Also, I'm welcoming our minister, Mr. Goodale.
Before I do that, I wanted to inform the committee of a motion that was adopted in the House on Monday, May 30:
||That, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(b), consideration by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of all Votes related to Public Safety in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, be extended beyond May 31, 2016.
I believe that was extended to June 16.
As a result of that motion, we have until June 13 to report back on the main estimates. However, taking into consideration the minister's availability, as well as our committee schedule that's been established, we think it would be difficult to have another time to review both the supplementary estimates (A) and the main estimates. As a result, I let both opposition parties and the government side know yesterday that we would be considering today both the main estimates and supplementary estimates (A).
I wanted to get that into the record of why we're doing it. It's a little unusual, but we're following what the Conservative motion said in the House. As a result, the minister minister will deal with both of them.
Mr. Goodale, welcome. I'm pleased that you're able to be here. Thank you for joining our committee and bringing your officials with you, whom you'll be introducing. I also want to welcome from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, Michael Doucet, the executive director, and Stéphanie Dion, the senior manager of corporate services.
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, thank you very much.
As you have explained, Mr. Chair, we're doing double duty today with respect to supplementary estimates (A) and the main estimates. I hope we can do them justice in the time that's available.
In addition to the two people from the review committee whom you just introduced, let me introduce the other officials who are around the table: Paul MacKinnon, the assistant deputy minister for portfolio affairs and communications branch in the Department of Public Safety; and from the RCMP, Dennis Watters, the chief financial administration officer; the president of the Canada Border Services Agency, Linda Lizotte-MacPherson; Jeff Yaworski, the acting director of CSIS; Harvey Cenaiko, the chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada; and from Correctional Services Canada, Liette Dumas-Sluyter, the assistant commissioner, Corporate Services, and CFO.
I am always pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the work performed by the department and the agencies entrusted with protecting our public safety and national security all over Canada, both on the front lines and behind the scenes.
Before we get into the precise detail of the estimates, Mr. Chair, I would just like to take this opportunity before this committee to talk about some of the public policy work that has been mainly preoccupying me and my officials over the course of the last little while. The financial implications of these things appear in the various estimates, but I think maybe it's more informative to address the topics by subject matter rather than the specific column in the estimates.
The first thing I want to touch upon is the significant progress we've been making with the United States on issues that affect our shared border. There's nothing economically probably more important to Canada than the well-being of that long, lucrative, undefended border between Canada and the United States. As I've said on many occasions, there are about 400,000 people who move back and forth across that border every day. There is $2.5 billion worth of trade that moves back and forth across that border every day. It's obviously important that it work well.
It was a topic that was clearly addressed when the was in Washington for the state visit with President Obama.
Let me talk for a moment about pre-clearance. This is an initiative that represents a longstanding area of mutual co-operation between our two countries. Pre-clearance strengthens our economic competitiveness by expediting the flow of legitimate travel and trade while ensuring that the perimeter security and border integrity are in place.
During the March visit, our countries reinforced our intention to support the necessary legislation to put our pre-clearance arrangements on a stronger footing. In the United States, the necessary legislative provisions have been introduced in Congress, and as I have indicated publicly before, the Government of Canada intends to introduce the necessary legislation in the House of Commons before we adjourn for the summer.
More importantly, given the many benefits of pre-clearance, Canada and the U.S. have agreed in principle to expand pre-clearance to four new Canadian sites: Billy Bishop airport in Toronto; Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City; the Montreal train to New York; and the Rocky Mountaineer train in British Columbia.
This is a significant opportunity to open new markets and drive economic growth, and we are working with our American partners to implement the agreement and, more importantly, to expand that business relationship. It can well go beyond the four specific sites I just mentioned.
The second thing we dealt with in the Washington visit was an announcement that our two countries will also fully implement a system to exchange basic biographic entry and exit information at the land border. By basic biographic information we're referring to the information that essentially can be found on page 2 of your passport, such as your name and date of birth, as well as the date, time, and location of departure. Essentially, when you're dealing with the land border, one country's entry information will be the other country's exit information, and vice versa.
The collection of exit information would allow the Government of Canada to identify the departure of individuals who may be involved, for example, in Amber Alerts about missing children. At the moment, we don't have that capacity. We will, with this new arrangement. It will provide us with a better ability to identify those who may be travelling for the purposes of terrorism or other serious crimes, ensure that residency requirements for immigration and citizenship applications have been met, and help us collect duties and taxes at the border.
I want to emphasize that the Government of Canada takes its obligation to protect the privacy of Canadians very seriously. To that end, I would note that the Canada Border Services Agency has been actively engaged with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to identify and mitigate any potential privacy concerns with respect to this entry/exit initiative.
Finally, our two countries have agreed to establish a working group on issues related to Canadian and U.S. travellers who experience difficulties with aviation security lists. This includes Canada's Secure Air Travel Act and the United States' secure flight lists. Further to that commitment, on May 10, I announced that we would be forming a Canada-U.S. redress working group, which is now in place. That bilateral working group provides a means for government officials on both sides to communicate more effectively and to reduce incidents of false positives and thus minimize negative impacts on the travelling public.
I am wholly committed to addressing issues experienced by Canadian travellers regarding aviation security lists while at the same time ensuring that our passenger protect program remains a strong and effective security tool for Canada. My department is also working with Transport Canada to develop the regulatory arrangements that will be necessary to the secure air travel regulations. These changes will bring flight manifest screening against the SATA list under government control, which will improve efficiency and address key security and privacy concerns. I know this has been an aggravation to many in the travelling public, particularly including those with young children, and we are determined to make the changes that are necessary to get this job done.
Mr. Chair, let me turn now to the topic of national security and the issue of accountability as it relates to that very important topic. As outlined in my mandate letter, I'm working very closely with the leader of the government in the House of Commons to establish a national security committee of parliamentarians with access to classified information. This new committee will be mandated to review all government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. Its goal will be to ensure that our national security architecture is working effectively to keep Canadians safe, and at the same time to ensure that it is safeguarding Canadian values, rights, and freedoms. In terms of timelines, we intend to introduce the necessary legislation to establish this new committee—as promised during the course of the election last year—before the summer recess.
One other topic, Mr. Chair, that I would like to deal with briefly is Fort McMurray. I want to touch on the massive disaster that we have witnessed there over the course of the last month or so. I know we all celebrate the fact that at least some in that community are now able to move back home and undertake the very large task of trying to rebuild their lives.
The Government of Canada continues to support the people of Fort McMurray in the wake of the devastating wildfires. Every agency and department of the Government of Canada has been thoroughly engaged to make sure that all Canadians stand together, and that is certainly true of the department that I represent and the portfolio of agencies associated with it. The government operations centre, part of Public Safety Canada, has been leading the response coordination on behalf of the federal government. Using the federal emergency response plan, the government operations centre brings together provinces, territories, and key federal departments and agencies to assess the risk that fire poses—the risk not only to Canadians, but also to infrastructure and the economy—and to develop and implement the appropriate response plans.
We were able to respond quickly and, I'm happy to say, completely to every request that was made to us by the Province of Alberta and by the professional emergency management team on the ground at Fort McMurray.
As committee members know, to manage the recovery process going forward—beyond the necessities of immediate response, as we are now in the recovery phase—an ad hoc committee of the cabinet of the Government of Canada has been struck to coordinate federal efforts for the thousands who have been affected. I would also note, of course, the efforts of the local RCMP throughout this entire experience, since the very end of April when the fires began until the present time when people are beginning to move back into the community.
Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, who heads up the division for the entire province of Alberta, and her team throughout Alberta, have been absolutely extraordinary in dealing what needed to be dealt with in that very difficult emergency situation. Now they continue to play a key role in support of the recovery efforts, managing access to affected areas, supporting the restoration of critical services and infrastructure, and the return of residents to the community.
I can assure all members of this committee that the Government of Canada is in this effort for the long haul. Sadly, the recovery will not be quick, simple, or easy. We all have to be there with patient, consistent, and long-lasting support, because that's just what Canadians do in emergency situations like this. We have each other's back and that is certainly the case in respect of Fort McMurray.
As a final note, congratulations to the Red Cross, which has worked extraordinarily well to provide services to raise funds and to contribute to the solutions that people in Fort McMurray have so desperately needed.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be glad to respond to questions.
First responders are extraordinary people, and in this portfolio I have a unique set of opportunities to watch them in action. They are truly remarkable. We call upon them to keep all the rest of us safe, whether they are police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or all of those others who are prepared to put themselves in harm's way to do their jobs and work for the safety and security of Canadians.
Those extraordinary people deserve to know that when they run into difficulty, their country has their back. That's why, in our platform last year and in my mandate letter, the laid out a series of things that need to be done to bolster the nation's support for first responders.
I won't go into the detail now, but one of those is the establishment of a public safety officer compensation benefit. When a first responder is, sadly, killed or seriously injured in the line of duty, this would be a benefit that would provide to his or her family an immediate measure of support.
You've referred to another dimension of what the Prime Minister has asked us to do, and that is the creation of a coherent, comprehensive national strategy to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or OSI, operational stress injuries, among first responders. We have held a series of consultations about what needs to go into that kind of a strategy, drawing on a great many sources of opinion and advice, but most especially first responders themselves on to how they see a national strategy and what needs to be in it.
The work this committee did a few weeks ago in studying the question will be very helpful in the development of that strategy.
What we need to do is to ensure that we have the proper research available and ongoing to fully understand PTSD and OSI in all of its dimensions and implications. We need to assure—
There was a moment after the tragedies in October of 2014 when Canadians were looking forward to a good discussion, analysis, and debate about our national security architecture. I think people recognized at that time, in the light of those tragedies, that things needed to be improved, strengthened, and changed. At the same time, they wanted to make sure that their rights and freedoms were being properly respected and safeguarded, along with the open, generous nature of the country.
Unfortunately, that consultation did not happen at the time. I think the legislation that was presented, which turned out to be Bill , could have been much improved had an opportunity been given to Canadians of all different views and perspectives to contribute to the process. We're going to provide that opportunity through this consultation, which will begin almost immediately and continue through the balance of this year.
The pieces of it would involve the cross-border relationship with the United States, which we have discussed, and the legislation that will be coming forward to strengthen our border arrangements, both to make those arrangements more secure and more efficient from an economic point of view.
The architecture will include the new committee of parliamentarians, which will provide a new level of review and scrutiny that has never been there before. Every other country in the western world has a vehicle of that kind. We don't. We're going to add that to make sure of two things, that we are being effective in keeping Canadians safe, and that we are safeguarding their rights and values.
We will have a new national office on community outreach to try to identify potentially vulnerable and risky situations in advance and to have the means and the wherewithal to intervene before tragedies occur. That's the new office on outreach and counter radicalization.
We will be beginning an initiative on cybersecurity. Canada's cyber policy was first established in 2010, but a lot has changed since then, and we need to bring that up to date.
Then we will make the specific amendments to Bill that I referred to, and we will ask Canadians this key question—that's the minimum we will do to make sure that rights and freedoms are properly respected—what else in the architecture do Canadians want to see changed?