Evidence of meeting #29 for Public Safety and National Security in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was imve.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dominic Rochon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, National Security and Cyber Security Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Timothy Hahlweg  Assistant Director, Requirements, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Michael Duheme  Deputy Commissioner, Federal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Artur Wilczynski  Assistant Deputy Chief SIGINT, Special Advisor, People, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Communications Security Establishment
Superintendent Mark Flynn  Assistant Commissioner, Federal Policing, National Security and Protective Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jill Wherrett  Assistant Deputy Minister, Portfolio Affairs and Communications Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

5:45 p.m.

Deputy Commissioner, Federal Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

D/Commr Michael Duheme

They're grouped into one.... I'll go through the numbers again, just to make sure.

There were 273 files that we categorized under the IMVE. They looked at certain criteria that fall under IMVE. Of them, 165 were racially and ethnonationalist motivated violent extremists. Approximately one-fifth of the IMVE files were in the anti-authority category. These could be derogatory comments towards a government but not necessarily towards elected members. There are people appointed in key positions that are providing messages on certain issues. We see an uptick there. Anti-law enforcement grievances and motivations are one-fifth of the 273.

There are 29 files related to incel violence, and the remaining files are related to a range of other grievances in ideology, like conspiracy theories with QAnon and COVID-19, and threats to elected members.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much for that.

I've read that there are some barriers to convicting violent extremists because intelligence cannot easily be entered into the court system. Some conflicts exist with that.

I'll ask the RCMP and CSIS about this. What tools are needed to ensure that the evidence collected and the information that is found can actually be entered, resulting in convictions?

5:45 p.m.

Chief Superintendent Mark Flynn Assistant Commissioner, Federal Policing, National Security and Protective Policing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

I'll take that question.

There are definitely tools required for intel to evidence, and it's a priority area for us. The approach that we're taking, from a law enforcement perspective, is always focused on public safety.

If you look at statistics for terrorism convictions or terrorism offences and charges, you'll note that the numbers are not high. From a law enforcement perspective, we are taking the first opportunity to impact the individuals involved and prevent them from moving forward in that violent space. That can be a simple knock on the door and letting them know. It can be adding a particular group, or advocating for the addition of a particular group, to the listings so that people know that a behaviour is not acceptable and will disassociate from them. You'll also see recent charges related to firearms offences, uttering threats, possession of explosives, attacks against critical infrastructure, etc.

Even though challenges exist with the intel that may give us a much better awareness of the totality of the problem, as law enforcement we are leveraging opportunities that already exist, where legislative elements can be applied, to ensure that action is taken and there's early intervention.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much for that.

In recent Bill C-59, Conservatives proposed an intelligence-to-evidence legal process to allow intelligence into courts, to help get intelligence into evidence under a judicial review process without revealing sources, which we've heard is a significant challenge.

Would something like that make it easier for prosecutors to pursue convictions of those who would perpetrate terrorism and these violent extremist actions, especially with some of these transnational groups and various other hate entities?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

That's a difficult question to be answered in 30 seconds, Mr. Flynn.

5:45 p.m.

C/Supt Mark Flynn

To be honest, I'm not sure where to start with that.

As I said, there are definitely issues around the intel and the evidentiary process, and finding the appropriate balance between the protection of those intel sources, who do aid us greatly in understanding how to prioritize some of the work that we're doing, and the threat the groups poses. There are already some legislated protection mechanisms in sections 37 and 38 of the Canada Evidence Act that apply.

From a law enforcement perspective, more tools and more assistance in bringing evidence forward before judges to make a determination of guilt is obviously of significant benefit to us.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Kurek, and thank you, Mr. Flynn for making some effort to answer a very difficult question.

Mr. Lightbound, you have five minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

First I want to thank all of the witnesses here today.

I thank you for your service to Canada in protecting our communities, and also for your testimony today, which is very compelling. It confirms the importance of this committee addressing the issue of ideologically motivated violent extremism.

My first question is for the Communications Security Establishment.

Last week, we heard from the chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP. He mentioned, among other things, that the threat of violent extremism is much more diffuse than it was in extremism inspired by the ideology of Daech or al-Qaeda. It is often a constellation of different diffuse and not necessarily connected actors. Added to this is the multiplicity of means of communication, i.e. more underground channels. One only has to think of Parler, Telegram and Gab. These are new platforms for communication. In his report, the chairman mentioned to us that there were now 6,600 channels of communication for extremist groups, often from the far right.

What challenges does this represent for the Communications Security Establishment?

How are you adapting to this new environment?

5:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Chief SIGINT, Special Advisor, People, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Communications Security Establishment

Artur Wilczynski

[Technical difficulty—Editor]

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Again, Mr. Wilczynski, we're not hearing you.

5:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Chief SIGINT, Special Advisor, People, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Communications Security Establishment

Artur Wilczynski

I'm sorry. I guess I have to push the button harder.

Thank you very much for your question.

A better understanding of the current means of communication of extremist groups is very important from a foreign intelligence perspective, to determine the motivations of these groups and the strategies they want to adopt to carry out their plans.

This is indeed a challenge for us. We are working in partnership with the other security agencies that are represented here to prioritize the different threats that we need to focus our efforts on, and to provide the information necessary for colleagues to take the actions that are required to enhance the security of Canadians.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Thank you.

My next question is for the CSIS representatives.

You were mentioning that the COVID-19 crisis amplified not only xenophobic sentiment among certain groups, but also anti-government and anti-authority attitudes.

Was there a shift from some groups that were more xenophobic, to conspiracy theories and anti-government, anti-authority, and anti-public health measures?

There were media reports, for example, that many members of an overtly xenophobic group with a particular presence in Quebec, the Meute, had redirected themselves to anti-public health and conspiracy-minded groups.

Have you observed this change?

5:50 p.m.

Assistant Director, Requirements, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Timothy Hahlweg

It's a great question. Yes, we do. We see that movement often. That movement happens quite frequently when there's a new social event that galvanizes either a conspiracy theory or some individual intent to act.

Specifically with COVID-19, we have seen various groups that previously weren't aligned, or individuals who perhaps were not sharing the same ideology or the same motivation, come together under a common cause, whether that is anti-government activity or anti-vaccination activities.

We see that fluidity very often. It makes our investigative efforts extremely difficult. It makes our analytical efforts difficult. It's very important for all of us witnesses today to be able to identify those threats early and often, so that we can make sure we're well positioned to identify them and inform the government accordingly.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

My question is again for CSIS members.

You mentioned earlier in your testimony that these ideologically driven violent extremism groups moved more quickly from one third party to another than in groups driven by religious ideology.

Why is this the case?

May 12th, 2021 / 5:55 p.m.

Assistant Director, Requirements, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Timothy Hahlweg

There are many factors to that, in answering your question, but one of the factors is that there's no common ideology that binds these groups. They come from very different vectors of society. They have different personal grievances. They come together for one specific purpose and then they diffuse again and go elsewhere.

In the RMVE space, we have traditional threat actors that have one common ideology that they all follow. It's a very difficult and different circumstance, hence why we have really tried to identify and articulate the different groupings and why it is that these activities are different.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Lightbound.

That completes our second round of questions.

For the third round of questions, for five minutes, we have Mr. Kurek and then Ms. Khera.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much.

Mr. Flynn, were there any further comments that you wanted to add before my time ran out previously? I can move on to the next question, but I want to give you the opportunity to finish your thought.

5:55 p.m.

C/Supt Mark Flynn

I would go ahead with the next question. I think I finished it as best I could...challenged by the question.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

I want to ask again regarding Bill C-59, so probably Mr. Flynn would be the best fit to answer this.

It raised the threshold to apply for terrorism-based reconnaissance warrants and didn't change the legal requirements to have one granted. It essentially made it harder to apply for a warrant against a terrorist, but it's the same as before to get a warrant.

How many warrant applications are the RCMP or CSIS seeking per year under this new system? Do you have numbers for that?

5:55 p.m.

C/Supt Mark Flynn

I do not have any of those numbers available today. I'm not sure if CSIS has any information with respect to that.

5:55 p.m.

Assistant Director, Requirements, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Timothy Hahlweg

I also don't have active numbers on how many warrants we're seeking.

I can tell you that it is an active conversation we have in this building every day about trying to get more warrants before the Federal Court. It's something that we're working with our justice colleagues on achieving, but I do not have specific numbers.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I'll ask this question again.

Are there any specific tools that are needed to ensure that law enforcement and investigative authorities have the necessary tools required to accomplish the objectives and mandates that you have?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

It's a question where you're generally straying into the area of what should be properly addressed to a minister as opposed to people who work for the government. I'm sure they have their own thoughts, but I'm not sure they can actually share those thoughts.

All the people before us are very sophisticated witnesses, so with that caveat, I'm going to suggest that anyone who wishes to take up Mr. Kurek's question may do so.

5:55 p.m.

Assistant Director, Requirements, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Timothy Hahlweg

I will take a stab at that.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Sure. Thanks.