Good morning, everyone.
This meeting number 86 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
This morning we're leaving our regular study of the economics of policing, and are responding to a motion that came before our committee and was passed unanimously. That is a briefing on security of rail transport.
With us today we have Gerard McDonald, he is assistant deputy minister of safety and security at Transport Canada; John Davies, director general of national security policy at the department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada; Chief Superintendent Larry Tremblay, director general of federal policing criminal operations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Michel Coulombe, the deputy director of operations at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; and also, from VIA Rail Canada we have Marc Tessier, director of corporate security and regulatory affairs, safety, security, and risk management; Marc Beaulieu, the regional general manager east, and chief of transportation; and Jacques Gagnon, the spokesperson for corporate communications.
Our committee thanks all the witnesses for responding to our request to appear and brief us on rail transport security. Canadians thank you and the public servants responsible for keeping Canada's railways safe. Be assured that Canadians rely on your work as they go about their day-to-day business. We place our trust in the work of the employees, the agents, the officers, and others under your command.
We will have time for questions from the members of Parliament on our committee, following the briefings that you present to us today.
I'll remind members, and also officials who appear here, that we aren't looking for any operational details, so to speak, that may put security at risk. We expect that all those security measures will be non-compromised, and that you will have the ability to determine whether or not that is the fact with the question asked.
We're looking forward to your briefings.
We'll open the floor this morning with Mr. Davies.
It may make sense that I go first, as my comments are written at a higher level and will give context to the comments of my colleagues.
As many of you know, Public Safety Canada leads policy development on a number of national security issues. Our role's often one of convenor and facilitator, bringing together the security and intelligence community to develop and improve policy. While the recent arrests in Toronto and Montreal may raise concerns about the threat of terrorism, they also demonstrate the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to work well together.
Today, I will focus primarily on the Government of Canada's efforts to counter the threat of terrorism.
Last February, the Minister of Public Safety released “Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy”. This document describes a framework within which the 15-plus members of the federal security and intelligence community organize their efforts against terrorism. These efforts are framed around four mutually reinforcing elements, namely preventing, detecting, denying, and responding to terrorism.
Activities in the prevention element focus on the resilience of communities to extremism, helping build their capacity to effectively challenge extremists' narratives. This is a long-term effort. The recent terrorist related arrests in Toronto and Montreal, particularly the supportive reaction by local communities, are good examples of many years of engagement efforts to earn their trust by the RCMP, CSIS, Public Safety, and local police. Last year, for example, the RCMP coordinated over 400 specific outreach sessions to raise awareness among youth and adults of national security issues and of the role key agencies play in countering threats and making communities safer.
Furthermore, the Cross Cultural Roundtable on Security, which advises the and the , brings together leading citizens from diverse communities with extensive experience in social and cultural issues to engage with the government on national security issues.
Efforts in the element of detect aim to identify terrorist threats in a manner that often requires timely sharing of information. Detection requires a strong understanding of the threat environment and the strong intelligence capacity to identify threats. Our knowledge has to keep pace with terrorist groups, their capabilities, and the nature of their plans. To accomplish this task within government, departments and agencies share information for national security purposes every day.
There's a strong link to the third element, denying. Emphasis here is on denying terrorists the means and opportunities to carry out their activities through effective law enforcement and prosecution of terrorists.
The key principle in all of these elements is that of partnership. The RCMP-led integrated and national security enforcement teams—also known as INSETs—are models of partnership and key to our work to detect terrorists and deny them the means and opportunity to carry out their intent. INSETs are staffed by employees from CSIS, CBSA, local law enforcement, and the RCMP. This approach has greatly improved the ability of agencies to work together and has led to many successes, including the recent charges in Montreal and Toronto as well as prior arrests including Momin Khawaja in Ottawa and members of the Toronto 18.
Last year, recognizing the value of this model, the government created a new INSET in Edmonton in addition to the existing ones in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Note also that under the national strategy and action plan for critical infrastructure, sector networks have been established to facilitate information-sharing and risk-management activities among governments and private sector owners and operators, including rail sector stakeholders.
The rail sectors also represent the national cross-sector forum, which brings together public and private sector partners from all ten critical infrastructure sectors to set priorities and address shared issues such as cyber-security and border management.
Finally our approach to counterterrorism also includes a need for a proportionate and rapid response to any terrorist activities and to mitigating their effects. We have infrastructure in place to communicate with government, and between governments at all levels and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure including transportation. In the event of a terrorist incident involving transportation, the government operations centre is connected to other key operation centres across government to manage incidents, including those housed within the RCMP, DND, CSIS, DFAIT, CBSA, and Transport Canada.
Given our shared critical infrastructure with the U.S., there's also close collaboration on critical infrastructure protection and response mechanisms to threats.
For a terrorist incident within Canada, or for incidents overseas with a domestic impact, the Government has adopted an all hazards approach to emergency management. This is articulated in the Federal Emergency Response Plan, managed by the .
With that, Mr. Chair, I think I'll leave it there.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to address this committee on these issues of such concern to Canadians.
You are all aware of the sensitivity of many of the issues we will discuss here today. Some of my answers may reflect the care that must be taken when matters are before the court or when assets and personal security must be the priority.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with some information about programs and partnerships that the RCMP has developed to assist in keeping Canada's infrastructure, including the railway systems, safe.
The recent success in Project Smooth is a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of our integrated approach. The RCMP integrated national security enforcement teams are responsible for investigating potential threats to Canada's critical infrastructure, including railway systems that support passenger and freight trains. But we cannot do so alone.
At the detachment level, through calls for services, the RCMP works with railway police services and rail operators to support criminal investigations that directly impact rail assets and to ensure railway property is secure against potential criminal threats. Examples of regular collaboration between RCMP, rail police services, municipal police, and rail operators include joint exercises that are held throughout various locations. Scenarios from previous exercises included hostage-taking, bomb threats, hijacking, and an explosive attack against a freight train.
Based on operational requirements, members of the RCMP's Jetway team may also deploy to some train stations and passenger trains to counter organized crime and extremist elements that may exploit rail. In addition to the counterterrorism information officer program, the RCMP has provided training to rail operators on how to recognize behaviour that may be indicative of pre-incident attack planning.
The RCMP critical infrastructure intelligence team maintains information-sharing partnerships with rail police services, municipal transit police units, and rail operators throughout the country. Such partners contribute to the suspicious incident reporting program, which is a secure portal where partners voluntarily report behaviour-based incidents that may be indicative of pre-attack planning by extremists.
Having this network of security-cleared rail operators also allows the RCMP to disseminate regular intelligence reporting to these partners, including threat assessment, bulletins on ongoing investigative files, and analytical reports on suspicious incidents. These products are intended to foster strong partnerships, cultivate a two-way flow of information, as well as generate awareness to a particular issue or call for heightened vigilance where appropriate.
Existing partnerships with rail operators have provided the RCMP with a direct line into the organizations that were collaborating with us during Project Smooth. Such collaboration proved invaluable. For example, the critical infrastructure intelligence team seconded from one of the major railway police services directly supported this project by providing technical information on rail operation.
Other rail security initiatives where the RCMP has collaborated include government-sponsored classified briefings for owners and operators of surface transportation assets, including passenger and freight rail services. These briefings are hosted by Transport Canada, a valuable partner in the transportation security file.
In addition, the RCMP participates each year in Public Safety Canada's all hazards risk assessment. This year the RCMP is co-leading a scenario involving an extremist attack on rail infrastructure. Such an assessment is intended to support a future exercise intended to test rail security and emergency response.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, good morning.
I am pleased to be here today to discuss issues relating to security threats to critical infrastructure in Canada, and particularly to our rail network.
As members will know, CSIS is mandated to collect, analyze, and advise the Government of Canada on threats to the security of Canada. Since attacks on Canada's critical infrastructure are clear threats against the security of Canada, CSIS works closely with other departments and agencies in protecting our critical infrastructure, notably through the national strategy for critical infrastructure, Canada's cyber-security strategy, and Canada's counterterrorism strategy.
That being said, I would like to clarify for the committee that CSIS is not the lead agency when it comes to critical infrastructure protection. Questions relating to actual rail infrastructure security and practices are best addressed to Transport Canada and the rail companies themselves.
What I can speak to is the nature of the threat. Mr. Chair, threats to our critical infrastructure can take many forms. They include: terrorism, such as from groups or individuals directed or inspired by al-Qaeda; domestic issue-motivated extremists, whether right- or left-wing; and foreign states, which may have an interest in stealing Canada's technology or even crippling our infrastructure.
Attacks against critical infrastructure and industrial sabotage are not new in Canada. Indeed, our country has a history of such attacks and plots from a variety of groups, including: the bombing of a transmission tower in Quebec in 2004; the Toronto 18 plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2006; and the bombing of pipelines in British Columbia in 2008-09.
These examples remind us all too well that terrorism is not something that happens only in other countries. There are people in groups here and now who seek to commit acts of violence in Canada and who, given the chance, would kill innocent Canadians and destroy civilian infrastructure. The plot that was foiled last month was going to be carried out here in Canada.
That said, terrorism is a globalized threat, and our security cannot be divorced from that of the international community and from the activities of Canadians abroad. We are also increasingly concerned about lone actors working from often deeply personal or plainly unknown motivations. These individuals are hard to track or anticipate, as they provide few operational leads for investigators and are difficult to profile.
Computer hacker groups, or "hacktivists," could also pose a threat, as anyone with a predilection for computers and malevolent motivations could cause serious harm to our infrastructure.
And of course, we must not forget the threat posed by certain states, which could target our critical infrastructure to achieve their own military or economic objectives. Given our mandate, countering state-sponsored threats to our infrastructure remains a key priority for the Service.
In today's digital world, critical infrastructure networks are almost all linked up in ways that make them vulnerable to attacks, particularly cyber-attacks, and it is not difficult to ascertain the advantages of attacking or sabotaging critical infrastructure. Such attacks could cause significant disruption in transportation and commerce, and lead to important economic losses to the intended target. They can also provide easy and predictable news coverage for the perpetrator's propaganda aims and often boost its recruitment efforts.
Finally, by targeting innocent civilians they instill a sense of fear in the general population. Certainly, different groups operate on somewhat different motives. Al-Qaeda-inspired groups and individuals will almost always wish to kill people. Issue-motivated groups may only target property to send a clear and specific message, and foreign states might seek to advance their defence or trade interests.
On that note, Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you for your attention and I would welcome from members questions on any issues I have raised.
Thank you committee members. I appreciate this opportunity to meet with your committee today to provide information about Transport Canada's role in enhancing the security of the rail transportation system.
Let me begin by saying that the safety and security of transportation systems are of the utmost importance to the Government of Canada.
On April 22, 2013, the RCMP arrested two individuals and charged them with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA train. It's important to note that there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers, or infrastructure. These arrests, however, have highlighted the importance of continued vigilance within the transportation system.
They have also emphasized that securing rail and urban transit requires a partnership approach including all levels of government, local law enforcement, first responders, operators, and industry associations, supported by a range of tools that can be implemented by operators of all sizes.
Transport Canada works closely with operators to safeguard the security of their operations. For example, in 2007 the Government of Canada renewed a memorandum of understanding on security with the Railway Association of Canada and its members.
As part of the MOU, rail operators are required, amongst other things, to conduct security risk assessments and develop security plans relevant to their operations. Based on the identified risks, operators develop and implement appropriate security practices.
Transport Canada works with MOU signatories and conducts oversight and monitoring activities to help industry meet the terms and conditions of the MOU and promote a more secure rail transportation system. For example, Transport Canada uses regionally located inspectors to audit the extent to which signatories meet the terms and conditions of the MOU. This evaluation process involves assessments and inspections of the important aspects of an operator's security program.
The government can also exercise various legislative authorities to enhance the security of the rail transportation system in certain circumstances. For example, to enhance security during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the G-8 and G-20 in 2010 in Toronto, Transport Canada used security authorities under the Railway Safety Act.
From 2006 to 2009, Transport Canada also managed the Transit-Secure program. This program provided financial assistance on a cost-shared basis to both small and large commuter rail and public transit operators throughout Canada to further enhance their security measures for addressing potential threats of terrorism.
Industry and government also collaborate on the development of voluntary codes of practice on such matters as conducting security risk assessments, developing and maintaining security plans, conducting security exercises, and training and awareness. Transport Canada officials also participate in workshops with rail and transit associations to promote rail security. We have also collaborated with industry in the creation of an intelligence network for the sharing of security intelligence and incident reporting.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that security is of the utmost importance to the Government of Canada. Security of the transportation system is also everyone's business and is enhanced through partnerships, the promotion of a security culture and awareness across all jurisdictions and sectors.
Thank you again for offering Transport Canada the opportunity to present how it is working to enhance the security of Canada's rail transportation system.
I would welcome any questions you may have on the work we do in this regard.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Marc Beaulieu. I'm regional general manager and chief of transportation for VIA Rail. I'm happy to be joined today by Marc Tessier, our director of security and regulatory affairs, as well as by Jacques Gagnon, our VIA spokesperson.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, we are pleased to be participating in this meeting by videoconference.
On behalf of VIA Rail Canada, I wish to thank you, Mr. Chair, for our invitation to appear before this committee.
VIA Rail's safety and security policies are rigorous and strictly applied. We have high training standards for our employees who work on board trains and those who serve passengers. Our mechanisms for reporting any kind of risk to police authorities are very effective.
Safety and security are paramount at VIA Rail. We recognize and salute the work of law enforcement. Passenger train travel is among the safest and we work diligently to keep it that way. As a member of the Railway Association of Canada, VIA Rail is signatory to the memorandum of understanding on railway security between the Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada. The memorandum of understanding covers the following essential elements: security plans, training and awareness, exercises, and incident reporting. In compliance with the above, VIA Rail has submitted a security plan that reflects our current security model. The plan is risk-based, using Transport Canada's threat context statements as a basis for risk assessment.
As part of its security plan, VIA Rail has implemented the following programs and procedures. Security awareness training is mandatory for all employees. This training was developed in consultation with the RCMP. A group of front-line employees have also received face-to-face training by members of the RCMP. Management employees with security responsibilities have received training given by the RCMP officers, in conjunction with the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. Intelligence training and certification were also obtained through the Privy Council Office.
VIA Rail routinely conducts security exercises to ensure that programs and procedures are functioning as designed. Part of this process relies on participation of various police forces, including the RCMP, on training exercises that focus on familiarizing officers with VIA Rail operations and equipment, and synchronizing our respective responses. VIA Rail also has procedures in place to ensure the reporting of incidents with a nexus to terrorism to the appropriate authorities. This includes partnership with the RCMP in the suspicious incident reporting initiative and notification to Transport Canada.
Above and beyond these requirements, VIA's security plan also establishes our letter of understanding program, which involves authorizing law enforcement agencies full access to our properties. This empowers the law enforcement agencies to act on our behalf. The RCMP is signatory on several letters of understanding. It enables us to establish strong partnerships and facilitates intelligence gathering and sharing.
VIA partners with host railway police who are responsible for infrastructure protection over a significant portion of the track that VIA Rail operates. VIA also works closely with Transport Canada to participate on various initiatives, committees, and working groups. This work has led to the establishment of the codes of practice that outline industry best practices related to security, security plans, threat and risk assessment, security awareness training, and public awareness.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our law enforcement partners and Transport Canada for continuously helping us improve and be more effective in terms of security. We deliver on our promise to keep the travelling public safe.
In closing, I would like to thank law enforcement agencies and Transport Canada for their ongoing support. It allows us to keep our promise to provide secure service for our passengers.
Thank you to all our witnesses for appearing on pretty short notice.
I'd like to start with Public Safety Canada, Mr. Davies. You talked about the continuum of prevent, detect, deny, and respond. Obviously we'd like to not get to the respond part. We'd like to stop it earlier. I think the key to that is obviously detection, and to me a key to that is having access to the information that's out there. There's a lot of information out there on the Internet and in other sources.
Do you think we need some kind of legislation that would permit lawful access, under appropriate supervision, to the Internet to detect the kind of activity that leads to what we've just witnessed?
Thank you to all our witnesses.
Since we did really come today to talk about rail security, I'll direct some of my questions to the folks at VIA Rail.
We've heard about partnerships and integrated work and education. I'm just wondering, when we get down to the client level for identifying threats, what kind of work is VIA Rail doing to ensure the passengers and clients of rail services receive the information and education they need to be vigilant?
We heard the RCMP talk about detachment-level work. We heard CSIS talk about how difficult it is to identify lone operators, and if we have threats around the rail sector, obviously we rely heavily on the general public to be aware of these threats.
How well versed do you think Canadians are right now on the actual threat of terrorism? What kind of work does VIA Rail do to encourage vigilance and encourage reporting from the client level?
We certainly have some programs that are very effective at increasing employee vigilance. Our locomotive engineers are extremely familiar with their territory, and our front-line employees who deal with our customers, either on our trains or in our stations, are very well trained and experienced at observing and identifying any dangerous situations or suspicious behaviours.
We have technology in place in our stations and facilities with many features, such as cameras, access control, remote locking systems. We have security personnel from VIA Rail and station owners to provide security guards in many locations, and we use contracted security inspectors who are former police officers who travel under cover on some of our trains.
There is no doubt in our minds that our customers are a big part of our solution. Anything that is brought forth to our attention is acted upon very rigorously and very effectively. To answer your question, I'm very confident that people who travel in our mode of transport feel safe, are safe, and we do everything possible to continuously improve our mitigations that are in place.
When you're using any form of public transportation or when you're in any public space generally, you just want to be able to operate, to feel safe, let your guard down, and not be constantly on the lookout. But obviously we've reached a different day. As we heard from CSIS, there are people in groups here and now that are seeking to do us harm.
I was just in Boston a few weeks ago when the attacks occurred there. I'd be the first to admit that in a venue like that, you certainly let your guard down. I'm not sure we ever want to see the day when we're inundated with warning signs. Obviously sometimes the best security is the security you don't see. But we as everyday citizens and people utilizing public transportation for this topic have a role to play.
How do you strike a balance between letting people know where and how to report or educating with signage or with security things, and at the same time, allowing people to exist in an environment where they're not on that proverbial edge of their seat all the time? How do you strike that balance appropriately with VIA Rail?
To the exact number of incidents, I would not be able to answer that, but I could certainly recover it from our database as required and get you that information later. I can tell you that our employees are extremely vigilant, and they apply the processes extremely well.
Police forces across the country, when required, respond extremely effectively. To my knowledge, never have we contacted any police force for support that didn't respond swiftly and effectively to our needs. Yes, we have detrained customers on occasion, unfortunately, because it was our only option at that time.
We also are extremely well skilled at identifying any suspicious baggage, and again, the police forces respond extremely effectively to all those needs. I can say that, to my knowledge, it has happened at least eight to 10 times this year, without being too specific, because I don't have the database in front of me, but numerous times. Each was responded to extremely effectively by all involved on every occasion.
I would also like to, at this point, follow up on something that came out of the Auditor General's report and that Mr. Garrison raised, which is that nobody seems to be able to tell us how much is being spent on anti-terrorism or cyber-security in this country.
I remember when the minister appeared. I think it was either last month or two months ago. We asked him if he could give us a number for how much the Government of Canada spends on the fight for cyber-security, and the only answer we got from the minister was, well, consult the estimates in all the different departments that are involved. I think this is something that is concerning, not only to the Auditor General but to members of Parliament and to the public.
Mr. McDonald, in your department, in your unit, will there be any diminution of resources in the coming years, maybe next year or the year after, as a result of budget cutting, for example? Would you be considered front line or back room? If you're front line, we've been told by the government that there will be no reductions in expenditures or manpower, but we've been told that back office services could see some cuts.
I'd like to know if you're being squeezed, or if your budget is being squeezed, to the extent that you may not be able to do the fine work that you do as well in the future. Are you being asked to come up with efficiencies that maybe, quite frankly, are not there to be had?
I would like to thank you for being here today.
I would like to build on the questions asked by my colleague, Mr. Garrison.
You mentioned that many departments and agencies, including yours, experienced budget cuts. This began with budget 2012, when the Canada Border Services Agency absorbed cuts of $143 million, which resulted in the elimination of 325 jobs at border crossings across the country. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service will have its budget cut by almost $24.5 million in 2015. This is going to happen. The RCMP has been subjected to reductions of $195.2 million and more cuts are expected in budget 2013. It is expected that spending will be slashed by 29.8% in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13.
Cuts are being made in different departments and the work is being done in silos. However, is there a global assessment of how every cut and every new measure implemented affects the capacity of various departments and agencies to counter terrorism and protect Canada's national security?
My next question is for Mr. McDonald.
Earlier, you started talking about certain programs of the public security and anti-terrorism initiative, which allowed Transport Canada, among others, to collaborate with VIA Rail on railway security.
Could you expand on what you said? We know that there are a lot of programs in this initiative, and that it is difficult to track where the money was invested, the results and where any residual money went.
Could you tell us more about certain other initiatives you used to ensure the security of our railways?
Let me go to another issue.
One of the questions had to do with CBSA and cuts. If I remember correctly, Mr. Chair, looking at some of our past budgets—and if any of the witnesses who may be directly responsible for CBSA want to confirm this—we've increased front-line.... Number one, because terrorists are not nice people, we've armed our border guards for their safety and the safety of Canadians. Number two, we've increased front-line CBSA officers to 26%.
But if I might go to the VIA Rail folks and the RCMP with regard to security cameras, based on my 30 years of policing, security cameras have in the past and continue.... I'll go right to the RCMP. Wouldn't the proof of the pudding with regard to security cameras in areas of concern and in our cities and towns, in your opinion and based on the Boston experience.... Security cameras significantly reduced the investigation time in order to catch the bad guys. Wouldn't that be true, Chief Superintendent?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
With respect to operations, there are six border crossings in my riding. Some of them, like Chartierville, Stanhope and Saint-Herménégilde are fairly isolated. In the region, there are sometimes hundreds of kilometres of forest between different border crossings. Let us be frank. In outlying areas of the Eastern Townships, people have crossed the border and been found wandering in different municipalities. There have even been cases of mischief committed in my riding by people who simply crossed the border through the forest.
Every time that we speak to people at the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, or the Sûreté du Québec—the Sûreté du Québec patrols certain areas of Quebec because other border services lack the resources to do so—they tell us that information sharing between the various services is difficult and ineffective, that there is information, but that they cannot use it.
My question is for Mr. Davies and also Mr. Tremblay, or Mr. McDonald, to whom I will address another question a little later.
Why am I hearing about those kinds of situations, when you are telling me that everything is going relatively well and that operations are very successful and very effective?
I will give you an example. Although very effective operations have been conducted in Stanstead, there have been unfortunate situations in the past, and they continue to occur, because of the fact that hundreds of kilometres of forest are wide open.
How is the surveillance carried out? How can we reassure people, tell them that there is security and, above all, that there are patrols?
In my riding, there is a small railway service that belongs to the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, which only ships freight. Two railway lines cross the border in my area, the Eastern Townships. This company is owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc., which manages the shipping. It seems that it also owns railway cars.
How does the information sharing and training that you mentioned take place? You say that communications and training keep people up-to-date on rail security. This small line only carries freight, but at least one or two trains cross the border every day. Are these trains searched. How are searches conducted?
Furthermore, there are level crossings that are in a poor state of repair. Traffic has been tied up for days because the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad has not assumed responsibility for repairing and upgrading these level crossings. The Department of Transport officials say that the municipality should have that responsibility. Therefore, who is responsible for what? It seems to me that there are holes in the system.
Mr. Chair, I think that falls into my capacity. I'm not sure if I understand all the questions.
In terms of searching these trains when they're crossing the border, that's a CBSA responsibility. I can't respond to that.
With respect to the security of the operations of an organization like the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, they're part of the MOU with the Railway Association of Canada, so they have a responsibility to have a security plan. They have to assess what their risks are and have a plan to be able to respond to mitigate those risks.
Obviously a short-line railway, with the type of merchandise it's carrying, is not going to have as detailed a plan as VIA Rail, which is carrying passengers across the country. So they have that plan. They work with us. They work with the Railway Association of Canada. We assess their plan to make sure that it meets the requirements, that they have adequately assessed the risks, and that they have mitigation measures in place to address them.
Finally, with respect to level crossings and how they get funded, as you may be aware, we do have a grade-crossing contribution program to which all railways can apply. It's funded on a 50-50 basis between the federal government, and the municipalities and the railways. The federal government is one side; the municipalities and railways are on the other. That is one way to get funding to improve level crossings.
Yes, there is a jurisdictional issue, obviously, between railways and municipalities. It exists everywhere in the country. We try to work through it as best we can. In many cases we are successful in doing that and in improving the safety of those level crossings.
Thank you to all the witnesses for coming in. It's certainly important to talk about some of the issues we've heard already.
Mr. McDonald, just on your point, I actually just recently announced a number of dollars that went into funding right across my riding. There are probably at least a half-dozen different crossings that are being upgraded for safety purposes, which is extremely important, I think, for the communities, for the citizens who might be using those roadways. That's an important aspect.
Mr. Davies, in your comments you talked about how we have infrastructure in place to communicate with government at all levels, private sector, and operators of critical infrastructure—obviously including transportation. Could you maybe give us a little better feel for what “critical infrastructure” might be?
Mr. McDonald, I just wanted to touch a bit more on the railway. I'm from western Canada, and in my riding I have a couple of major petrochemical or fertilizer producers. Of course, they do ship a lot of goods such as ammonia and methanol, and they do travel across the border. That's done through CPR because that's the only railway we have. I'm just wondering what the communication is between Transport Canada and CPR, their plans, particularly with carrying these types of products. Obviously when you think about it, certainly terrorism could be a major issue.
If anyone else has a comment on that, I'd certainly appreciate that as well.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I do appreciate Mr. Leef's point of order because we've already heard in this committee previously from the RCMP that their cuts to 2015 of $195.2 million are not going to impact public safety, and also from CSIS that a $24.5 million cut is not going to affect public safety. We don't need to talk about budget cuts anymore. Thank you, Mr. Leef, for that point of order.
I guess it's good because you were just wasting that money before.
Let me ask a question about who's in charge. You talk about building resilience against terrorism, about the 15-plus members of the security network, and about shared responsibilities. We've heard that a couple of times. Where does the buck stop? Who is actually coordinating that? Is there a pyramid there, or is everybody sort of acting independently and helping each other whenever they need some help?
Yes, Mr. Davies, please.
I also want to thank all the witnesses for their time. I know that it was short notice, so we appreciate you appearing before the committee.
My question is first for VIA Rail. Obviously, this is basically related to your clients, your customers, who take the rail on a regular basis. What sort of cooperation do you get from them in terms of any concerns or any issues they may have or may be concerned about? Do you regularly get any sort of reporting from individuals, just your customers, such as, “Hey, we're concerned about a certain individual”, or a package, say, or just on general safety concerns?
It's still another government-round question. I'll ask one quick question and then we'll go to Mr. Leef.
After asking all of you not to give away any operational type of issues that might hinder security, I guess I would ask this. How often do you meet with the RCMP? For example, in the last event, I take it that you didn't just wake up one morning and see that VIA Rail was in the news. You obviously must have been aware of some ongoing investigation.
Is this a natural thing, where you meet with them once a week or they’ll give you a heads-up that there may be an investigation under way and to tighten up some of your security? Does that type of thing happen, Mr. Tessier or Mr. Beaulieu?
Mr. Tessier, go ahead.
This is another question for VIA Rail. We have talked a lot about the prevention strategies that are in place. Of course, it's a priority for our government, and I think obviously a priority for you at VIA Rail, to make sure that incidents don't happen in the first place. But maybe we can move to the response end of it, because I don't think we've touched on that a lot.
It is recognized a lot of times that when disaster strikes, your survivability of an incident, or the mitigation of harm, has as much to do with your response to it as it does the event itself. On that end, what kind of work is VIA Rail doing with integrated partnerships to ensure a safe and appropriate response to anything that might occur on a medium or larger scale?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Let me assure everybody that I'm going to have a very specific question for VIA Rail, but given some of the interventions from the other side, I just want to step back for a minute.
The terms of reference for today are fairly narrow, but we on this side think it's important to set the rail transport question of national security in the larger context. It was implied, for instance, that the audit of the Auditor General didn't really apply to what we're talking about today, and I just want to point to two of the objectives of that audit.
The Auditor General said that their audit was to “determine whether the management framework for the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism initiative was adequate to ensure that funding decisions reduced risks to Canadians by the maximum extent possible”. For that reason, we've asked a number of more general questions, because that audit I think is relevant to determining where our resources are going, and whether rail is one of the places it needs to go.
Second was to “determine whether intelligence services work efficiently together and provide enforcement personnel with adequate information”. Again, I'm going to have a very specific question about that with regard to VIA Rail.
We've asked the question on the overall impact of cuts being made in various departments, and whether anybody is examining the coordination of this to make sure that those individual cuts don't have an unintended impact on national security. We've asked about the allocation of resources to try to make sure that they're clearly based on threat and risk assessment. We've asked some questions about the coordination of those activities.
Finally, I think one of our perspectives has been that there seems to be, in the strategy, the treatment of VIA Rail as just another railway, when clearly VIA Rail, both as a crown corporation and as a passenger carrier, probably needs some special treatment in these areas.
With that in mind, I'm going to ask about—again from the Auditor General's report—a question that was raised. My question is to VIA Rail. When you sell tickets to people, do you check ID? What kind of ID would be checked?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have a couple of questions for the witnesses.
First of all, I think certainly what we've witnessed—and I've just talked to my colleague as well—we seem to have very good collaboration with the United States. We seem to have very good collaboration between agencies, and indeed, with VIA Rail. I think that's very encouraging to everyone hearing the testimony here today.
Mr. Rafferty pointed out that there are, in fact, thousands of miles of track—in the railway industry, we do still talk miles—and it seems to me that most of it is not of great concern. Where we do have greater concerns seems to be in urbanized areas. Threats are exposed or highlighted when we see people gaining access to tracks in areas where they shouldn't be. We had an unfortunate incident just a couple of years ago in Montreal, for example, where some younger folks got down there with spray-paint cans or what have you. But it demonstrates that access to the tracks is still perhaps too easy.
What are we doing, specifically, to eliminate that kind of access to what is really a very dangerous area? If you can get down there with a spray-paint can, you can get down there with just about anything else. What are we doing to secure the tracks in urbanized areas, not only from a public safety perspective for the people who might access it, but also for the people on the trains?
That's why, actually, Liberals more and more are calling for the establishment of a public safety and national security committee that would meet in camera. As you know, Senator Dallaire has been discussing this, and I brought it up a couple times at this committee. That's precisely why—so we can get some of these answers.
On the issue of passenger lists, when it comes to air travel, Mr. McDonald, correct me if I'm wrong, but every time someone gets on a plane in Canada, their name is checked against an RCMP list or some kind of list to see if they're a person of interest. Or is it just people travelling in and out of Canada, especially to the United States?
Well, I would think that if it mitigates security risks in one area, it would mitigate them in another. We're talking in both cases about mass transit. Obviously, in some ways, I suppose, there's more concern about air travel, but we're talking about probably the same passenger loads, and so on and so forth. Given that there's no screening of baggage that gets on a VIA Rail train, probably there's a good reason to screen the lists.
I would suggest that this is something that VIA Rail and the government might want to look at, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to turn to the big issue, I guess, Mr. Beaulieu and Mr. Tessier, as representatives of the government. Is anyone in a position to compare and contrast our rail security here, especially in the busy Montreal-Quebec City-Windsor corridor, with how Amtrak tackles security in the busy New York-Boston-Washington corridor? Apparently all their baggage has to go through sniffer dogs and so on.
I'm not suggesting that this is what we should look at, but are you regularly comparing and contrasting, and maybe sharing best practices? Or are they out of the picture, in some way, from your concerns?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
If we have a little bit of time, Mr. Beaulieu might be interested in answering that question.
I have a question for you, Mr. Davies, but you may find that it's better answered by Mr. Coulombe or Mr. Tremblay. In your opening remarks, you talked about terrorist-related incidents. That got me thinking that we have a number of incidents of civil unrest or civil disobedience. I'm just wondering, what is the definition of a terrorist, in relation to public safety, that you use in Transport, in the government, and in the agencies? What distinguishes a terrorist from someone who is blocking a railway line, for example?