Good morning, Mr. Chair, and honourable members. Thank you for inviting us here today.
Just by way of introduction, let me say that in Canada there are a series of deep networks that have the ideology, infrastructure, and organized financial support to develop multiple avenues of extremism here in Canada. The intent of these networks is to create a political, social, and cultural space where issues of extremism and radicalization can be advanced, while questions about their activity are silenced through manufactured claims of Islamophobia and racism. These networks, aided by overseas propaganda efforts, will provide an increasingly large stream of young Canadians who will use their Canadian passports to continue to become suicide bombers, jihadist fighters, and propagandists.
Many believe we should simply allow such individuals to travel overseas, and there is a certain logic that support that. However, exporting murderous suicide bombers and propagandists may not be the best way Canada contributes to this trans-national, long-term series of overseas conflicts.
Islam itself is in the throes of a long-term struggle for the soul of the faith. Historical analogies to similar events in the past are tenuous, but the protestant reformation in Europe lasted from roughly 1517 to 1648, in other words, 130 years. Almost 30% of the population of what we would now call Germany was destroyed in that time period. The current upheaval in Islam has been under way for about 90 years, but it's reasonable to say this will probably last for another full generation.
Hassan al-Banna's formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 can be seen symbolically as marking the start of the modern day politicized struggle for the future of Islam, much as Martin Luther is seen symbolically as having started the reformation in 1615. While the outcome of the struggle for the soul of Islam is not clear, it's reasonable to assess at this moment Islamist voices of extremism are in the lead, and they are ascendant.
The question is, how should we view this extremism in Canada? Here it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the difference between the ISIS rhetoric, which we hear over there, and the rhetoric of local Canadian efforts, which are created and distributed over here. This is not surprising, given they are inspired by the same basic ideology.
We cannot here today examine all aspects of extremism, but I believe the most recent issue of the ISIS magazine, Dabiq, issue number 9, provides a useful example and a point of entry, which we can discuss. An article in the recent Dabiq is entitled “Slave-Girls or Prostitutes” and examines the role of women in ISIS, with a focus on justifying the roles of those girls and women who have been captured and are now held as sexual slaves.
At about the same time that report was published, Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence, reported that ISIS is institutionalizing sexual violence. The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology. The question arises, is it possible to tell the difference between the statements made by ISIS propagandists over there and the information and material that is being generated over here?
Let me read five short statements about the extremist views of women and try to imagine which one of these statements is from ISIS and which was created and distributed here in Canada. Statement 1, beating women in Islam is a type of education; statement 2, women may enjoy being beaten at times, as it is a sign of love and concern for them; statement 3, forced sex is not rape and they should be thankful; statement 4, the husband has many rights over his wife, and first and foremost she must obey; statement 5, the wife may not deny herself to her husband.
Of those five statements, only one of them comes from Dabiq magazine, namely, statement 3 about forced sex. The other four statements are all statements being made in Canada, distributed in books, put on videos online, etc. All of this is here in Canada, all of it in the open, and all of it available through open source. These statements are so offensive, so repugnant, and so barbaric it is difficult to catalogue the various affronts.
The same comparison can be made with other extremist issues, such as the killing of innocents and suicide bombings. These statements also do not address the degree to which female genital mutilation exists in Canada. We do not have useful statistics on this because the various legislative and medical bodies refuse to address the issue here in Canada, unlike the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
Canada probably has the highest rate of forced suicides, meaning murder or honour killings, amongst young south Asian women. This is for a series of reasons due to extremism and culture, but again at best we have second order statistics, as feminist groups and others are either afraid to tackle the issue or they do not find the killing of brown women in Canada to be significant.
I am aware that front-line police forces are aware of the issue at hand. They're trying to deal with it. They're trying to educate themselves, but they lack official statistics. They lack community support and they lack political backing.
Much of Canadian civil society, including feminists, academics, social justice advocates and NGOs, is either frightened into submission and fears speaking out or believes that it is correct to approve of such abuse because one must be tolerant of other cultures. Silence, in my view, implies consent.
Hence, we see York University Muslim Students' Association handing out books advising that it's correct to beat your wife because she'll see it as a sign of love and concern, yet there is no overall societal reaction to this or other such statements.
The question arises, of course, who are the networks that are advancing this extremism in Canada? As noted above, the wellspring of much of this ideology comes from the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, who is perhaps the world's leading expert on the Muslim Brotherhood outside of the Middle East itself, recently testified at the Senate of Canada on May 11 of this year. His view, as he expressed it to the Senate, is that the Muslim Brotherhood has some eight to ten front groups in Canada, but the four best known ones are the Muslim Association of Canada, CAIR-CAN, otherwise known as NCCM, and Islamic Relief Canada. He identified IRFAN as the fourth, although of course they have been put out of business as of this year when they were declared a terrorist entity.
In conclusion, let me say that I believe the discussion about passport seizures and revocation is timely, appropriate, and necessary. Unfortunately, as the recent seizure of some 10 passports at the Montreal airport suggests, this is an ongoing problem. It's going to increase in magnitude as a series of overseas conflicts continue.
By way of my own background, I've been involved with and testified in an international hostage-taking criminal case. I've testified and been declared a court expert in terrorism in a criminal trial. I've testified multiple times and been declared a court expert in national security certificates. I've testified and been declared a court expert in the IRB and I testified at the Air India inquiry. I've also testified to the Senate and the House on multiple occasions in the past and I actually helped train the special advocates, lawyers, and judges who work within the national security certificate cases and others.
It should be noted as well that I've testified on both sides of the aisle, defence and prosecution, including testifying for the defence when questions of innocence and due process have arisen concerning Muslim Canadians caught up in national security issues. As such, my view based on experience in the court system is that the ultimate arbitrator of the human rights of Canadians remains the court system. While a bit slow and on occasion ponderous, innovations such as the special advocate system have worked and have ensured that the intelligence community and the judicial system have remained functional even under the most trying of circumstances over a period of years.
Based on my experience, the bill provides judges with considerable latitude to accept, deny, or discard any and all evidence put in front of them. This is made particularly clear under the “Appeals” section of the bill, subclause 4(4) and in particular paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (e), which offer judges and by extension defence lawyers, the widest possible latitude to discredit misleading or weak evidence put before them. Thus I believe a balance can be achieved when a passport revocation occurs.
I believe that an independent judiciary, a system that we have here in Canada, remains a trustworthy and credible force. It is capable of dealing with the issue of whether or not the privilege of having a Canadian passport—and it's a privilege not a right.... If that privilege has been revoked and the passport is removed, I believe that the judges are capable of assessing the information at hand and whether that person would have used it to travel abroad to commit acts of terrorism or otherwise.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members, thank you.
Distinguished committee members, thank you for having me. I will be pleased to answer questions in both official languages, but if I may, I will speak in English.
My presentation will have three parts.
The first is laying out why I think this particular issue we're dealing with today will continue to persist for years to come; why I sympathize with the measure; and why I think there are good ways of rationalizing this particular measure, both within the Canadian context and the comparative context.
Here's why this is going to be a persistent problem. I think there have been two fundamental changes that have brought this whole phenomenon much closer to home. Those are two revolutions.
One is the communications revolution, which has made it so much easier for people to get their twisted messages out. Everybody has a mobile phone. Aside from the ability to spread one's message in a way that would have been much more difficult a couple of decades ago, we also have what sociologists call the “filter bubble”. This phenomenon says that even though we have a very pluralistic social media universe, individuals are increasingly reading only the types of information that reinforces the biases and stereotypes they already hold. As people start to buy into this type of extremist narrative type of messaging—which that might cause them to engage in violence and travel abroad for either the purpose of committing violence, or joining an organization that the Government of Canada has decided is an organization we'd rather not have them join—I think that media communication is a major part of it.
The other is transportation. It's so much easier and cheaper today to get anywhere. For a couple of thousand bucks, you get on a plane in Edmonton and you fly to Istanbul and find your way to the border. If you think about a hundred years ago, if somebody immigrated to Canada they left everything behind. They maybe sent a letter or so back, but they wouldn't be thinking about going back. Staying in touch would be very difficult. I think these two fundamental revolutions have very much changed the game.
There's another element that I think is going to be a challenge for years to come with this phenomenon of extremist travellers, or “foreign terrorist fighters” as the UN calls them. It is the immense structural imbalances that afflict the countries that span from North Africa through to Pakistan, this arc of countries. It is the very high fertility rates that lead to severe demographic imbalances and very large youth bulges. If you look at a country such as Pakistan, you're going to have a 50% increase in their population over the next 40 years. These are recurring or replicable phenomena in most of the countries throughout the region, and yet we have social structures, economic structures, and political structures that are ill-adapted to this demographic growth.
In part, for instance, if you're smart and an ambitious young person, even if you try, it's very difficult for you to get a job because many of the economic structures and the state structures are so ossified you can't get a job unless you have all sorts of connections with senior elites, and whatnot. It's no wonder we have a large bulk of individuals in the region who are frustrated and who buy into extreme solutions and narratives not necessarily because they might be entirely convinced by the ideology being peddled, but because they're the one organization that gives them some hope of changing the circumstances in which they live.
What we've seen over the last 30 or so years, as a result, is what you might call the phenomenon of the globalization of terrorism. Previously we had domestic terrorism and we had international terrorism, both state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism. What we've seen is this proliferation of this phenomenon of transnational terrorism and the narratives that go along with it, and now also the opportunity of ISIS, which has essentially turned the al Qaeda strategy on its head and deliberately tries to hold and control urban centres and lines of communication among these urban centres. If you wanted to join al Qaeda it was really hard. You had to get to Pakistan, and you had to find your way over to Waziristan. That was a dangerous trip and many people didn't make it. Now it's so easy to join these organizations.
While I think we can manage the ISIS phenomenon, it becomes a bit of a whack-a-mole game. As a result of these imbalances that I've laid out for you, I think instability and extremist-type narratives in these types of organizations are going to be a persistent problem for years and decades to come.
The challenge we have with people travelling abroad is going to be a persistent challenge. Sure, it dates back to the Spanish revolution and, as some of you might know, we still have the Foreign Enlistment Act on the books that was implemented at the time to dissuade individuals from going. We had this problem with German Canadians and Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. We had this challenge with some members of the Sikh community joining Babbar Khalsa, and with some members of the Tamil community joining the LTTE. As a result of these revolutions that I've laid out, this is a whole new world. It's no longer limited to particular ethnic or religious communities, because these narratives can speak to just about anybody.
As a result, what do we need? We need a much more nuanced tool kit for our security services. We've done a good job of focusing on what you might call “criminal pre-emption”, but we need to have a more nuanced tool kit in what my colleague Craig Forcese calls “administrative pre-emption”. Passport revocation is a very important component with regard to precision kinetic counterterrorist intervention, not for some mass community radicalization, whatever, talk, but rather targeting that small portion of individuals looking to travel abroad to engage with these organizations.
I might remind the committee that, of course, it's not just about adults travelling abroad. It's also about youth travelling abroad. I think the state has an obligation toward minors, toward people under 18, to intervene in ways that it might not with adults.
We also need to remember that these people will return. We know that about one-third of foreign fighters have returned. We know nine out of ten of them return deeply disillusioned and with serious mental health issues. And we know that about one out of ten—from is Thomas Hegghammer's study out of Norway, based on a sample of over 1,000—returns as a hardened ideologue.
One way or another, there are significant implications for Canadian society and for the Canadian taxpayer, if we don't engage in more effective administrative pre-emption.
Why do we need to do this? In itself, this will have a deterrent effect, if people understand that their passport may end up being revoked or they may not have one issued.
I think we also need to protect the integrity of the Canadian passport. As a result of incidents in central Asia and in north Africa, the Canadian passport in these regions is not treated now with the recognition and respect it had previously. So I think we need to be at the forefront of making sure we protect the Canadian passport as one of the most respected travel documents in the world.
I would like to finish on the premise that a passport is not an entitlement but more like a driver's licence. If you engage in conduct that clearly contravenes the collective interest, as Canadian society has outlined it, then you simply don't have the right to that particular document.
However, I might perhaps have one suggestion in closing that the committee might want to entertain. When we take people's drivers' licences, we don't take them forever, in most cases. We take them for a limited period of time. I wonder if the committee might want to consider some sort of a sunset clause built into the provisions here, whereby there is some obligation on the government to renew the provision of either not issuing a passport or renewing the revocation of that particular passport. Moreover, if we do have a permanent revocation of somebody's document, we need to make sure that we have an administrative procedure that independently confirms the assessment by the minister and by our law enforcement and security agencies that this individual's actions are so severe that they need to have that document essentially revoked for a lifetime. That would be the caveat that I might introduce.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you for your attention.
I guess, ultimately, for me, the purpose is getting Canada up to speed with provisions that many of our allies already have, which they have used successfully for years, or in some cases, for decades, especially in Europe.
My persistent argument is that I think we've just had our heads in the sand for too long because we've been very lucky geostrategically to be so far from all this instability. We need to learn from our allies and like-minded countries. In particular, the U.K., Germany, France and Spain have dealt with the phenomenon of terrorism and had to confront this for a longer period of time, and we can see that freedom and security are not a zero-sum game, but rather, that free societies are also secure societies. There are ways of reconciling these competing priorities to serve societal interest as a whole.
I think the ultimate purpose here is to make sure we have provisions that are commensurate with the phenomenon of the globalization of transnational terrorism, on the one hand, but that on the other hand, are sufficiently nuanced to respond to our constitutional and charter environment while effectively providing a more nuanced tool kit, especially for our law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies.
If we simply rely upon criminal pre-emption as the main tool, which is sometimes what the critics will say—that criminal pre-emption is essentially a national security investigation with the objective of ultimately laying a charge—it is very expensive. It is cumbersome.
We've had the commissioner of the RCMP come before Parliament and say that it's breaking his organization to run the investigations he's currently running. The standard of evidence to obtain a conviction is very high. It's not just about laying a charge. It's about making sure we collect the evidence, with the crown having sufficient confidence that they'll actually be able to obtain a conviction.
In the case of youth, do we necessarily want these individuals to end up with a criminal record as a result of what they did, or do we just want to make sure that we take the necessary pre-emptive measures so that they are not able to follow through, and so that, hopefully, with some appropriate intervention—and I think there's a lot more that we can do on the intervention and the prevention side—they will come to their senses and understand that this was perhaps not the best decision to make?
Mr. Chairman, sir, I think that if you're going to tackle the issue of people travelling overseas to become extremists and terrorists, or whatever, and if you're going to tackle the issue here in Canada itself, which is a somewhat different thing, there needs to be a strategic, operational, and tactical approach.
At the strategic level we should be looking, as I mentioned earlier, at crippling the networks we have here in Canada, which create these social, political, and cultural spaces where it's okay to talk about this kind of stuff, where it's okay to do that. That means going after their charities, going after their organizations.
At the tactical level, which is where I believe the passport issue is, we need, as my colleague says, a better tool kit. I think the passport issue is a tactical one. It is a way of catching people as they are leaving Canada and going overseas to commit themselves to this kind of activity.
Is it preventative? Yes, it is, in the sense that it prevents them from going overseas. Is it preventative in the sense it will stop radicalization in Canada? That I'm not quite so sure about, but I do think it will provide a useful means of bringing this issue up onto the public radar.
The Canadian government and Canadian civil society are reluctant to challenge the narrative of extremism in Canada, for a series of cultural, political correctness reasons, etc.
We just saw 10 people pulled over at Montréal-Trudeau airport a week ago Saturday as they were on their way to travel to ISIS. Hopefully, those kinds of things will bring out a larger discussion. Parents sitting around the family dinner table can say, “This is what's going to happen to these people,” and folks like us can use this, as well, as a means of discussion.
Is it a good preventative measure? I think yes, in the sense that it's tactical and will stop people at the point of exit. Also, it's one more means of challenging the extremist narrative in Canada, something that I don't think we're doing a good job of anywhere.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank the witnesses for appearing today.
It's necessary to come back to the question at hand. I appreciate Mr. Leuprecht's last remarks because I think it helps us do that.
We do have, of course, a mobility right in Canada, and it is subject to reasonable limits. The court decisions have been quite clear about that, so I don't think you'll find anybody around the table here arguing that people ought to be able to go abroad to join terrorist groups. That's not the question before us, really.
With respect to Mr. Quiggin's testimony, he was here for Bill and has repeated some of the same things he said then, including his attack on the National Council of Canadian Muslims, which he always does under the protection of parliamentary privilege. I'm disappointed to see he's done the same thing again today.
I'd also raise some interesting questions with Bill , which is about to pass Parliament, as to whether repeating the arguments of those who are the extremist radicals is in fact reckless promotion of terrorism. It would be very interesting to see what happens with that later on, in terms of Bill C-51. I think we have to be careful not to glorify and give too much credibility to what is a very small group of extremists, obviously.
I want to turn to what Mr. Leuprecht said, because I think there's something very important in making the distinction between those who are being radicalized and those who seek to use violence. You talked about having a nuanced tool kit and referred to what some of our allies are doing. You say this provision will make us a bit more in line with our allies. Can you say a bit more about that?
Obviously, there's a problem at hand. I won't go into it any further, but perhaps I can send the clerk a list of 23 different statements made by CAIR-CAN, the U.S. State Department, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. court system that CAIR-CAN is in fact the Canadian chapter of CAIR in the U.S. I'll drop it and won't get any further into it.
Your question directly is why should Canadians care about this? Why should the proverbial soccer mom or the guy who drives the forklift in the factory care about this? I believe the answer is that this kind of extremism in Canada is spreading, it's growing.
My colleague has pointed out that the communications revolution and the transport revolution have made it increasingly possible for young Canadians to go off and quite literally get themselves killed or to kill other people. As Canadians, I think we have an obligation to our youth who are our future to try to keep them away from this sort of thing as much as possible. Canada as a state has an obligation to other countries to make sure that we are not exporting people from Calgary and Montreal to become suicide bombers and kill large numbers of people in other conflicts overseas.
I know it's a bit of an abstract issue to many people. They ask why they should care. The answer is you should care because it's occurring in your community. It's your youth at risk, it's your youth being challenged. A number of people tend to think this is a Muslim issue, and it is to some extent, but the reality is it's a convert issue as well, which affects all other faiths in Canada, including those who have no particular faith.
I think it's also worth pointing out that right now the focus tends to be on ISIS, al Qaeda, al Nusra, and Jemaah Islamiah. But if we were having this conversation in 1985, we'd have probably been looking at Sikh radicalization in Canada. If we'd had this conversation in 1995 we might have been looking at Tamil radicals, the LTTE, etc. I have no doubt this conversation will be had again 10 years from now and I don't profess to know who the next group will be, but this is an ongoing issue in Canada and all the evidence, as my colleague points out, suggests this is going to be increasingly an issue in Canada. So, yes, it's important; and, yes, we need to get it now.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, please allow me to thank you, on behalf of the House of Commons Protective Services Employees Association, for this opportunity to speak before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The House of Commons Protective Services Employee Association has been certified since 1987 to represent some 225 members of the Protective Service of the House of Commons. The members of the association comprise approximately 190 constables, 15 corporals and 15 sergeants, who all report to the director of the service.
The present brief pertains solely to division 10 of Bill , which amends the Parliament of Canada Act by adding sections 79.51 to 79.59, as well as certain transitional provisions.
Considering the profound changes proposed by this bill regarding security in the parliamentary precinct, the association considers that it is important to appear before this committee to submit its observations in relation to the contemplated changes.
Before delving into the heart of Bill , the association wishes to emphasize its great pride in the professionalism and exemplarity of its members, especially regarding their behaviour during the events of October 22, 2014.
Nobody knows the precinct and members of Parliament better than the employees of the House's Protective Service, which plays a key role in the functioning of our democratic system. Our work requires a significant skill set to combine the necessary security requirements with the public nature of the parliamentary precinct, and this work deserves to be recognized and underscored before this honourable committee.
Turning to the substance of Bill , it should be noted at the outset that the bill provides a definition of the term “parliamentary precinct” in section 79.51. This is a novelty to our knowledge, and one that should be commended. For several years, the work of members of the House's Protective Service has expanded far beyond the walls of what was once called “the Hill”.
The association is satisfied that this new definition recognizes that parliamentary privilege follows the parliamentary function, thus recognizing a functional rather than geographical vision of the concept of parliamentary privilege.
Putting into practice the authority vested in the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Speaker of the House with respect to protection matters, the employees of the House's Protective Service exert all their functions within the confines of parliamentary privilege, being its custodian and therefore an essential part of the legislative function of the House of Commons of Canada.
It is this legislative function that is at the heart of our work, which is why the protection of parliamentary privilege was significantly underscored in the press release issued by the association on February 4, 2015, when the elements now contained in Bill were announced for the first time by government. The concerns that were voiced in this press release are entirely transposable to Bill C-59, and can be grouped into two broad categories: operational concerns, and labour relations concerns.
The association does not dispute the findings made by the Auditor General of Canada in June 2012 recommending greater coordination between the various entities engaged in the protection of the parliamentary precinct. It is clear that greater coordination in terms of protection and security would have been desirable on October 22, 2014, and still is. This is a conclusion that was also reached by the Ottawa police in a recent press conference.
Also in June 2012, the Auditor General recommended that the House of Commons should contemplate the feasibility of a unified security force for the entire parliamentary precinct. Again, the association is not opposed to this recommendation and welcomes the creation of the Parliamentary Protective Service proposed by section 79.52 of the bill. There are, however, two caveats that the association wishes to underscore.
Firstly, better operational coordination between the various entities does not necessarily require an operational merger of the two protective services, namely, of the House of Commons and Senate. The association considers it unlikely that constables, corporals and sergeants of the House will be used interchangeably in the Senate and vice versa. Our work requires a deep and detailed knowledge of places and people to adequately fulfill our duties, and this knowledge comes with experience that is gained by devoting one's lasting attention to either the House of Commons or the Senate.
The association also considers that it would be impractical and undesirable from a security standpoint to reorganize the protective staff of both houses in order to require that every employee can interchangeably perform the duties in the House of Commons or in the Senate without having long-term assignments in one of the houses.
It would be much more desirable to maintain the current working structures to continue to increase team effectiveness and responsiveness. Thus, the association believes that an operational merger of the two protective services, in the House of Commons and Senate, would not increase the coordination, but on the contrary would reduce its effectiveness by diluting the specificity of its action.
Secondly, the association noted that the bill requires that PPS's new director be an active member of the RCMP, who will serve under the dual authority of the Speakers of the House of Commons and of the Senate. We also note that, although section 79.53 entrusts the PPS with “matters with respect to physical security throughout the parliamentary precinct and Parliament Hill”, section 79.55 of the bill confers exactly the same functions upon the RCMP, referring to an “arrangement” and providing that the RCMP shall “itself” provide physical security services in accordance with this arrangement.
Operational inferences stemming from this situation assume two alternative hypotheses: either the director of the PPS will concretely report to the Speaker of the House of Commons, to the Speaker of the Senate and to someone within the RCMP, or that person will actually be exclusively under the authority of the RCMP. In the first hypothesis, the association is unclear as to how a PPS director receiving directives from three different heads would be likely to improve security in the parliamentary precinct, or coordination between different protective services involved in such protection.
The mandatory institutional links between the new PPS director and the RCMP also appears problematic, especially in the very likely event that this person is confronted with conflicting or incompatible instructions. The triple-allegiance of that person — in other words, to the House of Commons, Senate and RCMP — would inevitably create a conflict, since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and oaths made under this legislation would compel the new PPS director to disobey the House or Senate Speakers, and obey only the Commissioner of the RCMP. How could one conclude that parliamentary privilege, ensuring the independence of the legislative function, would be preserved in such a situation? Not to mention the operational nightmare that such a situation could present in an emergency situation similar or worse than the events of October 22, 2014.
The association views the second hypothesis, that is an exclusive operational control by the RCMP, as being equally or even more problematic. The association refers to its press release of February 4, 2015, setting out its position on the possible control by the RCMP of protection within the parliamentary precinct. Our concerns about upholding parliamentary privilege remain intact, and the association does not believe that it is in the interest of our democracy to give control of security within the legislative power to the executive power, this said with the utmost respect for the quality of work of the RCMP in its primary position, which is not the protection of the parliamentary precinct.
Returning to the “arrangement” under section 79.55 of Bill , the association wonders about the practical significance of this provision. Are there plans to replace, double or add to existing positions in the House's Protective Service? If so, in what areas? No response could be provided as to the practical intentions of government regarding this provision.
Still with respect to this “arrangement”, nothing in the bill seems to prevent that the Speakers of the House of Commons and of the Senate may not have a decision-making role in the choice of the future director of PPS. It is entirely possible that this “arrangement” provides that the decision-making level in the selection process lies somewhere in the RCMP, somewhere in the Privy Council Office, or within the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which would appear to the association to be yet another dent into parliamentary privilege and into our democratic system.
In sum, it is the very idea of RCMP control on protection operations within the parliamentary precinct that the association questions. This is not a matter of turf or jurisdiction, but a strong plea for the need to combine operational effectiveness and the respect for the sacred principles on which our Constitution has been founded.
Concluding on this aspect, the association would like to recall that no report, no study and no informed public commentator has questioned the work of the House's Protective Service, including in relation to the events of October 22, 2014.
It is, in this context, entirely legitimate to question the merits of the probable takeover of the PPS's control by the RCMP, or at least the very real possibility thereof envisaged by Bill . Why change a recipe that works and works well? Are such changes not rather conducive to weakening our security safeguards? The association believes that the answer is in the question.
The association is satisfied by the presence of certain transitional provisions in Bill which, at first sight, seem to guarantee employment for the 225 employees of the House's Protective Services. This is especially so with respect to section 100 of the bill, which seems to protect the position of those currently employed by the House and of the Senate.
However, the association is concerned that the bill does not uphold the commitment made by the Speaker of the House in his motion of February 25, 2015, guaranteeing the employment of all employees of the House's Protective Services.
Indeed, Bill does not reflect this clear commitment and does not preclude a reorganization of work that could result in cuts or abolition of positions or modifications in terms of the workforce. Contrary to providing such job security, Bill introduces a significant amount of doubt and insecurity by requiring, as noted above, that both the PPS and the RCMP will be responsible for providing physical security throughout the Parliamentary Precinct, but without specifying who will do what, and by giving an unfair advantage to the RCMP in this regard by requiring that the director of PPS be an active member of the RCMP. This is a significant concern for the association, which would wish that the commitment made on February 25, 2015, jointly by the Speaker of the House and by the late Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Nolin, be clearly spelled out in Bill .
To the extent permitted by the necessary discretion inherent to security operations, the association is available to answer questions that this honourable committee may have regarding division 10 of Bill .
Mr. Chair, thank you for this opportunity to discuss part 3, division 10, of Bill pertaining to the Parliamentary Protective Service.
I am accompanied today by Gordon Stock, principal in the office.
In June 2012, we issued our audit to the administration of the House of Commons of Canada and the administration of the Senate of Canada. In these audits, we looked at the services each administration provided in areas such as financial management, human resources, information technology systems, and, of particular interest today, security.
Mr. Chair, I will summarize for the committee our relevant audit findings related to security; however, it is important to note that most of our audit work was completed in February 2012, so we cannot comment on actions taken since then.
First, we examined whether each administration had in place appropriate policies and controls designed to ensure a safe and secure environment for parliamentarians, staff and visitors. We also examined whether each administration had identified key risks and had implemented suitable mitigation strategies.
Overall we found that the House of Commons Security Services responded to security risks by implementing standard operating procedures and providing appropriate training to the responsible personnel, and that the administration of the Senate had mitigating controls for key security risks, such as having a memoranda of agreement with the House of Commons and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to provide armed assistance if needed.
However, to ensure clearly assigned responsibilities and accountabilities within each administration, we recommended that each administration develop an overall security policy along with appropriate objectives and performance measures. The House of Commons administration anticipated having its policy in place by 2015.
Second, we examined the procedures in place for communications and coordination among the three security partners—the House of Commons Security Services, the Senate Protective Service and the RCMP—given that responsibility for the security of the parliamentary precinct is under their shared jurisdiction.
Before our audit, the three security partners had worked together and developed a master security plan. After the plan was introduced, coordination and communications improved. However, at the time of our audits, gaps still existed, highlighting ongoing jurisdictional issues. For instance, at that time, no security force had accepted primary responsibility for the roofs of the buildings in the precinct.
In 2010 each administration had examined options for a unified security force for the parliamentary precinct. Each agreed on proposed changes to resolve the jurisdictional issues. The proposed changes involved integrating the three partner security services for the entire parliamentary precinct. To that effect, we recommended that the House of Commons administration and the Senate administration work toward a unified security force for the Parliamentary precinct. In our view, a single point of command and control accountable to both the House and the Senate would allow a more effective and efficient response. The portion of the bill before you today is a way of addressing the substance of our recommendation, and I hope that our audit findings will be of assistance to the committee in its current review.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee members may have.
Maybe I'll add a couple of things, Mr. Chair.
Certainly our recommendation, which was in paragraph 74 of the audit, was about examining the costs of providing the same capacity for response across the parliamentary precinct and the possibility of moving toward a more unified security force.
We didn't talk specifically about how that might be done. Obviously we were leaving that up to the decision makers.
When I read through the bill, I have a couple of concerns myself, not as a security expert but as a lay person, sort of as an administrator trying to look at the bill and see how it would work.
For example, proposed new section 79.51 says the designation of what is to be included in the parliamentary precinct may be made by one Speaker or the other Speaker, so it's not a matter of both having to agree on it. So is there a possibility that one Speaker might think that security services need to be provided somewhere and the other might think that they shouldn't be, and in fact doing that could take resources from one place to another?
In 79.52(2), it says that the Speakers are responsible for the service, but whenever there are two people responsible for something, again that could be, to me—as an administrator and not knowing the details of security or all of the details of the administration—a signal of having two people trying to give direction and that there needs to be a way of making sure that clear direction can be given. It also says they are responsible for the service, but it doesn't really say what exactly “responsible” means.
I'm just making those comments more as an administrator, trying to think of it from the point of view of somebody who would have to implement this from an administrative point of view. There were just a couple of things like those that seemed a little unclear for me, and I wondered where that direction comes from for the director.
Thank you to the three witnesses for coming.
Mr. Lapensée, I also certainly want to compliment the professionalism of your organization. In all my time in Parliament—and at this table, probably Diane and I have been here the longest—I have never seen anything but professionalism from your folks and, indeed, friendship over time, with the recognition factor that's always there. I want to state that, because you don't see that in too many workplaces. Everybody has a bad day, even the chair does, from time to time, with some of the members on the committee, though not with me of course. But I've never seen anybody express their bad day.
In any event, I think part of the problem we have here with this new proposal is that the security issue, which is an extremely important issue, has taken precedence. There are really two issues at play here. One is the security issue in terms of the parliamentary precinct itself, and the other is the independence of Parliament. By the independence of Parliament, I mean the independence of Parliament from the executive branch of government, which is the Prime Minister, cabinet, etc.
It was interesting when we were doing our research into this issue. You have the Clerk and you have the Sergeant-at-Arms, and when they were here the other day, the Privy Council Office could not answer a question about the role of the Sergeant-at-Arms under this new arrangement. That's worrisome.
But it's interesting that when you actually go to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it says:
Prior to the creation of the House of Commons Security Services in 1920, security was the responsibility of the Dominion Police (which in 1920 was merged with the Royal North West Mounted Police to create a new national force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
In a certain fashion, we're going back to the arrangement that existed in 1920 and we're going back to the 1920 model. Is it for better or worse? I don't know. I will admit that I am concerned about the independence of Parliament from the executive branch because of the connection to the Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Does either of you, as a witness, know what the new role of the Sergeant-at-Arms will be, if any, and who that individual is ultimately responsible to? Earlier somebody else said that you couldn't have three bosses, and you can't. Under this new arrangement, who is that individual ultimately responsible to?