Ladies and gentlemen, can we come to order, please?
I'm going to go slightly out of order because I'm unable to stay here for the full two hours. You have in front of you the 11th report of the subcommittee and the proposed schedule that would accompany the report. I'm assuming that this should be without debate.
If it is without debate, I'll go back to our regular order, so if it is, I'd ask for a motion to pass the subcommittee's report. It is moved by Mr. Dubé and seconded by Mr. Fragiskatos. Those in favour? Those opposed?
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Okay. That has passed. We'll go back to our orders. Thank you.
We have with us witnesses from Correctional Services Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency for meeting number 100, ladies and gentlemen.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: Yes. I don't know whether there'll be dancing in the streets or any other form of celebrations.
Nevertheless, we are here to hear your testimony with respect to the use of ion mobility spectrometers by Correctional Services Canada. I'm assuming that Correctional Services Canada wishes to go first. We look forward to your testimony.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank you and the honourable members of this committee for the opportunity to appear before you today.
I am pleased to be joined by Rob Campney, deputy director of preventive security and intelligence at the Correctional Service of Canada. Rob is responsible for the administration of the ion scanner guidelines. As for me, as director general of preventive security and intelligence at the Correctional Service of Canada, I'm responsible for ensuring the integrity of intelligence operations, as well as the delivery of safe corrections through the identification and management of effective detection tools.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to appear before this committee in order to discuss how we can ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff by preventing drugs and contraband from entering our institutions, while at the same time facilitating visits between inmates and their families, friends, and other sources of community support, which are so critical to inmate rehabilitation. It is my hope that we can provide you with information related to drug interdiction and some of the ongoing challenges in order to assist your study on this important subject.
To begin, I would like to provide the committee with background information on the broader issue of drug use within federal correctional institutions in Canada.
We are committed to ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment and serve as settings that contribute to inmate rehabilitation, the safety of staff and inmates, and the protection of the public. In an effort to ensure this, preventing the introduction of contraband and reducing the use of illicit substances by offenders in our correctional institutions are among our highest priorities. As the committee is no doubt aware, illicit drugs are not compatible with a secure environment, nor are they conducive to the safe reintegration of offenders into our community. Drug use is a contributing factor to criminal behaviour and to the spread of infectious diseases.
As I'm certain you're also aware, the number of deaths related to opioids has significantly increased within the Canadian population. Based on the Public Health Agency of Canada's national report on opioid-related deaths, the number of apparent deaths involving fentanyl opioids doubled from January to March of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Thus, a top priority for the Correctional Service of Canada is to stop these highly toxic substances from being introduced into the institutions across our country.
We continue to work closely with partners, police agencies, and communities to stop unauthorized items, including drugs, from entering our institutions. Nonetheless, substance abuse amongst the offender population is a serious problem. Approximately 75% of offenders have some problem with alcohol or drugs when they are admitted into federal institutions, with a sizable proportion of this group abusing more than one drug at a time.
To tackle this issue, we have implemented a drug strategy that addresses this challenge on four fronts: detection, enforcement, deterrence, and treatment. Our strategy emphasizes a more strategic use of existing interdiction tools; an awareness program to inform staff, contractors, and visitors about the repercussions of smuggling drugs into penitentiaries; increased monitoring of those individuals potentially involved in the drug trade; increased disciplinary measures; and, a broadening of inmate awareness of substance abuse programs.
To speak more specifically about the detection element of our approach, the focus is on reducing the supply of illicit drugs through measures such as cell searches, searches of buildings and grounds, physical searches of offenders, regular monitoring of offender activity, random urinalysis testing, and the non-intrusive searching of all visitors entering institutions.
Amongst these detection tools, the ion mobility spectrometry—IMS—devices, otherwise known as ion scanners, are considered valuable tools to assist staff in identifying visitors who have possibly been in contact with different substances or narcotics. Currently it's the only known tool that can identify possible contact with a particular substance and allow for analysis results within seconds.
I would like to emphasize that ion scanners are only one aspect of a much broader approach that seeks to reduce both the demand for and the supply of illicit drugs that may enter the federal institutions. To be sure, the Correctional Service of Canada's approach to illicit drugs is as much aimed at reducing the demand for drugs through treatment, support, and intervention as it is aimed at reducing supply through detection and enforcement.
At the same time, we recognize the critical importance of family visits for offenders and the benefits of family and community support to an offender's rehabilitative process. We know that the development and maintenance of family and community ties help prepare offenders for safe reintegration into the community.
To facilitate these relationships, our organization has implemented both general institutional visits and the private family visiting program within its federal institutions. The objective of these programs is to encourage inmates to develop and maintain family and community ties that will assist them in becoming law-abiding citizens.
For the safety of offenders and staff, all visitors wishing to enter an institution are subjected to a search, which may be conducted using a variety of detection tools. These include ion scanners, metal detectors, X-ray machines, drug dog teams, and visual inspection. In determining which tools to use, we must balance the equipment's effectiveness, cost, and intrusiveness to visitors. Ion scanners allow for a non-intrusive search option, which can be supplemented with other more intrusive techniques as required. If the ion scanners demonstrate a positive result, we then conduct an assessment of risk to determine the most effective means by which we can safely manage a visit. Only in the rarest of cases is a visitor denied access.
To give you an idea of the frequency of positive test results and the next steps undertaken, our internal review of available incident reports reveals that in 2017 approximately 128,000 visits occurred across the country. Less than 1% of the time, the ion scan tests returned a positive result. In approximately two-thirds of these cases, the outcome of a threat risk assessment was to facilitate a visit by applying additional measures designed to be less restrictive than requesting the visitor to leave. For example, options such as a designated seating visit, a non-contact visit, or a supervised visit would have been employed to accommodate these visits. In some instances, the visit proceeded without any additional restriction.
In other words, across the country, CSC facilitated a visit for over 99% of the visitors who entered our institutions. Nevertheless, we are aware of the concerns raised by family members, as well as the Office of the Correctional Investigator, relating to the reliability of ion scanners.
Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each detection method. No method is perfect or all-encompassing. As an organization, we always seek opportunities to improve our policies and the tools of our front-line staff. As such, CSC has recently completed a review of the use and reliability of ion scanners, as well as policies related to the application of non-intrusive tools. The review confirmed the validity and value of ion scanners and allowed us to identify areas requiring enhancement.
To ensure our staff's effective use of the ion scanners, a security bulletin was issued in October of 2017 to remind and instruct staff on their usage. I want to reiterate that our organization is focused on fostering an environment that best contributes to effective rehabilitation and ensures the safety and security of inmates, visitors, and our staff. Equipment such as ion scanners, albeit very important, is but one means of detection among many to achieve this goal.
Our organization encourages visits from family and friends and wholly understands their benefit. We know that the vast majority of visitors are not attempting to introduce drugs into our institution. The detection methods we employ enable us to mitigate the risks associated with the smuggling of drugs and other contraband during visits and consequently creates the necessary preconditions for safe visits in the least disruptive manner possible. This ultimately serves to facilitate meaningful contact between inmates and their sources of community support.
Having said that, our organization will continuously refine our processes to deliver the best public safety results for Canadians. We will therefore look forward to this committee's findings from this study.
With that, I want to thank the members of this committee once again for the opportunity to appear before you today. We welcome your questions.
Thank you, Chair, and good morning, members of the committee.
My name is Johny Prasad. I'm the director of program compliance and outreach at the Canada Border Services Agency. I'm responsible for the agency's protection program. I am pleased to be here and to assist the committee with its study of the use of the ion mobility spectrometers, also known as ion scanners, along with my colleague Dr. Phil Lightfoot, acting director general of the science and engineering directorate. Phil is responsible for all technical aspects of the detection technology used by the agency.
The Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA, ensures Canada's security and prosperity by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada. Every year, millions of travellers, commercial containers, and conveyances enter the country.
Our approach to risk management is tiered. The process begins with advance commercial or passenger information being screened in our national targeting centre for potential threats. These threats range in nature and include explosive materials, prohibited food, plants, and animals, and illicit narcotics, which requires the CBSA to perform examinations of shipments and travellers prior to entering the country.
Having the right equipment and techniques is another key element in protecting the safety and security of Canadians without unduly slowing the flow of people and goods crossing the border. Border services officers are our best resource at ports of entry across Canada, and they are highly trained in examination methods. In addition to experience and knowledge, officers use a variety of technologies and tools, including X-ray devices, detector dogs, radiation detection, and trace detection equipment such as ion scanners. The CBSA uses enhanced risk-based compliance and interacts with travellers, shipments, and conveyances differently, based on the level of risk.
With respect to ion scanners specifically, the CBSA has an inventory of 125 ion scan devices, which are strategically deployed to support operations as needed at ports of entry across Canada. CBSA officers are trained on the use and care of these devices, which can be used at any port of entry in the land, air, marine, and postal modes as a form of non-intrusive examination. The devices are programmed to detect the presence of both narcotics and explosives by swabbing a surface and testing the swabs. A positive ion scan provides an officer with an indication that the item has recently come into contact with the product indicated on the alarm and may influence a decision to examine goods or interview the person.
Detection equipment is not infallible. An ion scan can on occasion provide a false positive or false negative; however, these specific test results are not used to determine admissibility. Depending on the situation at hand, the officer will employ additional investigative techniques to make an informed decision. For example, the officer can use advance information in addition to other tools such as X-ray machines, density scanners, and detector dogs to proceed with the examination process.
To conclude, the results of an ion scan alone do not form the sole basis of an officer's determination, but will trigger further investigation. The agency uses a complete suite of state-of-the-art tools that complement each other and contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of examinations as a whole.
I would be happy to answer any questions the committee may have with regard to the CBSA's use of detection technologies. Thank you.
Just to reiterate, 99% of all of our visits coming into the institution are approved and allowed, and that may or may not involve the use of the ion scan. In terms of conducting a threat risk assessment, there's a series of checks and balances in the document that need to be followed through. Again, as Mr. Coons has said, we use the ion scan as a possible detection tool, as well as the drug dog, X-ray machine, or metal detector. Also, for those coming in for family visits, we physically go through their suitcases to check to see if there's anything in there that would represent contraband.
In addition to that, we also review the information contained in our visitor review board, for prior visits of the offender by the particular visitor who is coming in for a day visit, whether there were any hits on the ion scan or any hits by the detector dog or metal detector.
As well, we review the case management file to ensure that the offender is in compliance with his or her correctional plan and is adhering to the drug interdiction programs that are in place or whatever the programming requirements for the offender may entail.
In addition, and very fundamental to the TRA process, is the security intelligence officer information. They're our eyes and ears on the ground in an institution and they're in tune with what is going on in terms of our inmate sources and providing us with information to assess in terms of drugs coming in, who may be involved, who may not be involved, and that sort of thing.
In addition, we review our offender management file for prior urinalysis test results. If we have an offender who has had a random urinalysis test and the result has been negative versus positive for cocaine or another substance, that's a factor in the threat risk assessment in terms of the current application or the current visitor at the gate waiting to come in.
Mr. Chair, just before I start questioning our excellent witnesses here, I have a question for the clerk. At a previous meeting of this committee, I asked the then acting commissioner, Mr. Daniel Dubeau, for clarification. Has he submitted anything to the committee to clarify or provided answers that he wasn't able to give, at this particular point in time?
Okay, that's no problem. I'm hoping that will come in due course and that we're following up to get those answers.
Good morning, gentlemen. I'm the member of Parliament for Red Deer—Lacombe. I'm happily situated and a representative of the Pê Sâkâstêw facility in central Alberta and slightly north of both facilities in Drumheller and Bowden.
I deal with folks who are employed by Correctional Services Canada all the time, who make themselves available to me and provide me with all kinds of information. I'm going to ask some questions about this, because I'm very concerned. Some of the folks who are in the employment of Correctional Services Canada have made it very clear to me that contraband drugs, cigarettes, and all kinds of contraband, whatever it happens to be, are actually massively prevalent in some of the institutions.
I'm seeking some clarification. What is a contraband pack of smokes worth inside a prison facility? What's a contraband joint worth, and how does so much of this stuff actually get inside, notwithstanding the fact we already have the security measures that we're talking about? I think some at this committee have suggested that there are concerns that the ion scanning is preventing people from having access for visits. If we loosen that up, how much worse is it going to get with the contraband in these facilities?
I'm very concerned about this stuff, because officers' safety, the integrity of our system, and everything is at stake here
Sure. I would be happy to do that, Mr. Chair.
In fact, I think there's a fairly good description from your previous witness in November, Professor Hannem. She went through that in some detail.
How it works is that you use a piece of material to swab a surface and hopefully pick up traces of, let's say, cocaine. You insert that into the machine. The machine heats it up to vaporize what's on the swab. That gas goes into what's called a “mass spectrometer”. It's this little tube, and it's ionized with an ionizing source, and then there's an electrical field in there that drags the ions down the tube.
Depending on how big they are, what shape they are, or how much they weigh, they go faster or slower. Depending on what the molecule looks like, it can arrive more quickly or more slowly at the detector at the far end. That gives you a little graph, where you'll see that this one arrives, then that one, and then that one, etc. That's essentially how it works. We pick up electrical signals when the ionized molecules bump into the far end.
I think that's the perfect question.
We've talked about complementary tools, whether it be an X-ray, an ion scan, or a detector dog. The officers use a multiplicity of indicators to make sure they move from non-intrusive, the least intrusive ability to examine a person or their goods, before moving to much more intrusive, let's say a pocket search or a personal search, as you just mentioned.
We're also quite cognizant of the traveller and their ability to facilitate their travel. We don't immediately try to do examinations where they're not needed. The officer does use other tools, other information at their disposal, whether it be documentary analysis, the travel patterns, or any other information within one of our databases.
Based on this consolidation of information, the indicator from an ion scan, travel patterns, advance information, is used together to do the appropriate examination for that instance.