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View Vic Toews Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, committee members, for the invitation to appear before this committee to assist you with your deliberations on Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act.
As indicated, I have senior officials with me from both Public Safety and from the RCMP.
The safer witnesses act will help to strengthen the current federal witness protection program, a program that is often vital to effectively combatting crime, and in particular organized crime. Bill C-51 will first and foremost improve the interaction of the federal witness protection plan with provincial witness protection programs. At the moment, someone in a provincial program obtains federal documents required for a secure identity change only if he or she is temporarily admitted into the federal program. This process can result in delays in obtaining a new identity.
Bill C-51 proposes to remedy the situation by establishing a process whereby the provincial programs can become designated witness protection programs. A province would request this designation from the Minister of Public Safety, at which time the provincial authority would provide assurances of the program's capacity to protect both its witnesses and its information. Once a program is designated, and upon the request of the program, the RCMP would be obliged to help in obtaining federal identity documents for a provincial witness requiring a secure identity change without any need for him or her to be temporarily admitted into the federal program. This new system will cut red tape and make the process more efficient and indeed more secure.
Currently, each law enforcement agency submits its requests for federal identity change documents to the RCMP. Under the designation regime proposed by the bill, the provincial official from a designated provincial witness protection program would request federal documents on behalf of the law enforcement agencies. This process would limit the number of individuals involved in the process.
The bill would also enhance the security of witness protection regimes in Canada by both enhancing and broadening the current prohibitions against the disclosure of information. The current federal Witness Protection Program Act prohibits the disclosure of information about individuals within the program. Section 11 of the current act says:
no person shall knowingly disclose, directly or indirectly, information about the location or a change of identity of a protectee or former protectee.
Bill C-51 will strengthen this prohibition in a number of very important ways. It will not only prohibit the disclosure of information about people who are in the federal program, it will also prohibit the disclosure of sensitive information about how the program itself operates, as well as about those individuals and front-line officers who actually provide or assist in providing protection for the witnesses. So it's those who are administering and working with the protectee who are also protected now.
This legislation, in particular this portion, has received very strong support. Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, has stated that the Canadian Police Association appreciates the steps being taken by the Government of Canada to protect front-line officers. He went on to say, “On behalf of the over 50,000 law enforcement personnel that we represent across Canada, we ask that Parliament quickly move to adopt this Bill.”
Mr. Chair, I can't say I disagree. Both of the prohibitions I mentioned earlier will also extend to designated provincial programs. That is, disclosure of information about witnesses, people who provide protection, and sensitive information about the programs themselves, will be prohibited. Such prohibitions against the disclosure of information currently exist only within the legislation of a particular provincial jurisdiction, so they don't apply across jurisdictions. Bill C-51 will also clarify the prohibition with respect to what and how information is being disclosed.
As I've mentioned, section 11 of the current act contains the phrase:
no person shall knowingly disclose, directly or indirectly, information about the location or a change of identity of a protectee or former protectee.
The phrase “directly or indirectly” was considered to be unclear. The bill proposes amendments to ensure that the prohibitions will clearly apply to cases where a person discloses information in a range of ways. Some examples include telling someone what a protected person's name is and telling someone where a protected person lives.
Bill C-51 will prohibit all of the above disclosures by specifying that no one shall disclose any information, either directly or indirectly, that reveals the location or change of identity of a protected person or the information from which the location or change of identity may be inferred.
Among other improvements, Bill C-51 will expand referrals for admissions to the federal witness protection program to sources assisting federal security, national defence, or public safety organizations such as National Defence and CSIS. By extending referrals to this category of witnesses, we are also addressing one of the commitments under the Government of Canada's Air India inquiry action plan released in 2010.
The current federal witness protection program has served the criminal justice system well. Today there are approximately 800 individuals under the protection of this program. In 2011-12 alone, the RCMP considered a total of 108 cases for admission into the federal witness protection program. Thirty protectees were admitted to the program, of which 27 were granted a secure name change. The number of admissions fluctuates from year to year, depending upon factors such as the number of cases being investigated or the number of people in a witness's family.
During this same time, the RCMP also provided assistance to other Canadian law enforcement agencies, as provided for under the existing Witness Protection Program Act. The fact that the federal witness protection program is serving the criminal justice system well does not mean there's no room for improvement.
The Witness Protection Program Act has not been substantially changed since 1996, despite the increasingly sophisticated, evolving, and global nature of organized crime.
Ongoing consultations with provincial and territorial stakeholders have also helped to highlight some areas where stronger provisions are needed, including those that I've mentioned today.
I must mention that this legislation has been well received by police chiefs, front-line officers, and the provinces.
Mr. Chair, before I close, I'm aware of some concerns with regard to the need for funding to accommodate the expansion of organizations that may refer witnesses for consideration of admission into the program, and I want to take a moment to address those concerns.
It is important to note that it is not anticipated that there would be any need for additional funding to accommodate this change. The program is currently funded by the RCMP from existing operational resources, and that will remain the same under Bill C-51. I would like to point out that there are seven criteria the RCMP use to assess whether to place an individual into the program. The cost of the protection is only one consideration.
The commissioner of the RCMP is required by statute to consider the risk to the witnesses, the danger to the community if a person were to be admitted into the program, the nature of the inquiry and the importance of the witness in the matter, the value of the information or evidence to be given by the witness, the likelihood the witness can adjust to the program, the cost of maintaining a witness in the program, alternate methods of protection, and other factors deemed by the commissioner to be relevant. The RCMP will continue to be required to take each of these factors into consideration under Bill C-51.
I've also referenced the fact that many people were applying to get into the program, but only 30 were admitted last year. I'd like to point out that there is no application process. The law enforcement agencies and international courts and tribunals refer individuals to the RCMP for consideration of admission, and each case is reviewed based on the seven criteria I have mentioned.
The truth is that very few people, if any, actually want or apply to be admitted into the witness protection program. It is a tool of last resort to keep them safe in exchange for their testimony. It imposes significant restrictions on their movements, lifestyle, and associations. That said, the witness protection program is a vitally important tool in our ongoing efforts to combat organized crime groups.
The bill addresses the need for modernization as well as enhanced information protection and integration with provincial programs. The bill introduces reforms to the present witness protection environment that will build on our collective efforts to battle organized crime as well as terrorist organizations, and in that way it helps all of us to continue to build safer streets and communities for everyone.
I ask that both opposition parties work with us to move forward this important piece of legislation.
Thank you very much.
View Mark Strahl Profile
I still have one minute. Okay.
Going back to your comments, do you believe that the Canada First defence strategy adequately addresses going forward? I have heard the minister refer to that as an evergreen document recently. I just wanted your comments.
In terms of the future that you have laid out for us, do you think the CFDS is going to be adequate to address those concerns?
Robert Huebert
View Robert Huebert Profile
Robert Huebert
2012-03-15 11:25
I need to choose my words carefully here. I like the direction in which the Harper white paper went. Let's be blunt; it's a white paper. We don't call it that, but that's in effect what it is.
I like the attempt it has made in maintaining what I see as a bipartisan recognition that you have to have multi-capable forces dealing with a whole host of issues. That's really what the paper does.
What I don't like—and this isn't just about the Canada First paper, but it's our whole mindset—is this deal where we think we've done the strategic heavy thinking, we've come up.... And you can find it going all the way back to Trudeau's white papers, and we see this with every single government that then comes in. They do the defence white paper right up to the beginning and say, “We've thought about it; nothing is going to change.” In fact, historically we've never done a second white paper in one administration.
We need an ongoing process that deals with those big questions and constantly is having course adjustments as we go by. So you have the big picture, but you're also dealing with the issues that are developing. A lot has changed since the Canada First strategy in terms of some of the details. We have to re-entrench that thinking also, I think.
Mitch Davies
View Mitch Davies Profile
Mitch Davies
2012-03-01 9:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. We're pleased to be here today from Industry Canada to provide information on innovative transportation technologies to the transport committee and to answer your questions.
At the outset I will provide a bit of background in terms of science and technology innovation policy and the Government of Canada's work in this regard. I refer you to the federal science and technology strategy launched in 2007, which provides a multi-year framework of support for science and technology and innovation in Canada.
This strategy reinforces business research and development. Of course commercialization and innovation are vital to maintaining Canada's global competitive advantage and our high standards of living going forward, and we stress the importance of this.
As you know, the Government of Canada and federal policy play an important role in fostering an economic climate that encourages business innovation. Significant programs provide direct and indirect funding incentives to business to support research and development and commercialization.
The conundrum, which has been pointed out by many commentators, most recently was referenced in the budget of 2010. It is that notwithstanding a high level of overall federal support for business innovation as a percentage of our economy, we continue to have an overall flat level of research and development investment on the part of the private sector in the country. This will pose a long-term challenge to our competitiveness if this trend does not change and we don't see improvement.
This led the government to put in place a review panel, chaired by Tom Jenkins, which released its report, “Innovation Canada: A Call to Action”, last fall. I have copies here. It provides a series of general recommendations in the area of innovation on how federal programming instruments, policies, and organizations could be reformed to enhance their support for increased business innovation in the country.
That's it overall, in terms of background. At the moment the government is considering the recommendations of the Jenkins panel in view of future policy development.
In the material we received from the committee, you asked a number of specific questions. We'll try to address them up front and then take questions on them.
You first asked what federal horizontal initiatives exist to facilitate research and development and commercialization of transportation technologies.
On the part of the Industry Canada portfolio, I would point you to three initiatives that provide research and development support to the transportation industry in a direct fashion.
The first is the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. It supports private sector industrial research in pre-competitive development projects in aerospace, defence, and space industries through a repayable contribution. Since the program was launched, over $750 million has been invested in aerospace technology development.
The second is Automotive Partnership Canada, which is a five-year, $145 million initiative. It supports collaborative research and development activities that benefit the Canadian automotive industry through partnerships among industry and academia and the National Research Council. The guiding principle of the program is that projects are to be funded and driven by industry needs and that there be active industrial participation, collaboration, financing, and support for these projects.
The third is the automotive innovation fund, which supports the development and implementation of innovative, fuel-efficient technologies and processes through large-scale research and development projects in the automotive sector. This program was provided with $250 million over five years through to the next fiscal year.
You also received testimony from the National Research Council, I believe, in terms of its own specific programming. I won't repeat that here, but through institutes that they operate and through the industrial research assistance program for small and medium-sized enterprises, there's support that definitely is relevant in terms of innovation in the transportation industry.
I'd also reference the support through granting councils, particularly the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, which provides support in many ways to direct researchers and also, importantly, to research networks.
In this connection, you may have heard of AUTO21, which is a network of centres of excellence. It has been in place for some time. It supports large-scale academically led research in the automotive sector and involves 200 researchers and 200 industry, government, and institutional partners across the country. It's also a program that was launched after the S and T strategy was put in place, the business-led network of centres of excellence.
Through a competitive process, a network was established called the Green Aviation Research and Development Network, GARDN, which received $12.9 million to promote aerospace technologies that have a specific role in reducing emissions, reducing noise, and increasing the efficiency of aerospace technologies.
Over a five-year period the industry portfolio, through a variety of instruments, has invested close to a billion dollars in research and development in support of transportation industry innovation.
I've also referenced a number of other initiatives of a general nature that are important in respect of transportation industry innovation. The first is the collaborative research and development program, which is a program delivered through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. It provides support for academics to work with industries on specific projects, supplying a 50% grant to the academic to work with the industry partner, with a requirement that it be leveraged with private sector funds to increase collaboration with the academic sector.
The second initiative, a responsibility of the Department of Finance and delivered through Canada Revenue Agency, is the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, which is generally available to all industries. The program provides overall support for innovation. In the last year for which we have information, there was $3.5 billion in support to innovation across all industries.
The last is SADI, delivered by the National Research Council.
You had asked how we measure results, how we determine whether we're making progress. I would point you to policies on evaluation of the Treasury Board, which we follow. These require that all of our programs be evaluated over a five-year period. The three that I mentioned as specific to our department in our portfolio will undergo such evaluations.
For SADI, there's an evaluation that has just recently concluded, and that information will be made public within the month. That will be available to members, if they're interested to see what its findings were.
The Automotive Partnership Canada program is more or less midway through its funding cycle. Many projects are coming together and being launched. Once there's sufficient activity that you can actually undertake an evaluation and have some substance to look at, there will be an evaluation undertaken as to whether the program is fulfilling its objectives.
There will be an evaluation of the automotive innovation fund of Industry Canada undertaken in the near future to determine how it's achieving its objectives.
Lastly, there was a question about how intellectual property is managed through these programs. In general, the orientation of the programs working with commercial partners is to vest the intellectual property with the commercial proponent, so that the party that's going to undertake the commercialization activity has the ownership over the intellectual property that's developed, often with the support of public funds.
As to the granting council initiatives, depending on which program the support is provided for, often it's a question of university policies that would apply to the researchers in particular. Those policies may have provisions that vest intellectual property with the researchers themselves or with the university. Whether IP is vested with the proponent or the researcher depends on which institution you look at.
There are more commercially oriented programs out of NSERC that vest IP ownership with the proponent directly, such as their small-sized grants called “Engage” and “Interaction”, which try to start the interaction between researchers and private sector parties.
I will turn to my colleague Gerard Peets, who will give you a description of the intellectual property framework that protects innovation in the country. Then I'll turn to my colleagues from Transport Canada.
View Alain Giguère Profile
Thank you for being here, Mr. Macdonald.
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of expenditure plans spread over a number of years. Take, for example, the 2008 budget for national defence. It showed $60 billion in purchases and $140 billion in maintenance spread over 20 years.
The problem is that, in his interim report, the auditor general told us that, since there were significant overexpenditures on the purchasing side, they were dipping into the maintenance budget. That explains why brand new helicopters were grounded because there were no spare parts.
I can assure you that, when Parliament passed those budgets, we were not buying helicopters so that we could watch them rust on the ground.
Is there a better way, in your view? How can we get a better handle on these expenses?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
Last week we were told by the secretary of state from Norway that the F-35s were necessary for the patrol of the north, and that Russia is increasing its defence budget by 60% in standing up an Arctic force. He also said that NATO cooperation is necessary for our respective countries' Arctic sovereignty. From the standpoint of Canada Command, how does the alliance benefit from our ability to guard our Arctic sovereignty?
Tom Hayes
View Tom Hayes Profile
Tom Hayes
2011-11-01 15:33
Thank you.
I'm here today representing Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association in my capacity as a member of the board of that association.
Richard Rémillard, who is the executive director, is out of the country; otherwise he would normally make the presentation on our behalf. However, I am also involved in a private venture capital fund, so I have some familiarity with the program.
CVCA represents the majority of players in the private equity and VC industry in Canada. We have over 1,800 members in the association, managing about $75 billion in assets under management.
When the CVCA was asked to appear and comment on the Canadian innovation commercialization program, our executive director took an informal survey of the members to ascertain their knowledge of the program and to get input leading up to today's presentation.
Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, other than myself, knowledge of the program among CVCA members was practically non-existent. In my case, I read about it in some publication over the past year--I'm not sure where I saw it--and passed on the information to the CEO of one of our portfolio companies in the venture fund that I manage, a company called Virtual Marine Technology, based in St. John's, Newfoundland. Based on that, they subsequently made use of the program.
I take from this experience among the CVCA membership that the program is not widely known and more should or can be done to publicize it. In general, the CVCA supports the use of government procurement programs as a tool to enhance industrial innovation among Canadian firms. We note the support this program has received through the Jenkins committee and report; I think it was recommendation 3: “Make business innovation one of the core objectives of procurement, with the supporting initiatives to achieve this objective”.
One of the policy initiatives the CVCA has been advocating is to encourage major defence contractors to meet their IRB obligations by investing in venture capital funds in Canada that focus on investing in early-stage technology companies. Accelerated credits could be given to these contractors if they agree to invest in VC funds, similar to the credits that are given to university-based research by these same contractors. In the case of universities, I understand they get a five-to-one leverage if one of these contractors does work through a university.
We think that would be of major assistance to the issue in Canada today, which is really the issue of dearth of available venture capital for emerging and early-stage entrepreneurs. This would be one measure the federal government could take to address this important issue.
Let me go back to the program at hand, the Canadian innovation commercialization program. I was in St. John's yesterday. We were closing another investment over there, so I took the opportunity to speak to the CEO of an existing portfolio company we're involved in--BMT--and asked him about the program. Obviously he spoke favourably of it, in that they've used the program to sell a marine simulator to the Canadian Coast Guard. However, he did make a couple of observations that I'll pass on to the committee. In his view, the application process was lengthy and fairly complex, and while that wasn't an issue for his company, because they're used to dealing with these types of contracts, from the perspective of early-stage companies this might be a challenge, given the level or the lack of depth within the management teams.
As I understand it, if a company sells a prototype to a government department and the department wants to buy an additional unit, a second or a third unit, then the full-blown tendering process is required. That can be fairly lengthy and involved.
The other comment he made—and I'm not sure I particularly understand this—is that if the original purchase by a government department was based on specs provided by the initial supplier, then the original supplier is excluded from subsequent purchases by government. How that makes any sense, I'm not sure. In any event, I'm sure there are others here who understand that better than I do.
Just as a general comment, any barrier to selling to your own government, to the Canadian government, is always seen as a negative when you're out trying to sell to foreign companies and foreign governments. And sometimes in fact it is easier to sell to foreign companies than it is to sell back here at home. We find this is quite common among many early-stage companies. We have to prove the technology and the service outside of Canadian markets before folks here will adopt the technology.
From my own personal experience, when introducing a new program there is always learning and there are always challenges and improvements that can be made over time, based on practical experience, and I suspect that's the case here. Again, we, as an association, and I, being in the venture business, are always supportive of programs that support Canadian technology and innovation, and we would recommend that you do whatever you can to improve and strengthen the programs for future implementation and for the benefit of Canadian entrepreneurs.
Thank you.
View Christine Moore Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My questions are for Mr. Laurin and Mr. Clarke.
I am interested in everything involving public safety and defence technologies. It is an area of trade that is very specialized and that ties in with high tech. When all is said and done, it is governments that are the customers. It is a market that is extremely dependent upon the state of the global economy.
I would like to know what services you offer or how you go about assisting companies when the field in which they are engaged is directly linked to the state of the global economy.
Jean-Michel Laurin
View Jean-Michel Laurin Profile
Jean-Michel Laurin
2011-10-20 12:24
I will start off.
Our association offers a variety of services to those companies that are members of our organization. One element of these services consists in being here today to represent them. We also have offices in each of the provinces throughout Canada. We help businesses share best practices. In fact, what we see is that private businesses often experience similar problems. Indeed, we have observed that a business involved in the defence sector can learn a lot from a business active in the field of infrastructure or renewable energy. For example, if the idea is to sell to governments in India, I am convinced that a businessman like Bruce would have recipes and good advice to provide to companies wishing to develop that market and who are involved in other sectors, such as that of defence.
Our role is to facilitate these linkages, this sharing of best practices. It sometimes happens that specific problems have to be resolved. We regularly, if not daily, receive calls from members facing problems in foreign markets. Our work consists mainly in linking them up with the right people. This is why, on a daily basis, I send business representatives to trade commissioners from all over the world. Often times, it is they who are in the best position to help these businesses.
I am less familiar with the defence and security industry. You might want to invite its association to appear before you. We do however have several members from that industry and I can say that several of them regularly call upon the services of trade commissioners. As you mentioned, they do so mainly because they are selling to foreign governments. A good portion of their clientele is government-based. It often proves very useful to be accompanied, during meetings, by a trade commissioner, when the idea is to sell to a government.
EDC also plays a very important role in a good many foreign markets. There is also the Canadian Commercial Corporation that facilitates the negotiation of contracts with governments. The government therefore does not just offer the Trade commissioner service. There are also other services available to exporters with specific needs.
A good portion of our role is to facilitate networking, the establishment of linkages between our Canadian member companies and the right resources on the ground. Indeed, it can take some time for a company to find the best trade commissioner in the world to help it develop such and such a market or resolve such and such a problem. The solution, as we were saying earlier, can sometimes be found at the provincial or municipal level. In short, our task is to connect businesses with the right resources.
Chris Clarke
View Chris Clarke Profile
Chris Clarke
2011-10-20 12:27
I guess that was partially directed towards me.
You're right it is a complex sale. It's a long sale cycle. The defence and security industry is quite specialized and the ultimate customer for our equipment is government. So what we've had the benefit of, in Washington, D.C., in particular, is a trade commissioner focused on defence and security. We have had Rich Malloy and then Angela Dark and a successor since then.
We've essentially had a two-pronged attack with them that has been somewhat successful. One is that the commission there organized several partners-in-security trade missions with symposiums and events at the Canadian embassy. Those were very helpful, very productive. Part of the market intelligence that we received from the trade commission was that a small Canadian company like ours was going to have real difficulty with a sales process to government in the U.S. Effectively, the message was that it's not realistic.
We were given help in identifying U.S. channel partners. That's exactly what this partners-in-security trade mission was about. To establish credibility in the U.S., it is wonderful going in with the Canada brand and hand-in-hand with someone representing the Government of Canada. But there's more to it than that. For my technology, we need credibility on the technological side as well as the security side. The staff in Washington organized several meetings with members of the Department of Homeland Security domestic nuclear detection office. That has been very helpful and they have since visited us in Ottawa and seen our installation here. It has led to simple and easy conversations when we meet potential new clients in the U.S., who ask, do you know so and so? Yes, we have four contacts in DNDO. They know all about us, because we met with them in Washington. It's been very effective.
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