I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 41 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Therefore, members can attend in person in the room and remotely by using the Zoom application. Should any technical challenges arise, please advise me. Please note that we may need to suspend for a few minutes, as we need to ensure that all members are able to participate fully.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, May 16, 2022, the committee is resuming its study of access to information and privacy systems.
Go ahead, Monsieur Villemure.
Thank you, Mr. Villemure.
I would now like to welcome our witness today. Michel W. Drapeau is a professor in the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa.
The floor is yours, Monsieur Drapeau, for a five-minute opening statement. We'll follow that with questions and answers.
Please proceed, Monsieur Drapeau.
Thank you for having me.
As a published author of an annotated legal text on access to information for the past 20 years, and as a frequent user under the access to information regime for the past 30 years, I've come across every frustration possible. However, I believe that today we have reached a new level. The right of access is now without a destiny, as it no longer serves its intended purposes.
Fortunately, there are some solutions at hand. I covered some of those in a recent article I wrote that was published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
For the right to know to have any meaning, timing is everything. It is not only crucial, but it is also the most important factor in ensuring that the electorate has meaningful access to information in government records. Both transparency and accountability promises in public administration are meaningless unless swift access to records can be guaranteed.
Today the access process is increasingly bogged down in impermissible long delays, not so much at the federal institutional level but at the level of the Office of the Information Commissioner, whose sole purpose in life is to investigate complaints involving a possible contravention of the act. Let me explain.
Year in and year out, approximately 70% of the access requests are closed within the legislated timelines by federal institutions. This includes extensions. So that part of the ship is not yet at a critical level; far from it. However, at the level of the Office of the Information Commissioner, it is not unusual to wait a minimum of two years for them to complete their investigation of a complaint. To illustrate, let me give you three examples experienced by my own law office during this month of October.
Over the past three weeks, my office received results from the Office of the Information Commissioner for a complaint filed in 2012, and another one concerning a complaint filed in 2018. During the same period, an OIC investigator advised us that she had just now been assigned to investigate one of our refusal complaints that had been filed in 2020. By the time that investigation is completed, we will have been waiting well over two years to get the results, and maybe to get some records.
These are not isolated cases. They are typical of the responses being experienced with our complaints.
Such delays are unacceptable because they have a very negative impact on users. What's worse is that users have no recourse except to wait, since the law dictates that the OIC must first publish its investigative report before the complainant can apply to the Federal Court. Fortunately, however, the time taken to be heard by the Federal Court is measured in months, not years like the OIC.
In my opinion, there is an urgent need to have the Auditor General conduct a system-wide audit to ascertain whether there are sufficient resources at both the Office of the Information Commissioner and the federal institution level to respond in a timely manner to users exercising their right of access.
In the 39 years since the access regime has been enacted, there has never been any such audit of a system that consumes $90 million a year.
First is the information office, the Office of the Information Commissioner. The office is currently funded with a staff of 93 to accomplish the single task of an investigation of complaint. To perform that task, its senior leadership team is currently composed of one commissioner, three assistant commissioners and five senior executives at the EX level. This is one senior executive for every 10 employees. This seems to be a particularly top-heavy organization.
Further, more than 50% of the allotted personnel at the Office of the Information Commissioner are employed in leadership, management, legal and public affairs functions, leaving only 40 investigators to handle complaints. There's a reason we're waiting so long.
Separate and apart from a system audit, I think there's also a need to consider whether the OIC should be subject to a time limit to respond to a complaint. In my estimation, I propose a one-year limit on the OIC to submit a decision.
Second, there is a need for the Auditor General to review whether each federal institution is properly staffed to undertake the volume of requests.
Additionally, there is a need to revisit the current 30-day calendar. My proposition is to modify the act to enable federal institutions to respond within 30 business days as opposed to 30 calendar days. This might significantly improve the performance level of institutions. We're waiting, in any event, 45 days and more to get a response for a single request, so why not adjust the time factor to make it more convenient and more realistic?
Having said that, I'd be happy to respond to your questions on any of my recommendations.
Thank you to the witness for joining us here today. Also, if I could note, thank you for your service to our country in the armed forces. I know that the work you do in your law practice is unique in this country, so thank you for that.
Access to information is fundamental to democracy and accountable government.
On October 17, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute published an article that you wrote, entitled “Access to information: A quasi-constitutional right in peril”. You listed six steps for ATIP reform, three of which you believe can be implemented immediately.
I'd like to give you the opportunity to expand on those six as quickly as possible, and as I know time is limited, specifically on those three that could be implemented immediately.
It did, but not to the same extent.
At the same time, the Information Commissioner received 10,000 complaints, as opposed to the 5,000 or 6,000 they would have in a normal year. You have a system that's bogged down at the federal institution level and the OIC.
Last year was a disaster year. It was basically that all parts of it were off. If you can take 52% of the requests and use a more administratively friendly request that doesn't have the kind of impediment, the kind of restrictions or the kind of exemptions that the access act has, it will bring it down to a more measurable level and something we can do.
That's my first recommendation. We can do this. I think they are working at the moment on a way to develop an alternative approach within that particular department. They should be pressed to do that.
My second recommendation—I'm trying to go through them quickly—is you should get the Auditor General to do a report. Each department basically begs for assistance—each ATIP section within a given department—from the deputy ministers in order to get sufficient resources to meet the volume of requests that they get year in, year out. In some cases, they are successful. In other cases, they have to line up, because the department is short of resources.
We—this committee, or even the OIC— have absolutely no idea at the collective level of what a fair number is or the type of people we need at each institution to handle the volume that we have. Through time, we'll come up with it.
I'm using the RCMP as a good case in point. They are grossly understaffed. As a result, as users, when we try to get access to records in the pursuit of sealed litigation or in the pursuit of interests of the clients who come to us, we have to line up for months, and sometimes for years, before we have it. If we get ahead of the queue, we're only displacing the problem someplace else.
I think the Auditor General ought to do a review, a system audit, to see whether or not we have an adequate number of people and to see what that number is.
Before we can impose upon each one of those ATIP coordinators the type of criticism we see in annual reports, and sometimes in the media and so on, that they're not doing their job.... I think they are doing as good a job as they can be permitted to do with the personnel that they have. As I've said, 70% of the requests are responded to within the established deadlines.
The third point is user fees. At the moment, one pays $5 to submit a request. That $5 amount was instituted back in 1983. In today's value, that's $15. To me, spending $90 million of public funds—this, of course, without any contributions from the users—is passé. I, as a frequent user, don't mind paying, because I'm getting a service for free at the moment. Not only am I getting a service for free, but in 2015, the then-government made the access regime much friendlier than it was. At the time, before 2015, you had to pay so much if your request generated more than five hours of access search time. If you had to pay for photocopies—
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Drapeau, for being here today. We really appreciate it.
I will continue down the path of what you were just talking about with respect to user fees. In 2016, you stated that you don't believe there should be any fees, but now you're saying that the fees should be adjusted to the cost of inflation.
Can you help us understand how you got to that conclusion from where you were in 2016?
It's truly from a practical perspective. I'm in the business of law. We have deadlines that we are facing. We have to go to court and to make a plea. I use access on a regular basis in the pursuit of our files, whether they are for military or veterans or whatever. I depend on it. I have a quasi-constitutional right to have it, but as I said, that right is in peril. I'm not getting any results. I'm not only not getting the records I'm after, but if I were to make a complaint, I would have to line up for two or four or six years.
By having a fee—a genre de ticket modérateur—perhaps fewer people, or those committed to using the access act for their own personal needs, would be prepared to pay a minimum fee. That will, in fact, increase the possibility of the deputy ministers increasing their staff responding to it because it is a public service.
Most provinces charge a fee. It's in excess, in fact, of what I'm proposing. I, as a business, even propose that we could be charged a little bit higher fees if for no other reason than to accelerate the process and for no other to reason than to respond truly to what is a quasi-constitutional right. At the moment it's not.
Christmas is upon us soon. I don't expect that the staff in a federal institution or the information commission will double overnight. It won't happen. One way to do it is perhaps have the user pay for some of the services. It's nowhere near $90 million, but it's going to discipline the process and at the same time provide some welcome financial relief in these days.
I don't know. I frankly don't know. The Information Commissioner may know.
Up until the recent amendment to the act, one could not qualify any of the requests as vexatious. The federal court of appeal had long ago declared that the motive of the requester is immaterial. Regardless of his motive or the frequency of it, you had to respond.
That has been disciplined from the last time the act was amended. I think it can be disciplined more, for the benefit of the user community that uses it for a practical, honourable purpose, by having a fee. That's my approach to it.
Right from the get-go, we decided as a country, after a white paper on access, that the way to go was to have an Information Commissioner. We did not need to do this. The white paper had other options. In the States, for instance, you don't. You put in a request to an agency, and if you're not happy with it, you complain to the agency. If you're not happy with a response, you go to federal court.
In Canada, we had an ombudsman style with the Information Commissioner. It was designed with basically three roles. The first one was to investigate the complaint; the second was to monitor and enforce the act upon the various federal institutions, and the third was to report to Parliament, but the primary task and the only role is to investigate complaints.
Now we find, years afterward, over the past decade or so, that it has grown so top-heavy that we have less than 50% of the staff who investigate complaints, 40 out of the 93 people, and when we find four commissioners.... Pardon me—do we need four commissioners and five executives and so on? All of that is at the expense of their sole function of investigating complaints, and that's what I want. If a department doesn't give me or excludes information and records, for example, my only avenue is going to the Information Commissioner.
I'm in the business of law. If I don't get an answer from that, then I have the ability to go to the Federal Court and get the Federal Court to adjudicate my request, except I have to wait until the Information Commissioner issues a report. At the moment, I have to wait four years, six years or eight years, so it's killing us if we need to have access to these records through the only legal but quasi-constitutional mode, which is the access regime.
Thank you for being here, Mr. Drapeau.
On October 5, I asked Ms. Maynard, the Information Commissioner of Canada, whether the federal administration had a culture of secrecy or a culture of openness. Basically, she said that staff didn't always know what information they should be disclosing.
Do you think the federal administration has a culture of secrecy or openness?
As I pointed out, the Access to Information Act sets out 13 exemptions, including national security in all its glory. Those exemptions are interpreted differently and can apply to cabinet confidence or certain personal information.
When an ATI request involves national security, I expect all government employees, including those who work in access to information, to take a very careful and conservative approach, disclosing only what is possible, practical, relevant and legal to disclose.
I don't think the commissioner's office lacks funding. It has a sizable budget.
My position is simple: when less than half the people at the commissioner's office are assigned to the administrative task of reviewing complaints, there's a problem from the outset. Let's start by fixing that problem.
Then we can turn our attention to the funding the office has to work with. To be fair and frank, I don't even think the Information Commissioner can determine what she needs in terms of resources. She can make recommendations, but it really requires the expertise of an outside organization, in this case, the Office of the Auditor General. The Office of the Auditor General has the capacity to examine how many complaints come in and how long it takes to review them. Some complaints are obviously more complex than others, but the Office of the Auditor General can determine whether there's a better way to do things and whether more staff is needed to handle complaints.
Even within the existing budget, in theory without allocating more money, there's an opportunity to have an increased number of people actively involved in the process.
I want to talk a little bit around the technical aspects. One of my biggest frustrations, and I'm sure members on the committee can share this, is getting scanned PDFs back that are unsearchable and the unsearchability in the way in which we collect data. Mr. Chair, you will recall this Liberal government had a minister of digital government, and that just disappeared.
When big data is released to him and his clients, is there a difficulty there as well in being able to find the information accurately, given the way in which it's scanned, rather than being presented as searchable PDFs?
Mr. Drapeau, I greatly appreciate your being with us today, and thank you for appearing a number of times in relation to the Access to Information Act. Your extensive knowledge and expertise are very helpful to the committee.
We know that 70% of requests are responded to by the deadline, so let's set those aside and focus on the other 30%. The number of complaints has been on the rise for years, especially since everyone turned to electronic sources.
The Information Commissioner said that some requests were vexatious, and you mentioned that in your opening remarks. She also suggested that government employees needed to learn how to manage the emails in their inboxes. Requests that come in by email are often looked at by the entire team, and those emails can be repetitive. Sometimes employees get the same information five or six times.
Certainly, there's a better way to manage data. Given your experience, do you know of any countries whose government institutions do a good job of managing electronic data so that it's easier to respond to ATI requests?
Annual seminars in all departments would remind them that one of their legal responsibilities is to comply with the Access to Information Act, which has quasi-constitutional value.
Public servants have a duty to the public, who pay their salaries. It was Parliament that wanted this law to exist. Everything that civil servants produce in the course of their daily work must therefore be accessible. Some information may be exempted, but in principle everything that civil servants produce must be accessible, as they are publicly accountable for their responsibilities and workload, among other things.
No one should be surprised or offended that an access to information request is made. Yet these requests are mostly perceived as an annoyance or something that upsets the bureaucratic order. However, these requests stem from the fact that we live in a democracy that respects the citizens who pay the salaries of civil servants, who finance public institutions and who want to obtain answers. The right to access information, the right to know, is a quasi-constitutional right that has been granted to citizens. Facilitating this right is a duty for institutions, civil servants, parliamentarians and the public.
We have not yet reconciled these opposite sides. The viewpoint varies depending on which side you are on. While we may want as much information as possible to be released to us, the typical public servant aims for the exact opposite, wanting to protect everything they can. Most departments have not yet adopted the mindset that there is nothing wrong or offensive about an individual making an access to information request, and that they must respond to it to using the resources available to each department.
I want to carry on in the spirit of the line of questioning of my friend from the Bloc with regard to potential interference with the access to information process.
There are many limits to enforcement due to confidentiality obligations. The Information Commissioner can only disclose information in the course of a prosecution or disclose to the Attorney General if there is evidence of a director, officer or employee of a government institution commissioning any offence against a law of Canada or of a province.
This excludes, however, ministerial exempt staff, consultants, and contractors hired by government institutions, and former directors, officers, and employees of government institutions.
Do you have any recommendations to address these limitations to enforcement?
Not at the moment. It's not something that I have paid particular attention to. I've come to live with this situation and have come to expect that some of those are excluded from disclosure.
However, if you look at the access regime as being allegedly universal, then I would tend to reach across to you and say that although that's probably a noble goal, this goal ought to be on you here, if any place. I haven't seen any movement among myself or colleagues to extend the right of access.
Of course, the ideal would be that it be 100%, but nothing has 100% coverage, whether it's within the court or even here in the House of Commons.
Those people, at the moment, are excluded, and the decision of whether or not to include them under the act belongs to parliament. That's where, I think, it is fair and proper that it be addressed.
Thank you, sir, for joining us today.
You've noted previously on the topic of our discussions that the staggering delays in ATIPs can render them effectively useless. While we have heard that some may be perceived to be vexatious, though not found to actually be so, or perhaps someone might say some are frivolous, it's evident that government uses tactics to delay the information so that it's perhaps less damaging to them. What's the remedy for that?
I can give you an example, sir. One access to information request I filed, a very simple one, has been in process for over a year. One extension was sought, and then the department just simply stopped replying to me on requests for information on the status of that access to information request.
When there are apparent efforts by government, or those working in government, to not provide information because it's unflattering to the government, what's the remedy for that?
The remedy is with the Information Commissioner. You must have the ability to put a request in, and if your request comes as part of a pattern in a given department on a given subject with a given number of requests, then the Information Commissioner should have the ability to say she's going to be investigating this as a systemic complaint—that this subject or this department or the request from a specific user appears to be targeted for an absence of service.
I would expect the Information Commissioner to have the capacity, in fact, to react—not all the time, but react when such a need manifests itself—and be able to allocate some investigative resources or try to get to the bottom of it in defence of the reputation of the access regime, and also of your access rights.
However, at the moment, if you have the audacity to put in a complaint to the Information Commissioner, you'll have to line up and wait two years or more before you have an answer, whether or not your request is founded and whether or not it has been turned down or not addressed because it has been deemed to be vexatious.
Thank you to the witness for being here today.
I want to go back to the point.... Correct me if I'm misquoting you here, but I think you said that more than half of the requests in the past year were questions directed to immigration.
When we had the Information Commissioner here at committee, we heard that she was extremely impressed with everything that the department has done to improve this system. There are online portals where people can check their information, rather than having to file an access to information request. She was very impressed.
I'm wondering if you knew about this. What are your thoughts on how this might improve the entire system, once those systems are up and running?
Last year, the 145,000 requests being made basically brought the system to a halt. I don't know if the significant increase in complaints all result from the same.... They probably do.
Now the Information Commissioner has 10,000 complaints from last year, so something is amiss. I don't think we need to have applicants obtain their records or whatever information they're after by going through the access regime. It wasn't designed for this. In fact, it totally overcomes the capacity of the bureaucracy within those departments and within the OIC to respond to the other users.
A first priority, I believe, is to make sure that this particular system to respond to immigrants, refugees and so on be outside the access regime and, to the degree possible, have a positive response. In other words, you don't even need to ask for it; you can have access through this particular medium or this particular platform on request.
There were a number of institutions—like CBC, Canada Post, the National Arts Centre and a number of others—that came under the act. The courts, many agencies of Parliament, the House of Commons, the Senate and so on all became subject to the act, and CBC was on top of that.
That opened it up quite substantially. Many of these organizations have responded fairly, but some of them have responded not so well. They still have a lot to learn. We have considerably reduced the number of institutions that are still absent and still excluded from the act.
Also, over the past decade or so, with regard to the costs a user would have to endure, the user rate of $5 has remained, but in those days you had search fees, photocopying fees and so on. Sometimes those fees were in the hundreds of dollars.
Actually, I was in contact with Palantir at the time. What you have to keep in mind is that it's not just about the company and the desire of the committee. It's mostly about the fact that the House did accept it and gave permission to the committee to travel. The committee does not have to travel, but if the committee wants to do so, the committee can.
There are conditions as part the motion of the House. If the committee wanted to travel at some later time, then the committee would possibly have to redo the process and ask for a budget. The committee could do it again later, but at this time there are conditions to the motions of the House.
Again, I think we can revisit this later if we need to. We don't have to deal with this now. If it's the will of the committee to ask the House for permission to travel, then we can do that at a later time.
Do we have unanimous consent to annul the plans for the trip?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Green, I see your hand is up on Zoom. This is going to be new for me, trying to get everybody's attention here, but go ahead.
I'm just wondering if we've accepted the November 14 date.
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Iqra Khalid: Okay. All right.
I have two points I want to raise.
I know Monsieur Villemure and I did have a conversation about this, and I really respect and appreciate the wonderful expertise and passion that Monsieur Villemure brings to the table. I really appreciate it.
We heard from Monsieur Drapeau earlier today that 30 business days seems like a reasonable time to give to departments to be able to produce documents. In this instance, I realize and understand and appreciate, based on our conversation, Monsieur Villemure, that perhaps something a little bit more urgent would be necessary. If I may suggest very humbly and with a great amount of respect for the work that you do, perhaps we can move it to the end of November to allow for those 30 business days.
Then the second point I will make—and again I respect and understand the reason you've put this motion forward—is that I just think there should be a little bit more clarity as to which witnesses are required to produce which documents.
I think you just responded to Mr. Fergus that, for example, number one would be Monsieur Guay, that number two would perhaps be the Department of Public Works and Government Services and that number three would also be the public works department. Would that be something that we are able to just outline specifically, instead of saying, “Here are the witnesses. These are the documents. Now go figure out what you think it all means”? It would be great to have clarity on who is expected to produce which documents. In the event of vagueness or overbroadness, since we know that nobody really responds to anything, perhaps that is something you're willing to consider: to put a witness to each of the three listed items.
Thank you. Those are my comments, Mr. Chair.
I'll just reiterate and be brief in saying that we've just heard extensive testimony on how the timeline is set up for failure. I think in this case, particularly if Monsieur Villemure really does want to get these documents, we would like to see.... Rather than a timeline that is cut too short when, as we heard in the testimony previously, there are just requests for extensions and requests for extensions, if we actually propose a reasonable extension—as described by probably the leading expert on ATIP requests and demanding documents in this country at this time—we'll actually get what we're asking for.
At the request of the chair, I won't dive into the clarity on each section—we can get to that afterwards—but, yes, I do want to see documents.
The other thing that I'd flag is that there has been a precedent in this committee of asking for unredacted contracts from private contractors. That is a complicated precedent in terms of corporate privacy and agreements, and we can expect that when we start to demand corporate contracts, there will be resistance to do that. We want witnesses to come forward. We'd like to have companies be able to come forward in the future and discuss their work, but when we ask for unredacted private contracts.... For a businessman, it does get complex. I know that Public Services and Procurement Canada said it will not disclose those things.
In an effort to not put the cart before the horse and to make sure that we get what we're asking for, I would ask if Monsieur Villemure is willing to consider those—particularly the timeline—at this time.
On the timeline issue, I think it's a lesson for all of us as well. So that we don't have to deal with this in the future, any time we request document productions, we should actually apply a date to the request.
In this case, there was discussion at the committee, from what I understand, but there was no actual date. Mr. Villemure is trying to provide that date. He's quite right in the sense that the meeting took place on October 17. He's requesting November 14, which means we're close to that 30-day window. For the future, we need dates. I just want to be clear on that.
Mr. Villemure, I saw your hand up.
With respect to the timeline and November 14, I think that's a lot of time. That's three weeks. Depending on the volume of documents that we're dealing with, it could take some time in translation. I understand that's going to be a bit of a bottleneck that we'd be dealing with.
I have a question for the clerk, Mr. Chair, on documents requested of the government and whether the expectation is that those come translated. I'm not clear on that. When we give a production request or order to the government, if that motion is passed and it's for November 14, do the documents come from the government translated on the 14th? Is that the expectation? Otherwise, if they're coming from a private business, they're likely to provide them in their working language, and then translation would engage. Is my understanding correct on that?
Thank you very much, Madam Clerk.
To follow up on that, we're dealing with three weeks, which is four weeks after that initial testimony. As Mr. Villemure rightly pointed out, Mr. Guay did say at that time that he was prepared to provide us with that information.
We're also likely going to lose, for lack of a better word, a week in translation. I'll invite you to correct me if I'm wrong on that, Mr. Chair. We wouldn't even get to public discussion or distribution amongst committee members of those documents until November 21. That's a lot of water under the bridge between now and then. I wouldn't have an appetite to go past the 14th of November.
I really appreciate that clarification. That was an excellent point by Mr. Barrett.
I still respectfully feel that as we are continuing this ATIP study, there is no time lost. We all unanimously voted at the last meeting or the one before that to end that study and to not continue with it, so I don't see there being a sense of urgency with respect to collecting these documents or to putting out a report. In fact, if we all felt that there was more here, I think that we would not have unanimously agreed to end that study.
Perhaps in the interest of not putting undue pressure on Mr. Guay and to ensure that departments are able to get us the documents we need, I would propose that we delay the document request until the end of the month of November, or whatever is good for Mr. Villemure on that front.
The testimony referenced in the discussion in the first hour of this meeting talked a lot about reasonable deadlines. I think one should acknowledge that this request was made during the testimony that took place at the last meeting. When it came to the motion that was passed, I think it was made very clear to this committee that it was to adjourn debate on the study, pending the production of some of the very relevant documents that will allow this committee to chart a path forward. Getting these documents, I think, is vital for the future work of this committee.
That request was made at that meeting. I hope that it was taken seriously at the time. Certainly it would suggest a bigger issue if it wasn't. However, I think Mr. Villemure in his motion has rightly said, as we've faced some challenges in this committee before by not having absolute clarity in things like document requests and whatnot.... I appreciate the discussion around timelines and translations. That's all very important.
I think it's quite reasonable to expect these in a time frame that would allow the committee to make a determination on a path forward. The next steps, of course, will be to determine whether the committee is satisfied, and the report is produced and things move on. If there is something that requires more digging into, it's up to the committee. All of us around this table are collectively able to determine that path forward.
Being reasonable, we shouldn't expect that the maximum deadline is always what's required. As I mentioned, I hope the request was initially taken seriously. This information should be available in an expeditious manner.
Over my past seven years here as a parliamentarian, sitting on various committees, I've seen that departments do indeed take committee requests very seriously, as they should. I think we heard directly from the departments and witnesses that they would be providing the documents we have requested. I just want to make sure that we give them reasonable time to be able to make those productions.
For example, for Mr. Guay, it's a private entity; if we're asking him to produce a report on the use of the Hotel Saint-Bernard, does he have that time? Does he have the time to translate it? Do we have ample time to translate it before the committee circulates it?
Proposing the date to be a little bit further into the month has nothing to do with giving more leniency to the departments or to the people who should be fulfilling their promise to provide the documents that they have indeed already promised this committee. My concern is the practicality of it, to ensure that we are not putting undue pressure or unreasonable timelines on people who may not be able to meet those deadlines. I don't want to put our witnesses in a position of having those unreasonable timelines forced on them.
Having said that, I realize that the committee is not unanimous on moving it to the end of November. I understand and appreciate Mr. Villemure's leniency on November 14, that we're okay to go with that, but I do think that we need to clarify specifically what documents we are requesting. For example, there's the report on the use of Hotel Saint-Bernard. If that is specifically being expected from Mr. Guay, then I think the motion should say that. I don't anticipate that any of these witnesses would be able to provide all three or any one. I just think it's better to have clarity.
As we work through this motion, perhaps we could iron out and clarify exactly from whom we expect what documents, Mr. Chair.
Are we okay? Are we clear on November 14 being the date, and then we can move on to this other issue? Are there no objections?
To the members on Zoom, are we good?
Okay, it's the 14th, then, Mr. Villemure.
I don't know how we're going to propose moving to some clarity here. You've heard some of Ms. Khalid's concerns. Is there a possible way to address those?
That actually makes sense to me. Okay.
Mr. Villemure, if we remove the name of Mr. Guay, remove the Department of Public Works and Government Services and then the Canada Border Services Agency, if they are reflected in items 1, 2 and 3, that should be enough to indicate to the government and Mr. Guay what we are asking for in terms of these documents.
If you're okay with that, and we've included the IRCC in number 3, so....
It will be, “That, further to the commitments made by the testimony of October 17, 2022 on the Use of Public Funds related to the Roxham Road Crossing, the Committee requires to receive:”, and we have agreed that if we add notes to items 1, 2 and 3, we are going to strike the part after “receive”.
Then it will be “...the Committee requires to receive, 1) The Report on the use of the Hotel Saint-Bernard (Mr. Guay and CBSA and/or PSPC); 2) The justification(s) for invoking the “national security exception” for each of the leases and contracts (PSPC); 3) The agreements reached between the federal government and Pierre Guay in the context of the crisis at Roxham Road (CBSA and IRCC); that these documents be submitted, in both official languages, in an unredacted format, to the Clerk of the Committee no later than November 14, 2022.”
That is what the final motion would look like.
What you're going to be voting on right now is the part after “requires to receive”. Do you want to strike “from Mr. Pierre Guay” and so on, and then add the text between parentheses at points 1, 2 and 3?
Is that clear?
Okay. We'll include “and/or” in that. We'll take that as an amendment.
We are voting on the amendment to the motion. Can we have a vote on that, please?
(Amendment agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: The amendment passes, so now we're on the main motion as amended.
Is there any discussion on that? Seeing no discussion, either in the room or on Zoom, we'll move to a vote.
(Motion as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Thank you, Madam Clerk.
The motion as amended passes.
As an update to the committee in terms of going forward—again, that's with the work plan—we have three witnesses confirmed for the continuation of the access to information and privacy study.
The other thing that I need to discuss is a draft report that's been completed—it hasn't been brought to the committee—on the RCMP device investigation tools. That's ready. It can be studied next week for two days, on Monday and Wednesday.
Of course, we have the constituency week after that, and then we'll have to determine what we're going to do on November 14 and November 16, but the plan this week is to continue with the study on the access to information and privacy system.
Are we all good? Okay. That's it.
Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you for your patience with a new chair.
The meeting is adjourned.