Good morning, everyone, from a very frosty Winnipeg. I threw on the parka this morning, and the gloves and everything.
Welcome to meeting number three of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. So that you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.
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Pursuant to the order adopted by the House of Commons on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, the committee is commencing its study of gun control, illegal arms trafficking and the increase in gun crimes committed by members of street gangs.
With us today by video conference, we have the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety; from Canada Border Services Agency, John Ossowski, president; from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Rob Stewart, deputy minister; and from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Brenda Lucki, commissioner.
We will start with opening remarks, after which we will proceed with rounds of questions.
Welcome, Minister. It is very good to see you, however virtually. I now invite you to make an opening statement.
Good morning, committee members.
As we begin, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm joining you virtually from the traditional territory of the Algonquin.
It's an honour to make this first appearance before you in my new capacity as Minister of Public Safety. I look forward to collaborating with you.
I want to thank Ms. Michaud for presenting the motion to study gun violence to the House. We have seen too many tragedies in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and across the country. There have been too many lives lost.
École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec City mosque, Toronto on the Danforth, and Portapique in Nova Scotia, each of these tragedies was marked by senseless acts of violence with one common denominator—guns.
We can say we grieve for the victims and survivors, and surely our hearts go out to them, but words are not enough. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Words have to be put into action, and that is what we are doing. Our government has taken decisive action by introducing stronger gun controls, investing in more policing resources and border enforcement, and by allocating funds for prevention strategies and community infrastructure.
We passed Bill , which requires enhanced background checks to prevent those who have a history of violence from owning a firearm. Regulations under Bill C-71 have been referred to this committee. Once in force, they will help police trace illegal guns and ensure that firearms licences are verified. At a time when we have seen rates of gun-related gender-based violence and femicide increase, we owe it to survivors to do more. I urge members to deal with these regulations at the first available opportunity.
Canadians will also recall that our government introduced a ban of over 1,500 assault-style rifles, including the weapons used at École Polytechnique, at the Quebec City mosque and at Dawson College. For decades, grieving families and survivors had asked successive governments to prohibit these types of firearms. As my predecessor Minister Blair said at the time, “Enough is enough.”
In addition to stronger gun controls, we've backed up law enforcement in our communities and at the border. We've invested over $300 million over five years, beginning this year, including $40 million to combat smuggling, $15 million for tracing, and over $21 million for CBSA equipment and intelligence sharing. We've allocated $250 million to fight guns and gangs violence on our streets. The results of these investments are clear: They are working. We've seen record gun seizures and arrests thanks to the hard-working members of the RCMP and the CBSA.
In Quebec, our investments have resulted in the hiring of 71 new police officers over the past year. This is in addition to the 19 prosecutors and 5 data specialists hired across the country in the past year.
At the border, we are continuing to work very closely with our provincial and American partners. Domestically, we have the integrated border enforcement team, which coordinates the RCMP and provincial police services through joint operations. When I was in Washington, D.C., about a month ago, I met with my counterpart, Secretary Mayorkas. We committed to attending the cross-border crime forum, as well as the joint firearms task force to stem the flow of illegal guns across our international borders.
Despite this progress, we have more to do. Now that we have banned assault rifles, we have to take the next steps and implement a buyback program. To all the survivors and advocacy groups, including PolySeSouvient and the Danforth Families, we are listening to you. We are going to make the buyback program mandatory.
When it comes to handguns, I hear what my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois are saying. I am aware of the motion passed by the National Assembly, and I will work with my counterparts in the province according to their needs.
It is a fact that the majority of gun-related homicides involve a handgun, and that's why our government is committed to investing one billion dollars to support those provinces and territories that want to ban handguns. We are going to increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, and enhance the capacity of police and border officials to keep illegal firearms and ammunition out of the country.
We cannot simply rely on the hammer of criminal law. Arresting, charging, prosecuting and sentencing are all after the fact. We need to prevent gun crimes from occurring in the first place, and that's why we're investing $250 million in a safe communities fund to create safer and more inclusive spaces.
Speaking of safety, I say this to our law-abiding gun owners: We know that you are responsible, prudent and respectful of the law. I want to assure hunters, farmers and target shooters that nothing we are doing is intended to diminish their lawful recreational activities. At the same time, we have a responsibility to work together to reduce gun violence. We cannot risk another shooting at a school, a place of worship, or at a police officer, or on women, or on any innocent life. Public safety is our top priority. Protecting human life must come above all else.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I am committed to working with all of you to achieve that goal.
I thank the minister for being with us today on relatively short notice.
Minister, I've lived in Montreal for a number of years. It's deeply important to me that we see the issue of gun violence solved in that country, but we also see violent crime across Canada. I represent a riding in Winnipeg, and we're seeing increased violence there as well. In fact, across Canada, in five of the last six years, violent crime has gone up. Firearms-related offences have increased for six years in a row now. Homicides are at a 30-year high, and we know that at least one-third of homicides are committed with firearms. As long as I've been alive, homicides haven't been this bad. I think that's pretty serious, and we're hoping for serious action from your government.
Winnipeg itself is on track to surpass its 2019 homicide record, and it was also ranked the violent crime capital of Canada in 2020. Conservative members are taking the violent crime we're seeing surging across the country over the last six years very seriously.
However, we are also disappointed following one of the shootings this fall in Montreal. I think it was even the day after your government introduced Bill , which removes mandatory prison time, as you know, for robberies with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with intent to injure, and using a firearm in the commission of a crime. We're quite concerned that, on one hand, we're seeing criminals using often illegally smuggled guns to harm our communities, and on the other hand, your government is taking away the ability to ensure mandatory prison time.
I'd like to know if you believe Bill will keep criminals responsible for the shootings in Montreal, and others across the country, off our streets.
Ms. Dancho, I do. Before I tell you why, I want to thank you for your advocacy and for bringing your experiences, both in Winnipeg and Montreal, to this committee.
I will say that Bill does ensure that a number of mandatory minimum penalties with regard to firearms offences, serious firearms offences, remain in place. Not only that, but as I have said, there are a number of serious firearms offences to which we propose to increase maximum penalties, which of course we trust our independent judiciary to dispense where appropriate.
I will also say, as I outlined in my remarks, that our government takes this issue very seriously, which is why we have introduced additional gun controls, particularly the banning of assault rifles. We are now going to take the next steps to do whatever it takes to reduce gun violence, because I believe we are all joined in that cause.
We don't share your belief that allowing criminals who use firearms in robberies, for extortion and serious gun crimes like that.... We believe they should go to jail and that would help clean up our streets. We are concerned that Bill is allowing these criminals to return to our streets and ensure violence continues.
Another issue that we know is deeply tied to gun violence in Montreal and Toronto is, of course, drug trafficking, pushing of opioids, fentanyl and heroin. We know opioids kill 7,000 Canadians a year, yet Bill also eliminates the mandatory prison time for drug traffickers, so we're quite concerned. We know gang violence and gun violence are deeply interrelated with drug trafficking, yet you're taking away the ability for mandatory prison time for those who commit dangerous, violent gun crime and those who are pushing drugs on people, which is killing 7,000 Canadians a year.
Again, we see Bill as completely opposite of what needs to be done to address gun violence and the gang and drug-trafficking activity that is fuelling that in our cities. In Manitoba alone, we had 372 drug-related deaths in 2020, so we find this to be very serious.
Does the minister believe leaving criminal drug traffickers on our streets, rather than putting them in prison where they rightfully belong for killing thousands of Canadians, will stop gang violence in Montreal?
Ms. Dancho, of course not.
Having served over a decade on the front lines of our criminal justice system and as a federal prosecutor responsible for prosecuting drug traffickers, and not those who are suffering from mental health and other issues, I agree that, where appropriate, there do need to be jail sentences, and we must trust our courts and our judges to dispense, with justice, where appropriate.
I will also say, with regard to the opioid crisis, that our government has put in place measures to stop organized crime and to stop criminals from trafficking in opioids, including at our border. As I mentioned, I met with my counterpart, Secretary Mayorkas of DHS in Washington, where we agreed to meet, to use the cross-border crime forum to interdict the trafficking of illegal drugs, including opioids. We're seeing CBSA and the RCMP make record arrests, which is a sign of the concrete progress that we are making.
First I want to thank the minister for being here with us today.
I thank the various witnesses who are here as well, the members of the committee and all parties represented in the House who voted in favour of my motion so that we can deal with this important issue quickly.
Minister, I have several questions for you.
Today, we know that in Canada generally, the rate of gun-related crime has doubled since 2014. In Quebec and Montreal, gun-related crime has increased quite significantly in recent years as well. As for criminal gangs, in Montreal, some 90% of the weapons they use are said to be illegal and most of them come over the U.S. border. It is quite worrying to note that the Montreal police department has seized almost more weapons than the RCMP in all of Canada in recent years.
I would like to know how the agencies under federal jurisdiction explain the fact that they are not able to seize more weapons. Do they explain it by a lack of resources or simply by a lack of political courage to tackle this issue?
Minister, can you hear me?
You often talk about the investments that have been made in the past, and I understand that a lot of money has been put on the table, but the results don't seem to follow. There are also bans, regulations and laws that have been put in place to ban certain types of weapons.
You mentioned some shootings in your opening remarks. Now, some of these weapons had been obtained quite legally. This proves that the regulations in place are not enough and that more needs to be done on gun control.
In March 2021, TVA Nouvelles presented a rather interesting report on the gun route in Quebec, on the Akwesasne territory, which straddles Ontario and the United States. This is a subject that is not sufficiently addressed. There seem to be hundreds of guns a week coming across the border, and we don't appear to have the resources to stop it.
The Bloc Québécois proposed better collaboration between the various police services, a sort of joint squad involving the Akwesasne Police Service, the Sûreté du Québec, the RCMP, the New York City Police Department, or NYPD, and the Ontario Provincial Police, or OPP, so that information flows better and we have people working together on the ground to put an end to the illegal trafficking in weapons.
What do you think of this proposal? Don't you think more needs to be done to stop the trafficking of weapons, especially at the US border?
Thank you so much, Chair.
Welcome, Minister Mendicino, to our committee.
You just referenced the operation that happened in Cornwall, which involved the participation of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, Montreal Police, and Sûreté du Québec.
In the previous Parliament, the public safety committee released a report on systemic racism in policing in Canada. Recommendation 13 of that report called on the Government of Canada to make sure that we have an indigenous police services framework, that indigenous police services are designated as essential, that there is a requirement that they are adequately resourced, and that there is a commitment for the provision of sufficient funding to make sure that all interested indigenous communities can develop these police services.
We know that many indigenous communities straddle the Canada-U.S. border where smuggling takes place. We know that many indigenous communities within Canada suffer from gang violence and from firearms crimes.
Minister, I know you are just getting into the role of public safety, but how are you directing your department to take advantage of this recommendation and to make sure that indigenous communities have the policing resources they need to effectively keep their own communities safe from firearms trafficking and gang recruitment?
First, Mr. MacGregor, I want to thank you and other members of the committee who participated in that study. It is one of the reasons why the work we are doing collectively at SECU is so important.
Our government is committed to working with indigenous leaders and communities across the country to ensure that we are collaborating with them in a way that allows indigenous leadership to ensure public safety across communities.
I have already had a number of very constructive discussions with Commissioner Lucki, who is on this call, and you will have an opportunity as well to pose questions to her.
We are going to make sure we are investing additional financial resources to co-develop the policies and the regulatory and administrative frameworks, which begins with indigenous perspectives in our communities. That is work that I know is extremely importantly to the RCMP, which works in close tandem with indigenous leadership.
Why is it important? It is precisely for the reason you pointed out at the outset of your question. When we are working together with indigenous peoples across provincial and territorial governments, we are better able to interdict illegal trafficking of guns and drugs, and we are able to ensure we are creating safe communities. That is something we are committed to doing.
Thank you, Minister. I want to get through a few more questions.
We know that a lot of the gun violence in Canada is the result of drug trafficking. We know that a lot of gangs are competing for the same turf. We know that the drugs being imported into Canada are far more deadly with fentanyl and carfentanil, and they are far more addictive. As long as we have that demand problem, because of the increased toxicity of drugs but also their addiction qualities, we are going to have the resultant problems.
In my community in British Columbia we have been suffering through the opioids epidemic for six years now. It has left a trail of carnage in its wake. We now have the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, the City of Toronto, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police calling on the Government of Canada to be bold and to implement decriminalization, because we know that as long as there's a stigma of ongoing criminality, people are not going to be comfortable getting the help they need.
If we're not treating that root cause of the problem, Minister, we're going to keep seeing symptoms such as gun violence and gang activity.
Minister, why is your government implementing only half measures? Why are you not going the full way, meeting the requests of these important jurisdictions and actually implementing decriminalization for small possession amounts?
I just want to make it clear, Minister, that your government has been in power for six years. For six years, we've seen violent crime go up. We've seen violent crime with guns go up. We've seen deaths from drug traffickers go up to extraordinary rates. Again, 7,000 Canadians a year are dying from opioids. We're seeing this problem raging in Winnipeg, Toronto and especially Vancouver, where the NDP member is from. This is a serious issue, yet with Bill , we're seeing a reduction of or no mandatory minimum prison time for the people responsible for those deaths.
For my question, I'd like to now focus on the issue of gun smuggling. You talked a little bit about it, but what frustrates me in particular is where your government is investing its resources. We see the buyback program, in which we know no criminals will be providing their guns back to the federal government. That's not going to impact criminal gun behaviour, yet we know the buyback program will cost.... I've seen estimates from $1 billion to even $3 billion. It's going to cost the taxpayer maybe $3 billion. We know that RCMP resources, which are already stretched far too thin, are going to have to put thousands of hours towards this buyback program.
We do feel that the resources your government is focusing on the buyback program are misplaced. If you would invest $1 billion to $3 billion at our borders, I think we would see a lot fewer illegal guns from the United States smuggled in by gangs, used in drug trafficking and used to kill innocent Canadians.
I do want to ask you something specific about the smuggling across the border. We know that border communities are being used to smuggle guns and dangerous drugs through. We know that there are some first nations communities in Quebec, for example, that border the American and Quebec border. I'd like to know what discussions you've had with those first nations communities about providing them with resources to keep their people safe and to stop the smuggling of any illegal substances or firearms that may be coming through the border in those areas of our country.
A message from my constituents.... In your opening remarks, you said that there is one common denominator for all of these crimes and that's a firearm. Well, you're missing the obvious thing, Minister. The other obvious common denominator is the criminals themselves, and it's time to focus on the criminals in this matter.
You also claimed in your statement that you want to increase penalties on gun smugglers, yet Bill , your government's policy, is seeking to reduce mandatory minimum sentences. In fact, in the last Parliament, when our Conservative colleague Bob Saroya brought up Bill to increase penalties for the possession of smuggled firearms, you and your party voted against that policy.
Why do your actions not match your words, Minister?
I will pick up where I left off earlier. The minister said that some 74 weapons had been seized by the RCMP. That is good, but it is not enough. Some 700 weapons were seized by Montreal police last year. And, again according to TVA Nouvelles, there are almost as many guns coming across the border per week as police across Canada seize in a year.
What we understand from the minister's comments is that current gun control measures are adequate, but more are needed. However, according to journalistic investigations, these measures are clearly not sufficient and are therefore not adequate. We need a change of direction. In Montreal right now, an American-style gun culture is taking hold. People are thinking of getting a gun to protect themselves and their children and they are obviously getting their guns illegally. In Montreal, young people are dying in libraries or on the street, in broad daylight or when it's not very late at night. Yet, the only measure adopted so far by the government has been to introduce Bill , which provides for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for firearms-related crimes. We're calling for something a little more serious to control guns and stop their illegal trafficking.
Does the minister have a plan? In the coming months, what does his government intend to do concretely to fight against firearms trafficking?
Minister, I agree with you. I think in your opening statement you made a comment about the fact that the Criminal Code is an important part of our justice system, but it is a reactive part of it, in that it comes into effect after a crime has been committed. I'm very interested in policy that seeks to prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
We know that gangs in major urban centres across Canada often recruit their members from vulnerable communities. These can include communities that are made up of racialized Canadians, Black and indigenous Canadians. At the same time, many of these communities also have a very deep sense of distrust of our police services. This has been written about, most recently with the report in the last Parliament about systemic racism in policing in Canada.
If we are to try to prevent gang recruitment, if we are to try to regain the trust of these communities so that they can have that positive and healthy relationship with our police services, I'd like to know from you, Minister, what steps you are taking as minister to direct Public Safety Canada to help police services across Canada so that we can start to re-establish a relationship of trust, effectively combat gang recruitment, and try to nip this problem in the bud rather than always treating the symptoms.
I call the meeting back to order.
With us for the second hour, by video conference from the Canada Border Services Agency, we have John Ossowski, president; and Scott Harris, vice-president of the intelligence and enforcement branch.
From the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we have Mr. Rob Stewart, deputy minister; and Talal Dakalbab, assistant deputy minister, crime prevention branch.
From the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, we have Brenda Lucki, commissioner; Michael Duheme, deputy commissioner, federal policing; Stephen White, deputy commissioner, specialized policing services; Kellie Paquette, director general; and Mathieu Bertrand, director of federal policing criminal operations.
I will now open the floor to questions. This is a six-minute round, beginning with Mr. Van Popta.
The floor is yours, sir.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for coming to this meeting.
We called this meeting to investigate gun control, illegal arms trafficking and gang-related violence in relation to recent shootings in Montreal, but sadly, Montreal is not unique in this. There is gun violence right across this country. It is also in metro Vancouver, where my riding of Langley—Aldergrove is.
Earlier this year, there was a whole rash of gangland-style shootings in metro Vancouver, including in Langley, where a person was shot and killed right in broad daylight in front of the Langley Sportsplex, where my grandkids play hockey. It was really quite shocking.
In the process, I started to look into gang violence more closely, and I was surprised to learn that we do not have nationwide systems for tracking the source of guns and firearms used in violent crime. We hear that most of the guns used in crime are smuggled in from the United States, but apparently those statistics are not necessarily reliable as there isn't a consistent requirement across the country that all police forces report that.
I wonder if any of the witnesses could comment on that, maybe starting with the RCMP.
Thank you very much, Commissioner.
Just to add to that, there is a requirement for police services across the country to report to the Canadian firearms centre all the firearms they seize. That is a requirement. In 2020, police services across the country seized over 30,000 firearms that were reported to the Canadian firearms program. One of the key pieces in terms of what we do with this data, as the commissioner just mentioned, is tracing. Unfortunately, right now we're just tracing a small number of the overall firearms that are reported to the tracing centre.
We are hoping to increase that, and the ultimate goal of what we are trying to do with that is to create a much better, more comprehensive intelligence picture. Tactical intelligence is going to be critical to effectively implement any strategy we're going to use against those who possess, use and traffic in illegal firearms.
We need a national, comprehensive picture. That's why we are in the process of developing a brand new, modern national criminal intelligence service system that will be used by all police services across the country for organized crime intelligence, gang intelligence, and included in there will be firearms intelligence.
Thank you to all the witnesses for being here with us today.
Throughout the day, we've heard this sort of U.S.-style, NRA-style rhetoric that guns don't kill people and that the problem is not the guns but really the border.
I'm wondering, Commissioner Lucki and Mr. Ossowski, if you could share with us a couple of things. Number one, how should we be thinking about the whole question of why the average Canadian would need a handgun and/or a firearm in their home in metro Vancouver or in Montreal? Perhaps you could give us some of your thoughts on that.
Perhaps you could share a little bit more, Commissioner. You talked about domestically diverted arms. Perhaps you could take a minute to share with us your views on what's happening there. Perhaps, Mr. Ossowski, you could also weigh in on the issue of domestically diverted weapons so that we might have a better perspective on this.
As the Commissioner alluded to, we're obviously responsible for the smuggling aspect at the port of entry. We look at it as a continuum: before the border, at the border, and after the border. Before the border, obviously, if we get intel about the arrival of something, we can stop that conveyance from crossing the border. At the border, obviously, is where we would see most of our seizures. I think you have data on that in terms of the seizure rate and the investments that have been made. We've had to up our game.
I think the real focus now for us is looking at the criminal networks and the trafficking routes and really trying to prevent those illicit firearms from crossing the border in the first place by disrupting these criminal routes. That's where the cross-border task force that we are leading, supported by the RCMP, is going to be critical in bringing together the insights of local police of jurisdiction as well as partners in the United States. In addition, we're working on an MOU to share information directly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to really develop that intelligence picture.
Yes, we have investments in dogs and technologies that have proven to be extremely useful, but what we really want to do is swim upstream and disrupt those networks so they don't get across the border in the first place.
Good morning, Commissioner Lucki. It's a pleasure to have you back.
I think we're here to find solutions, of course, but, first of all, it's important to focus and understand the problem.
In your opinion, why are there so many guns coming into Canada across the U.S. border?
Do you feel that you have all the necessary and sufficient resources to intercept these weapons, both at the border, in co-operation with other agencies, particularly the Canada Border Services Agency, but also once they are in the hands of criminals?
My next comments are for Mr. Ossowski.
I have in front of me an excerpt from an article in the newspaper 24 heures published on December 2 last year, in which Mark Webber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, proposes expanding the mandate of customs officers. In his view, this could be a solution to controlling firearms at the borders and it is a pity that officers cannot patrol with the RCMP between border crossings, as they have the expertise to do so. They could assist the RCMP, for example, with detector dogs, intelligence officers, and methods to combat concealed weapons. All these forms of expertise are available, but they could be better used.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Do you think it would be possible to broaden the customs officers' mandate? Should we ask the government to do so?
Thank you, Commissioner.
I would add that tracing a firearm is complex. It involves tracking from the point of manufacture through importation and delivery to distributors, to retailers, out to licence and to restricted and prohibited firearms dealers. Ultimately, we're hoping to trace it to an owner, especially here in Canada, if it is a restricted or prohibited weapon that's registered.
In terms of being able to identify the final person who's in possession of it at the time of a crime, we're hoping that by going through all of these, all the way back, we can identify everybody who's had a hand on that firearm. It's a complex process. It can be a long process, but, as the commissioner said, it's a key tool in determining the sources of and diversion routes for illegal firearms.
As was mentioned, one of the challenges for us right now is that we're only tracing a small amount. Last year, we had requests to trace just over 2,000 firearms and we were successful in tracing 1,472 of them. Based on the number of firearms that are seized nationally, we still have a long way to go in terms of enhancing our tracing capabilities.
For my next question, I'd like to turn it over to Mr. Stewart, the deputy minister for the Department of Public Safety.
Deputy Minister, when was before our committee in the first hour, he mentioned in his opening statement the federal funding that has gone into place for anti-gang strategies and so on. When I asked him about the sometimes troubled relationship that some vulnerable communities—including racialized, Black and indigenous communities—have with police....
I would just like to know, from your department's perspective, what kind of metrics are you using to measure success? Obviously, a drop in the numbers is one, but do you have any sense of what the interim reporting is like for those downstream policing services? Are the federal dollars that have been spent so far having a success in the interim period?
I have a few questions for the RCMP and the CBSA. First of all, thank you all for being here today. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to keeping Canadians safe.
To the RCMP, what we're hearing from smaller detachments across the country is that you're very strapped for resources, particularly as violent crime and gang activity are spreading from our large urban centres to smaller communities outside of our major cities. This is of grave concern to me, as I'm sure it is to all Canadians. We're also seeing issues with rising opioid deaths. We know that hard drug trafficking is increasing as well, and it seems that there are fewer and fewer police resources and police individuals to tackle these issues.
I'm wondering if you can just comment in a broader sense. If the Liberal government, or a federal government, were to provide your department an additional billion dollars to combat gang violence, illegally smuggled firearms and illegally possessed firearms, would that help? How would you apply that billion dollars?
You're right. It does take time. It's unfortunate, but a lot of this funding has only come recently in a six-year mandate from the current government.
Moving on, I would like to ask the RCMP and the CBSA—I think it may be more in the RCMP jurisdiction—about outreach to border communities, particularly communities that straddle the border. We know that there are some indigenous communities that straddle the border. We're hearing that there may be some elements of criminal activity that are taking advantage of that, using those territories to smuggle hard drugs and guns.
I'm wondering what you have done and what more can be done to support these communities, to keep them safe and to stop criminals from taking advantage of any issues we may see at the border where there is porous activity and illegal activity streaming in. Could you just enlighten the committee on some of the issues there and how we can better serve those communities on the border?
That's a great question. First of all, I'd say that good intelligence-gathering is a good foundational piece—using technology to our advantage; making sure that we are working with all police agencies and partner agencies, such as CBSA; making sure that we are able to share that information and turn the intelligence into evidence; and following the chain of where things are seized. For example, when we do seizures at postal services, it's being able to follow those chains and action it into arrests and charges.
We're working with the United States. We do have a great task force that's recently been formed, which the CBSA co-chairs. We do have what's called a “best" approach, where we are allowed to work with our American counterparts on the other side of the border. Again, we're liaising with the various police agencies. We do that through the Canadian intelligence service, where we are working towards upgrading, for example, our technology in our information-sharing and our intelligence-gathering software, because it's quite antiquated. We do meet on a regular basis. So sharing information and translating it into enforcement would be the best way.
Obviously, on getting to the root issues, I would like to speak to gang intervention and getting people out of the gang lifestyle. Working with other social agencies is important as well, in social services, education, health—