Mr. Chair, thank you for the invitation to discuss the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for the Department of Public Safety.
It’s an honour to have the opportunity to highlight our organization's efforts to keep Canadians safe and to say how these investments fit into that work.
I will begin with a brief overview of the numbers for Public Safety Canada. As committee members will note, on a portfolio-wide basis, the supplementary estimates (A) represent a net increase of $222.4 million, or 2.5%, over the total authorities provided through the main estimates and in-year adjustments for 2017-18.
For Public Safety Canada, voted appropriations sought in these estimates represent an increase of $4.2 million. These investments will help the department carry out three activities.
First, $2.4 million will support the department's work to analyze implementation options for the potential development of a public safety broadband network, further to the commitment made in budget 2015. This initiative is aimed at strengthening Canada's public safety agencies' communications, operations, and response coordination during crises and day-to-day operations.
I would note that the estimates also allocate $600,000 to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for this initiative. On May 19, 2017, that total of $3 million was announced by and . It will also allow the departments to conduct stakeholder consultations and produce evidence-based analysis on implementation models for consideration in a public safety broadband network.
Secondly, an investment of $1.1 million will support and enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure in Canada through the one-year renewal of the regional resilience assessment program, RRAP, and the virtual risk analysis cell, VRAC, further to the commitment of budget 2017.
For context, the RRAP conducts site assessments that help better defend and protect critical infrastructure facilities and systems across Canada. The VRAC develops analytical assessments and tools on the immediate downstream and cross-sector impacts of disruptions to critical infrastructure and facilitates enhanced information sharing through an online portal.
Finally, for the department, you'll note an investment of $700,000 for a one-year renewal of the Investment Canada Act national security review program, as committed to in budget 2017. The national security review process is supported by Public Safety Canada and Canada's security and intelligence agencies, and other investigative bodies prescribed in the ICA.
You'll also hear from my colleague, Jeff, the interim director of CSIS, that CSIS is also involved in this work and is seeking a one-year renewal of funding as well. The funding will be used by the department and CSIS to assess each foreign investment transaction to examine whether it is injurious to national security, and if so, make recommendations for appropriate actions to address the threat. At this time, the resources allocated to identification and risk-management activities are time limited until March 31, 2018.
Mr. Chair, what I've just outlined is a small but important sample of the work performed by Public Safety Canada to ensure the security of Canadians. These estimates will help us further deliver on the department’s mandate.
I'll be happy to answer any question you have about these estimates.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.
Thank you for your invitation to discuss the proposed funding outlined in supplementary estimates (A). I hope to provide you with some insight as to where these funds would be allocated, pending Parliament's approval.
CSIS's primary mandate is to investigate and advise government on threats to the security of Canada. These threats are defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act as espionage and sabotage, foreign-influenced activities, terrorism, and subversion.
Given this mandate and the distinct operational requirements that flow from it, the supplementary estimates are a rare instance in which general details regarding CSIS's expenditures are publicly disclosed. Otherwise, such information is classified to prevent our adversaries from gaining a better understanding of our existing capabilities and resources. The funds requested in the supplementary estimates (A) would represent an increase of approximately $300,000 to CSIS's authorities, from $577.1 million to $577.4 million. This represents a relatively small increase to CSIS's spending authorities.
With regard to statutory appropriations, approximately $48,000 is proposed for contributions to support employee benefit plans. In terms of voted appropriations, $275,000 of additional funding is requested to continue national security reviews of foreign investments, as part of the Investment Canada Act's national security review program.
While foreign investment is a key driver of Canada's economic prosperity, it does have the potential to gravely impact national security interests. For example, in assessing investments, the government may take into account factors such as the transfer of sensitive technology or know-how outside of Canada, or the potential impact on the security of Canada's critical infrastructure.
As Malcolm indicated, to mitigate risk, the Investment Canada Act authorizes the government to review foreign investments on national security grounds. The national security review process is supported by Public Safety Canada and Canada's security and intelligence agencies, including CSIS, which assess foreign investments and identify potential national security concerns. CSIS works with partners to provide advice in support of an established process whereby the Governor in Council may disallow an investment or impose mitigation measures on investments that would otherwise be injurious to Canada's national security. A renewal of funding will allow us to continue to support the national security review process at current levels.
I would like to emphasise that CSIS plays a critical role in the national security review of foreign investments, which is an intensive process in a compressed time frame. This is critical work that we wish to continue to support.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my remarks and would also welcome any questions.
I'm joined today by Christine Walker, chief financial officer of the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA. I'm the executive vice-president of the agency.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee.
I’m here to address the Canada Border Services Agency’s request for additional funding under supplementary estimates (A). Specifically, the agency is seeking $41.6 million
—or $44.9 million including EBP—
to support the targeted admission of
300,000 immigrants in the context of the multi-year levels plans of the Government of Canada,
—or $172.6 million including EBP—
million to maintain the integrity of Canada’s border operations.
Let me explain briefly what the funding will be used for.
In the context of the government's multi-year levels plan, which was announced in October of 2016, the agency and its partners, including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board, are committed to processing up to 300,000 new immigrants this year. This year's target is an increase from the 250,000 immigrants we have processed, on average, annually over the past 15 years, and the funding in our supplementary estimates is associated with that.
This funding will expand our current operations in the following areas.
Our overseas operations and pre-arrival security screening of all immigration applicants help to ensure that higher or unknown-risk people never come to Canada, never pose a threat to public safety, and never have to be subjected to lengthy and costly enforcement actions.
Processing upon arrival in Canada by our Border Services officers, who verify, identify, and do the work that they do with respect to admissibility, and who support the applicant's access to benefits and programs they are entitled to, including interim federal health coverage, for example.
Post-arrival enforcement actions help us deal with applicants who ultimately break Canada's laws. Such actions include investigations, hearings, appeals and, where necessary, detentions and removals.
Finally, some of the funding will go to investing in the recruitment and training of new officers at our college in Rigaud, Quebec.
With respect to the other amount of funding that we're requesting in the context of supplementary estimates (A), the $162.8 million is needed to support our ability to maintain our current service levels in the face of the overall growth in volumes across our business lines, growth that we expect will be greater this summer as a result of Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary as well as Montreal celebrating its 375th.
It will enable us to address retroactive salary obligations as collective agreements are settled, and it will help us ensure the continued and predictable availability of our mission-critical IT systems. It will also help to address the rising costs associated with managing our large portfolio of real property assets, which include over 115 land ports of entry and more than 200,000 square metres of leased space across the country.
I think, as you know, the agency is also playing an integral role in managing this year's exceptional flow of irregular migrants. The agency is assessing the full breadth of the impacts and our potential resource requirements to manage this still dynamic situation. As our minister stated when he appeared before this committee on May 15, if we need additional resources, he will seek them on our behalf. In this context, a request by us for additional resources associated with the irregular asylum situation would be beyond what we're seeking in the context of the $162.8 million. That funding is important to us, given the role that we play in supporting Canada's economy and security.
With respect to supporting the economy, just as a reminder, last year we processed more than 92 million travellers and 16 million commercial releases, all the while ensuring the safety and security of Canadians.
To ensure that we continue to deliver on our mandate effectively and efficiently, we're focused on maximizing the effectiveness of our program spending. In this context, in February, we launched the CBSA renewal. This initiative is giving us the opportunity to review all areas of the agency, including its governance, infrastructure, revenue generation opportunities and innovation agenda. The goal of the renewal is to ensure that our resources directly support the government’s priorities. In doing so, we'll ensure the sustainability of our operations for years to come.
Through the renewal, the agency is taking a strategic approach to examine what the border of the future will look like; how it must adjust to address new and emerging threats; and how it can make the border as open as possible for legitimate business and travellers.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We're ready to answer your questions.
Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. I also want to thank Stéphanie Dion, director of corporate services for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, who has accompanied me today.
As an introduction, I want to give you some information about SIRC to provide context for the discussion today.
SIRC exists to provide Parliament and Canadians with an assessment of whether CSIS has acted appropriately and in accordance with the law, policies and procedures, and ministerial direction in the performance of its duties and functions. Our objectivity is a direct result of our independence and experience, and results in meaningful accountability.
SIRC fulfills its vital mandate through its three core functions: certifying the CSIS director's annual report to the Minister of Public Safety; conducting in-depth reviews of CSIS operations; and, lastly, investigating complaints.
Accountability is crucial to building public trust, especially in the realm of secretive intelligence work. For more than 30 years SIRC's mandate has been to hold the service accountable by reporting to Parliament—and, by extension, to all Canadians—as to whether CSIS respects the law and rights and freedoms in carrying out its mandate to investigate the threats to national security.
SIRC’s reviews cover all the service’s key activities, in particular targeting, warrants and human sources. The reviews also cover its programs, including counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, counter-proliferation and security screening. SIRC examines the arrangements made by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, to cooperate and exchange information with both foreign agencies and domestic organizations. Lastly, SIRC examines the advice the service provides to the Canadian government.
A typical review done by SIRC will require hundreds of staff hours and is completed over a period of several months. As part of this process, SIRC researchers consult a multitude of information sources to examine specific aspects of CSIS's work. Researchers may look at, for example, operational reporting, individual and group targeting files, human source files, intelligence assessments, and warrant documents.
In order to provide a comprehensive and meaningful review of CSIS's activities, SIRC relies on risk-based planning. This method allows us to identify all areas of CSIS activity and rank them annually in terms of risk, which contributes to the focus and coverage of our reviews. Given that it is impractical for an organization the size of SIRC to examine all of CSIS's duties and functions annually, our risk-based planning allows us to ensure that all service activities are in fact reviewed annually and systematically.
SIRC relies on a dedicated team of full-time researchers, lawyers, and other professionals to complete its work. Over time, CSIS's activities have undergone and continue to undergo rapid expansion, while SIRC for many years remained stagnant, which compromised our ability to provide comprehensive coverage of CSIS's activities.
Therefore, in 2015, we were pleased to learn that SIRC had received one year of funding to expand its resources. That funding was extended for a further three years in January 2017. As a result, SIRC has grown over the past year and is currently operating at capacity with a significant complement of employees from other departments. These employees have a wide variety of experience in national security and intelligence. With the increase in staffing, SIRC has taken on a more ambitious research plan. It will be able to provide broader coverage of CSIS’s activities at home and abroad.
This also means, however, that we have outgrown the space we currently occupy within a building that has been decommissioned. New office space has been designated for us and we are working with Government of Canada partners towards readying it for occupation. Our move has been deferred due to unforseen delays, but we are anticipating its completion before the end of this current fiscal year.
SIRC is pleased that this new space will allow us to have an improved security posture, along with enhanced connectivity. These improvements are essential to our operations and efficiency and will contribute to our ability to continue in our mandate.
As a result, SIRC is asking to reprofile the $2 million that had been set aside for the relocation and modernization fund.
Thank you to all the officials who are here today. There are a lot of new faces around the table. It's nice to see more gender parity at the table from what we were used to seeing with Public Safety. Welcome to everybody.
In the estimates there's talk about the integrity of border operations. You spoke to that when you were making your comments.
I wondered if you could elaborate just a little bit on something. On the weekend I was at a fundraiser and a gentleman took the opportunity to inform me that Canada had open borders that were not secure. I assured him that was far from the truth.
But when you see wording like the “integrity of Canada's border”, I just wonder if you could explain a little bit about what that money is being used for and also reassure all of us about how safe our borders are.
I know the GTAA, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, has approached me about having additional border services agents on duty because they have such a high volume of passengers travelling through there. I wonder if you could just elaborate a little bit on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As I said during my opening remarks, supplementary estimates (A) have earmarked just over $162 million for the agency. Yes, it's under the label of the integrity of the border. It's really a reflection of the reality that the border agency is dealing with an ever-changing environment. Over the course of the last number of years, we're seeing increasing numbers of people coming to Canada.
We're seeing an exponential growth in e-commerce. We're seeing our economy, thankfully, continuing to hum along. We have quite a bit of traffic that comes across our borders from the point of view of commercial business. Associated with that growth is an increasing demand and workload of the agency.
As part of the estimates, we have funding that's a reflection of the reality that we're dealing with in this changing business environment. But the changing business environment also accounts for the reality that Canada is not immune to threats. As part of our business, we also spend a lot of time ensuring that we're doing the right kind of risk assessment and risk management associated with the operations of Canada's border.
That's a reality that's not unique to Canada, but it is very much an important part of our business. We are very seized with ensuring that we are doing the right thing with respect to the safety and security of Canadians. That includes ensuring that we're performing our mandate, which is dual in nature, both in terms of facilitation but also security at our borders.
We have funding that addresses that reality.
As a general rule, the community assesses this. Each member of the community—we don't keep track of it—will obviously be interested in what their colleagues are doing in other countries.
It may or may not be determinative, though. Just as there are examples of cases where Canada has made a decision with regard to an investment, similar investments in other countries have not had a similar treatment.
It is very case specific, and time has an impact as well, because, in general, you are often dealing with technology. What was an issue a number of years ago might no longer be an issue.
Each case is examined very carefully on its merits, and, as a former minister of industry, I know you're very familiar with the process.
With regard to the supplementary estimates (A),
no amount is identified in the agency's supplementary estimates (A) for
our national immigration framework for detentions.
I think as you know, Mr. Chair, our minister did announce a $138-million investment in the national immigration framework for detentions. That announcement includes funding that will enable us to build new federal national immigration detention facilities in British Columbia as well as in the province of Quebec, in addition to the immigration holding centre that we have in Toronto.
The objective of the framework also includes the ability to have fewer people in detention relative to what we have today, because part of the investment also deals with having alternatives to detention that we could pursue as a federal agency. These would help us reduce the number of people that we would have in detention. That would also, by extension, then result in fewer people having to be held in provincial correctional facilities.
That is part of the package that was announced last year as part of the national immigration framework for detentions.
I can get you the specific definition, if you like. We can work through the s office and share the specific definition.
In reality, it's quite broad. It includes the health care sector, energy, electricity, financial services, and telecommunications. It is transportation and the full range of transportation. I think there are 13, and I'm forgetting them, but it's a pretty inclusive club. The reality is that usually in the electricity sector or the energy sector, there is lots of overlap between oil and gas, and renewable power generation in terms of hydro and nuclear.
The way I understand it, which is the way staff have briefed me on it and the most effective way of describing it, is any sector in which a failure or an interruption would result in a very significant impact, either in terms of public safety, the economy, or the environment.