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Raymond Théberge
View Raymond Théberge Profile
Raymond Théberge
2020-11-13 11:14
Good morning. Although we’re meeting today on a virtual platform, I would like to acknowledge that I’m addressing you from Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis nation. I’m pleased to be connecting with you today in your various territories and communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of our work and the way we interact with each other. I hope to be able to meet with you all in person in the not-too-distant future.
I see many familiar faces on the committee, as well as some new members. I’d like to recognize all the hard work this committee has done in the past and underscore the importance of your work at what is, now more than ever, a critical time for official languages in Canadian society.
I’m appearing before your committee to present my 2019-20 annual report, discuss our upcoming projects and share the highlights of the 2020-21 main estimates for my office. Joining me today are my three assistant commissioners—Ghislaine Saikaley, Pierre Leduc and Éric Trépanier—and my general counsel, Pascale Giguère.
As Commissioner of Official Languages, I'm responsible for representing official language minority communities in Canada. It has been my honour to carry out this role for nearly three years now.
My mandate thus far hasn't been uneventful. We've celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a worrying trend of erosion of support for official language minority communities across Canada.
Decisions that governments at all levels make with respect to official languages have a real impact on the daily lives of Canadians. I continue to hear their stories through the complaints that I receive and when I speak with the various associations across the country.
In 2020, Canadians are undeniably facing some real challenges in exercising their fundamental rights. These include the right to receive safety-related information, the right to receive services from the federal government and the right to vote in their preferred official language. Canadians are taking notice. In the past year alone, complaints to the Office of the Commissioner have risen by 25%.
In my 2019–20 annual report, which I tabled in September, I presented three main reasons why Canadians’ language rights are not being respected: the Official Languages Act is outdated; the federal institutions are not complying with the Official Languages Act; and the government is not doing enough to promote both official languages across Canada.
I issued three recommendations to the Prime Minister to address these problems. In one of those recommendations, I reiterated the essential need for the Official Languages Act to be modernized so it is relevant to today’s society, so it can adapt in step with change, and so it provides proper enforcement tools.
Official language minority communities, parliamentarians, the Office of the Commissioner and the federal government have made significant efforts to consult Canadians on the modernization of the act. Expectations are high.
I expect the federal government to pay proper attention to the 18 recommendations that I made last year. These recommendations are based on the results of the consultations with Canadians and on the Office of the Commissioner's experience in overseeing the enforcement of the act for over 50 years now. Modernizing the Official Languages Act in a meaningful way is about respecting the fundamental language rights of Canadians now and in the future.
In my annual report, I also recommended that the Prime Minister address systemic issues in federal institutions that limit the ability of Canadians to exercise their language rights and that he step up efforts to promote the importance of both English and French in Canada for all Canadians.
The COVID-19 pandemic has merely amplified ongoing problems, both within the public service and more widely in Canadian society. My recent report on official languages in emergencies sheds light on the existing shortcomings in respecting Canadians' language rights and ensuring their safety during crisis situations.
One of the most striking examples is with the dissemination of alert messages in English only. If a person is not able to understand the information that is being passed on to them, how can they ensure their safety? I believe that Canadians should receive alert messages in both official languages at the same time, anytime and anywhere, in order to protect their safety.
Press conferences taking place in only one language, information materials shared in only one language, alert emails sent to public servants in only one language—unfortunately, there are too many examples. One thing is clear: Not only does this show a complete lack of respect, but these shortcomings are also completely unacceptable, because they endanger the population's health and safety in an emergency situation.
There will certainly be other emergency situations, but the problems we have witnessed must not be repeated. In my report, I propose solutions to the federal government to address recurring problems of communicating with the public in both official languages in crisis situations.
This fall, the Office of the Commissioner is taking a closer look at the public service. It's specifically looking at problems with the linguistic designation of positions and at the issue of linguistic insecurity among public servants. In an effort to respond to these issues, the Office of the Commissioner has already undertaken work in this area. I'll be presenting two new reports, along with some new resources and tools based on the findings.
Early in my mandate, I set out some long-term priorities for making progress on official languages in Canada. I call these priorities “Vision 2025”. They focus on ensuring that the Official Languages Act is modernized; that the action plan for official languages achieves its expected outcomes; and that federal institutions meet the objectives of the act.
I'm pleased to say that progress has been made on all fronts. The modernization of the act has been and will continue to be a priority for the Office of the Commissioner. The implementation of the action plan for official languages has progressed over the past year, as a result of an ongoing collaboration with federal partners and institutions.
The Office of the Commissioner created and launched a new and innovative tool called the official languages maturity model. This tool shows institutions exactly how their current policies and procedures facilitate or hinder compliance with their official languages obligations. Approximately 40 federal institutions are participating in the exercise. In addition, 65 federal institutions and other organizations have requested access to the online tool.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is also paying close attention to other key issues that significantly affect official language minority communities. It's looking in particular at how these communities are affected by immigration and how they're represented in the media. I plan to discuss these topics further with you in the coming months.
I'd now like to speak about my office's finances.
We have a budget of $21.5 million to carry out our mandate during the 2020-21 fiscal year. This amount includes $15.1 million in salaries, which is nearly 70% of the main estimates. An additional $4.3 million for operating expenses accounts for almost 20% of the main estimates. The remaining $2.2 million, or just over 10% of our main estimates, represents statutory expenditures related to employer contributions to employee benefit plans.
These funds are in support of my office's mandate, which is carried out through our three core responsibilities.
The first is the protection of rights related to official languages, which includes investigations, audits and other compliance activities, as well as legal services. Planned spending in 2021 for this program is $7.5 million, which represents 35% of the total budget.
Planned spending for the advancement of French and English in Canadian society in 2021 is $7.1 million, which represents 33% of our total budget.
Planned spending for the internal services sector in 2019-20 is $6.9 million, which represents 32% of our total budget.
OCOL's funding does not generally fluctuate greatly from one fiscal year to the next. There was a slight decrease of $0.2 million to the 2021 main estimates compared to last year. This variance is attributable to increased funding received in 2019-20 for the renewal of collective agreements and the use of frozen allotments created over the last years for these collective agreements.
Although OCOL has not received additional funding as part of Canada's COVID-19 emergency response measures, our 2020-21 budget has been impacted by COVID-19. That is, following parliamentary delays related to COVID-19, OCOL, like all other government organizations, has only received 75% of its full supply. We expect to receive full supply for the 2020-21 main estimates in December 2020.
As you know, new funding isn't provided for ongoing programs. However, one of the major challenges that we continue to face as an organization concerns the number of complaints received. Complaints have been on the rise since 2012. We've gone from about 400 to 500 complaints to over 1,300. This affects our ability to conduct audits and studies, to follow up on our investigation recommendations, and to liaise with communities and departments.
As a result, and because we're committed to using public funds with the utmost integrity, we've developed a culture of continuous improvement. Some measures have already been put in place, such as continued investment in information technology management to optimize business processes. These investments have helped us maintain business continuity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
That said, if our budget were increased, we would certainly be able to conduct more research, studies and audits. These activities are often set aside, especially if we need to allocate our resources towards addressing complaints and conducting follow-ups to complaint investigations.
Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the official language of your choice, and I'll be happy to answer them.
View Len Webber Profile
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you. Lesley and Carol, for being here today. They were great presentations.
Dr. Burns, in your presentation you talked about cross-party collaboration, and on slide 30 you bring up partisan behaviour. Just for some clarification regarding choosing favourable ministries or departments or departmental officials, what is the process for choosing ministries and departments and departmental officials?
Can you clarify that, please?
View Len Webber Profile
Very quickly, Madam Chair, regarding choosing the ministries, who decides that? Is it this committee that decides, or is it the Auditor General after completing an audit, after which it would come to public accounts?
Lesley Burns
View Lesley Burns Profile
Lesley Burns
2020-10-22 12:04
The process for the federal committee, as I understand it, is that you will choose from among the audit reports. It's my understanding that each party will choose the ones they see as being the most relevant. You can do that in consultation with the Auditor General, who typically won't ever want to pick favourites on an audit.
You'll also look to your analysts, because they're tracking outstanding recommendations and what the action plan submitted by the department says. After an audit is complete, the analysts will reach out to the department on behalf of the committee and ask for an action plan, which addresses how that audited entity will be implementing the recommendations in the audit report. That information will be shared with you so that you'll have insight into there are recommendations still outstanding or where any concerns might lie.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Chair, I am tabling, in both official languages, a revised version of part of the response to the order of the House of March 9, 2020, which was deposited electronically with the Clerk of the House by the Minister of Finance on April 29, 2020.
Because of the atypical work arrangements put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were technical difficulties with the translation of certain parts of these documents, such as authorization to translate a section of the documents not having been received when the documents were submitted. These problems have now been resolved, so I am tabling these documents.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Thank you.
Minister, there are other federal decision-making bodies that have profound influence on people's lives. I can think of the Parole Board of Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. This bill goes after the Judges Act, but is there room for the federal government to consider mandatory training through legislation for these other federal bodies?
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
I think it's fair to say that this is an idea that a government ought to consider and that our government ought to consider. I would say not in this legislation, in part because it's not within my mandate, but also the principle of judicial independence is quite particular to judges. There would be different architectural features and possibilities that would be possible in both of the examples you've raised. There would be different ways to perhaps do things more directly in those cases that don't exist yet.
View Luc Berthold Profile
This is my time, Mr. Chair.
Ms. McKenna, that's very clear. You pointed out that $2.2 million has been invested in Plessisville, in my riding. Thank you very much. Under the Harper government, $100 million was invested in projects in my riding.
Investing in the regions and in infrastructure is not something new or something that the Liberal government invented.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is very clear in his comments, which were quite harsh. He said that there were no plans, no plans that he could follow up on.
How many organizations and agencies are responsible for the government's $188 billion infrastructure plan?
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have a lot of departments working together. We have 14 of them.
What's interesting is that, on the one hand, you talk about the importance of being careful with the money and investing it appropriately, but, on the other hand, you seem to be saying that we should rush and spend the money.
We must do our job. Actually, I want to acknowledge the work of the department because they have two months for regular projects, and six months for major projects.
View Jag Sahota Profile
You also spoke about the gender-based analysis. You said something about the department having legislative responsibilities to lead and promote the application of GBA+ in all government activities.
Could you lay out what those activities are and how you would go about ensuring that everybody's on board on that?
Nancy Gardiner
View Nancy Gardiner Profile
Nancy Gardiner
2020-02-25 11:44
We are the department that leads on the gender-based analysis. We are the centre of expertise around information and knowledge for GBA+ for all departments.
Every department now, though, also has their own gender-based analysis unit within the department to allow them to do analysis on any of the policies that departments will be putting in place, such as memorandums to cabinet or Treasury Board submissions. There's a gender-based analysis aspect to those documents, and they're required.
We provide expertise and guidance to departments that are maybe having a bit of a challenge related to research, data or statistics. For any of that type of analysis, our team will actually work with departments to help provide them with that bit of expertise that they may need.
There's more work to be done in this area for sure, such as looking at how to be a bit bolder and how to ensure that all aspects of government programming does look at that gender-based analysis plus. The plus is very important, as we talked about earlier.
Kim talked about programming, which is grants and contributions. When you're actually putting grants and contributions in place, how do you actually look at that through a GBA+ lens? Right now we're working on what that means and how we expand that to many aspects of government work. I would say there's been huge progress in the work that departments do around the GBA+.
Brent Parker
View Brent Parker Profile
Brent Parker
2020-02-25 8:47
Thank you very much.
My name is Brent Parker. I am the acting vice-president of external relations and strategic policy at the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
I appreciate the opportunity to come to speak with you today about the agency and the Impact Assessment Act itself.
The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is a federal body accountable to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The agency is responsible for conducting impact assessments under the Impact Assessment Act, and is headquartered here in Ottawa, with six regional offices. The agency has almost 500 full-time equivalent employees with an annual budget of $74 million for this past fiscal year.
Impact assessment is an internationally recognized planning tool designed to understand and mitigate the negative effects of projects while enhancing their benefits.
Federal impact assessment has a long history in Canada, first established in 1974, and our predecessor, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, was established in 1994 under the original Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and continued under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of 2012.
This past August, 2019, the Impact Assessment Act came into force, repealing the 2012 law and creating the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
Federal impact assessment applies to major projects. These are designated in a regulation, colloquially referred to as the “Project List”. It focuses on those projects with the greatest potential for adverse effects in areas of federal jurisdiction related to the environment. There are currently over 70 major projects undergoing federal assessment, ranging from oil and gas and mining projects, to highways, ports and infrastructure, and renewable energy projects.
The Agency's work under the Impact Assessment Act is guided by a number of principles. They include fostering sustainability, predictability and timeliness, co-operation, reconciliation and partnership with indigenous peoples, meaningful public engagement, and integrating scientific information and indigenous knowledge.
I'd like to touch on each of these themes today and highlight some of the early successes in the implementation of the Impact Assessment Act.
First, the Impact Assessment Act broadens project reviews, from environmental assessments to impact assessments, with a focus on sustainability.
This means that federal assessments now consider a broader range of potential impacts to understand how a proposed project could affect not just the environment but also social and health aspects, indigenous peoples, jobs and the economy over the long-term.
The act also recognizes that individual project reviews are not best placed to address complex policy issues, and it provides new tools for the consideration of these. Regional and strategic assessments are the tools that provide avenues to understand the “big picture” view.
With this in mind, the agency has been working closely with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, as well as with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador since last spring on a regional assessment of offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling east of Newfoundland and Labrador, which will enhance environmental understanding and protections while also streamlining specific project review.
The Impact Assessment Act creates an efficient and predictable review process, giving companies the clarity and predictability they need.
Project reviews have legislated timelines and they are rigorously managed.
The Impact Assessment Act introduces a new planning phase. Planning brings greater predictability to the process by establishing requirements and expectations at the outset that will inform and guide a project assessment. It lays out how we will engage with indigenous groups and stakeholders, and co-operate with other jurisdictions. It also enables public participation to identify potential issues early and determine how they may be addressed. Most importantly, for project proponents, it establishes what will be examined during the impact assessment and any information and studies that will be required.
Just this week, the agency marked a milestone, posting notices of commencement for the first projects that have completed the planning phase under the Impact Assessment Act, those being the Webequie Supply Road and the Marten Falls community access road, both in northern Ontario.
Cooperation is another guiding principle to move towards more timely project assessments for companies and a one-window approach for stakeholders, to avoid duplicating efforts.
Federally, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada leads all major project reviews and coordinates consultation with indigenous peoples. Assessments continue to rely heavily on the expertise and experience of federal departments, as well as life-cycle regulators, including the Canada Energy Regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the Atlantic offshore petroleum boards. For example, the agency has closely worked with federal departments and the Canada Energy Regulator over the recent while to work through the planning phase for the Gazoduq project, a proposed natural gas pipeline located in eastern Ontario and Quebec, including on the development of the draft tailored impact statement guidelines, which are currently out for public consultation.
The act also mandates the agency to co-operate with other jurisdictions on impact assessments, and provides enhanced tools to avoid duplication and align processes. There are collaboration agreements in place for almost all current assessment that are underway.
One particularly fruitful partnership is that with British Columbia, driven by a co-operation agreement that was put in place in August 2019, between the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the British Columbia Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. This agreement has seen us realize the first substitution process under the Impact Assessment Act.
Reconciliation with indigenous peoples is a key consideration woven into the design of the assessment process.
The Impact Assessment Act provides enhanced opportunities for partnerships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, based on recognition of indigenous rights from the start—this includes early engagement and opportunities to participate at every stage.
The law also requires that decision-making take into consideration indigenous culture and impacts on Indigenous peoples and rights. The aim is to secure consent through processes based on mutual respect and dialogue.
As I mentioned, public participation is a key element of the Impact Assessment Act. This process under the act is open and transparent, with greater opportunities for communities to have their voices heard. A new online platform has been created for sharing information and increasing public access. Throughout the assessment process, the public has meaningful opportunities to participate. There are many ways that indigenous groups, stakeholders and the general public are able to provide feedback, from town halls to workshops to online platforms; and all of those opportunities are tailored to the circumstances of a particular project.
Transparent, evidence-based decision-making is a fundamental part of the review process. Impact assessments consider scientific evidence which is rigorously tested by federal scientists and made available in an easy-to-understand format for the public. It is mandatory to consider and protect indigenous knowledge, where available, alongside science and other evidence.
Impact assessments are carried out by the agency or by a review panel under the act to help inform the public interest decision, which is made by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, or cabinet.
Reasons for decisions are now made publicly available so that Canadians can better understand the rationale for decision-making.
In conclusion, the agency's working to put into practice the principles articulated in the Impact Assessment Act, and to reflect values that are important to Canadians: early, inclusive and meaningful public engagement; a predictable and co-operative process; nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-Crown and government-to-government partnerships with indigenous peoples; timely decisions based on the best available science and indigenous knowledge; and sustainability for present and future generations.
Thank you very much. This concludes my opening remarks. We would welcome questions from the committee.
View Glen Motz Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Again, thank you to the departmental officials for being here.
I have just two quick questions for the Department of Finance. You say that your first objective is to prevent data breaches. We know the reality is that these happen and are not localized to the financial sector.
Ms. Ryan, you said that when cybe events occur at a federally regulated institution, which is what we're talking about, control and oversight mechanisms are in place to manage them. Can you explain to Canadians in practical terms what that actually means when you play that out?
Judy Cameron
View Judy Cameron Profile
Judy Cameron
2019-07-15 15:35
I'll take that question.
I represent the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Our mandate is to supervise financial institutions and set rules for them so as to protect the interests of depositors and creditors. Broadly speaking we're looking at safety and soundness, but we also make sure they comply with all federal rules. For example, we expect them to have systems in place to comply with privacy laws.
We set expectations around what institutions should be doing, such as complying with privacy laws. We also expect them to do cyber self-assessments to assess their own internal protections against cyber events. Then we supervise them to make sure they are complying with the expectations we have set out to make sure that they have good compliance management systems in place.
View Glen Motz Profile
Basically, it's just oversight. Now, in this particular circumstance, it's oversight of what's happened to make sure that—
Judy Cameron
View Judy Cameron Profile
Judy Cameron
2019-07-15 15:36
It's oversight of their systems to prevent this, really.
View Glen Motz Profile
Okay, so that's one question. The other question is for Ms. Ryan, or whoever might....
I'm just going to read the summary that you gave. You said that “cybersecurity is an area of critical importance for the Department of Finance. We are actively working with partners across government and the private sector to ensure that Canadians are well-protected from cybe -incidents and that when incidents do occur, they're managed in a way that mitigates the impact on consumers and the financial sector as a whole.”
What does that actually look like to impacted consumers, to consumers at large, to the financial institution, to the banking industry, to various government departments? You can say that, but what does it actually look like?
Annette Ryan
View Annette Ryan Profile
Annette Ryan
2019-07-15 15:37
I think that the number of federal partners you have had as witnesses today speaks to that.
The investments in the cyber centre were part of the first line of defence in strengthening the ability to prevent cyber incidents, and they are focused, as André Boucher spoke to, on the appropriate response to a cyber event. In this case there was a specific type of cyber event, a breach by an employee, so many of those defences that have been built by the cyber centre were not triggered in this case, but the resources of the cyber centre are complemented by new resources for the RCMP. You heard the RCMP speak about the national cybercrime centre and their efforts at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
We also realize that a cyber event or a data event does play out on the privacy side. Therefore, measures such as the new requirements for businesses to notify customers that there has been a breach are a key part of a citizen's ability to be vigilant about their own finances and to know that important information about them has been put into play. A monitoring service like Equifax is important because it helps put that person into the mix to know when something that's being done in their name is not right.
View Glen Motz Profile
I have just one quick follow-up question to that. If I were one of the 2.9 million Canadians impacted by this circumstance, or one of the millions in this country who have already been impacted by data breaches of various varieties, I would want assistance in getting my life back, like them. Right now there is a lot of talk about what that looks like, but in practical terms, Canadians want to know how to get their lives back. They want to mitigate the risks and the impacts that a breach like this has on their personal lives, on their financial futures and on those of their families.
I'm curious; it seems that the Department of Finance has a role to play in having a location from which Canadians can find the information they need, follow a template, call numbers, or whatever it may be to help get their lives in order, because this is, and will be, devastating to those whom these criminals are going to take advantage of.
As government, we have a responsibility to ensure that we protect Canadians as well as we can. This is not going to go away.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us, Mr. Cormier.
We fully understand that this situation is very emotional and complicated for Desjardins. Mr. Cormier, you said that it was premature to hold a committee meeting. I want to point out to everyone again that the Conservatives requested this meeting, with the NDP's support, to see how the federal government could help Desjardins and the nearly three million affected members.
The objective isn't to investigate the situation or to find out how the data was stolen. The police are in charge of that aspect. For my part, I hope that the individual will be punished to the full extent of the law. I hope that the law is strong enough to send him to prison for a long time, but that's another matter.
We've met with officials from various departments, including the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency. These are large departments. However, it's difficult to know whether the Government of Canada can be useful in this situation.
I want to know whether you've received effective support from the government. If not, what could the government do to help you?
Guy Cormier
View Guy Cormier Profile
Guy Cormier
2019-07-15 16:03
There are two or three parts to my response. When this incident occurred, we contacted several federal and provincial government agencies. We spoke with the different departments of finance. I want to tell you that the departments were very helpful and supportive. Bernard Brun can confirm that very clear and open discussions were held.
I've noticed that both the federal and provincial government authorities want to reassure the public. You have no idea how important this is to us. Sometimes, we see what's being written and said. I understand that people have concerns and questions. As MPs, you must hear about many of them from the people in your constituencies.
I can see that the federal and provincial government officials want to reassure people and give them the proper information. This is very helpful to Desjardins. People must be told to contact us so that we can introduce them to the programs that we announced this morning. Whenever we meet with people in our caisses or client contact centres, we're in direct contact with them and we reassure them.
We don't want to trivialize the situation. However, according to several studies and several experts who are currently assisting us, there's a clear difference between a data breach and what happens in a real data theft. This isn't a “one-to-one” case. The proportions are very small.
By adding the protection that we announced this morning, we're telling all our members, including businesses, not to worry. If any issues arise, they should call Desjardins. We'll assist them.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2019-05-14 9:11
I appreciate that. I think the concept of the “wards of the state” was extremely damaging. I want to bring us into a present-day context and put a case study in front of you, but also in front of our deputies, because there is a present-day impact in my community of Rapid Lake.
The community of Rapid Lake has only recently emerged out of third party management, which was a legal institution imposed upon them. They desperately need a new school. I've been working really hard—including with our parliamentary secretary—with the Department of Indigenous Services to get there, but as we attempt to bring about this kind of infrastructure renewal, which can then lead to community renewal and other infrastructure investments, we run up against other institutions that have a colonial impact, such as Hydro-Québec, for example, or other governments that aren't necessarily changing their way of doing business in the same fashion.
What would you suggest are the challenges related to the intersection between the more renewed, updated or more reconciled federal institutions and the non-federal institutions that haven't gone that far?
Daniel Watson
View Daniel Watson Profile
Daniel Watson
2019-05-14 9:13
That's an excellent question.
Built into the legislation for CIRNAC, for example, is the expectation that we work with provinces, territories and others. I think a good part of the responsibility of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs is going to be to help other governments to see where this is in their interest.
These are not things that we do simply because they're nice things to do. If we want to see communities advance in Canada, it's very hard to do that without schools. It's very hard to do that without drinking water. It's very hard to do that without housing.
In the federation that we have, working with provinces and territories is a critical part to any of these things succeeding. That will be a big part of our job. In fairness, across the country there will be some provinces that might wonder if they're out ahead of us, and they may sometimes feel as if they're pulling us ahead. In other instances, we will need to work hard with them to get them to engage in projects that we think are in our collective interest.
As the departmental historian has noted, over time the way of thinking about these things has changed. That's been true in the federal government, and I think it's been true in many provincial and territorial governments as well.
Jean-François Tremblay
View Jean-François Tremblay Profile
Jean-François Tremblay
2019-05-14 9:14
I think you're also as good as your outcomes. I think the best thing for us is to show what works on the ground and what the real solutions are.
If you go into a first nations community that is under self-government, you see a difference. If you go to B.C. and you talk with the First Nations Health Authority, you see a system that works better than the system we have in place. If you meet with the Mi’kmaq in the Atlantic, who manage their education system and have been managing the education system for more than 20 years, they have better results. I think that, when you show these results, you show partners that it's the way to work together.
Nicholas Trudel
View Nicholas Trudel Profile
Nicholas Trudel
2019-05-02 12:12
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am going to briefly describe the status quo in relation to the Seized Property Management Act and, then, explain how it will work after the amendments are made.
Currently, my organization is responsible for administering seized property that's being seized pursuant to federal criminal charges only. There are specific charges for which the act is eligible. These are specific charges under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. These are very specific charges for which we are able to serve, and this would be upon issuance of a management order by a judge.
The current legislation and the limits that it has prohibit serving cases such as the fraud case that was described pursuant to your question, Mr. Chair.
Also, these criminal cases I think are not static. Although they may start out as a federal criminal charge, as a prosecution proceeds and investigations proceed, what began as an expected federal criminal charge may conclude ultimately in some other outcome: acquittal, a lesser charge, a plea bargain, etc.
The inability to provide services beyond the current scope of the act has some challenges associated with it. Firstly, if we're unable to serve law enforcement as a service provider for the management of these assets, that law enforcement is required to manage the assets themselves. If they are laying charges beyond or haven't laid charges yet, these assets remain with law enforcement to do. That means they spend law enforcement resources managing assets.
Certainly, the uncertainty of outcome from the outset of an investigation through to the end can prohibit the confiscation or seizure of assets or suspect assets. Lastly, as a challenge, it could spell inefficiency, in that we have multiple levels of organizations—provincial, municipal, federal—all maintaining the capacity to deal with seized assets.
The changes to the act would allow my organization to serve any federal public official, provincial public official or municipal public official. We would be able to serve any offence: a specific violation of any provincial or federal law for assets that are connected to an offence, or when assets are believed to be intended for the commission of an offence. It's a much broader ability to support and we'll be authorized to manage and dispose of those assets and provide advice to client organizations.
It would require consent. Provinces, territories and municipalities would choose to use those services. This is not imposed. It's available to them if they so choose. Our minister or his representatives would be required to agree to provide the service, with a mutual agreement between the two of us. They would also need to agree to share the net proceeds, so if the outcome is that a seized asset is forfeited to the Crown and sold or liquidated and costs are recovered—that's how the program is paid for under the current act and how it will continue to be paid for after the proposed amendments—then the net proceeds of sale are shared with the jurisdictions that participated in the law enforcement action. That's also part of the existing regime.
Really, it represents a broadening of who we can offer services to and in what context, but the core function remains as it is today.
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