to defend the rest of us.... In the course of what they do they are exposed to some very tough situations and some pretty awful things that they have to see, and it takes a toll. PTSI and other conditions are very likely to result from what they are called upon to do in discharging their official functions. The statistics indicate very clearly what the toll is.

What we have provided in the budget, working with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment—the short hand is CIPSRT—and my department of Public Safety, is to make sure we have the knowledge, intelligence, and research in place to fully understand PTSI among first responders and public safety officers.

We think we know it pretty well among Canadian Forces personnel and veterans, but first responders have pointed out that some of their circumstances are different. It might appear to be the same thing, but it's important to understand the nuances and distinctions when PTSI affects public safety officers. We're putting forward the funding for the research and the analytical work that needs to be done.

In addition to that, there's a further $10 million to go toward the online provision of services. As you know, some of these people are called upon to operate in remote locations. They don't have access to some of the services and facilities that are available in our more urban locations. They need to be able to access the treatment they require in various forms, including online.

The money is there for that purpose, to do the research, collect the data and knowledge, do the analysis, and provide the treatment facilities. It's $30 million in total over a five-year period.

I must say, of all the things that affect my department coming from the budget—and I listed quite a long list at the beginning—this is the one that has prompted the largest response. The no-fly list with respect to children is a very close second. The two of those have prompted a very big reaction. There's obviously a lot of Canadian support for making sure our public safety officers are properly treated from a mental health and mental health care perspective.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

As you know, Minister, it's often something that's taken for granted in terms of keeping Canadians safe. It's critical. I, too, have heard a number of comments from public safety officers, and they are extremely grateful.

One of the things we heard at the status of women committee was the fact that marginalized women often are hesitant to come to the RCMP or the police, in particular indigenous women and other marginalized groups, because of perceptions that they won't be treated as well as they should be when they come forward. One of the recommendations that we made was for better training for federally regulated law enforcement officers in dealing with people who do come forward respectfully.

You've committed $2.4 million over five years, as well as ongoing funding, to the RCMP for cultural competency training. Again, this is a recommendation that we're seeing in the budget that we're quite pleased about. I'm wondering if you could speak about the importance of that and how it will make a difference for indigenous women, in particular, who are coming forward with complaints.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You have less than a minute.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

On another occasion, I would actually love to give the mike on this one to Acting Commissioner Dubeau. The force has taken this issue very seriously. There are a number of initiatives that they are engaged in now, which you'll see rolling forward in the course of the next number of weeks and months, dealing with the whole issue of reconciliation, better communication, better training, and sensitivity issues. It's an issue the force has as a great priority, in its training and in its operations.

All Canadians need to know, need to believe, and need to be able to believe that when they approach their national police force, they will be treated in an exemplary manner. That is very much the force's ambition.

I would also note and I am happy to answer questions about how they are working on that category of unfounded sexual assault investigations. That's another area where they've really set the pace in terms of how to address that issue.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Ms. Damoff. Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Paul-Hus, seven minutes, please.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to begin by stating that the Conservative Party, which is the official opposition, recognizes that Canadian security and intelligence services are the best in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for your work.

Minister, I have a question for you. Would you agree to allow public servants to come before the committee and explain the vetting procedures for guests at events attended by the Prime Minister?

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Sorry, Mr. Paul-Hus, the sound disappeared on me. If you wouldn't mind, just repeat that to me.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

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

Minister, I would like to know if you would be open to the idea of having public servants come and testify before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on the vetting procedure for guest lists for events attended by the Prime Minister.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Minister, in supplementary estimates there's a pretty broad opportunity to ask questions if members could, by some means or another, tie them to supplementary estimates. It's a legitimate question, but by some means do supplementary estimates or the main estimates.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Chair, as I understand it, the committee is the master of its own procedure, determining what's to be on the agenda and what's not, and what it chooses to pursue and so forth. By my recollection, my officials have been very forthcoming in being available to the committee to respond to whatever the committee sets as its agenda. The committee is the master of its own procedure.

The one caveat that I would apply, Mr. Paul-Hus—and I know that with your distinguished military background, this will be no surprise—is that on the floor of the House of Commons or in a standing committee of the House, representatives of the government cannot discuss classified material. That is not a part of our process. There are procedures by which that material can be reviewed and examined elsewhere, but not in a standing committee.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Chair, I would like to move the following:

That pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee hold a briefing with the Privy Council Office's Director of Security Operations to discuss whether or not the Privy Council Office was afforded the opportunity to properly screen convicted terrorist Jaspal Atwal before being issued an invitation to attend events with the Prime Minister and the cabinet; That the Committee make recommendations and report its findings to the House.

Moreover, I encourage all the members of this committee to vote on the motion. I hope that the Liberals won't suggest that we adjourn the debate. If they do, I will take it as a no.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

This motion is in order. It is timely. Is it being presented with the second motion as well, so the two motions together?

No? It's just the one motion.

Go ahead, Michel Picard.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Chair, I move that the debate be adjourned.

March 1st, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

I would like a recorded vote, please.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

All those in favour of the motion?

11:20 a.m.

A voice

No. He just moved to adjourn the debate.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

I just moved to adjourn the debate.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

It's non-debatable.

(Motion agreed to: yeas 5; nays 4)

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Chair, I would like to propose a second motion.

That pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee hold a briefing with national security advisor Daniel Jean so that he may fully explain how and why journalists were told that convicted terrorist Jaspal Atwal's invitation was facilitated by “elements” within the Indian government; That the Committee make recommendations and report its findings to the House.

Once again, I encourage all committee members to vote on the motion. I hope that the Liberals will not move that we adjourn the debate. If they do, I will take it as a no.