Good afternoon. I'm very happy to call to order the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's 49th meeting in this Parliament and to welcome our guests.
I want to welcome Mr. Aboultaif and Mr. Vandal as full members of our committee today. We're glad to see you.
Welcome, Minister Goodale, and thank you for accepting our invitation to help the committee pursuant to our Standing Order 108(2) study of the subject matter of supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17.
We'll be considering the supplementary estimates. Just a reminder to the committee that due to scheduling we were not able to consider the supplementary estimates (B) prior to their having been deemed accepted by us and already reported to Parliament. However, not ever wanting to miss an opportunity to spend time with the minister, we are very pleased that he's able to be with us.
The topic of the first hour is the supplementary estimates (B) and other issues related to those, which I'm sure will arise.
In our second hour of the meeting, we'll continue with Mr. Coulombe from CSIS to discuss recent events and the Noël decision in the Federal Court.
Obviously, members, you know you can ask questions of anybody, but I'm thinking that if we could hold most of the questions for Mr. Coulombe until the second hour, it would probably be somewhat more efficient, but the time is yours.
I just want to draw your attention to the working document, the issues and options paper on Canada's national security framework which was sent to committee members this afternoon. Check your inbox and take a look at the issues and options paper. I have not had a chance to look at it yet, but I know in advance that it will be good work, so I thank the analysts for their work.
Mr. Goodale, the floor is yours.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to be here today particularly on supplementary estimates (B).
I'm very pleased to be joined by most of the usual cast of characters: my deputy minister Malcolm Brown; Michel Coulombe, the director of CSIS; Commissioner Paulson from the RCMP; and Caroline Xavier, who is vice-president of operations at the Canada Border Services Agency.
I would point out that the former president, Linda Lizotte-Macpherson, has retired as of last Friday, and her replacement, John Ossowski, is in the process of arriving. He will no doubt have the pleasure of appearing before the committee on future occasions. In the meantime, Caroline is representing CBSA today.
Fraser Macaulay, assistant commissioner with Corrections Canada is also here, as is Harvey Cenaiko, the chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada.
As you will note from studying the supplementary estimates (B), the department portfolio of Public Safety is requesting adjustments that result in an increase in our spending authorities of $256.3 million. I would like to run through very briefly what the items are that add up to that total.
Canada is, as you know, a safe and peaceful country, but we also know that we are not immune to threats, including natural disasters, terrorism, and other crimes and acts of violence. The women and men of the public safety portfolio, including the department itself and all of the various agencies that you see represented here today, do the essential and often dangerous work of protecting Canadians, and for so doing they deserve and I believe they have our admiration and our gratitude. It's up to us as parliamentarians to support them and their work so that they can continue keeping Canadians safe and protecting the rights and freedoms that we all hold very dear. The items included in the estimates are directed toward that end.
First of all, let me deal with Fort McMurray. As you know, we faced a terrible fire disaster there earlier this year, probably the worst in Canadian history. In coordinating the federal response to that disaster, I got to see some pretty remarkable things, including the courage of the people of Fort McMurray, the determined leadership of local, provincial, and federal officials, the skill and the selflessness of firefighters, police officers, and other first responders, and the tireless efforts of the Canadian Red Cross, and of course, from coast to coast, Canadians gave generously to support those who were so seriously affected.
The Government of Canada has transferred $104.5 million to the Canadian Red Cross, honouring the 's commitment to match the individual charitable donations that were made by Canadians in support of Fort McMurray. That accounts for a large portion of the total authorities that are being requested today, those matching funds for the Red Cross.
Also, under the disaster financial assistance arrangements, we made an advance payment to Alberta of $307 million as a down payment on what will be the ultimate obligation to assist Alberta in dealing with this disaster. That amount of money is not in these estimates because it is covered in the main estimates. Every year there's an allotment for the DFAA, and the amount that's required for Alberta is covered in the allotment in the main estimates. The supps deal with the matching money for the Red Cross of $104.5 million.
The second topic is HUSAR, the heavy urban search and rescue teams. That capacity in Canada is something we mentioned in our election platform saying that we would reinstate federal funding to support the HUSAR teams across Canada. They are absolutely indispensable in responding to such emergencies as ice storms, floods, wildfires, building collapses, and so forth.
The previous government made a decision at one point to eliminate this funding. We decided it was of sufficient priority that it needed to be reinstated. In October I was pleased to deliver on the commitment we had made by launching the heavy urban search and rescue program, which will provide $3.1 million annually in funding for these heavy urban search and rescue task forces. This program will not only support and strengthen the four existing task forces in Vancouver, Calgary, Brandon, and Toronto, but they will also help to develop new capabilities in Montreal and re-establish capabilities in Halifax. To this end, $3.1 million is being sought through supplementary estimates (B).
The third major topic is RCMP class actions. Another part of the mandate that I received from the was to take action to ensure that all parts of the public safety portfolio are healthy workplaces, free from all forms of harassment. I've been working on this from the very beginning of our mandate, notably inviting the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to undertake a comprehensive review of RCMP policies and procedures on harassment, and also appointing Sheila Fraser as a special adviser to examine the RCMP's complaints process and the treatment of complainants. That work is ongoing. I expect to hear from both of those processes sometime next spring.
I was also very pleased to join Commissioner Paulson on October 6 for the announcement of a $100-million settlement between the RCMP and a large number of plaintiffs in two proposed harassment-related class action lawsuits, of which $40 million is being sought through these 2016-17 supplementary estimates (B). The remaining $60 million will be accessed in the following year. In addition to the $40 million for actual payments for settlement, there is another $17 million for class action counsel and claims assessment being sought through these estimates. The total amount required to deal with the class actions is $40 million plus $17 million, for a total of $57 million.
I think we should be encouraged by this development and by the eloquent apology that was offered by the commissioner. We continue to advance other initiatives on this very important front of safe workplaces. This is an important step in helping us move forward from a deeply troubling aspect of the history of our national police force to a much different future.
In terms of the claims process, I think it's important to highlight that, totally separate and apart from government, totally separate and apart from the force, an independent process has been set up to actually adjudicate the claims. The RCMP will have no involvement except to make documentation available. The government will have no involvement except to provide the funding. The decisions will be made by the Honourable Michel Bastarache, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who is the independent assessor. He will make the determinations of the appropriate amounts, case by case by case.
On national security, the government continues its work to ensure that Canada's national security framework keeps Canadians safe while safeguarding our rights and freedoms. I'm pleased to report that the unprecedented engagement with Canadians that we have launched right across this country has been very successful, including a series of town hall meetings, round tables, public hearings, personal discussions, and meetings with subject matter experts, as well as quite literally tens of thousands of contributions coming in via email in our online consultations. That consultation remains open until December 15, but already the total number of participants is in excess of 45,000 Canadians. It's a very encouraging number.
Once again, let me thank the committee for the hearings that you held and the report you will make about the advice you would offer the government in relation to the national security framework. We are analyzing all of the input, and we will be putting forward a set of measures that will be designed to achieve two objectives simultaneously: protecting the public, keeping them safe and secure, and at the same time safeguarding the rights and freedoms of Canadians in a free, inclusive, and democratic society.
I also want to note the work the committee has done on Bill . I understand it's now in the process of being reported back to the House, and I will be very anxious to consider that report.
One other matter under national security which involves an estimate in these supplementary estimates (B) is the creation of the office for community outreach and counter-radicalization to violence. That item was earmarked in the budget last spring, and to this end, you will note in these estimates that my department is seeking $2.3 million in 2016-17 to establish and staff the office as well as support the domestic programming and research initiatives through a newly established grants and contributions program called the community resilience fund.
The office will provide leadership on Canada's response to radicalization to violence, coordinate domestic and international initiatives, support programming and research, and enhance our expertise. We simply must become very good at this initiative if we want to retain that fundamental character of Canada as an open, inclusive, democratic society.
Immigration detention is another item I want to mention today. We are requesting $22.7 million this fiscal year to support the Canada Border Services Agency in its implementation of our new national immigration detention framework. A total of $138 million for this initiative was announced in August, spread over a number of years. In this first year we're asking for $22.7 million.
The goals of the new framework include: first, expanding practical, workable alternatives to detention; second, significantly improving conditions at immigration holding centres, including better mental and medical health services; third, reducing our reliance on provincial facilities; and fourth, reducing the number of minors in detention to the greatest extent possible.
Of the funding that's being requested for this year, $21.3 million is being directed to the construction of new immigration holding centres in Laval, Quebec, and in Surrey, British Columbia. These facilities will help reduce the reliance on provincial correctional facilities for immigration detention.
The balance of the funding this year will be used to begin enhancing medical services within our immigration holding centres and to implementing alternatives to detention so that, as much as possible, immigration detention remains a measure of last resort and not first resort.
A great deal is under way. A good many things have been achieved, but there is, of course, always much more to be done. My officials and I are happy to try to respond to your questions today. We look forward to working with the committee on a whole array of national security issues for the future.
Thank you, Mr. Mendicino.
This is not an expensive program. It costs about $1 million a year, so it's not a program that involves a huge amount of public funds, but it is a very useful program for groups and organizations that feel themselves to be vulnerable to hate crimes. Sadly, we have seen in recent weeks and months some very painful examples of that.
We've had some pretty brutal graffiti, vulgar in nature and quite crude in its dissemination of white supremacist symbols, in my own city of Regina. Here in Ottawa, four places of worship were subjected to this kind of attack. We've seen it in Toronto. We've seen it in Peterborough, and in other places across the country.
Groups and organizations that feel themselves to be vulnerable have, over the last number of weeks and months, made the point that the security infrastructure program, while useful, could be made more useful without costing a lot more money by changing the terms and conditions of the program, so we have broadened the eligibility requirements.
One of the previous rules was that you had to have suffered an attack in the past in order to qualify for the funding. The funding is available for gates, fences, security film on windows, closed-circuit television, cameras, lights, those sorts of things that contribute to public security. As I said, in order to be eligible for it in the past, you had to have had an attack which is kind of like prevention after the fact.
We've changed that. Obviously, if you have had an attack, you're still eligible. Now, however, if you can demonstrate your vulnerability in advance by objective evidence that shows you may be vulnerable to this kind of danger, you can submit that argument to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the officials will make an assessment. You can actually, as a part of your application, get an external opinion about the vulnerability. That's one important change.
Another change is to make the security infrastructure expenses applicable to the inside of a building, and not just the outside of a building. Previously, it was just the outside perimeter. Now it can include infrastructure changes within the building.
Another thing we're doing is making sure that communities that may feel vulnerable are well informed about the program. We're involved in a communications effort to reach out to groups and organizations, to let them know that the program is available and that they're eligible to apply if they think it would be appropriate and necessary.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about a very important issue today.
As Canada's national intelligence service, the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, is to identify, investigate and advise government of threats to the security of Canada.
To fulfill our mandate, we rely on a range of investigative techniques. Irrespective of the technique employed, operational activity must be authorized, reasonable and proportionate; this, in consideration of the nature of the threat.
When required, and with the approval of the minister, CSIS may make an application to the Federal Court to obtain warrants against subjects of investigation. These warrants, which are granted by the Federal Court, authorize the use of specific investigative techniques in accordance with specific conditions identified by the court as appropriate.
One such technique is the interception of communications. When CSIS intercepts communications, it obtains the content, as well as the associated data linked to that communication. Associated data is the context, not the content, of a communication. Such data is used by computer systems to identify, describe, manage, or route communications across a network. On its own, it does not identify individuals who are party to a communication.
Whereas CSIS analyzes the content of communications intercepted under warrant to determine whether or not it is to be retained or destroyed, and continues to do so, in 2006 CSIS adopted the position of retaining and exploiting associated data to enhance our ability to detect threats. It is important to know that CSIS collects this associated data legally, through warrants issued by the Federal Court. At issue, however, is the service's retention of associated data lawfully collected under warrant and, in particular, our decision to retain all such associated data, including that which may be non-threat-related associated data linked to third party communications.
The Federal Court also clearly pronounced on the service's duty of candour, finding that CSIS had breached its duty of candour by not informing the court of its position on the retention of associated data and the creation of the Operational Data Analysis Centre, commonly known as ODAC. I can assure you that this was not deliberate.
I agree that the court should have been informed earlier of our approach to the retention of associated data and the establishment of the program. Key government stakeholders were informed of these matters. Former ministers of public safety, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Inspector General of CSIS were all briefed on the existence of ODAC and the value of data analytics to CSIS investigations. Clearly, the service was not attempting to keep our data analytics program a secret.
Mr. Chair, as I stated in my remarks on November 3, I accept the court's decision, and I have taken immediate action to respond. I acknowledge the court's serious concerns, and I am committed to continuing efforts to address them.
Immediately after the court decision was issued, CSIS halted access to and analysis of all associated data. While we did so out of an abundance of caution, the service has begun to allow access to and use of the associated data of threat-related communications. We did so because the service unquestionably has the authority to retain this information, and its use is necessary to protect public safety. Efforts are also under way to develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures that clearly address the court's concern. I would like to note that the decision acknowledged the value of data analytics to the service's investigations.
CSIS and the Department of Justice are also working together closely to develop measures aimed at ensuring that we meet our obligations to the court in matters of transparency and duty of candour. I would also note that, as indicated by the, SIRC has been briefed and will be reviewing the service's response to this decision and submitting a report to the minister.
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, let me be clear: CSIS, in consultation with the Department of Justice, interpreted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to allow for the retention of non-threat-related associated data linked to third party communications collected under warrant.
Though it is now clear that the Federal Court disagreed with this interpretation, and we accept this, CSIS was not knowingly exceeding the scope of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.
I wish to reiterate that CSIS recognizes the importance of compliance with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, as well as openness and transparency with the Federal Court.
And with that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my remarks and welcome any questions.