Evidence of meeting #5 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 we've.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Brenda Lucki  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Anne Kelly  Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
David Vigneault  Director, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

It would be very helpful, Commissioner, if that could be done. Then we could do some follow-up.

Unfortunately, I have to move on.

Ms. Michaud, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Minister, allow me to return to the issue of borders, particularly official entry points, such as Roxham Road, which is still open although the borders were closed. You will understand that it was completely unacceptable that asylum seekers could continue to enter the country while the pandemic was well underway here.

It was the perfect opportunity to permanently suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which makes it more advantageous for migrants to cross the border illegally than legally.

The agreement may be suspended unilaterally if six months' notice is given. It is also possible to suspend it for three months, and it is renewable without restriction. Instead, your government preferred to rely on the July Federal Court decision, which struck down the agreement on individual rights grounds. You asked the court to extend the agreement or else immigration delays and backlogs would occur. The asylum seekers responded that this was speculation, as their numbers had decreased significantly due to the pandemic.

Can you confirm that this number has decreased? If so, why did you invoke the court's decision?

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

If I may, let me just clarify. The movement of people across our borders, not at points of entry but through irregular migration such as at Roxham Road, we believed could not be managed safely in the circumstances of the restrictions we put in place for non-essential travel. So we did restrict the irregular migration at the non-border point of entry. We put those restrictions in place as part of our COVID measures.

I think you're also referring to the fact that we continue to operate the safe third country agreement at the point of entry. I can confirm with you that there's been a significant reduction in the people crossing from the United States into Canada. Some people have been able to meet the exemptions under the safe third country agreement. As I'm certain you are also aware, a Federal Court decision vacated the safe third country agreement, but left it in place for six months to allow us to seek clarity from a higher court on their decision on the agreement. The justice department is seeking that greater clarity and defending that agreement. Just on Friday, we received a court decision that keeps it in place until the superior court has an opportunity to review that decision.

Finally, I can advise this committee that we've been working very closely with the United States in bilateral discussions on how that agreement might be modernized. That work has continued in parallel to the determinations that are being made in court.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Madame Michaud.

Mr. Harris, you have two and a half minutes plus a few seconds.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

I'd like to ask Commissioner Lucki a question. It arises, obviously, from the last few months of activity in relation to a study being done by our committee on systemic racism in policing, in particular in the RCMP, and the recent call by the Assembly of First Nations that you resign as commissioner because of your failure to adequately understand and deal with that issue within the RCMP.

I take no pleasure in saying this from a personal point of view, but I do want to know, in the face of a lack of confidence by one of the significant victim groups of systemic racism—the indigenous people of Canada—how can they expect you to deal effectively with that in the police force? Have you learned anything more about systemic racism since your last appearance before this committee? How can we and the public expect that you can be an effective leader in dealing with this problem?

November 2nd, 2020 / 7:20 p.m.

Commr Brenda Lucki

Thank you very much for your question.

As I shared with my management team, when I talk about systemic racism in the RCMP, obviously I've learned a lot since that day when we first talked and when I did an interview. When I think about systemic racism in general terms in the police and how it occurs, there are a couple things that come to mind. Since that time, I've been listening, I've been learning, and I've been consulting with all kinds of groups, including indigenous leaders such as the former MMIWG commissioner, Marion Buller; the AFN national chief; Senator Murray Sinclair, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Inuit women's association—

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Can I ask you directly, though, how do you intend to be able to fix it given a lack of confidence in you as a result of the statements by the indigenous leaders?

7:25 p.m.

Commr Brenda Lucki

In the days and weeks following that appearance, I led the development of an action plan to address systemic racism and discrimination. The plan has been developed in co-operation with a range of stakeholders that I mentioned, and we have a total of 17 initiatives that have been under development and are being implemented. The objective—

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Are you prepared to make that public? Does it have timelines and targets? Is that something that is of practical effectiveness? Can you make that public?

7:25 p.m.

Commr Brenda Lucki

Absolutely. It's on our website as we speak at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca. All of the initiatives and implementation dates so far have been put on there, and it's all about—

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there. Mr. Harris has stretched his time.

We have Mr. Kurek for five minutes, please.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, and thank you, Minister, for coming before the committee today.

I'd like to give you an opportunity to correct the record. You mentioned Hansard and its being a very profound record of all things to do with parliamentary discourse. It's interesting, because on January 27, Conservatives started asking questions about COVID-19, including the borders and the various aspects of what a government response would look like. All the way up until March 12, interestingly enough, the last flight from Italy to Toronto arrived with zero officials there on arrival to inspect the passengers getting off the plane. Would you like to clarify the record on how you responded earlier to your government's supposed inaction in the beginning days of the COVID pandemic?

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Yes, I’m happy to, because, as I’ve mentioned, we took the very first steps of enhanced screening for border measures at the four major international airports on January 22—

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Let me correct you there. Excuse me, Minister, but a major screening? Is that a check box at the end of the immigration screening line?

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Again, I compliment you on the clarity of your hindsight, but your memory’s faulty, Mr. Kurek. And I—

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

I’m only referring to Hansard, Mr. Blair.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Well, in Hansard, I recall very vividly the questions that were being asked at the time, and it was, as you may now recall.... I’ll remind you that in January, there was a concern about an illness that had begun to spread in Wuhan in the Hubei province in China, so we took a number of measures to screen people coming from that location. We took a progressive path to significantly increasing and enhancing border secure measures directly in a response to an evolving situation and in response to the advice that we received—

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, Minister. I think the record speaks for itself, so I’ll leave it to your staff to go back to Hansard to look specifically at what exactly did happen, because it’s very, very revealing.

Now, it’s interesting that in August, an American CEO received an exemption from quarantine, and you said that you would take care of that issue. That's a paraphrase, but it's basically what you said. Then it happened a month later with the CEO of Costco, and there have been a number of executives who have received these exemptions. Now Minister, it’s interesting, in that these CEOs get exemptions, yet I hear from constituents who are looking for compassionate exemptions for medical treatment in various jurisdictions that they have to jump through every hoop imaginable. How can you defend the actions of your department when, clearly, you did not address those exemptions in the early days when they were first brought up?

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Let me be very clear that the restrictions that we put in place were intended to protect, and have been extremely effective in protecting, the health and safety of Canadians. As I’ve mentioned, our border services officers have also been extremely effective in implementing the orders in council and the regulations that have been put in place. We’ve also been dealing on an individual, case-by-case basis, as MPs from across the country and others have brought through cases. We’ve also put in place, and you mentioned some of these compassionate cases.... We’ve created a process that allows people to make application before they show up at the border so they can verify—

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, Minister. I find it troubling how few applications that process was able to get through in the early days. Let's move on to another question.

Counterfeiting and smuggling are growing problems in this country. Fentanyl overdoses traced to China have continued and, in fact, exploded in the midst of COVID-19. Most guns used in shootings are from the United States, and you brag about your millions of dollars spent on border securing, security and whatnot, but we just simply haven’t seen the results. How can you defend the supposed massive investments you’re making when, clearly, they're not working?

Okay, I’ll ask another question if you’re not interested.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Do you want me to answer the question or do you just want to make a speech?

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Well, certainly, Canadians are wondering about the results of these supposedly massive investments.

I have one final question for you, Minister.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Chair? Mr. Chair?

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Yes.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

May I have a point of order?

I’m now getting a French translation over the top of this thing.