As committee members already know from your previous encounters with officials and heads of the various agencies within the public safety portfolio, this mandate in this portfolio is both large and complex. It encompasses a vast array of responsibilities: national security, emergency management, law enforcement, corrections, crime prevention, and border security.
I am continually impressed by the work that is being done by the dedicated public servants who make up this portfolio in fulfilling the basic mandate that we have from the It's a mandate that is inherent in this portfolio: keep Canadians safe, and do so in a way that respects their rights, their freedoms, and the values of this country.
No matter how assiduous public servants are, there is always more work to do.
At the outset today, I'd like to address two or three of the top-of-mind issues that we're working on, issues that Canadians are concerned about and on which they are expecting leadership and progress.
First, as members will know, we have moved ahead with real purpose and intent on the issue of post-traumatic stress injuries, or what people now refer to as operational stress injuries. They are disproportionately high among first responders due to the nature of the jobs that first responders are asked to do.
Every day police officers, firefighters, border officers, and others in high-stress situations are risking their lives for the safety of other Canadians. At the end of the day, very often they do not have access to the resources and the support systems they need to help them cope with the trauma they experience in their jobs.
We held an excellent national round table on PTSD, or OSI, in Regina, back in January. It was a first step toward an inclusive national conversation about how we can better support front-line responders.
I understand this committee is going to be studying this important issue, and I will certainly follow your deliberations on that topic with a great deal of care.
Another topic of urgency is the whole question of workplace harassment in the national police force. That was referred to explicitly in my mandate letter from the . We want healthy workplaces that are free from harassment and sexual violence.
RCMP members perform an absolutely critical role in our communities. Canadians expect a high standard from them in terms of professional and exemplary behaviour. I am committed to taking whatever action is necessary to help RCMP members, trainees, and employees feel safe and respected among their colleagues and superiors. I know the commissioner has been hard at work on that challenge over the last period of time as well.
In that regard, I wrote to the chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP on February 4 this year to ask him to undertake a comprehensive assessment of RCMP policies and procedures in the workplace about harassment, and to evaluate the implementation in the force of the recommendations that the commission made back in 2013.
I note as well that RCMP Commissioner Paulson has asked Paul Kennedy, a former chair of the commission for public complaints against the RCMP, to act as an independent observer and monitor on the investigation that's currently under way with respect to certain allegations of misconduct at the police college. This is a topic that has been of concern to Canadians, and we need to ensure that we're responding on all fronts.
Finally, I want to mention the greatest challenge to our national security as another topic of important concern to me, and I'm sure to members of the committee, and that is the twofold threat of terrorism and radicalization to violence.
As committee members know, we are undertaking broad consultations about Canada's national security framework with stakeholders that include parliamentarians, subject matter experts, the general public, and our foreign partners.
I welcome and actively seek the input of members of all parties to contribute to this review process. Indeed, a number of MPs and a number of senators have already come forward to make offers.
Mr. Chair, I would welcome the advice of this committee about how this committee would want to participate in the consultative process, both hearing from other members of Parliament, but also hearing from the general public about our national security framework.
Among our top priorities is the establishment of a designated Canadian office on community outreach and counter-radicalization coordination. The goal is to find, promote, and share the best ways with communities to prevent and combat radicalization and to build resilient communities and resilient individuals.
The Aga Khan, a very respected citizen of the world, a global activist for peace, and a great friend of Canada, has described our country as the finest expression of pluralism the world has ever seen. If we wish to continue that success, we need to work very hard to share, instill, celebrate, and practise our precious Canadian values of openness, diversity, inclusion, respect, and accommodation, and I hope our new office of community outreach will contribute to that effort.
I'm also working, as you know, with the to create a statutory committee of parliamentarians that will help scrutinize government departments and agencies that exercise national security responsibilities. That was a fundamental election promise that we made. Canada is an anomaly at the present time in not having a parliamentary review mechanism with respect to security and intelligence operations. All of our major allies, including those in the Five Eyes—the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia—have such a parliamentary vehicle. We intend to fill the gap in Canada and provide that kind of review mechanism in Canada, too.
In the process we will also review what other kinds of vehicles and mechanisms we need in order to properly overview and scrutinize the activities of our security and intelligence operations. Other countries typically have a number of different vehicles including a parliamentary one. We at present don't have that parliamentary one and we will fill that gap.
The objectives are twofold here. Number one is to make sure that our security and police operations are effective in keeping Canadians safe. Number two is to make sure that in the process of doing so they are safeguarding the values, the rights, the freedoms, and the fundamental character of our country.
Mr. Chair, specifically about estimates and supplementary estimates (C), as you will see for the portfolio overall, the total authorities that we are seeking will result in a net increase of $176 million, which is relatively modest from a government pan-Canadian point of view. It represents a 1.98% increase over the total authorities to date.
The largest request, probably not a surprise to the committee, is with respect to the RCMP. Commissioner Paulson in the past has been very candid with the committee indicating where the financial pressures, stresses, and strains are, and he's had to make some internal reallocations from other areas to national security, which has been difficult for the force to accommodate. We can't deal with all of that pressure in this one set of estimates, but we are beginning the process of trying to make sure that on a go-forward basis the A-base contribution to the RCMP is sufficient for the work that Canadians expect the RCMP to do. You can't give them a mandate and demand they perform miracles and then not provide the resources necessary to get the job done. The increase for the RCMP is $110 million, most of which is going to the contract policing side of the equation. There's also funding here for counterterrorism work and the fight against cybercrime.
With respect to the CBSA, there's an increase of $59.2 million, largely related to its mandate for securing the borders. It's the integrity of its front-line operations, the critical work that it has performed in respect to the Syrian refugees, and improving its capacity with respect to biometrics.
For the Correctional Service of Canada, the request is a total of $4 million, the majority of which goes to fulfilling the requirements of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. The same is true with respect to the Parole Board of Canada, a request of $300,000 in order to implement measures in relation to the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
With respect to CSIS, you will find a number of transactions in the estimates with money moving back and forth, all intended to increase its capacity with respect to software and its work with Global Affairs Canada, which is taking on increasing importance.
I have one final specific point on the $2.6 million for Public Safety Canada itself. That is largely to recognize the additional responsibilities the department is taking on for the national search and rescue secretariat. That used to be vested in the Department of National Defence, and it will now be vested in the Department of Public Safety.
That's a quick overview, Mr. Chair.
I want to close by thanking all the dedicated public servants who toil in this department and in this portfolio in very critical jobs that relate to the safety of their fellow citizens. They do a remarkable job, subject to the human frailties that we all experience, but they are a terrific group of public servants who work very hard for their fellow citizens.
I also want to say, Mr. Chair, thank you and a farewell to my deputy minister, François Guimont. He will retire from the public service at the end of this month after a remarkable career in the service of Canada in Public Safety, Public Works, Environment Canada, PCO, and elsewhere. François, I wish you well in your retirement, and I extend the gratitude of the Government of Canada for your lifetime of accomplishment in the service of Canadians. Thank you, sir.
There are two ways to address it. The challenge is large and significant, and it's a challenge that's shared worldwide.
Many other countries face much bigger problems than we do, but the tragic events of October 2014 demonstrate that Canada is not immune, and we need to treat this with the full seriousness it deserves, in partnership with our colleagues and allies around the world.
Among the activities aimed at dealing with violent extremism and radicalization, the front-line efforts to combat the immediate consequences are directed by the RCMP and by CSIS and by the Canada Border Services Agency. They work with National Defence. They work with PCO. In fact, there are 17 departments or agencies of the Government of Canada that discharge national security functions and obligations.
Those people are on the job doing an amazing job for Canada constantly all the time. They are absorbing all the necessary information. They are taking the appropriate actions to deal with that information. They constantly assess and reassess the threat level that's applicable to Canada.
I would pause here to say that, while this is constantly under review and nothing is ever taken for granted, the threat level that exists today is the same as it was in October 2014, which is assessed at medium. There has been no cause for Canada to adjust the threat level since October 2014, and that remains the case today.
In terms of being more proactive about the future, we are focusing, as you know, on the creation of this new office of community outreach and counter-radicalization coordination. This is to find the very best Canadian ways to reach out to communities, to understand their vulnerabilities, and to identify the best means to intervene before a tragedy occurs.
We have some good research through the Kanishka project, which the previous government initiated. It has given us some useful and helpful insights into the process of radicalization. Some provinces, for example, the Province of Quebec has been very proactive in developing its own counter-radicalization strategy. Cities and police forces such as those in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and others have developed their own outreach initiatives. The RCMP has an outreach program. So does the Department of Public Safety.
What we want to do is pull all of this together in a coordinated national office for outreach and for counter-radicalization, with best practices, to make sure we are doing everything we can to build resilient individuals and resilient communities while avoiding the lure of radical and violent propaganda. We're going to do our very best to make the values of Canadians something for everyone in this country, those who have been here a long time and the newcomers, to celebrate.
The CCIRC, the capacity we have in public safety, is co-located with the government operations centre and it would be helpful if we were successful in relocating it. This group is very capable. It has augmented its capacity over the last budget, so there are more people in the group. That's the first observation.
The second one is that they're pretty active. Their responsibility is one of getting information from the operator when they face a situation. They literally keep a laboratory of viruses that they study to understand. They're very quick at disseminating information to other constituents in Canada to help them take action to protect themselves. They are at that pivot point. There is information flowing to them from inside and outside government which they pass back to the industrial sector of Canada. This is one of their key features, their key role.
We want to work more closely with the industry. The industry is giving itself a similar capacity. It's all about information sharing. It's all about the speed of the information sharing, so that people can then take action to protect themselves.
They have now invested in tools where this response will be automated. We've made investments. Therefore, instead of relying only upon individuals to pass on the information, there will be an automated system whereby this information will fan out across Canada.
Progress has been made, but I'll tell members of the committee that the cyber file, unlike other files, if you will, is always evolving. It's a little bit like all your devices that have new functionality and new applications. All that reality, which is quickly moving, is also moving on us.
I'm tempted to say that we're all only as good as we are, and therefore the idea of carrying out a comprehensive review of our cyber strategy is a very timely thing. The strategy is not that old, but the file is moving so quickly. It's time to step back, see where we are, and carry out actions where we think we may have weaknesses.