Thank you, Mr. Chair. I do have an opening address, and then Mr. Rutsey will be picking it up from there. Mr. Burns is also here to help answer any questions the committee may have.
Again, I thank the committee for their consideration in allowing this bill to move ahead. As you all know, it has had fairly universal support from the House at second reading. And from all the discussions I've had with members of all parties, it continues to have that support.
Just a quick history in terms of the background of gaming legislation. This particular section can be traced back through England to about the 1600s. We had a king at that time—I think it was one of the Williams—whose military people were gambling too much. It was interfering with his ability to wage war, so he banned all gambling in England at the time.
Over the centuries we've whittled that away, including here in Canada, where there have been a number of amendments to this section. We imported it from England some time in the late 1800s.
I'll point out, for instance, that using dice in casinos used to be illegal. That one has been taken out. Roulette was not legal at one time. That has been taken out. This is a continuation of that pattern.
The effect of this proposed paragraph 207(4)(b) would be to take out a prohibition of gaming on single-event sports. As I'm sure most of you know, you can bet on multiple events, but you're not allowed to bet on single events in Canada, nor can you in any place in the United States, with the exception of Nevada. This would be a major plus to the gaming industry in Canada. A good deal of this gaming goes on at a distance, and this certainly attracts a number of people to Nevada.
The only other comment I'd like to make about the historical development—I'll come back to the economic side of this thing—is that in 1985 an accord was reached between the federal government and the provinces that, in effect, devolved all right to the provinces to carry on gaming activities. If this amendment goes through, although it has to be done at the federal level, the provinces will have the responsibility to implement it.
My motivation with regard to initiating this bill and pressing it forward was twofold. One was economic development. As you know, Windsor has one of the largest commercial casinos in the country. We're right on the border with the United States. Still, roughly 75% to 80% of the traffic coming through our casino—and Niagara has fairly similar numbers—is from the U.S. side of the border.
What's been happening since we opened almost 20 years ago is that the U.S., Michigan in particular, but now Ohio and Indiana, has begun to develop similarly large commercial casinos and has been taking away a significant amount of the trade that was coming to Windsor and Niagara. Buffalo has done the same in New York state.
A study has been done, commissioned by the Gaming Association. The senior executives are here with me today. They point out in the study that this will give us a significant advantage, assuming the system is based in the casinos. It will attract additional people to the casino who not only will be betting on games but will also be using the rest of the facilities at the casino, including staying overnight. It's a significant incentive for people to come to those casinos, let's say from Michigan, Ohio, or New York state.
I'm not going to get into a lot of the numbers. The one I would point out, because it's particular to my riding and my city, is the estimate that this will save and/or create at least 100 to 150 jobs in the Windsor casino, with similar numbers for the Niagara casino, because we are that close to the U.S. market.
The other major incentive I had for pushing this bill forward is that it's part of the overall struggle we continue to have to fight organized crime.
This gaming, which would now become legal, is in fact going on now, and, again, you'll hear huge numbers of the amount that goes on both in Canada and the United States. I'm talking about bets that exceed—the best idea we have in Canada—somewhere in the $8 billion to $10 billion per year range. Those are the amounts of the bets.
Almost all of that is organized by organized crime. They derive the revenue from that after the payouts are done. This is a way of striking a blow at that.
The amount we will take—Mr. Rutsey will probably be able to address any questions you might have in this regard—is really hard to estimate because it depends on how the province runs this out. Again, it's at the very least a shot at organized crime. I know you're still working on completing the organized crime study, but certainly a great deal of the evidence that we heard during that period of time was that one of the ways to undermine them is to take the money incentive away. This is a little part of that ongoing struggle and battle that governments have in order to do away with that kind of unlawful activity.
Mr. Chair, the support has been quite widespread. I want to particularly acknowledge the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. They are both quite interested in moving this thing ahead. They've been doing planning to put it in place. The estimates I've been getting from my casino in Windsor is that it's a six- to twelve-month period of wind-up to get the process ready to go. They've been doing that work already. They will need, obviously, for the legislation to be changed before they complete that work, but they are very interested in moving ahead.
A number of the other provinces are studying it at this point, and the feedback we're getting from Saskatchewan, P.E.I., and Nova Scotia is that they are also very interested in pursuing this.
Inevitably, this is driven by the revenue it will generate for the provinces. I want to be clear. Depending on how this is rolled out, the amounts are not that significant, depending on whether they do it in a modest way, as opposed to, in particular, if they introduce electronic gaming over the Internet.
The figures vary quite dramatically. The bottom line, as far as we've been able to determine, is that none of the provinces are opposed to this. Most of them are in fact quite supportive. I'd also note that a number of municipalities—again, the two I know best are Windsor and Niagara, and both of those municipal governments have passed resolutions in support of this.
Let me finish, Mr. Chair, with the point that sometimes gets raised whenever we're talking about expanding our gaming services. That's the issue of compulsive gambling. How do we deal with that?
It is quite clear, for those of you who don't know, that I was fairly instrumental in getting the casino into Windsor. I was on the first public board that we had in Ontario for casinos. I've done a lot of study on this. Every study that I have seen that is a credible study shows very clearly that by legalizing one aspect of gaming, you do not increase the number of compulsive gamblers. They're already there.
Any number of longitudinal studies—and again, I think Mr. Rutsey can address this more specifically if you wish—show that in fact the rate of compulsive gambling doesn't change at all. There is a variance of very minor points. In fact, people who provide treatment tell me that it may even decrease somewhat, because if it's not illegal gaming that you're involved in, you're more likely to be willing to seek out help. You're also more likely to be identified by the province, the institute where you're using gambling facilities. You're more likely to be identified and encouraged to get help. I certainly know that's the case in the casino in Windsor, and in most of the commercial casinos in the country, if not all of them.
We are spending a significant amount of money on this. I have to say, I don't think enough. It was one of the issues that I pushed really hard when I was working on the casino in Windsor. The Province of Ontario has quite significantly stepped up their participation.
Quebec is the province that spends the most money on helping compulsive gamblers.
Although Ontario spends more money overall, the casinos in Quebec have more active treatment on-site than any other province. I believe other provinces should be spending more money, and I'm not sure that Ontario and Quebec shouldn't either. So I say to you that if this does go through, encourage your provincial counterparts to take a look at that and see if there are additional services that should be provided, much as we do for any number of other addictions—around drugs and alcohol, etc.
If I can conclude, Mr. Chair, there are two reasons for supporting this: economic development and the fight against organized crime. It has widespread support across the country, in particular at the provincial government level.
Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and honourable members. Thanks for inviting us here to appear before your committee.
I'm the CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association. With me is Paul Burns, our vice-president of public affairs.
Our association represents the major participants in Canadian gaming—facility operators, equipment manufacturers, and service providers. We sponsor research and speak out on important national and regional issues.
I have participated in gaming from both the private and public sector perspectives for more than 20 years, including assisting in the creation of gaming policy and casino development in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
As practice leader of the Coopers and Lybrand—now PricewaterhouseCoopers—Gaming Consulting Practice, I advise numerous private and public sector clients, including the Ontario government, and I authored the “Ontario Casino Market and Economic Impact Study”, the blueprint for the Ontario casino gaming industry.
As the CEO of private sector companies, I developed and managed gaming businesses in Ontario, Las Vegas, and internationally, and have been licensed by gaming regulators in Nevada and Ontario. I regularly comment on gaming issues in media and before government.
We're here today to speak in support of Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code that will allow wagering on the outcome of a single sporting event, and to answer any questions you may have.
As Joe pointed out, Canada has enjoyed legalized, parlay-style sports wagering for many decades, but the current restriction that prohibits wagering on a single sporting event does not reflect the modern reality for sports betters. With the passage of this bill, Canadians will have a legal and regulated product for wagering on the individual sporting events of their choice.
The Canadian Gaming Association has supported this initiative since it was raised by the Government of Ontario about three years ago and supported on the record by other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Since then we've met with numerous members of Parliament from all parties, as well as many senators, to discuss the merits.
The issue is seen by most as a tool of both law enforcement and economic development, as well as simply catching up with what Canadians are already doing. The reality is that Canadians are wagering on sports predominantly through illegal means, either with bookies or online. This bill will enable sports wagering to occur in safe, regulated environments, either in physical facilities or online.
A review of the annual reports of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada indicates that illegal bookmaking exists in all regions of Canada, with organized crime ultimately profiting from the venture. While the size of the Canadian market is unknown, estimates suggest it is in excess of $10 billion annually. The growth in wagering on sports through the Internet has significantly increased over the past decade, with estimates showing that Canadians wager almost $4 billion annually through offshore sports books. Passage of this bill will allow: a legal and safe alternative for Canadians to do what they already are doing through illegal channels; for provincial agencies to compete online on a level playing field; for a product of competitive differentiation for gaming properties located at or near the U.S. border; and for the diversion of moneys from the underground economy. It's just good public policy to have the law catch up with what so many Canadians are doing and not simply treat them as miscreants.
For provinces that operate online, it can complete their offerings and eliminate the competitively disadvantageous environment in which they currently operate. Sports betting comprises approximately 40% of all online gaming activity, so right now Canadian provinces operating online just don't have a product for 40% of their potential clients.
It will be a potentially significant competitive factor for border and near-border properties. When people come to bet on sports, they often stay to watch the game. If so, they consume food and beverages, may play some blackjack or slots, and may stay overnight. If they bring their spouse, then even more ancillary revenues are generated.
A recent report we commissioned on the impact of sports wagering on Ontario border casinos highlights the benefits of offering a legal, regulated sports wagering product in the Ontario border casinos of Windsor and Niagara Falls. The potential benefits created by additional visits from U.S. patrons include up to 250 new jobs directly in the two casinos, as well as generating economic benefits in the broader community.
Right now the only beneficiaries of the existing situation are offshore operators, bookies, and organized crime. It makes eminent sense to turn off the tap to such a source of funds for the bad guys and to make it available to provincial governments to help fund programs and services for the general good.
From a tourism and economic development perspective, it's a no-brainer. With more than 100 million Americans within a six-hour drive of a Canadian casino and existing U.S. federal law explicitly prohibiting sports wagering where it doesn't already legally exist—which is essentially Nevada—single-event sports betting can be a significant attractor, especially during times and events like March Madness, the NFL and NBA playoffs, and the Super Bowl.
And remember, the revenues from single-event sports betting already exist and continue to grow. The interest in betting on sports is significant and pervasive. Ordinary people, our neighbours and friends, bet on sports every day. Under the existing law, this makes them complicit in illegal activities. These people aren't criminals, and what they are doing is legal in many other countries around the world.
It really is time to catch up with what Canadians are doing and, more importantly, take that money away from the bad guys and make it available for the public good. Not only does it make sense, it's just the right thing to do.
Thank you. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Thank you, Mr. Comartin and gentlemen, for your presentation.
The former justice critic is here before our august committee. We have indicated our support for the bill, but I have to say that instinctively as a New Democrat I'm looking for issues and concerns, particularly because of the experience we had, for example, in my province.
Going back to the early nineties in my province, similar arguments were used by the government, with the then Minister of Finance, I think it was, saying that we needed to get into the business of putting gambling machines in bars. There were several handfuls of poker machines on bar desks that were put in by various people, and the warning was that it was the Mafia, organized crime, that was doing this, and we had better get involved because we would do it better. Of course, within two years, there were 800 machines in bars across Newfoundland and Labrador. We had a history, following that, of the vulnerable....
Joe, you talked about problem gamblers, but what was really happening was that the vulnerable were being impoverished. There were suicides associated with this. Some people were spending all their time hanging around these machines.
The culprit here, of course, is the video lottery machine, the so-called crack cocaine of gambling. There has been tremendous debate in my province about it. In Nova Scotia, they had them in grocery stores and convenience stores until they were removed because of the scourge they were.
When you talk about this and say “Oh, this is going to be in a casino where people come and we have means to deal with this”, my understanding is—and Mr. Comartin, you can correct me if I'm wrong—that all gambling is illegal except when it isn't. Even three-card monte, whatever that is, is illegal.
So we're saying, okay, what's now going to be legal is betting on a single race. Now, I thought we could do that at a racetrack, that you could place a bet on race one, race two, or race five or something. I remember having done that myself once or twice.
This is not necessarily by this legislation...all it does is leave it to the provinces to license as they see fit. They could give a licence to a football association if they wished. But that's up to the provinces. What this legislation does is really free up single-event betting to allow the provinces to regulate when or where it would occur.
Obviously, Mr. Comartin—and you're speaking for your constituents and based on your history—as an economic development tool, it doesn't seem to me to be problematic. The real problem might be if the unintended consequences actually come forward. Perhaps you might want to comment on that, Mr. Comartin.
I'd like to hear from the Canadian Gaming Association, too, because you fellows are representing the operators. What responsibility do you take for the kinds of consequences I'm talking about?
I'm talking about serious consequences in my province. We have histories of individuals who lost their homes, who committed suicide...with nobody helping them out. You'd go to bars and see people lined up when the bar opened, sitting at the machines, and there was nobody going in and asking to help them out. They're not people who would gamble online. They're not people who.... They have access; that's the key difference, I think.
The number of people may not change, but what can change is access. With controlled access through a casino, I don't see any difficulty, but once the cat is out of the bag, it's pretty hard to get it back in.
Mr. Chair, could I address that as well? I’d just like to expand on this a bit because we talked about this as we were preparing.
The other thing that happens here, which doesn't happen when it's illegal, is that because it's regulated and because the funds flow in a really different pattern, if organized crime were fixing an event, there would be no way we would know they were doing that, as it is now.
I know that Paul at one point said to me that he asked somebody in the NFL, “What are you doing now to watch the way of the betting?” Other than what they can get out of Nevada, they have no way of watching for it.
This will in fact allow provincial governments, in particular, and the people who are operating the single sporting events, the opportunity to be able to monitor that on an ongoing basis. In that particular circumstance, if a big influx of funds came in, their people would say there is no reason for that. They've done their analysis and the Montreal Canadiens are in fact going to win the Stanley Cup this year. Hope springs eternal.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Joe Comartin: But if they saw a huge influx coming in to support the Canadiens to win the Cup, they would be talking to the police. At this point, we cannot identify it, so this would be part of the tools to fight that kind of corruption.
Each province chooses to administer and regulate gaming in an individual fashion.
There are different operating models, and there are different regulatory regimes from province to province. For example, in Quebec, Loto-Québec operates all aspects of gaming. Civil servants will clean the washroom facilities and deal the cards.
In Ontario, you have OLG overseeing private sector companies that operate the major casinos, and OLG directly operates the smaller properties. In British Columbia, your province, private sector companies build the facilities and operate them on behalf of BCLC, with BCLC oversight, with revenue-sharing arrangements.
In Saskatchewan, for example, there is a crown agency that operates two casinos, and there is a first nations organization that operates six casinos.
The short answer is that each province is different. There is a regulatory process in place in each and every jurisdiction, and there is a crown agency charged with conducting and managing gaming on behalf of its provincial government.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you know, my name is Michel Aubin. I am the director general of Criminal Intelligence Service Canada's central bureau.
The committee has asked me here today to provide an update on four items. The first relates to the total number of reported organized crime groups in Canada. Second, I was asked to address the number of organized crime groups based on their levels of threat. Third, you requested information on the types of criminal activities pursued by organized crime and which ones are the most prevalent. Lastly, I was asked to provide an update on the efforts to replace or upgrade the automated criminal intelligence information system, which is known as ACIIS.
Prior to providing these answers, I think it's important for me to first briefly comment on how CISC collects information and produces its criminal intelligence assessments. The intention is to provide you, the committee members, with the necessary context in appreciating the integrity of the information and also in some measure understanding related limitations.
Criminal Intelligence Service Canada has 10 provincial bureaus. Each one has intrinsic working relationships with local policing agencies and other important members of the law enforcement community. Provincial bureaus are responsible for collecting and analyzing information on serious and organized crime in their areas and for developing provincial intelligence assessments accordingly.
When these reports are developed, they are used to promote an intelligence-led policing model at the provincial level. Additionally, the provincial assessments are then submitted to the central bureau so that our strategic analysts and intelligence officers can provide a national overview of the strategic direction and scope of organized and serious crime in Canada.
The machinery behind all of this, and the primary tool that allows law enforcement to collect and share information on a common platform, is the automated criminal intelligence information system, or ACIIS. The system links information on organized and serious crime across Canada and is a fundamental resource in our efforts to combat the multi-jurisdictional nature of illicit activity in our communities. ACIIS is integral to our threat assessment reporting process and is a critical means of sharing information between member agencies.
I have an update on a number of reported organized crime groups in Canada. The total number has steadily fluctuated between approximately 700 and 900 within the past five years. The fluctuation is largely reflective of problems with information sharing on ACIIS. Since 2005, the concept of organized crime within law enforcement across Canada has broadened to include not only tightly knit groups, but also more loosely associated, ethnically diverse, and integrated criminal networks.
On the second point, you requested statistics on the number of organized crime groups based on their level of threat. I'm going to do my best to answer this; however, it is important for me to ensure the integrity of operations and to respect the third party rule in the collection of information from our member agencies. While I'm unable to offer specific numbers, I am able to provide percentages and to offer some important insight into high-level threat groups.
Three per cent of organized crime groups represent the highest national threat. They involve groups with an international, interprovincial, or cross-jurisdictional scope and who enjoy an important share of certain organized crime business lines. The majority of these groups are based in Canada's three criminal hubs: British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
Ninety-seven per cent of organized crime groups fall within a national threat category that is representative of provincial or more localized threats in scope.
All groups, whether national, provincial, or local, represent significant threats to public safety. Organized crime is a network and distributed problem that needs to be addressed through a network and cross-jurisdictional response. Currently, ACIIS is the dedicated national repository in achieving this network approach.
The committee also requested information on the types of criminal activities pursued by organized crime and which ones are the most prevalent. CISC has divided the criminal marketplace into three business lines: illicit drugs, other illicit goods and services, and financial crimes.
As in previous years, illicit drugs continue to dominate. They account for 57% of the criminal marketplace activities share. Cocaine, cannabis, and synthetic drugs, such as ketamine, are dominant within this business line. In particular, we are seeing a moderate expansion with respect to ketamine, pharmaceutical opiates such as OxyContin, and heroin trafficking outside of the traditional criminal hubs.
In 2011 we reported that financial crime accounted for approximately 11% of the criminal marketplace activity. Payment card fraud continues to represent by far the most prevalent market, and continues to expand. Other illicit goods and services account for the remaining 32%. Theft, contraband such as alcohol and tobacco, and the sex trade are the most significant markets of organized crime.
As far as an update on ACIIS, this system was built in 1976. It was initially intended for 50 users across Canada. Today we have well over 3,000 users located in 1,400 different sites across Canada using the database. In addition to obvious capacity issues, intelligence and operational communities are unable to take advantage of the significant technological innovation that is currently available.
In the absence of a replacement for ACIIS, some police agencies and provinces are currently considering an alternative system in a localized environment. Crime is not confined by geography, so it is imperative for all law enforcement to be able to continue to share and access real-time information across jurisdictions and provincial boundaries to a national repository. There is a need to replace ACIIS. How this could be addressed needs to be considered under the new government framework for national police services.
The reality of policing in 2012 is one of increasing complexity and constant change. The value of information and intelligence today arises from how fast law enforcement can gather, understand, and move information.
Innovation in technology and globalization have enabled organized crime to flourish across municipal, provincial, and national borders. Crime groups are uninhibited by jurisdictions and victimize Canadians in very profound ways. Although drug trafficking remains a primary activity among organized crime, many have expanded their scope and have become involved in more than one type of criminal activity. They're also becoming more sophisticated and diversified, as I'm sure you've heard during your study.
In closing, CISC and its member agencies are working hard to share information to promote an integrated, intelligence-led policing model in Canada. We have recently formalized a working relationship with our counterparts in operational units. It's actually a national strategy. By having the intelligence and operation units working in tandem, we are well positioned to exchange information and mitigate the negative impact that organized crime groups have on our communities. However, it is critical for law enforcement to have the technological solutions that will allow them to further enhance public safety.
I would like to thank you again for inviting us to appear today. We will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, honourable members of the committee. Thank you for inviting us here today.
My name is Eric Slinn and I am the director of the Drug and Organized Crime Branches. I am accompanied by Inspector Greg Bowen, the OIC of the witness protection program at NHQ.
Witness protection is recognized internationally as an essential tool in effectively investigating and prosecuting those involved in organized crime and terrorism. Simply put, it is unlikely that persons would agree to put themselves at risk through testifying in court or collaborating with law enforcement in the absence of a mechanism designed to provide them protection.
The Witness Protection Program Act identifies the Commissioner of the RCMP as the administrator of the federal witness protection program. This program is mandated to provide witness protection services to all Canadian law enforcement and, under certain circumstances, to enter into protection agreements with foreign governments and our international criminal courts or tribunals with the concurrence of both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
As Chief Superintendent Thomas Bucher previously testified before this committee on April 13, 2010, it is important to note that the federal witness protection program is not the only program in Canada. The provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan all have their own provincial programs. The three prairie provinces currently have legislated programs. Ontario and Quebec have policy-based programs. Most urban and provincial policing agencies have witness protection units within their respective organizations.
Having independent programs does not preclude these agencies from utilizing the federal program. If, for example, a particularly challenging case arises, the RCMP may be called upon for assistance and the witness will be given consideration for entry into the federal program. These situations occasionally arise because the provincial or municipal programs were generally created to meet the short-term needs of the witness and are not necessarily designed to accommodate those requiring lifelong protection or change of identity.
I would also add that there is no dedicated federal funding for witness protection in Canada. This includes the federal witness protection program administered by the RCMP. This situation therefore creates challenges for the federal program and for smaller agencies who are investigating serious crimes but do not have sufficient resources to pay for witness protection.
Currently, the RCMP expends between $8 million and $9 million per year on witness protection; however, this number can easily fluctuate, depending upon the number and complexity of the case is presented.
The challenges associated with providing an effective witness protection service are considerable. Criminal organizations have an ever-increasing capacity and networks to locate and intimidate and/or harm witnesses and as a result, witness protection processes continually evolve.
Post 9/11, the expanded use of biometrics and technology has posed additional challenges to witness protection partners.
The Standing House Committee on Public Safety and National Security report on witness protection in 2008, as well as the subsequent 2010 report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, made a number of recommendations intended to improve the federal witness protection program.
These recommendations were all taken into consideration as the RCMP, in concert with representatives of Public Safety, initiated in-depth consultations into the administration of the federal witness protection program with a breadth of partners and other stakeholders at both the federal and provincial levels.
Although the program was generally well supported, these consultations identified a number of areas where program improvements could be made. These areas of change, in concert with changes already contemplated by the RCMP, became the focus of an internal RCMP document, which contained a series of recommendations designed to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the federal witness protection program.
Efforts are currently being undertaken to address two areas of concern. Consideration is being given to amending the Witness Protection Program Act. These proposed amendments are intended to respond to shortcomings identified by provincial partners, with an overall view of making the federal legislation more relevant to provincial needs.
In addition, the RCMP is implementing a number of program changes, with a view to significantly enhance the delivery of the witness protection services. The focus of the planned changes is to ensure that the federal program would become more protectee-focused, provide an enhanced level of security to the public, greater accountability, and introduce a series of other program changes, which will result in a vastly superior program to what currently exists.
I would like to take a moment to briefly discuss a number of the program changes currently being introduced into the federal program. The RCMP is finalizing the development of a risk assessment and management model that will be unique to witness protection. This risk assessment and management model will be applied in all cases where an individual and/or their dependants are considered for inclusion into the program. The model will ensure that all considerations about who may be entered into the federal witness protection program will be based upon a consistent national standard, which will be applied in all cases, prior to anyone being entered into the program.
Further, this process will incorporate the input of specially trained psychologists, who will play a critical role in ensuring that the protectees' needs are addressed and that potential risks to both protectees and the public are identified and addressed at a very early stage.
Witness protection training has been increased substantially. Greater training emphasis is being placed on the identification of the socio-psychological needs of protectees, and this training will be augmented by mandatory annual upgrades and tactical training specific to the witness protection function.
The federal program will also benefit from an expanded use of technology currently being developed and designed to afford witness protection coordinators an enhanced capability to monitor witness protection cases, identify outstanding issues and provide greater levels of accountability and more accurate reporting.
The referred changes will ensure that the FWPP will remain a contemporary and world leading witness protection service meeting the needs of both the Canadian public and the Canadian justice system.
These changes are consistent with those previously discussed by RCMP Chief Superintendent Thomas Bucher and Inspector Greg Bowen when they last appeared before the committee and responded to committee questions about witness protection.
At that time, the RCMP agreed to provide a copy of the planned changes to the federal witness protection program to the committee. The document referred to was provided to Public Safety Canada and to this committee. Your executive service should be able to confirm this. If not, I will confirm this.
At this time, I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.
We'll wait for the report then.
I refer to Mr. Aubin.
I listened carefully to your comments, sir, and frankly didn't find them very specific. There were a lot of generalities there. In fact, during the last testimony before this committee, there were details as to how many fit into category 1, category 2, category 3, and category 4. You have just talked about the 3% representing the highest national threat, which I'm assuming would be category 1.
Is that the case? Category 1 seems to be designed as those providing the strongest threat and being international in scope, and in that there were 16 organizations. Category 2 was with international and interprovincial scope, but there was no reference as to the degree of threat, and you identified 300 groups at that level. Category 3 was confined to a single province of more than one city; there were 100 there. Category 4 was basically a single area, town, or city—I guess we're talking about street gangs or small operations.
The fluctuation seems rather large from one year to the next, and he was talking about information sharing being up in the air. This is a little bothersome, frankly. You have 10 separate agencies collecting this information. Can they not get it right? They are off by a factor of 150 out of 900. That seems a bit odd.
And where is the fluctuation? Is it in the number of individual local organizations? I'm sure the Hells Angels don't come on and off the list; the major threats wouldn't come on and off the list.
Is there a fluctuation in activity at the local level, or are we talking about individual small groups of drug dealers being picked up and thrown in jail, and therefore they disappear? What are we talking about here?
Thank you, Mr. Harris. I'm going to try to do my best to answer with as much clarity as possible.
You've touched on a couple of topics. First of all, if I may, I'll premise it by saying that the collection process—how we arrive at the last number on a yearly basis—is done from the law enforcement agency basis up to provincial bureaus and into central bureau. So it is in fact a national collection process.
The collection process, from a theoretical perspective, should happen through the ACIIS database. The database itself presents so many challenges that not everybody uses it and hence provincial bureaus and even central bureau have to use separate collection plans to try to get the full number.
This process is called the integrated spread assessment process and it was put in place in 2003. In fact, I'd say it came about that we had all 10 provinces participating around 2007. It took a number of years to get everybody on board and working on it. Since 2005, across Canada everybody has been working with the same definition of organized crime. It's the definition that's provided in the Criminal Code.
What we're seeing through the variance, the fluctuations, is that in fact it is due to a number of factors. On one hand it is the use of ACIIS itself, but it's the agencies being able to respect the timelines at the provincial level and national level. If a province is late in submissions, it may affect the number.
As well, as an example, last year with the G-8 and the G-20 in Ontario, it seriously affected the provincial bureau of Ontario being able to provide a full collection process and provide the full numbers or the full situation of organized crime in their province.
This past year, Alberta has been looking at their whole process. This year, and going into 2012, we're anticipating having submissions from all provinces.
The fluctuations can also be due to.... You're correct, some organizations such as the Hells Angels are there constantly. But other organizations may be brought to our attention and we might go a couple of years without getting some intelligence on them. Sometimes what happens is that some of the bureaus will drop those organizations from their listing, or they'll cap their listing of organizations in the province.