Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation.
My name is Joe Oliver, and I am the assistant commissioner responsible for the RCMP's technical operations directorate. I'm delighted to join my colleagues from Transport Canada and CSIS to speak to you today about the RCMP's role in supporting the transportation security clearance program.
RCMP services include the security intelligence background section, which is mandated to perform law enforcement record checks, or LERCs, for various government departments and agencies, including Transport Canada. Like security assessments done by CSIS, the LERC reports provide Transport Canada key elements in the identification of individuals who pose a risk to security.
In the context of your study of aviation safety, I would like to briefly elaborate on the services the RCMP provides in support of the transportation security clearance program, including a brief overview of the LERC process.
In response to the evolving threat environment as well as recommendations of various reports, the RCMP established the security intelligence background section to provide previously unavailable criminal information to Transport Canada to strengthen its decision-making on issuance of transportation security clearances.
In 2009, the RCMP and Transport Canada signed a memorandum of understanding that enabled enhanced information sharing with the goal of preventing individuals who pose a security threat from accessing restricted areas at listed airports.
The LERC process is initiated when Transport Canada sends a request to the RCMP for applicants who have provided their consent. The applicant's information is queried against numerous law enforcement databases. If the search results in adverse information, a more in-depth analysis is conducted to confirm the validity and relevance of the criminal information. At the conclusion of our investigation, a report is forwarded to Transport Canada containing available and relevant criminal information to assist with its clearance determinations. The LERC plays a critical role as it does not only confirm whether or not an applicant has any criminal records of involvement in criminal or terrorist activities, but it also does an assessment of their associations. For clarity, the RCMP does not make recommendations to Transport on whether or not a clearance should be granted, revoked, or suspended.
Between January of 2015 and December 2016, the RCMP received almost 84,000 requests from Transport Canada, nearly 48,000 new applications and 36,000 renewals. Of those requests that were processed, 1,258 resulted in LERC reports identifying adverse information.
Now that you have a better understanding of the LERC process and some of the volumes, let me take a moment to highlight a few challenges.
Because this is a civil process, the information shared with Transport Canada has to be shared in some cases with the applicants. The RCMP is limited in what criminal information is disclosed in the LERC due to the sensitivity of ongoing investigations, the protection of undercover operators and human sources, or sensitive investigational techniques.
This applies also when the adverse information in question belongs to another law enforcement agency. In such cases, permission must be granted by the originator to release information to a third party, which adds additional complexity and delays to the process.
Our repository of information constantly evolves, and as such, our internal processes are constantly adjusted to ensure we provide the most comprehensive information in support of the transportation security clearance program. We continue to pursue the goal of consistent access to data sources from all police agencies across Canada, and the RCMP identifies and implements mitigating measures on an ongoing basis to reduce potential risks.
In closing, the law enforcement records checks have assisted in strengthening security at the airport in an environment where threats are continually evolving. With the information contained in these reports, Transport Canada is better positioned to make informed decisions to mitigate risks, which increases the security of the aviation system and reduces opportunities for exploitation by criminals and terrorists.