Thanks for very efficiently organizing this meeting in order for our committee to discuss this really urgent matter. It's a terrible circumstance that has brought us all together today. It's certainly one that requires the urgent and comprehensive attention of the members of this public safety committee.
We will all be aware that last week there were initial reports about charges being laid with regard to two separate sexual assaults. One was in a quarantine facility in Montreal, and the other was at the home of a woman adhering to federal quarantine mandate requirements, in which charges have been laid by the Halton Regional Police.
In the first case, the alleged sexual assault in Montreal, the accused is also charged with break and enter and harassment. In the second alleged case of sexual assault, in which charges by the Halton Regional Police have been laid, the individual has also been charged with extortion.
I am sure all members of this committee share our concerns about these incidents and agree with the necessity for us, as members of this committee, to examine overall the risks to the personal security and safety of Canadians and travellers who are in federally run quarantine facilities and under federal mandate and federal orders, as well as the risks to the security of Canadians who are trying to comply with federal orders to quarantine at home.
Our obligation, I believe, is not to examine these specific charges or these specific cases, because law enforcement has clearly already indicated they have sufficient evidence to place such charges, and that they will proceed. It is, though, our fundamental obligation to examine the clear risks to safety and security, and to seek information and accountability on what are now these obvious concerns relating to protection, to safety and to security systems within federal facilities. This applies to the training, vetting and oversight of those employed to carry out those federal travel orders in those facilities and at home.
Importantly, this committee's mandate includes the oversight and review of the actions of the CBSA, the RCMP and police with regard to public safety. In a variety of different ways, each of these bodies is directly involved in the federal Quarantine Act and obviously ought to be involved in examining what we now know were alleged sexual assaults against individuals and women under their care.
The argument as to why it is clearly our responsibility, as members of this committee, is of course that these rules are being imposed by the federal government. They are related to restrictions at the borders and on travel, which are clearly under the purview of Public Safety. As federal members of Parliament, and particularly as members of this committee, we are obligated to get answers, first, from officials.
Colleagues, you'll notice in the motion that the majority of the officials we have requested to appear before this committee are in agencies under the purview of Public Safety. Some officials would come from the Public Health Agency of Canada, because of their particular involvement in the execution of these orders, but the majority of witnesses we've called for are clearly under the purview of Public Safety.
I think it is urgent, since there has been no suspension of the program. To date, there have been no comprehensive or substantive answers about what review is happening right now, how many others may be at risk, or what gaps there are. Certainly, there have been no answers so far about what concrete measures will be put in place to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening again, which are obviously a critical concern for every single one of us.
It goes without saying that the very least that Canadians can expect is to be safe, particularly in the presence of federal representatives and while in federal facilities. I'm confident that every single member here shares the belief that these instances are unconscionable and require urgent attention, oversight and examination of what has happened and what actions must be taken to prevent them in future.
Those are the reasons that I anticipate support from this committee to proceed with, in the first place, calling the relevant officials to examine all of these issues comprehensively, and in the second place, calling the relevant ministers in order to also have answers to these crucial questions for Canadians.
That is why we are moving:
that pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness immediately begin a study into the safety and security of passengers required to stay in federally mandated quarantine facilities and at home under federal quarantine orders, and the failure of the federal government to prevent sexual assaults and other crimes against travellers under these federal orders....
That is why we're asking for two meetings to be scheduled within two weeks. I think that's a reasonable amount of time to request officials and ministers to come here with concrete answers while people are clearly at risk. We have no idea of how many other people have been at risk or violated at this moment.
The motion goes on to say that those two meetings would be scheduled within two weeks of the passage of the motion, each being for not less than three hours; that they be televised, and that, for the first meeting, three of the outlined witnesses from the Public Health Agency of Canada, three of the witnesses we've indicated from the RCMP and two of the witnesses we've indicated from the CBSA attend. Then, of course, for the second meeting, it is moved that both the and the appear at the same time, for no less than three hours; and that if ministers do not agree, within one week of the adoption of this motion, to accept the invitation for the length of time prescribed, the chair be instructed to report to the House forthwith a recommendation that this committee be empowered to order their appearance from time to time.
Thanks again, Chair, for scheduling this urgent meeting. I look forward to the consideration of our motion. I anticipate that we'll all take our moral and powerful responsibility to protect vulnerable people and protect the safety and security of all Canadians, especially when we have reports that they have been violated in a federal facility, under federal orders, with federally mandated individuals, and also in the sanctity of a woman's own home by a federally mandated screening officer who was there to carry out compliance and enforcement of federal rules.
Thanks, colleagues, for your consideration. I look forward to the future work we're going to do on this really critical and urgent issue.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you for arranging for this meeting on such short notice.
Thanks to the clerk and staff as well.
There are a few things Ms. Stubbs said that we absolutely agree with. All women deserve to live free from sexual violence, and there's absolutely no doubt that everyone on this committee agrees with that. No one deserves to be subjected to a sexual assault.
The one that occurred in the home was in my community of Oakville, and it is currently under investigation by the Halton Regional Police Service. They arrested and charged a security guard on February 23.
I find it interesting that just last week Ms. Stubbs informed the public safety committee that the committee should not act when there is an ongoing investigation. She tried to dissuade us from doing anything until the investigation was completed, but now she has changed her mind. Whatever. That's fine.
One thing I would like to point out, though, is that the RCMP and CBSA do not have any involvement with this. The incident in Oakville is being investigated by the Halton Regional Police Service. The RCMP is not involved. In fact, when I read the Halton police's press release, it's quite clear that they were hired and trained by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
That being said, it doesn't really matter who is responsible, because the incidents happened. I just want the record to show that the RCMP and CBSA are not involved.
I note as well that the Conservatives have brought exactly the same motion to the status of women committee. I'm not sure if they are trying to tie up government time on multiple committees on this, or whether they will withdraw that motion if public safety chooses to go ahead.
Chair, I would like to propose three amendments to the Conservatives' motion: first, that the meeting be two hours long; and second, that the and the appear first. I think we need to hear from them. Third, I would also like to propose that we add as a witness Dr. Isaac Bogoch, to provide an independent assessment of vaccines, quarantines and all of that.
I will leave it there, Chair, but I would propose those three amendments to the motion that the Conservatives have brought forward.
I will not speak to the proposed amendments to the motion. I will speak to the comments made by Ms. Damoff and also say that I'm in support of the motion.
Ms. Damoff suggested that there was an about-face from the committee meeting last week on the investigation being held by this committee into a matter that she brought forward. On that particular incident, you're comparing apples to oranges.
This motion does nothing to investigate the incident that the Halton regional police are investigating—zero. It has to do with the policy. It has to do with the manner in which training may be conducted and the manner in which background vetting occurred. How are these organizations selected? Who's responsible and accountable for them? There are many questions Canadians have, and it is not a rejigging or a re-examination of an already involved police investigation. This has zero to do with that. We want to be extremely clear on that matter. It's not the same as what was talked about last week.
Also, it's important to realize, as Ms. Stubbs mentioned briefly, that experts across our country—women's advocacy groups—have said that for every sexual assault that is reported there are a great many more that go unreported. If we're to look at what the potential is here, we have no idea of the impact of what is apparently an incoherent process to identify quarantine sites, to then manage them and to have people provide security for them. We have no idea how many other people may have been victims at this stage.
Plus, we have no idea, not only of how many people have been subject to past occurrences in their own home, but of who might be at risk of future occurrences should there not be some corrective measures taken. We need to have this looked at and to ask where are the gaps that exist now in the identifying and vetting of these individuals who are quarantine officers and who go and check on compliance. As well, there are the facilities and the logistics around the facilities involving individuals who are there to provide security. There are the reports of whether locks are actually removed from doors to keep people in or out, and the risk that poses.
There's a lot that we need to look at here, and the fact that the government apparently is unwilling to have a suspension of this particular policy until this can be identified certainly creates an urgency for this committee to get involved. This is a public safety issue. It is definitely a public safety issue. If this is not public safety, then I don't know where the definition of public safety would fall.
Those are my comments for now, Chair. I might follow them up later in this debate.
First, I want to say that we are all very concerned about the two incidents that have been reported, one of which was committed by a fellow traveller who was in a quarantine hotel and the other by a quarantine or screening officer.
I had a look at the Quarantine Act before this meeting, and all of this is under the Quarantine Act. It seems that all of the powers under the Quarantine Act—and it defines “minister” as the Minister of Public Health—are given to the Minister of Public Health. That's to appoint quarantine officers, to establish quarantine locations, to put rules in place and to be in charge of the whole system.
It seems to me that in the first instance, with regard to the whole quarantine policy, we're being asked by this motion to recommend the suspension of the quarantine measures that have been put in place for public health reasons, as a result of two incidents.
I'm wondering how far this committee has jurisdiction to look into it. Is it something that the and the Department of Health should be examining, if that is their desire? I don't know whether this committee should be making recommendations, as is being suggested here, about public health matters and suspending the quarantine, I presume, due to the lack of safety.
I by no means want to make light of the assaults that have taken place in these circumstances. We have various public bodies that are enforcing the law. Police officers have been charged with assault and worse, and we don't suspend the operation of the police force. I'm not saying that is a full analogy in these particular circumstances. I know this is a new program and there's probably a requirement to have a look at the measures that have been taken to ensure that the people who are given authority under this Quarantine Act are properly trained and that due diligence has been done in carrying that out.
I'm curious as to whether this committee is in a position to do that, given that it's the ministry of public health that's responsible. I raise that by way of trying to put some sort of a box around what we're being asked to do. Does the , have any responsibility in these circumstances when the activity is undertaken under the public health act by people appointed by the ?
The question, really, is how far we can go under our jurisdiction. To say that the matter is one of public safety, generally, doesn't mean that the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has a role.
If we're going to do anything here, we ought to try to narrow the scope of what we're trying to do. We don't shut down the prisons because there's an assault occurring within the prison, and we don't shut down a program for public health because something needs to be fixed regarding the way it's operating.
I want to say that by way of opening remarks. I'm prepared to consider what we as a committee can do and what we as a committee ought to do. I think the idea of the full scale that's been proposed by Ms. Stubbs seems to be a bit of a reach by this committee under this subject.
Canadians are very concerned about this. I've heard a lot from people calling my constituency office, and from people I know in the community who are very disturbed about the poor rollout of this program, which I think could be a good one. Conservatives have said all along, since the very beginning of the pandemic, that we need to look at our borders to make sure travellers coming into Canada are not bringing the COVID-19 virus in with them.
I want to relate a story from my riding. My first exposure to the virus—we weren't even calling it COVID-19 at the time—was in January of 2020, six weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. There was a scheduled Chinese New Year event here in my riding that I was going to attend. It was cancelled because people from the Chinese community here in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove, which is quite a significant community, said, “There's something going on in China and we want to stop that, so we're going to cancel this meeting because we're just not quite sure what it is.”
This has been with us for 13 months, and the Liberal government has been extremely slow in securing our borders. Canadians want to know that the government is doing whatever it needs to do to keep them safe and healthy. Whereas this program of the hotel quarantines would generally have our support, it has to be done properly, and it's becoming abundantly clear that the developing of the program and rolling it out have been very poor and very inadequate.
Is it a matter of public safety? Well, it's a matter of public safety and health, of course, but what we're talking about now and what this motion is about is responding to two cases of sexual assault. That needs to be looked at. That is the role of this committee. I fully support this committee's looking into these incidents. That's not to look at them specifically, as was suggested by one of the earlier speakers. We're not going to be investigating cases of sexual assault specifically, but the establishment of the program. Were officers properly trained? Were they vetted? What's it going to look like going forward? Can the program be fixed in short order, or does it have to be dismantled and rebuilt?
These are the things we're going to be looking at in accordance with the motion. I think the motion is definitely in order, and it is certainly for this committee to investigate.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I would make a couple of quick comments.
My colleague, Mr. Harris, mentioned the motion including mention of a suspension of the program, and the motion does not suggest that. There have been aspects of debate where Conservatives have taken that position, but truly, the reason for this motion, as Mrs. Stubbs outlined, is to get some answers to the very serious questions Canadians have regarding this very serious issue and the continuing revelations that keep coming forward.
I would just note this. It seems interesting that members from the governing party would suggest that this is somehow wasting the government's time. With all due respect, this is Parliament. Parliament is made up of members of Parliament from across our country, representing various parties, and it is incumbent upon all members of Parliament to ensure that Canadians get the answers they deserve, whether it's with regard to some of the very serious allegations that have been brought forward or, further, to a number of other questions outlined in this motion. Certainly, I would hope there is universal support for Canadians to in fact get these answers.
With that, the job of parliamentarians is to get answers on serious questions like this, and I look forward to being able to support Mrs. Stubbs' motion in this regard.
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, again, for bringing this meeting together so urgently.
First, let me just say we all strongly condemn the incidents that have been raised. As pointed out by my colleague, Ms. Damoff, the incidents that have been mentioned are currently under a criminal investigation. I also agree with respect to the urgency of this. It's important to hear directly from the minister and, of course, about the quarantine measures and the issues that have been raised.
I think we can all come to some common ground here with the amendment that has been proposed by my colleague to have, perhaps, one meeting with and for the first hour, and to have officials in the second hour to answer some of the questions, as Mr. Kurek has suggested.
This is in light of the fact that our committee is already very behind on some of the very important work we set out to do, including finishing up the study on systemic racism that we started back in the summer of last year. There are some very important recommendations in it. It's incumbent upon all of us to have that study completed and presented to the House so we can start on some of the tangible actions to address those issues.
I think that with the amendment we can actually do both things at the same time: address some of the issues that have been raised, which I think are important, and also move forward with the work this committee has set out to do. I agree with the amendment by my colleague.
I'll be brief. I welcome the Conservatives' motion.
We have a right to ask a number of questions. Since mandatory hotel quarantines came into effect, there have been a number of lapses, including lapses that have caused some inconvenience to individuals in terms of public safety. That's why the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security needs to study it. Obviously, this also affects health, since everything related to the pandemic necessarily affects health. Still, Canada Border Services Agency officers play an important role in the implementation of quarantine, which is under federal jurisdiction. So it's appropriate that the matter be studied here.
Even today, when we ask the Public Health Agency of Canada questions, we're referred to Border Services officers. We ask questions on behalf of people who are currently abroad and who want to return to the country. They are asking about exemption from quarantine, for example. We're told that decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis or arbitrarily. So I think there are some questions that need to be asked. There's also the matter of the assaults that took place. We've been waiting for answers to some questions for a long time.
At the start of the pandemic, I tabled a motion that dealt with border management. Since I think all of this is directly related, I agree that the committee should study this issue.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you for having me at your meeting today to discuss an important issue.
I want to address some of Mr. Harris's concerns with regard to scope. I have also been following this motion as a member of the Standing Committee on Health. I might be able to address some of his concerns and perhaps some of the thoughts of my colleagues on why this best belongs here.
First, to clarify his concern on scope, I read through the motion again. It doesn't say anything about making a recommendation to the House that echoes the calls of the Conservatives to temporarily suspend the program. This is just looking at process and procedure to understand where the failings occurred and how they can be rectified quickly so that people, especially Canadian citizens who are in this situation right now, don't continue to be subjected to the chaos and unsafe conditions that are currently being reported in the media.
With regard to the appropriateness of public safety, I note that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has the mandate to review “the legislation, policies, programs and expenditure plans of government departments and agencies responsible for public safety and national security, policing and law enforcement, corrections and conditional release of federal offenders, emergency management, crime prevention and the protection of Canada's borders.”
As it relates to COVID-19, on the CBSA's own website they have a chart that shows all the responsibilities of enforcement of health measures. Certainly, PHAC does have a large role in that, but as it relates to safety and security measures, it's very clear by that chart that both the CBSA and the RCMP have, in their own regard, taken and noted responsibility for measures. For example, it says, “Enforce as needed when travellers do not comply with orders (for example, during visits for compliance).” That's stated as an RCMP measure, as is “Undertake enforcement actions, as necessary.” The CBSA is to “support law enforcement agencies by providing entry information”.
I reviewed this as the Conservative shadow minister for health, and there's a lot of stuff. An argument could have been made at health committee to have it go to SECU, so I think that's why it's here. If we're looking at the process to keep people safe, the law enforcement agencies would traditionally be reporting to this committee. That said, COVID means there's a lot of overlap, but I think when we're looking at process, that's probably why it's before this committee today.
Second, I noted that my colleague, Ms. Damoff, talked about the fact that there may potentially be—I wasn't aware of this—a motion in front of the status of women committee. I think it's really important that when we are looking at public safety concerns, we are taking a gender analysis of that situation. I'm sure all the women on this committee have travelled alone at some point in time. We might have a hotel routine that the guys on this committee wouldn't have, like closing the security locks and ramming a chair against the door. Whereas I think the status of women committee could have some scope in looking at the security impacts of quarantine measures on women, or that sort of stuff, I'm interested to know whether or not the CBSA and the RCMP, who report to this committee, undertook that type of thinking when looking at and designing measures for the quarantine hotel situation and for the situation that occurred in Ms. Damoff's riding. I think that's something that falls squarely under the committee here.
With regard to the amendment that's on the floor, a lot of thought was given to the structure and order of the meetings. I think it's really important, from my experience with the health committee on other measures, to have officials within the department who are writing the policy give their thoughts prior to having the ministers come in to talk about the political decisions and the political implications. There is a difference between the officials and the information they provide to committee as opposed to the ministers. The ministers would be there to talk about overall political direction and policy. The public officials would be there to talk about technical information used to inform those decisions.
My colleagues who are official members of this committee gave that some thought and wanted to have the officials first, so we would have the technical information to be able to brief and prepare other members of the committee prior to the ministers. Isn't that right? It's sort of looking at what technical information and analysis was used or given to the government, and then trying to understand whether or not the government used that information and what would then be the outcome in terms of better public policy.
In that regard, I don't think the amendments.... For colleagues on the call here who are voting, I would advise against voting against this amendment. I think the order of the meeting as it stands right now will allow colleagues to better put forward recommendations and better question the ministers, frankly.
In terms of time, this is a pretty serious issue. It's one that has to be addressed expeditiously. I think the amount of time that's put in there will allow colleagues of all political stripes, including the Bloc and the NDP, to have enough question rounds with the ministers and public officials to actually get that information out. I know that when ministers come here, members of the minority parties typically don't get as many opportunities for question rounds, so with government members trying to reduce the amount of time that has been proposed in this meeting, I would hate to see those opportunities lost.
With that, I think it's very clear that the scope does fall in here. I want to reassure my colleague, Mr. Harris, that the motion itself does not call for any action. It's just a study of what's going on. As the representative who is here from the Standing Committee on Health, I think it would fall squarely within this mandate. It could inform other studies at the Standing Committee on Health, certainly, but in understanding the process by which our security agencies and law enforcement agencies fall under the auspices of this committee, how they have made these decisions will help inform our committee's decision on whether or not to pursue that afterwards.
Thank you, Chair.
I note Ms. Rempel pointed out that the request to suspend the quarantine was not contained in the motion, and she's quite correct.
I mentioned that because in the letter to the chair, which was written by the four members of the Conservative party, the fifth paragraph reads, “given the failure to ensure that Canadians under federally mandated quarantines are protected, the Liberal government must put a pause on these new measures”. I took that to mean that the idea behind this was to suspend the quarantine hotel measures. That's why I mentioned it.
I think it is an important measure. It does say “while continuing with the pre-existing on-arrival testing and the 14-day at-home quarantine for all international travellers.” It's not to stop the 14-day quarantine but to suspend the measures, which I guess means the measures for the hotel procedures.
I don't want it to be understood that I mentioned these issues from the Quarantine Act to stop an investigation by this committee into any aspects of this. I was merely pointing out that the division of activity and responsibility is not through the public safety ministry per se, because Canada border services deal with what happens at the border. I'm interested in knowing what the relationship is between the activity at the border and where the Public Health Agency of Canada takes over. Does it simply involve having quarantine officers at the airport facilities, with things then taken over by quarantine screening officers who look after transportation to the hotels, etc.?
There are questions that need to be asked and, certainly, if we have before the committee people from public health who are responsible for the establishment of the forces or the quarantine officers who are in charge, we would like to know what the training arrangements are and who is responsible for those. There are questions that need to be asked, and they need to be answered. That's something I am prepared to see happen.
I wasn't speaking against this committee having any say in it at all. I'm sorry I didn't get to speak before Ms. Rempel Garner, because that's what I wanted to point out before she even started. I understand where she's coming from in terms of the concerns that exist, and I think we all share the view that the public has to have some confidence that what's being done is being done properly.
By the way, if we have only one or two meetings, I think the idea of hearing from the officials first is a good one, because let's hear what the program is, and then let's hear what the ministers have to say about it. Then we can ask questions we might have as to how the supervision is working and how the due diligence was carried out with regard to establishing the program. It is something that has been put together pretty quickly, even though the government had many months to decide whether to do this.
Obviously, with the new variants that have penetrated our country.... We here in Newfoundland and Labrador are very familiar with the new British variant. We have seen how quickly it travelled around my riding. It hit 22 high schools in a matter of two weeks with infections involving the British variant, which is very contagious and very worrisome.
We're all aware of how important this is as a public health measure. I think Canadians support the notion of strict measures at the border. In fact, many of the Conservatives have for many months been calling for stronger measures at the border. Now that we have them, they are certainly imperfect. There's no question about that. We need to have a look at that. I support the idea of proceeding with an examination of that.
I am also very mindful of this committee's other work, which I don't think we need to say more about other than to say that one of the studies is on racism in policing, and we are all familiar with how serious that matter is in terms of public safety as well as the proper operation of our police forces. We have done a major study. We need to get a report done. We can't postpone that.
Now, I know we're talking about two meetings over six hours. I think perhaps we can do what needs to be done in a shorter period of time.
I want to reinforce that, of course, the request in the original motion was to have the officials first and then the ministers, for exactly the reasons outlined by our colleagues.
Again, I want to add to the comments made by other colleagues about the relevance of Public Safety on this issue. It is, of course, in part because it is a federal regulation that ensures that all air travellers must now present themselves to CBSA to validate their health conditions and their quarantine plans. Unfortunately, whether they like it or not, the subsequent safety and security of Canadians and travellers will clearly be subject in part to the actions and decisions of CBSA officers when Canadians are sent to quarantine sites or mandated to quarantine and isolate at home. That is yet another reason that this is in the right committee and that it is under our purview to get answers and accountability. The Quarantine Act systematically and explicitly refers to the responsibilities and roles of CBSA agents. These are border rules and decisions that have then resulted in where Canadians or travellers end up.
Colleagues, notwithstanding maybe our differing perspectives on what remedies or actions should be taken right now, we really ought to be debating this subject. The request of the motion, as I deliberately stated in the beginning of my opening comments, isn't actually to examine individual cases. That's not what's being called for at all. Also, Jack's right that the motion itself doesn't include Conservative proposals for a suspension right now until all these issues can be ironed out and figured out and the safety and security of all Canadians and all travellers can be assured. We should be making our decision based on the motion at hand.
I just hope those comments will assure and reinforce to everybody here that this is the rightful place for us to be seeking the answers and clarity on these issues that Canadians deserve. It has to do fundamentally with their security and their safety in the process of compliance with federal orders that are under the responsibility and purview of the CBSA and a variety of other agencies under Public Safety.
When the initial amendment was read out there wasn't a lot of clarity in terms of one meeting versus two, and I think given the conversations we've had over the last few minutes, there certainly was a bit of confusion. I think if there were to be only two hours—an hour for each—we'd be talking about very little time for the members of the third and fourth parties to ask questions, so the time for the NDP and the Bloc would be severely limited, especially given the way the questioning rounds go. A two-hour total would cut short.... There's not long after the opening statements and then all of a sudden, Mr. Chair, you're having to suspend and go on to the next hour.
Certainly I am amenable to seeing some changes, and to it being done quickly. I think Mr. Harris mentioned that later in the week would be acceptable. I would agree. These are questions to which Canadians are demanding answers. Mr. Van Popta mentioned that he's getting calls to his constituency office, and I've had a number of people walk in since this meeting started, to ask my staff some of those very questions. Actually, it was one walk-in and one phone call.
Two hours is just far too little time. It certainly should be more than that. Mr. Motz has brought forward a compromise that I hope the committee will be amenable to.
You can say that. I hope you're right.
I think we're trying to aim at some sort of consensus here. There seems to be an interest, at least from many members of the committee, to do it this week. It has been brought as an emergency resolution, and I accept it as that. I think, just by way of suggestion, that an awful lot of witnesses were chosen by their position. I'm not sure they actually had much to do with the establishment of this particular procedure, particularly the CBSA people and the RCMP. Maybe we don't need to hear from each one of those witnesses unless they have something to say. With a little bit of judicious decision-making about who the key witnesses are, I think this can be done efficiently. I think it can be done in three hours. I would like to hear from the officials first, and that's now in the motion.
I hear Mr. Kurek's concern about people not getting enough say, particularly the two parties that are in the second rounds and whatnot, left with two and a half minutes instead of the regular. However, when we do this, we could treat the third hour with the ministers as if it were a new meeting, and have the regular rounds so that we're not left with the rounds where Madam Michaud and I share five minutes. That would be the suggestion on how we could proceed efficiently during the course of this week, which is, of course, a constituency week and not a parliamentary week. Given the nature of what's before us, I believe it's a good thing to do.
I will be supporting a three-hour meeting to see if we can do it this week and do it as efficiently as possible. If we have an hour with the two ministers, we will certainly be able to find out which one of them is responsible and ask the appropriate questions in fairly short order after they have made their opening remarks.
That would be my final word, if it's possible to have a final word in this meeting.
I want to speak to the comment made previously about reducing the number of witnesses and/or finding other witnesses. It's important to note that a lot of work was done to find the right people—the right witnesses to ask the right questions and to give us the answers we're looking for. Looking for other people around the department would be contradictory to the things we have already done here and the efforts that have been made to find the right people to answer our questions.
The officials don't operate on, “Well, who wants to come?” They come at the direction of a committee. Let's keep that in mind about the proper officials. If we want the right answers, let's get the right people here. This is an important enough study. Let's get the right people here. The individuals who have been identified need to be the ones who are at this committee. The work has been done to understand who they are and what their roles are in order to make sure they can answer the questions for Canadians. In order to do that, so that we can all learn, rushing through a meeting....
We're prepared to have the meeting this week. Whether it's one four-hour meeting or two two-hour meetings, let's get it done this week. We can move on to our other studies that are critically important on our regular schedule for next week, so let's get these meetings done this week. We're committed to doing that. Let's get a four-hour meeting going with the officials who have been there.
Chair, I just want to confirm something. I know you have trouble keeping up with all the amendments and the subamendments and the subamendments to the subamendments. If, every time we vote, the clerk would be so kind as to confirm exactly what we're voting on, that would be helpful.
Mr. Clerk, would you call the roll?
(Amendment agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: With that, we're now voting on the main motion as amended. Can we call that vote?
(Motion as amended agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Okay. Some begrudging harmony broke out in the last second.
Now, this is a very tall order for the clerk and me to put this together this week. We will make our best efforts.
Is it the preference to have it this week as opposed to next week in our regular time? If we have regular time slots, we'll have to somehow or other extend our regular two-hour meeting.
Can I get a sense of whether it's preferable to have it this week versus next week?
Go ahead, Glen.
We've just had a two-hour meeting; we're hoping to have a three-hour meeting, and it's a constituency week. It's not a break week, as some members of the public have been led to believe over the years. We started calling it a “constituency week” about 10 years ago, and there are a lot of people who have demands on their time as a result of that.
Much as I would like to get the work of our committee going, I don't know if having a meeting on Wednesday and having to organize all of that, as well as doing something on Thursday or Friday for this study.... I think that if the and the are attuned to the emergency that is being presented, they should make themselves available, unless they already have major commitments that can't be changed.
I would hope that at some point we could have a closer look at our schedule, Chair, because I too think we have to prioritize the committee's report on systemic racism. We've already started considering it, but we haven't any other meetings scheduled to do that. I would think that ought to be a priority of our committee as soon as we can get to it, until we have it done, because we put in a lot of time on that. We've been at it since last July. It's a matter of extreme importance to this country, and we need to give it priority. Expecting us to have three meetings this week is probably not realistic.
Yes. I just wanted to make sure that part had been wrapped up.
Also, just as a general comment, it ought to go without saying that Conservatives certainly want to complete the study about Marylène Levesque, who was murdered while an offender was out on parole, because it was a Conservative initiative to extend that study to have further meetings. I know that certainly the Bloc member on our committee is deeply concerned, as are we all, with completing that work.
Conservatives also supported—in the very beginning, when all of us joined this committee as new members—the prioritized completion of the study on the RCMP. As has been mentioned, that report has already been completed and is now in the revision and report and recommendations stage.
Through our actions on both of these issues, Conservatives have clearly demonstrated our commitment to these as priority matters for our committee. The key thing is probably just to make sure we're booking meetings when we're all available, which was part and parcel of the discussion we were having yesterday. I guess we can continue to have that conversation as we figure out the schedule, but certainly know that there is no opposition to the actual content or idea of completing this crucial work sooner rather than later. We agree.
I feel for you, Chair, with all the time interventions, the voting interventions and all that has happened with our scheduled meetings.