Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'm here before you today to answer any questions regarding the items in supplementary estimates (B).
Mr. Chairman, among my responsibilities is ensuring that our justice system operates in a transparent and efficient manner. In my dual role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I'm responsible for a number of organizations under what is known as the justice portfolio, notably the Department of Justice itself, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Courts Administration Service, and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, or the PPSC.
Our government, as you know, has been working to ensure that our justice system continues to evolve as our society changes so that Canadians can continue to be proud of it. We work closely in law enforcement with our partners in the provinces and territories and other stakeholder groups to better align the justice system to meet the needs and expectations of Canadians and to ensure that victims have a greater voice within it.
Our government continues to pursue criminal law reforms to better protect public safety. Most recently, with the coming into force of all components of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, we are targeting sexual predators who exploit our children; ending the use of conditional or house arrest for serious, violent, and property crimes; creating tougher sentences for criminal activities that involve illicit drugs; and protecting society from violent and repeat young offenders.
We're also responding to the concerns of crime victims by proposing in Bill to increase offender accountability by doubling the victim surcharge and making it mandatory in all cases.
Our measures will continue to increase the confidence of Canadians in our criminal justice system. The items that the Department of Justice has submitted to be tabled under supplementary estimates (B) will further our work toward protecting Canadians and ensuring the safety of our streets and communities.
Mr. Chairman, you will note that the Department of Justice net increase is $22.7 million, comprising $1.1 million in vote 1 and $21.6 million in vote 5.
One major expenditure is the renewal and the continuation of the funding for the aboriginal justice strategy. Over the past 20 years, the aboriginal justice strategy has been an effective and culturally relevant alternative to the main street justice system for aboriginal offenders, delivered in cooperation with police, judges, and counsel. This strategy assists in reducing crime and helps to provide alternatives to incarceration for less serious crimes in appropriate circumstances. We recognize that these programs do make a difference by helping to steer aboriginal people away from crime and helping put an end to a cycle of violence.
The strategy has operated on a cost-share basis with provinces and territories and has been renewed through Budget 2012. Renewing this strategy will assist in breaking the cycle of crime escalation on and off reserve in urban, rural, and northern aboriginal communities, as well as to support underserved communities by giving them the tools they need to fight crime and to help victims.
Mr. Chairman, part of our request for funding is for the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid in the provinces and territories. While we recognize that the administration of justice, including legal aid, is a provincial responsibility, we believe that working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners is important to ensure a strong justice system. The funding we are requesting helps support Canada's refugee determination system to prevent delays in processes caused by adjournments and postponements. It also helps address the unique circumstances of refugee claimants, such as the need for interpreters.
In this same package of expenditure is funding for management of court ordered counsel in federal prosecutions in other jurisdictions. This arrangement helps contain costs by having the provinces and territories manage these court orders on behalf of the crown.
We are also requesting funding, Mr. Chair, to address challenges in security admissibility cases. This includes facilitating the use of information in immigration proceedings under Division 9 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act , as well as maintaining a list of special advocates who are authorized to deal in classified information and to assist persons involved in security certificate cases. These funds will allow these immigration proceedings to operate in a manner that will ensure the rights and freedoms of those involved in such cases.
Mr. Chair, we are also asking for funding to enhance activities pursuant to the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act related to the cessation and vacation of refugee status in order to deter abuse of Canada's refugee protection system. It will assist the Department of Justice to provide legal services, including advisory and litigation services, on a broad range of issues to the Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Mr. Chair, the supplementary estimates also indicate a net decrease of approximately $700,000. This represents transfers of funds to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to support the work of crown witness coordinators who work in the northern offices of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada under victims of crime initiatives in the territories. Funds are also being transferred to fulfill salary adjustments under the collective agreements for staff who provide internal services for the Public Prosecution Service.
I would like to thank you and your committee members for the important work you do and for giving me this opportunity to make some opening remarks.
The funding that the Justice portfolio has received brings results for Canadians, and I will do my utmost to ensure these funds will continue to be spent wisely.
Thank you. I am now prepared for questions.
I want to thank the witnesses for joining us. I also want to thank the minister for spending the first hour with us.
Last time you appeared, while we were discussing certain aspects of the budget, we realized that there were cuts to various services within your department.
Have those cuts been made? I would like some clarifications about that. If you cannot provide them to us today, you could perhaps promise to send them to us. Regarding staff, one of the things we need to know is where the Department of Justice stands. Some savings were supposed to have been made. You will see how this is related to this new budget request. We are talking about supplementary estimates here.
You and department representatives told us last time that cuts had been made, but that there should be no impacts. We would like to know whether that's actually the case. We would also like some details regarding this situation.
Why do you need all the other extra amounts requested besides additional funds? Has some sort of an error been made? I think you understand the gist of my question.
Thank you very much, Madame Boivin.
The economic action plan of 2012 announced by the Department of Justice will, as we indicated, achieve savings of approximately $67 million by the year 2014-15.
We are modernizing our operations to focus more on our core mandates in new ways of doing business while safeguarding Canada's justice system. At the same time, we will maintain standards of excellence.
To achieve the savings required, the Justice workforce will be reduced by 6.5% over three years. We're making use of attrition and volunteer layoffs to achieve our human resource objectives. To the extent possible, and to be as transparent as possible, the department has provided employees with timely information concerning the work for us at Justice, and you might be interested to know that the impact on human resources has been finalized for the most part. Again, this is part of what we indicated.
I understand. If we could have the details, it would help the committee to see if the justice ministry is on the go, and which services are really
affected by those budget cuts.
My next question is more specifically about your estimates.
You and your provincial and territorial colleagues recently participated in the conference on justice. Provinces and territories made some requests in matters of legal aid. I see here that additional funding is set aside for that. Your provincial and territorial counterparts also talked about perhaps separating legal aid provided to first nations and more general legal aid. What do you think about that, Mr. Minister?
Also with regard to legal aid, last time, you talked about budget cuts similar to those today. Yet you have come back and are asking for additional funding. I'm having a some difficulty understanding your department's vision regarding that.
I want to thank the minister and his staff for attending today.
Minister, last week you were in Montreal talking about the not criminally responsible direction or intent the government will consider in legislation next year. That, just to let you know, was highly spoken of in my province, particularly in my area of Merritt and the Nicola Valley. That has been an issue for a while. While you can only speak so much to those things, I just wanted to let you know that it was well received.
In regard to my questioning, the government introduced the Safe Streets and Communities Act on September 20, 2011, fulfilling its commitment to introduce several law and order bills aimed at combatting crime and terrorism. The Safe Streets and Communities Act received royal assent on March 13, 2012. Amendments that eliminated conditional sentences for serious and violent crimes—the final component of the Safe Streets and Communities Act—finally came into force on November 20, 2012.
Could you please explain how this comprehensive legislative reform will ensure that our streets and communities are kept safe, and that victims' rights are put ahead of criminals' rights?
They're all part of a continuing process.
Thank you for your comments with respect to our press conference on the subject of not criminally responsible. I have heard quite a bit about this as I've gone across the country. I think the committee will be pleased with the legislation we will table in the new year.
That being said, the bill you were referring to was actually a compilation of a number of bills that died on the order paper. Some of them I personally introduced about four times—the bill specifically with respect to drug traffickers and drug dealers. I was quite pleased that this was put together, because it sends out an appropriate message.
In the area of drugs, we know it can be a very difficult problem. We know the problems when we see what has taken place in other countries. We want to make sure this does not happen to Canada. We are taking steps, because, from what I have been told, for instance, the people who bring drugs into this country are part of organized crime. These are mobsters who are sophisticated in their operations. Again, it's not the person who is just doing this as a one-off or somebody who has unfortunately become addicted and is just bringing in a few drugs. What they tell me is that this is organized crime. So we're sending out an appropriate message that if you get involved with this kind of activity, there are serious consequences in Canada, and that has come into effect.
We also send out a very clear message to those who would abuse children. I am particularly pleased with the two new sections introduced into the Criminal Code: one, where an individual who gives sexually explicit material to a young person for the reason of grooming that child—that has now become a crime in Canada; two, I am particularly pleased as well that we have plugged a gap, in my opinion, in the Criminal Code where two adults discuss with each other how to set up and how to exploit a child for sexual exploitation. That is now a crime in Canada. One of the things I particularly like about both of those is that we are intervening before all the abuse and the exploitation of that child takes place. We're trying to intervene to stop these individuals from going ahead with their plans. To the extent that we intervene to protect children, I think these are very important steps.
There are other components, as you know. Reducing the availability of house arrest is important. I've been told by people that if an individual is arrested or convicted and is immediately sent home, that can be challenging, in terms of people's confidence in the criminal justice system. It is a challenge to the individual, who we want to make sure gets help and understands the gravity of the crimes he has committed.
It's comprehensive, but as you know, it was part of a number of bills that we did not get passed in previous parliaments. We put them all together, and I'm very pleased and proud of the fact that now all have been implemented and are now part of the law of this country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Minister, for being with us today and for being comprehensive in your initial statement.
In the matter of aboriginal justice, the main estimates 2012–13 provided for a $12.3 million reduction in funding for the aboriginal justice strategy. However, the supplementary estimates of 2012–13 include voted appropriations of nearly $12 million. My first question is, has the aboriginal justice strategy therefore correspondingly been renewed, and if so, for how long and what might its annual funding be?
The second question is related. The department's website states that funding under the capacity building fund is only available for fiscal year 2012–13. Therefore, proposed projects must be completed by March 31, 2013. My question on this one is, does this mean that the capacity building fund will no longer be available after 2012–13?
That's good. I say that I don't want you to draw that conclusion just in case you may have been going down that road.
With respect to the aboriginal justice strategy, it has been renewed on the same terms it was in the previous year. The funding will take us up to the end of this fiscal year. As I indicated in my opening remarks, I think it has many things to commend itself for. Certainly my analysis of it over the years is consistent with that. Again, the funding is up to and including the end of this fiscal year.
Now with respect to the other issue, many of these things are.... Sometimes there's funding for two years, sometimes there's permanent funding, sometimes there's year-to-year funding, and again, this is all part of the budgetary process. We all make inputs and suggestions on those. As I indicated to you about a year ago with respect to aboriginal justice, we wait for the budget to come out, but we all work towards the same goals.
We are very careful, Mr. Cotler, as you know, with respect to the removal of anyone, and we do everything we can to make sure an individual is not subject to torture. It's not just with respect to special advocates, to individuals who are subject to extradition proceedings—anybody for whatever reason we remove out of the country. Pursuant to the laws of this country we are always concerned to make sure that that individual is not subject to torture.
Many times as Minister of Justice I have asked for assurances, for instance, from other countries that the death penalty will not be applicable to individuals charged with serious crimes. This most often takes place when we get extradition requests from the United States. If the jurisdiction is one in which there is a death penalty, we always seek assurances that that will not take place.
In addition to the United States, where an individual may be subject to leaving this country, we always look...and many times we require assurances to make sure the individual is treated properly and fairly and is not subject to either torture or the death penalty, or to anything else. We do our part to do that.
Is there anything else you wanted to add, Deputy?
Thank you, Minister and officials, for being here today. We really appreciate it.
Minister, in 2007 the government announced the federal victims strategy and committed $52 million over four years to respond to the needs of victims of crime. As part of the economic action plan, Budget 2011, that strategy was renewed at a funding level of $13 million per year. Budget 2012 built on that funding by adding $7 million over five years, $5 million of which, as I understand it, will be directed to the creation and enhancement of child advocacy centres across Canada.
I went to the opening of one of those, actually, in Vancouver. It's very impressive what they're doing there to help children who are victims or witnesses of crime to not have to be overwhelmed by the system in which they find themselves.
With the new funding announced in Budget 2012, my understanding is the fund will have $11.6 million each year available to fund provinces, territories, and non-governmental organizations whose projects, activities, and operations support the objective of the federal victims strategy.
We would appreciate you giving us an idea of what that federal victims strategy includes.
Thank you very much for your comments.
As you know, since 2006 we've committed over $90 million to victims services. In many cases they are enhancing programs in place—victims funds. We have made a number of extensions and a considerable financial commitment.
One of them that is brand new is with respect to child advocacy centres, as you indicated in your question to me. This is something I feel very strongly about. Those of us who practise law have all heard how traumatic the court process can be for a child who has already been victimized by somebody. The court process, the interrogation, the police stations, the medical examinations—all of these can add to the trauma of a child who has been victimized.
I can't tell you how impressed I was by this concept in some meetings I was having in Edmonton about four or five years ago. It turned out, by coincidence, they were opening up one in St. Catharines, which is very close to my constituency of Niagara Falls, and when I received an invitation to go have a look at it, I was only too pleased to do so.
Again, I think to have a child-friendly atmosphere, where all the services are brought to the children, is a huge step forward in the better treatment of children who unfortunately have had this kind of trauma inflicted upon them. When I asked, as appropriate, how these were being funded, it seemed to be very hit and miss. To the credit of law enforcement agencies, and certainly in my area, they helped contribute, and also some of the municipalities, so I was very pleased and very supportive several years ago when the budget of 2009, I believe, included $5 million for child advocacy centres.
As you quite correctly pointed out, over and above that, and even in this time of restraint for all levels of government...I was pleased and appreciative that in the budget of 2011-12 there was an addition of a little over $5 million for child advocacy centres. So I'm very pleased and proud of the fact that the Government of Canada is involved with this.
I'm going to predict that this is going to become the norm in Canada, as to how we treat children who have been sexually exploited or who have been traumatized by assaults, and I think this is something in which we can all take a great deal of pride.
Yes, there are many components of these budgets and, again, this is a time, of course, of restraint for all levels of government, all levels overall for departments, but I was very pleased to see that. It's consistent with what we have done and said with respect to victims.
I remember about six years ago now we initiated the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. I thought that was an important step forward as well, to have an office that was devoted exclusively to the issues that concern victims in this country. I think that, too, was an idea whose time had come.
Yes, we have been very consistent on that. Whenever we bring in legislation, we want to know how it affects victims. Does it help victims? Certainly, in conjunction with the legislation, the different victims programs, one of which I've discussed in some detail, are all very important, and I'm very pleased and proud that they're part of the budgetary process.
And thank you again, Minister, for joining us.
Particularly because your answers tend to be very fulsome, Minister, I thought I would ask a few questions, ask your officials, the deputy minister and Ms. Morency, to take notes, and then we might actually carry on the discussion afterwards.
I have a series of questions. They're all related to the issue of the item on funding to address challenges in the security admissibility cases protecting classified information, obtaining assurances against torture. There's a line item for $3.4 million, of which $3 million more is needed.
The premise of these questions, so you understand where I'm coming from, is that to understand the costs, and therefore the need for an increase, we need to understand the process, the criteria, and the frequency that assurances are being sought.
My questions very briefly are the following.
One, why are current funds inadequate?
Second, what kind of activity increase is being envisaged, if such activity increase is being envisaged, and in particular to any particular countries where diplomatic assurances are viewed as likely to be necessary more and more?
Third, it's listed under Courts Administration Service, and I'm having a little bit of a hard time understanding what exactly the use of the funds will be in the diplomatic assurances context. What government actors are involved?
Fourth, is there a written policy or are there guidelines with criteria for determining whether assurances are to be sought, and when they're sought, whether they're adequate?
Fifth, are these assurances in our practice now legally binding? All of these have cost implications.
Sixth, the Supreme Court, in Suresh, places a lot of emphasis on monitoring as one component of reliability of assurances. Is monitoring built into our assurance system, and does that have any cost element for this number?
Last, can I be clear that we never use diplomatic assurances in advance of having already assessed whether there's a substantial risk of torture? That is, you can never just use diplomatic assurances; you have to know what the risk is.
Once I know the answers to these questions, I'll understand why we're looking for $3 million, and I understand we might have to get this information later.
You've asked quite a few questions there, and we'll attempt to get to them.
In terms of why more money is needed, we assess these on a regular, ongoing basis. You might say, well, why don't you just do it once a year and you should be able to figure this out? When we have a look at the ongoing processes and we get feedback from those who are either employed by the Department of Justice or are associated with it, in terms of these various costs...this is the whole supplemental estimates program, to try to make sure it squares with what actually is happening.
A number of issues that you raise, quite frankly, are with Public Safety. Nonetheless, if you're asking about the whole question of assurances, as I indicated in my answer to Mr. Cotler, these are investigated very carefully. We make an assessment of these. For instance, I'm directly involved with extradition in this country. We have people, who I believe have considerable expertise in this area, to look at this very, very carefully, and this is something that we look for. Unless we get those assurances on a number of the issues, as I indicated to Mr. Cotler, that will hold up or stop something.
Sometimes there can be challenges in this when you're dealing with different legal systems around the world, but we're very careful. We're not sending somebody outside of this country unless everything is in place and everything is as it should be in terms of what we are required to do. If you think about it, this is a huge change in status for an individual to be actually removed from a country and moved to another country. I, for one, am very careful with that, as I'm sure all previous justice ministers have been. When we get these requests, it's to make sure that what we're talking about are serious matters that can and will be determined and that there are proper assurances in place.
You ask, how do you determine that? This is the expertise I have with the people around me, and then, ultimately, we have to make those decisions. But I'm confident in the cases that I have been involved with over the last six years that we have fulfilled our responsibilities on that.
Deputy, did you have anything additional on these questions?
Mr. Chairman, I could just make two quick points, and then I've no doubt we'll come back in a subsequent round.
Very quickly, the premise of the question was that this is entirely new money. This is a renewal of a program that has been in existence since 2008, first, and, second, the money for the Courts Administration Service relates to the cost associated with providing secure facilities, providing administrative support, providing appropriate support to the judges who are dealing with these matters, which is different and unusual compared to the normal work of the court, and for which the Courts Administration Service has not had funding. This is a renewal, through the supplementary estimates, of a program that has been in existence for some time.
Minister, thank you so much for coming today. I want to say that I applaud the position of the ministry, and of course yourself, in relation to your concentration on demolishing organized crime in this country. I want to compliment you on that, sir, because most of the legislation—some 20 bills that have been in place since you've been minister—have in some way or other taken a chunk out of organized crime and its ability to operate in this country.
Also, as a member of the Canadian Bar Association for some period of time, I know that as an association they are not always in lockstep with our government. They, of course, are very independent in their opinions from time to time. I think that is fair to say.
But in relation to the quadrennial commission's key salary recommendations, I noticed that the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, and others, including the president of the Canadian Bar Association, Robert Brun, have suggested that we have done an exemplary job, not only in the independence from the judiciary of our findings, but also in getting it on track much more quickly so that they have a response.
I quote from Pierre Bienvenu, who represents judges:
||The judiciary has been concerned about delayed government responses to past commission reports. I am pleased that the government provided its response to the present commission’s report well within the timeline set by the Judges Act and has quickly introduced legislation to make the necessary amendments to the Judges Act.
Can you comment on that?
I was very pleased to hear that. It shows that there has been considerable analysis of what we are doing. As you know, we included in the budget implementation bill that's presently before Parliament our response to the quadrennial commission because, among other things, I wanted to move quickly on that.
We accepted the main recommendation that there be no general salary increase for Canada's Superior Court judges beyond the indexation that is mandated, as you may know, by the Judges Act. We understand that judges have to be compensated in a manner that will attract outstanding individuals who are prepared to serve on the Superior Court benches in this country, and while all governments are under pressure for financial restraint, we have to strike that appropriate balance. I believe we've done that with the response to this.
I agree that we should move as quickly as possible to respond to these commissions. That is only fair, and that is consistent with the role the judiciary plays and the role Parliament plays. So as you can see in our response to the quadrennial commission, the timelines have been moved up. This has been well received, and quite frankly, I was very pleased at the comments, as you pointed out, by the president of the Canadian Bar Association and others who have had the opportunity to have a look at that. I think it strikes the right balance, and we can all be very proud of the independent judiciary of this country. We all have a role to play in being supportive of that, while at the same time ensuring that the judiciary maintains its independence, and that balance is the one that we attempt to strike. I believe we have done that. Again, the quadrennial commission is something that we have responded to in a timely manner, and I think that was appropriate under the circumstances.
Congratulations for that, Minister.
I only have a minute left, but I notice that among the three largest components of the total net increase for the 2012-13 supplementary estimates (B), the first is, as Mr. Cotler pointed out, “the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid in provinces”, and as well, “court-ordered counsel in federal prosecutions”, which is about $14.3 million.
The “Funding for the Aboriginal Justice Strategy” is the second largest component, and the third is, as Mr. Cotler noted, “Funding to address challenges in the management of security inadmissibility” and safety generally for inadmissible individuals facing the risk of torture.
All of those components are, of course, the largest.
Do you see the aboriginal justice strategy as something that seems to get significant results for aboriginal Canadians?
It's within my department. When we receive a request, for instance, from a foreign country to extradite somebody from Canada, this is part of the discussions that go on between the two countries. The country will, among other things, obviously, set out what the charges are, what the circumstances are surrounding the issues, and why it is that they want an individual.
On the other hand, it's up to us to consent to that, and one of the things we look at, among other things, is the seriousness of the crime. We're not going to extradite somebody for a very minor incident—or for something that is not a crime in Canada; that's another level of it. But the assurances have to be a part of it.
The best example, of course, is that if it's a jurisdiction—for instance, if it's one of the American states—that has a death penalty, we seek those assurances. We have to be satisfied that that individual is not going to face the possibility of a death penalty if convicted. That's part of the process, and we have to have those assurances or we will not send somebody out of this country. As I indicated to you, being removed from a country is a very important thing in the life of somebody.
This is part of what it is we're doing. As I indicated in my opening remarks, or perhaps it was in response to the question of Madam Findlay, organized crime is involved with a lot of the illegal activity in this country. I gave the example of drugs, and very early in my term as justice minister, it was brought to my attention that that's who was doing it. One of the major components of Bill C-10 is dealing with those individuals who are in the business of trafficking, but it's not confined to that.
It was brought to my attention that there are sophisticated illegal operations involved with auto theft, shipping cars in and out of this country. I was told, and I believe, that the laws as they existed at that time did not cover that, just dealing with theft over or under $5,000, or if you break up a chop shop, the main offence may be possession of stolen property. Needless to say, if you break into a chop shop, you're going to have people say they don't actually possess these; they just do the public relations for the chop shop, so they don't possess.
I don't mean to be funny about it, but the laws weren't covering what actually takes place. If you had the public safety minister here, he would tell you that there were gaps in what Canada Border Service Agencies could do about intercepting containers with cars and car parts; they didn't have the authority to start opening these up to try to break up these chop shops. That was one bill that I think was particularly important in updating the Criminal Code to reflect what's going on. If you have these sophisticated operations, the laws should respond to them.
We made changes with respect to ID theft, as you know, and again, in my opinion, it's updating the Criminal Code to reflect what's actually happening out there.
We made changes, for instance, with respect to bail proceedings, individuals who have been charged and/or convicted of serious crimes involving guns, for instance, putting an onus on that individual to say why they should be back out on the street after they have been charged with another criminal offence. I had law enforcement agencies tell me that if you had somebody who has a record of a violent offence involving firearms, for example, and they're charged with another crime involving firearms, and if that individual is back in the neighbourhood in the next couple of hours, it sends out the wrong message to the neighbourhood; it sends the wrong message out to the victims and witnesses. They say, “What's going on here?” Again, it's for the protection of the individual. If the individual has a proclivity for firearms offences, that individual may be a danger to himself as well as to the public. We have been very focused on that, as you know.
Things such as drive-by shootings have all been connected to gang activity in our country. As you would know, and the members of the committee are aware, we've had many pieces of legislation—I think we've had over 20 pieces of legislation—and all of them are moving towards better protecting victims, cracking down on violent crime, going after organized crime, and, in come cases, updating the Criminal Code to reflect what's actually happening out there. It hasn't been easy, but I'm very pleased with the progress we're making these days.
Minister, I often say that justice is a poor relation when it comes to budgets—be it in the case of the federal government, of provincial or other governments. At the beginning of your presentation, you talked about law-and-order bills. I know about that. We have studied several such bills in this committee. Those kinds of issues require money.
The Police Officers Recruitment Fund was discussed. Earlier, I talked to you about the federal-provincial-territorial meeting. The provinces and territories said they think this program is important. Yet the federal government will cut it. Justice is not limited only to ongoing legal proceedings. Its goal is also to prevent the commission of crimes. I would like you to explain to me why this program is being cut. I think it's fairly important to have more police officers on the streets.
Do you think justice is something of a poor relation? Requests have been made regarding legal aid and first nations police services. Requests are being made at all levels, but you are being asked to make cuts. We see that small amounts are earmarked for some areas and slightly larger amounts for others. We may wonder how the department made its projections at the beginning of the year.
What does the Minister of Justice of Canada think about these budgets?
I want to thank my dear colleague. I also want to thank our witnesses for joining us.
I will discuss Supplementary Estimates (B) 2012-2013. In the estimates, it is proposed that $1.8 million be added to the department as part of the funding to enhance activities related to the cessation and vacation of refugee status pursuant to the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. This is in vote 1.
Here is my first question. Can you tell us about the activities related to the cessation and vacation of refugee status and those related to removal? Second, what is the Department of Justice's role in terms of that? Will the department work with the Canada Border Services Agency and, if so, in what way? Finally, what will be the real impact of the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act on the role of the Department of Justice?
I thank the member for his questions.
The Department of Justice provides legal services to almost all federal departments and agencies. The Department of Justice's funds are used to support departments in their proceedings. So we anticipate needs related to legal advice in proceedings and, occasionally, support in potential litigations.
I will now answer the question about the fight against human smuggling. I'm sorry, but I don't know the French term. Part of this proposal concerns the broadening of the process. It provides for cancelling the refugee claim of a person convicted for taking part in human smuggling activities.
This is only a recognition of the broadening of a process and its application. We need more lawyers to support departments. That is all there is to it.
In terms of the budget process—and I know there's another committee of the House that has examined the operation of the budget process—the main estimates are voted on, and historically over time the main estimates have generally not reflected items that are reflected in that year's budget. So the 2012 main estimates that were tabled reflected the continuing operations of the department, but there are a number of sunsetting programs, many of which are now before this committee in the context of supplementary estimates (B).
The main estimates reflect a tragic loss of money, and the supplementary estimates represent a miraculous return of money, and at the end of the day it kind of balances out. Officials from the Treasury Board could explain historically why this is so and why this is the way the Parliament of Canada has appropriated money. But essentially, when the mains were voted on, a certain appropriation was approved for the department. Through the budgetary process and subsequent approvals, the government decided to come forward to Parliament and seek supplementary estimates in respect of the renewal of a number of time limited programs.
You asked earlier about the special advocates program. The Courts Administration funding is related only to Division 9 proceedings under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It's simply a reflection of the fact that when the program was established, the decision was made not to give it permanent and ongoing funding as a new program, but to renew it from time to time. As I understand it, the money has gone up and down in adjustment to what's been needed, but the Courts Administration Service simply does not have an ongoing kind of aid base or core funding for it.
The way the system works is the mains are voted on, the government brings forward its budget, and other approvals are done. The government tables supplementary estimates, generally to reflect adjustments associated with the budget. In the department's case, that's an adjustment up for some new resources for aboriginal justice, for court-ordered counsel, for court administration. It also reflects the savings associated with DRAP, so it's kind of a netting out to the supplementary estimates.
That's how the appropriations process currently works under the system for the whole of government, and that's why we're here before you seeking approval for supplementary estimates.
I will be brief, Mr. Chair.
I asked the minister a number of questions about legal aid because I think this is a Canada-wide issue. It's prevalent across the country—in all jurisdictions. Some federal money is transferred to the provinces. I don't want to get a simple answer that the provinces are responsible for that.
That was one of the major issues discussed at the federal-provincial-territorial meeting. At the very end, I think the provincial and territorial ministers repeated their requests for the federal government to examine its funding in terms of civil legal aid. We know that those who need legal aid make up a large segment of the population. They are women and, very often, they are first nations members.
Has your department been assessing this situation? Are you currently conducting any studies on the legal aid issue, or is it simply a matter of business as usual where you say that this issue will be considered at the next federal-provincial-territorial meeting?
Second, this process seeks to set aside about $14 million for immigration refugees and other types of refugees.
Third, the Canada Social Transfer is partially transferred to the provinces. Provinces can use it for legal aid or other social needs, which have been growing steadily over the years.
In the context of considerable financial strain, the government has maintained transfers to provinces in the three categories. In the third one, the Canada Social Transfer has continued to grow.
I want to thank the panel for being here. I think we all learned a great deal, and that's the important part of these meetings. Thank you very much.
I do need the committee to vote on the items we have before us.
Shall vote 1b carry?
||Vote 1b—Operating expenditures..........$1,757,990
(Vote 1b agreed to)
The Chair: Shall vote 5b carry?
||Vote 5b—The grants listed in the Estimates and contributions..........$21,630,000
(Vote 5b agreed to)
The Chair: Shall vote 30b carry?
||Courts Administration Service
||Vote 30b—Program expenditures..........$3,028,012
(Vote 30b agreed to)
The Chair: Shall vote 35b carry?
||Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
||Vote 35b—Program expenditures..........$1
(Vote 35b agreed to)
The Chair: Shall I report the votes on the supplementary estimates to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: I will do that on Monday.
Now we have committee business.