Skip to Content
 

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 12 - Evidence, February 15, 2005


OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, to which was referred Bill C-6, to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts, met this day at 3:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Today we are here to hear testimony relating to the consideration of Bill C-6, to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts.

First, I would like to introduce the members of the committee. On my immediate right is distinguished senator from Nova Scotia, Michael Forrestall. He has served the constituents of Dartmouth for 37 years, first as a member of the House of Commons, then as their Senator. While in the House of Commons, he served as the official opposition critic from 1966 to 1976. He is also a member of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

To his right is Senator Michael Meighen. He is a lawyer by profession. He is Chancellor of University of King's College and past Chair of the Stratford Festival. He has an honorary doctorate in civil law from Mount Allison University and another from the University of New Brunswick. He is currently the Chair of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and he is also a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.

Beside him is Senator Norm Atkins from Ontario. He came to the Senate with 27 years of experience in the field of communications. He served as a senior adviser to former federal Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, also to Premier William Davis of Ontario and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He is also a member of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

To his right is Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia. He has served as National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada, and prior to that he held a wide variety of positions with various charitable institutions including the Canadian Diabetes Association, YMCA, Nova Scotia Lung Association, St. John Ambulance and the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Mr. Mercer is also very active in the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He is a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

At the end of the table is Senator Anne Cools from Ontario. Her appointment to the Senate continued a long career of community organization and social services in the field of family violence and family conflict. She has been an innovator and a leader in the creation of social services to help battered women, families in crisis and families troubled by domestic violence. Senator Cools is currently serving on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

On my left is Senator Tommy Banks from Alberta. He is Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources which recently released a report entitled the One-Tonne Challenge. He is well known to Canadians as a versatile musician and entertainer. He has provided musical direction for the ceremonies of the 1988 Olympic Games. He is an Officer of Order of Canada and he has received a Juno Award.

Beside him is Senator Jim Munson from Ontario. He was a trusted journalist and former Director of Communications for Prime Minister Chrétien before he was called to the Senate in 2003. He has been twice nominated for Gemini Awards in recognition for excellence in journalism.

Beside him is Senator Joseph Day of New Brunswick. He is Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and also of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. He is a member of the bar of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec and a Fellow of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada. He is also the former President and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.

Our committee is the first Senate committee mandated to examine security and defence. The Senate asked our committee to examine the need for a national security policy. We began our review in 2002 with three reports: Canadian Security and Military Preparedness in February; Defence of North America, A Canadian Responsibility, in September and Update on Canada's Military Financial Crisis, A View from the Bottom Up, in November.

In 2003, the committee published two additional reports: The Myth of Security at Canada's Airports in January, and Canada's Coastlines: The Longest Under-Defended Borders in the World in October.

In 2004, we tabled two more reports: National Emergencies: Canada's Fragile Front Lines in March, and recently the Canadian Security Guide Book, 2005 edition.

The committee is now reviewing Bill C-6 to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts. This bill not only creates this new department but also sets out the powers, duties and functions of the minister. In addition, it also provides for the appointment of a Deputy Minister, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

In its October report, entitled Canada's Coast Lines: The Longest Under-Defended Borders in the World, the committee recommended the creation of a permanent department under the direction of the Deputy Prime Minister, to oversee borders, national security issues, natural and man made disasters and the coasts.

We are pleased to see this legislation arrive here.

We have before us today, Ann McLellan. Ms. McLellan was elected to her fourth term as a member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre in June 2004. She was first appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in December 2003. Ms. McLellan was reappointed to these positions in July 2004. In addition to her ministerial duties, Ms. McLellan chairs two cabinet committees, the Operations Committee and the Security, Public Health and Emergencies Committee. She also sits on the Aboriginal Affairs Committee and as Deputy Prime Minister is an ex officio member of all other cabinet committees.

Previously, Ms. McLellan was Minister of Health, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Minister of Natural Resources.

Minister McLellan is supported by Margaret Bloodworth, Deputy Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada; Paul Kennedy, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Preparedness and National Security Branch; and Kimber Johnston, Director General of Strategic Policy and Operations.

Ms. McLellan, I understand you have a statement.

The Honourable Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada: First of all, let me apologize for not being able to join you last week, but as you can tell I am still recovering from the effects of my cold. Last week about this time I actually was not able to speak at all, which some of you by the end of two hours may think perhaps was not such a bad thing.

It is a pleasure to be here today, along with the people that you have identified from my department.

I want to begin by thanking the members of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for this invitation. I am very pleased to be here, not simply to answer your questions about Bill C-6, but also to recognize your important contributions to Canada's current thinking about security, and to acknowledge how your reflexes have helped shape the legislation we are reviewing here today.

The Senate and this committee in particular have consistently made valuable contributions to matters related to public safety and security. The most recent example, of course, is the committee's report that was released in December. I found the report to be constructive and I want to thank all of you for your diligence.

Indeed, as Senator Kenny has mentioned, it was this committee that recognized the need to integrate security matters in a new portfolio. Honourable senators, we clearly live in a world of a myriad of threats, both natural and man-made. In the face of great uncertainty, where we can take nothing for granted, we must be forever vigilant.

The complex and dangerous times in which we live demand a comprehensive and integrated approach to public safety and security, an approach that will provide national leadership to manage the multi-faceted nature of the threats we face, but also, one that understands the need to work cooperatively across disciplines, jurisdictions and borders to achieve our shared objectives.

[Translation]

By introducing Bill C-6, the government wants to achieve this goal and to establish the legal foundation of the Department of Public safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

Today, I would like to clarify some key sections of the Bill. Honourable senators, one of the recurring themes of several of your committee's reports is the fundamental need for the federal government to provide national leadership in public safety and security. So I will begin by explaining to you how Bill C-6 gives the government the authority and the tools needed to achieve this goal.

[English]

In any national crisis or emergency, people need to know who is in charge. Bill C-6 establishes clear lines of authority and accountability. Ultimate responsibility for national security rests with the Prime Minister. Ministerial responsibility for the various portfolios also remains unchanged. Nonetheless, it would be my role in cases of public safety and security that cross departmental mandates, to coordinate the federal response. This would include working effectively with other governments and other jurisdictions.

I know the committee has been particularly concerned about interjurisdictional responsibilities. The proposed legislation goes a long way, I believe, towards satisfying those concerns. Bill C-6 authorizes cooperation, not just with the provinces and territories, but also with foreign states, international organizations, and others, such as key stakeholders in the private sector on safety and security matters.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for emergency management across the country met in January to discuss ways to strengthen our common approach. This was the first such meeting in over 11 years, and it was agreed that the meeting will be one of regular annual gatherings. You may also be aware that the government released a position paper last fall that sets out a draft strategy to protect Canada's critical infrastructure. Over the next year, we will hold cross-sectoral meetings that touch on banking, telecommunications, and electricity, all with a view toward launching a critical infrastructure protection strategy this fall.

Honourable senators, I know the committee has a good understanding of these issues. In its report, Canada's Coastlines: The Longest Under-Defended Borders in the World, for example, this committee called for the government to expand information-sharing among departments, agencies, police forces and the military. At the same time, it advised the government to recognize potential limitations imposed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Information-sharing is the key component of Bill C-6. While this proposed legislation will improve information-sharing amongst the public safety community, it will be done in accordance with the laws governing the protection of privacy.

Bill C-6 creates no new legal authorities for the minister, the department, or portfolio agencies to collect, disclose or share information. The sole purpose of the information-sharing provisions is to ensure that all appropriate and authorized public safety information is indeed being shared. Frankly, whether it is due to cultural renaissance, inadequate technologies or other reasons unrelated to the law, critical information in the past has not always been getting to the right person at the right time.

As the Auditor General pointed out last spring, Canada needs to do a better job at sharing time-sensitive information among entities that protect our security. The proposed legislation envisions enhanced sharing of information without infringing upon the privacy rights of Canadians.

I would also mention that last spring the government launched the interoperability project. This is an 18-month initiative to improve information-sharing among authorized federal agencies and departments. Currently, some 26 departments and agencies are part of the core group. However, the project is consulting broadly with other levels of government, the private sector, and our international allies. We are looking at the information needs of the entire safety-and-security community, including criminal justice, law enforcement, national security, intelligence, public health and first responders.

Those are the key elements of the bill. However, I would like to respond to several other points that have arisen since the legislation was tabled. First, it is important to note that the oversight mechanisms of the various arms and agencies to be brought into the public safety portfolio remain unchanged. Among these, we have the Office of the Inspector General for CSIS, the RCMP External Review Committee, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, and the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC.

Secondly, I would like to note that there are no changes before you today to the wording or the operation of the Emergency Preparedness Act, which provides for federal assistance to the provinces and territories in the event of a disaster or emergency. I can report, nonetheless, that a review of the Act will be undertaken soon with a view to making updates. In fact, at our federal-provincial-territorial meeting of just a few weeks ago, this was, as you might imagine, one of the keen topics of discussion with provincial and territorial colleagues. As you are aware, after reaching a certainly threshold, we provide 90 cents of every dollar and the provinces or territories provide 10 cents in relation to covered emergencies.

This is a matter of key interest to provinces and territories in relation to their ability to deal with unexpected disasters and emergencies, whether man-made or natural. The review of this legislation will be a major undertaking and also a major opportunity for federal, provincial and territorial governments to collaborate and see whether we have the right legislation, the right things covered and the right formula for covering expenses at the beginning of the 21st century.

Ontario senators in particular will remember that we had some very animated discussions with the province of Ontario around Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS. It was determined that SARS was not covered by the existing Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, DFAA, and we made an ex gratia payment to the province of Ontario.

Those are the kinds of new circumstances that we need to talk about together and decide what we want as a shared approach to dealing with the financial costs of unexpected emergencies or disasters.

Mr. Chairman, I would also like to address why it took nearly a year to introduce this legislation. This is but one of many initiatives our government has been working on to improve the safety and security of Canadians since Prime Minister Martin was sworn into office on December 12 of last year. From the very first, security matters have been underlined by the Prime Minister as key to the government's agenda, a commitment strengthened in the recent Speech from the Throne. We have been busy putting this agenda into action. I want to emphasize that Bill C-6 must be viewed within this larger context rather than as stand-alone legislation.

The past year has been one of considerable achievement and action. We are developing an integrated national security system with many components that will optimize the crisis management and emergency preparedness capabilities of the government. In this way we have taken measures to protect the national interest, to improve security and to safeguard our citizens. These measures include the creation of an important new position in the Privy Council Office — the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. This person is responsible for improving the coordination and integration of security efforts among federal departments and agencies.

The government has also established a new cabinet committee, which I chair, the Cabinet Committee on Security, Public Health and Emergencies, to guide our country's national security efforts and ensure increased coordination among departments.

We have also created the Canada Border Services Agency. Since its creation last December, the agency has assumed all customs responsibilities at the Canada-U.S. border and other points of entry.

The new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is part of a much broader, more strategic and coordinated approach to protecting Canadians and our national interests. This new approach was spelled out in Canada's new National Security Policy, which I tabled in the House of Commons last April.

I want to make you aware of a couple of final points. You are aware that we have created a new Integrated Threat Assessment Centre to strengthen Canada's intelligence-gathering capacities. People from across the security and intelligence community, including my department, staff that centre.

I also want to bring you up to date on the creation of our Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security. Last Tuesday, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of State (Multiculturalism) and I announced the appointment of 15 members to that round table. We will meet with them on a regular basis to discuss trends and developments emanating from national security matters, and to exchange information with diverse communities on the impact of national security policies.

As you are aware, we have also established the Government Operations Centre to provide stable, around-the-clock coordination and support across government and to key players in the event of national emergencies.

I will not read the remainder of my text but will conclude by saying that Bill C-6, which was obviously foreshadowed in the work of this committee, is an important step forward for us as a government and a country in terms of being able to provide for the collective safety and security of Canadians. Clearly, many initiatives are presently taking place. This committee is probably more aware of many of those than many others in government and across the country.

The Chairman: Would it be possible for us to receive a copy of your text so that we may attach it to our record?

Ms. McLellan: Yes, you may have the complete text.

Senator Munson: Good afternoon, Minister. To put things into context, as you have mentioned, clause 4(1) of the bill assigns you all powers, duties and functions related to public safety and emergency preparedness that have not been assigned by law to another department, board or agency of the Government.

In the committee in the other place, an amendment was made to clause 5 listing, in a non-exhaustive manner, the entities for which the minister is responsible. I understand that members of the government did not support an amendment. As they say around here, that notwithstanding, would it not be advantageous to also list the accountability and review bodies that form part of the public safety portfolio?

Ms. McLellan: I suppose we could. We did not support this amendment because the department may well expand or contract over time, as need determines. While the list of entities that appears is accurate at this moment, as you have rightly pointed out, it does not include the review mechanisms that I mentioned in my remarks.

I would have preferred to have had a clean clause 5 without the underlined items. There is nothing wrong with listing the oversight items, but I would have the same concern as I had initially, that is, if there were so much as a name change of one of the organizations, we would have to amend the legislation. I suppose that is not a big thing, but I think it is better to minimize the number of times you have to make technical amendments.

If you are asking me whether we would have a substantive objection to that, there is no reason why we would object to it substantively, although my deputy minister would like to respond to that.

Ms. Margaret Bloodworth, Deputy Minister, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada: We would have to be careful about the wording because the minister does not coordinate the activities of the RCMP External Review Committee, for example. It is independent. The National Parole Board is there because it is connected quite closely to parole and correction policy, but with some of the other bodies we might have to have another look at the wording. That is one of the main reasons why they were not included there.

Senator Forrestall: Welcome, minister. I get the impression that you consider this to be a living organism, like the law itself.

Ms. McLellan: Absolutely.

Senator Forrestall: There are two areas I want to touch on. Is it your intention to bring forth legislation based on the work that a number of us did this summer?

The Chairman: Perhaps for the record you could identify what you are referring to. I am not sure that the audience watching this understands that.

Senator Forrestall: Earlier this summer, the minister asked a number of us, basically this committee, to examine the role of oversight in the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Canada. These four countries perhaps are most closely linked in intelligence-gathering analysis and exchange, on the basis of the apparent need around the world, not just here in Canada, for public oversight, whether it be Parliamentary oversight in the sense of oversight by a committee of parliamentarians or a committee that was comprised of parliamentarians but not necessarily a committee of Parliament, but in any event, a committee that would look at all questions of public awareness, need to know and comfort.

Ms. McLellan: Senator, you are quite right to raise that question. In fact, I do intend to bring forward legislation in relation to the creation of a new mechanism of parliamentarians. The Prime Minister, you will remember, on December 12 asked me to create such an ongoing committee of parliamentarians. We issued a consultation paper in the spring, and the ad hoc committee, of which you and Senator Kenny were members, in fact worked diligently all through the summer and September. We received that report in the early fall. We have reviewed the report in detail. The National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister has had discussions with almost all members of the committee now, one on one, in terms of where our possible state of thinking is in relation to how we would like to move forward.

I have talked, as has the National Security Advisor, directly to the Prime Minister about this, and we have made some recommendations to the Prime Minister. It is our hope, both the Prime Minister's and mine, that we will be able to move forward fairly soon.

Senator Forrestall: Would "fairly soon" be the spring?

Ms. McLellan: I would like to, yes, absolutely.

The Chairman: Do you intend to table the paper at the same time, Minister?

Ms. McLellan: Yes. Whether it is exactly the same time as we introduce the legislation is not something that has been decided, whether the two are coincident, but we do intend to table the report, and we will table legislation. Ideally, I would like to get the report out so the public can scrutinize it as soon as possible. The report will be tabled at the same time, or we will, at the same time, table legislation.

Senator Forrestall: Clause 4(2) indicates that, "The Minister shall, at the national level, exercise leadership relating to public safety and emergency preparedness." In practical terms, Minister, could you expand on what this means? For example, does it signal a change in approach?

Ms. McLellan: I mentioned the meeting that we had of provincial and territorial ministers of emergency planning. We took it upon ourselves, after some 11 years of absence of those kinds of gatherings, to call together our provincial and territorial colleagues and talk about what is happening on the ground. Emergency planning is, first and foremost, a matter for local governments. First responders are generally either fire or police, perhaps specialized crews of one sort or another. They are generally employed by municipal governments or local governments. We wanted to bring together those ministers at the provincial and territorial level responsible within their jurisdictions for emergency planning and preparedness, and make sure that we are all working together, are on the same page, and are developing our critical infrastructure strategy. I know this is something that this committee has paid considerable attention to.

At our last meeting, we talked about the tsunami situation, both on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and what we need to do there. We have a Pacific alert system in which we participate with the U.S and other Pacific nations. There is no Atlantic system. We have learned that the U.S, for example, would hope to move the Pacific tsunami warning system into the Atlantic. We want to be a partner in that.

Those are the kinds of things on the emergency planning side that we can do; showing leadership and working with our provincial, territorial and municipal colleagues. We do not pretend that these are our areas of jurisdiction. Depending on the nature of the emergency, they clearly will have, in some cases, national involvement as a matter of jurisdiction. We want to ensure that, as much as possible, we are seamless in our preparation.

Another way we can play leadership in that area is through our Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, JEPP, where we are able to provide dollars for training and for various kinds of hazardous materials, hazmat, equipment to cities and others. Do we have enough money? We never have enough money.

After September 11, we all understand the importance of urban heavy search and rescue, and how important it is in our major metropolitan centres for people to be well equipped and well trained. One thing we can do is show leadership in training exercises, because we all know how important they are in terms of ensuring our people are ready to deal with an emergency of whatever kind.

Those are just some examples in that area on how we can show and are showing leadership, always remaining sensitive to jurisdictional issues. I am very impressed by the fact that the other two levels of government realize how important it is to try to develop a seamless response system around emergency planning and preparedness.

Senator Mercer: Welcome, minister, to the committee. I appreciate you coming, especially when you are not feeling up to par.

I would like to go back to something you mentioned to Senator Forrestall about the adviser to the Prime Minister. It is a little more complicated. The Privy Council Office has a central and coordinating role to play in relationship to the intelligence community provision of intelligence assessments to the government. These responsibilities appear similar in many respects to services you and your department provide, as well as the agencies you are responsible for. Can you provide this committee with an appreciation of how the roles of your department and those of the PCO differ in this regard? Can you also provide some understanding of the checks and balances in place to ensure the veracity of intelligence assessments produced by analytical components of the PCO?

Ms. McLellan: I will let my deputy speak to some part of that. Keep in mind that, for example, the National Security Advisor is also my deputy minister. He serves a dual role. I have two deputy ministers. That is Mr. Rob Wright. He is in PCO. He serves that dual function. Indeed, he has an important role to play in working with my other deputy, Deputy Bloodworth, and our key intelligence gathering agencies.

For example, CSIS is our chief and key intelligence-gathering organization. They gather intelligence, analyze that intelligence and provide reports to us. Those reports are obviously provided to me, the Prime Minister, the National Security Advisor, my deputy and some others.

Certain agencies and departments gather intelligence of one kind or another: CSIS — the key one, DND, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the Department of Transport. Our integrated centre at CSIS is used to bring all those intelligence-gathering entities together to amalgamate the gathered intelligence in one location. The data is analysed and then shared in such a way that it makes a real-time difference in our ability to identify high-risk people and high-risk cargo. At PCO, the National Security Advisor and his unit play an important role in the receipt of the product of our Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, and then in ensuring that the information, at least for the purposes of the Government of Canada, is disseminated in an appropriate way and acted upon in an appropriate way. Ms. Bloodworth, did you wish to add a comment?

Ms. Bloodworth: There is an intelligence assessment unit at the Privy Council Office. I receive assessments regularly, as do many other deputy ministers. These assessments are at a broader strategic level; for example, they might look at the Middle East. The Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, located within CSIS, looks specifically at assessing threats to Canada. They produce that information, which is then distributed to federal government departments, provincial ministries and some private sector areas, where appropriate, through the government operations centre in the department. The lines drawn are quite clear: the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre does not perform the same kinds of activities as the assessment centre at PCO.

On the second issue of intelligence organizations, for some time now, since the 1990s when I was in Privy Council Office as the co-ordinator of intelligence, there have been intelligence organizations, particularly collector organizations, of which CSIS is the main human intelligence agency. There is also the Communications Security Establishment, CSE, which reports to the Minister of National Defence. DND also does some intelligence-gathering. The history of a co-ordination at the centre goes back about 20 years. PCO would not do that because those organizations do not all report to this minister. They report, for good reasons, to other ministers. That responsibility is another key role of the Privy Council Office. We are very much a part of that and so we would contribute to that role. In practice, the lines are quite clearly drawn. That is not say that we do not have to work closely together. I work closely with the National Security Advisor, as does my staff with his staff.

Senator Mercer: I noticed an absence of mention of the RCMP in your response. Clause 5 of the bill provides that the minister co-ordinate the activities of the entities which the minister is responsible for. That is not only CSIS but also the RCMP. I would like to have your comment on that aspect.

Ms. Bloodworth: Perhaps I can comment on the absence of that mention in my response. I was speaking to security in foreign intelligence and the RCMP are, primarily, collectors of criminal intelligence, much of which never goes to other people except at a general level. While they are part of that community, they would not be considered core collectors in the same way that CSIS and CSE are collectors of intelligence information.

Senator Mercer: We have seen elsewhere in the world when one agency is not talking to the other agency, information is not passed on and security is breached as a result, or perhaps one assumes that the other group is doing something that does not happen. Will that be possible under the provisions of this bill?

Ms. McLellan: The RCMP is part of our Integrated Threat Assessment Centre.

Senator Mercer: To what extent are resources from within the department dedicated to carrying out these co-ordinating functions? Have you reallocated internal resources? Has the government provided you with the necessary resources that you need to get this job done? While I am not anxious to spend much money, I am anxious to have the security that the bill is intended to give us.

Ms. McLellan: Ms. Bloodworth may want to add some detail on this. Since September 11, we have expended more than $8 billion in respect of the collective security of our country. All that money does not flow to my department. It is fair to say that we live in a complex threat environment, and resources are always stretched. We could always do with more resources to ensure that we have the right number of border service agents at land borders and sea ports. This committee has looked at the issue of security at marine ports. Clearly, with more resources, we could do more. My outgoing counterpart, Tom Ridge, with the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S, has a much larger budget than my department, for obvious reasons. He would say that in spite of the larger budget, there are still things that they cannot do that they should or could do better if they had more resources. We could use more resources to enhance the things we are doing, or to allow us to do additional things. We are making effective use of the resources we have in the name of the protection of Canadians. Through the work of this committee and others, we see that we can always learn more and always improve in certain areas.

Senator Meighen: Welcome, minister. I will take us back to your response to Senator Mercer's question and others. It is embodied in section 6(1)(d) of the proposed legislation that says you may "facilitate the sharing of information, where authorized to promote public safety objectives." As recently as 11 months ago, the Auditor General told us that the government as a whole had failed to achieve improvements in the ability of security information systems to communicate with each other. She also found deficiencies in the way intelligence is managed across government. A lack of coordination, in her words, has led to gaps in intelligence coverage as well as duplication.

I know it is not a matter of snapping your fingers and changing human nature. Human beings, by nature, tend to keep things to themselves. They tend to be territorially aggressive and, certainly in our travels, we found this to be the case both within Canada and with our American friends. I think the report of 9/11 shows there was a gross failure to communicate. Indeed, within the multiplicity of American organizations having some responsibility along the border, they tell us that this is an ongoing problem.

For people watching today, can we enunciate exactly the steps that have been taken to ensure information sharing? We have talked about the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre. Is there any mechanism to assess the degree of success that you might achieve with these steps? How do we know whether people who are told to share information are truly sharing information? Is there any measurement?

Ms. McLellan: Those are good questions, senator, and you are quite right to point out that the Auditor General highlighted what she perceived to be important gaps in our ability to share information.

You are also quite right to point out that this is a challenge for other countries as well — nowhere more so than in the United States of America, where they have a plethora of agencies and organizations. They have many more than we have, and many of them have a lengthy cultural tradition of not sharing information.

I think September 11 was an example of how that can get in the way of information, perhaps not so much collection, but in analyzing it and sharing it in real time with the people who might be able to make a difference in preventing a September 11 — a breaking up of the plans, whatever the case may be.

We have done a number of things. For example, I mentioned the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which is found within CSIS. The Auditor General had identified that up until we changed our method of operation this spring, participation in that was voluntary by other departments. That does not make a lot of sense, since participation also costs those departments money. There was an expense, an overhead cost involved in participating. If budgets are tight, you might, if it is voluntary, say fine, I am not going to participate in that.

We have changed that. It is not voluntary any longer to participate in the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre. We have a budget now that makes it possible for departments to participate. I think that will make a pretty significant change in how this town, at least, and the agencies in it, go about sharing and assessing information.

You mentioned the border in particular. We do have our integrated border enforcement teams, IBETs. We now have 15 of them across the country; and one of their goals is to have complete interoperability.

I visited the one in Cornwall. There were 15 agencies there that day that came to talk to me about their experience. As you are aware, geography in Cornwall, among other things, makes policing very challenging. We have enormous problems in terms of the movement of contraband — drugs, money or whatever.

The agencies there were Canadian and American, and I asked about the sharing of information. First of all, everybody in the room laughed, because one of the things the Americans told me candidly was that depending on which U.S. agency you were dealing with, they could not even talk to each other.

We have some of the same problems on our side of the border; whether the RCMP can talk to a local police force, a local fire responder, the helicopter in the air or whatever the case may be. That was one set of problems — the interoperability that exists on each side of the border within our own respective spheres; and then how you start integrating so that you can talk to each other across national lines.

In Cornwall, they worked it out by the sheer force of necessity and innovation. They told me they believe that they now are interoperable in the ways that are necessary to do their job. However, they did not wait for Ottawa or Washington to tell them to do that. They went ahead and identified what was needed to be an effective, Integrated Border Enforcement Team and they worked it out.

We have a pilot project around interoperability — I do not know whether Ms. Bloodworth wants to talk a little bit about that. I mentioned it in my opening remarks, but she might like to say a little more about that. In particular, I think we are working on some technological solutions at the Windsor-Detroit border as part of a pilot project on interoperability.

There is enormous cost involved even on our side, in one province, when you have everybody all on the same channels, networks and equipment, talking to each other. Then, when you think about driving that across a national boundary into another country, there are additional costs. We hope there may be a technological solution; that in spite of different systems — and even, I think, different frequencies in some cases — we may be able to make this seamless in terms of the interoperability as it relates to the technology of sharing information and getting it back to the front line in a time that makes it possible for use.

Ms. Bloodworth: As the minister says, we are funding and leading a radio-interoperability project on the southwestern Ontario border as a pilot. If it works, then it would be spread further on.

Technology is both a barrier and a facilitator when it comes to spreading information. It is a barrier because if people use different technological systems, they do not necessarily connect to one another. On the other hand, technology changes all the time; and there are now some promising developments with computer systems, for example, that allow them to talk together better.

However, the technology is only one part. The other issue is what information is shared with whom. For example, it is not appropriate for every individual custom officer to be able to get into any police file and deal with everything, but they should know when there are warrants outstanding. That is the other big issue that we have.

In fact, a branch of people are engaged in looking at those issues. The portfolio there can be very helpful because they have the big players if we can get that together. There is certainly a huge will among the agency heads that I chair to make that work; but it has to be looked at on an issue-by-issue basis because there are issues of how much information should go to whom.

We have had success with things like passports, for example. Now, lost and stolen passports are delivered to border agents. That was not the case just a short time ago. Real-time identification, which is about fingerprints — there is now a project underway with the RCMP to make that move by all electronically, not just to them. We are making progress, but it is certainly not an issue on which I would declare victory. It will be something that will require sustained effort for some time.

Senator Meighen: Just one follow-up question, if I may. Obviously, under our system of government and all democratic countries' systems of government, people are responsible for certain areas. In the area we are talking about, there is a multiplicity of players. There are the Department of Transport, customs, and police, et cetera.

In terms of this act, what does this do for you? Does this give you a megaphone to be a big cheerleader? Does it give you a whip to ensure that people with different jurisdictions work together, share information, and whatever? Does it give you an ability to hold people accountable for sins of omission and commission? In other words, do you have any means, other than your very prestigious position as Deputy Prime Minister, to ensure that things are carried out?

Ms. McLellan: Clearly the legislation speaks to the co-ordinating role that I play. Acknowledging the fact that there are other departments and agencies that are not within this one, I do have an obligation to show leadership in co-ordinating those entities, and facilitate bringing my colleagues together to ensure that we are identifying the present and potentially future needs in the area of public safety.

If you look at the legislation itself, obviously it says that I will exercise leadership in relation to public safety. Then, in section 6, it talks about my ability to initiate, recommend, co-ordinate, implement, or promote. I can do all those things.

The minister who is in charge of this department also chairs the public safety and emergency preparedness committee of cabinet, which again permits me to ensure that all key ministers — and, where relevant, heads of agencies — come together in one place. We have an agenda that is developed by the departments themselves and agencies to identify a forward-looking agenda around public safety, security and emergency planning. At that committee, we have the ability, as with any standing committee of cabinet, to give or deny policy approval, to look at budgetary requests and recommend emerging priorities to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister. As you might imagine with the budget coming, all my colleagues and I have a long list of items that we would like to see funded in the name of public security.

The committee, working together, has the opportunity to look at everyone's asks and prioritize those. I can then share them with the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister on behalf of the committee and those departments and agencies involved in public safety and security.

I am not sure whether I would describe any of that as a whip, but there are means, both in the legislation and through the committee structure, that provide me with the opportunity to actually exercise that leadership role as it relates to coordination and facilitation and also as it relates to actually working with other levels of government, international allies and so on.

Senator Cools: I am sure that the minister has had a chance to review the record from yesterday's committee and also the record from second reading debate in the Senate chamber.

My objective is to raise with you the very important constitutional matter that occurs in Bill C-6, which is that essentially Bill C-6 jettisons and abolishes the officer known as the Solicitor General of Canada. The questions that have arisen, as I said before, are deeply constitutional ones. They relate to the fact that the Solicitor General is an ancient officer since it is the lesser or the junior of the two law officers of the Crown, meaning Her Majesty's law officers, and this has been attempted in this bill without any study, without any demand for it, and without any explanation.

I am trying to show where the concerns come from. If we were to examine all of the orders in council, and there is a plethora of them, that created the ministry and so on, the source of power for this position is the Solicitor General. For example, you were sworn in, Minister, as the Solicitor General to be styled Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety, therefore the enacting power or the power-granting position is the Solicitor General — which the entire system that you have been running for the past year seems to rely on.

I have spoken to several constitutional lawyers in this country and they have all expressed concerns about the jettison of the position. I am not too sure how I should proceed. Maybe I should repeat what the witness said last night, or perhaps give you an opportunity to tell us why you saw fit, or whoever saw fit, because I know that the wizards over at PCO sometimes look in their crystal ball and they see things and they bring them out. I wonder if you could tell us why you or whoever conceptualized this thought it was necessary to rid Canada of a Solicitor General? Also, can you explain why they did not seem to believe that they could accomplish all the goals of creating a new ministry of public safety, all the goals that Senator Kenny has so ably articulated for years, which are to work on a national strategy for security, a national policy.

Perhaps we should give you an opportunity to tell us why you went this road. I have read the report of this committee with some care and yes, it made many recommendations around the question of security, but I have seen nowhere whatsoever any hint, any suggestion, any recommendation that the officer known as the Solicitor General should be jettisoned. I do not know how we should go on from here. Maybe you would like to respond at this stage and then we can continue.

Ms. McLellan: I can say a few things and then, Mr. Chairman, if it is okay, I would ask Mr. Pentney, who is a lawyer with the Department of Justice and my department, to speak. We have in fact researched this issue in some detail as you might imagine because we did read the record and we knew that the issue would be raised. Mr. Pentney will give you a more detailed response in terms of the abolition, if you like, of the position of Solicitor General and the creation of this new department and new minister. However, on the basis of our legal analysis and research, there is no, in our opinion, constitutional impediment to the creation of this department and to the doing away with the cabinet post known as Solicitor General. In fact, the British system and the Canadian have diverged quite dramatically in relation to both the roles of Attorney General and Solicitor General. The Solicitor General, in our system since 1966, I think at least, is a member of the cabinet. That is not the situation extant in the United Kingdom, obviously, and therefore, the roles are quite different and have been for some period of time.

I would hope that the committee will agree that there is absolutely no constitutional impediment to the creation of a Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the doing away of the position of Solicitor General. Mr. Pentney can take you through much more of that history if you would like to hear that.

The thing I would say is that I think on December 12 it was felt, and the Prime Minister felt, that it was an important time to put a new focus on the importance of Canadians' public safety, security and our ability to plan and be prepared and manage emergencies. I believe, not only because I am the minister of the department, the thinking is right in terms of bringing key components of our government at the federal level together that have a common mandate in relation to either public safety, security or emergency preparedness.

The Solicitor General's role, while it has evolved over the years unquestionably, is narrower than that. I believe there was a desire to focus more broadly this particular ministry. Yes, it contains within it the important functions played historically by the Solicitor General in our country, which again I underscore are different from the United Kingdom to some considerable extent, so I continue to be responsible for the RCMP, for CSIS, for corrections, for example. In addition, however, I am now responsible for emergency planning and management. I am responsible for the national crime prevention centre, for example. These were not part and parcel of the old Department of the Solicitor General, nor were they part of the role of the Solicitor General.

This points us in a new and expanded direction. It ensures that we have a broader focus on the challenge of safety, security and emergency planning, and I believe it made sense to bring all three together into one new department and one new minister.

Senator Cools: Before Mr. Pentney responds, perhaps I should make it clear: I take no objection and I have no quarrel whatsoever with the phenomenon of creating a minister under the new ministry. That is not in issue and that is not in doubt whatsoever. I am very convinced that modern-day conditions are demanding this kind of action. I do not want any misunderstandings here because you do not have to respond to that which is not questioned. You just spent the last three or four minutes talking about a new focus. Senator Kenny has convinced the country that there is a need for a new focus. We do not have to go down that road, therefore. To the extent that you opened it up then, just let me throw in one other question in respect of the roles and the constitutional impediments. Since you are going to be questioning them I am going to come back to you in a moment.

To the extent that you will be responding, perhaps you could include in your response an explanation of why the Americans, whose office of the Solicitor General is very close to ours constitutionally, chose not to do what Canada is doing. The United States of America, after all, was the object of the attacks on September 11. When they chose to respond to the very same modern conditions of contemporary terrorism, security and so on, they chose to maintain their Solicitor General on the one side and to create a secretary of state for homeland security and a department. I wonder if you could work that out.

You do not have to explain why we need to hear this.

The Chairman: Perhaps we could hear Mr. Pentney. Sir, are you competent to comment on the American system?

Mr. Bill Pentney, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice Canada: I believe, I am, to some extent, honourable senators. I am a former law professor. This has given me a wonderful opportunity to return to the books and history that I do not get to do often enough.

I will not take up too much time. I have had the opportunity to review the testimony offered yesterday by Professor Wesley Pue. There is a great deal of it that we could agree with and would carry on. Whatever the name of this minister, this special relationship that she has with, for example, the Commissioner of the RCMP and the important distinctions that are drawn between the role of the Minister of Public Safety or the Solicitor General, in not directing RCMP or other law enforcement officers in terms of day-to-day operations, who to investigate and how to investigate, and the idea that the minister in dealing with her colleagues stands apart to some extent from other ministers as well, we could all agree with.

What I understand the question to be is whether or not changing the title changes that relationship. Our analysis is that it does not. Many provinces have done away with the title of Solicitor General. They have ministers who are responsible for police services, and are under the self-same obligations not to direct day-to-day operations of police.

The Canadian practice has diverged substantially from the British; therein, perhaps, lies some of the confusion. I will deal as quickly as I can with that and then I will speak to the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States, which is quite remarkably different from the Office of the Solicitor General as it has existed recently in Canada. That may also explain why, when the U.S., decided to create the Department of Homeland Security they did not affect it because of the different nature of the roles.

There was no Solicitor General when Canada was created. There was a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and there was no one named to the office of the Solicitor General. In that sense, it is not true that Canadian constitutional history has always been graced with the office of Solicitor General. When the office was first created, in 1886 by statute, it was not a cabinet-level position. The statute said that the Governor in Council may appoint an officer, essentially a public servant, who shall be called the Solicitor General of Canada and who shall assist the Minister of Justice and the council work of the Department of Justice, carrying on a tradition of Solicitor General that then existed in England. The minister may not forgive me for saying so, but the salary was listed as $5,000 per annum. We have moved on since those days in many ways.

For about the next 80 years, the Office of the Solicitor General was about the same. My understanding is that Arthur Meighen, in 1917, was the first Solicitor General to assume the role in cabinet in the Privy Council.

In 1966, the Canadian Office of the Solicitor General was created by statute. Professor Edwards notes this in his text as a seminal event. The duties of the Solicitor General were separated from those of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and, therefore, created the break between the old role of Solicitor General as aiding the Attorney General in council work and assigned the Solicitor General responsibility for reformatories, prisons, penitentiaries, parole and remissions, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Whatever common law constitutional obligations that may have rested on the former Solicitor General, under the old regimes, were replaced therefore by a statute that defined the roles and duties of the Solicitor General. Parliament, in exercise of its supremacy at the time, decided that the role of the Solicitor General should be divided from that of the Attorney General, that the role should no longer be to assist the Attorney General in council work, and that the role should be to have responsibility for those areas: reformatories, prisons, penitentiaries, parole and remissions, and the RCMP.

At that time and since, it has been accepted in our constitutional law and practice that there is a special role and relationship between, in this case for example, the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the minister in respect of day-to-day operations. This is reflected in the RCMP Act that assigns responsibility for the commissioner to act under the direction of the minister, but to have control and management of the force. Certainly, this minister, former ministers, this commissioner and former commissioners have been briefed very clearly and are, between themselves, very clear on their roles and responsibilities under our constitutional structure.

This is true whatever the name of the office. The change of the name of the office, in our submission, changes nothing in respect of that role and relationship, which is defined in part by practice and in part by the RCMP Act, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the act that creates corrections, and the act and laws that govern the National Parole Board.

This is not to say that the new minister, whatever her title, sheds all those old constraints; not in any way at all. The question is: Do the constraints lie in the title or rather, in the statutes that create these bodies, and in the practice?

I could contrast the situation federally as it has existed and, as we would say, it would go forward under the new Act with the one that exists as I understand it, in Alberta. Alberta, in their law creating their Solicitor General, has specifically provided that the Solicitor General shall exercise the powers and is charged with the duties attached to the Office of the Solicitor General of England by law or usage insofar as those powers and duties are applicable to Alberta. The Alberta Act expressly carries on the constitutional history and legacy of England.

In 1966, for better or worse, Parliament, in exercise of its supremacy at the time, decided not to carry on those explicitly in the statute. They created a Solicitor General and assigned specific duties and responsibilities. This statute does not contain anything similar to that which is contained in Alberta. In our submission, it is not necessary to do so. The roles and relationships as between this minister and the various agencies are clearly set out by their constituent statutes and by practice. Nothing in the change of the title is meant to change any of that.

If I may turn briefly to the role of the Solicitor General in the United States, unlike Canada and unlike England to some extent, the Office of the Solicitor General in the United States is primarily responsible for the conduct of all government litigation in the United States Supreme Court. The office also decides whether or not cases against the government ought to be appealed. It develops the arguments and presents the arguments in court. There are occasions when the U.S. Solicitor General still appears before the U.S. Supreme Court as the chief law advocate of the State. In Canada, this role is performed, not personally, by the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.

I suspect one of the reasons why the Department of Homeland Security did not include such a role is that this is a role in terms of representing the U.S. government that must be applied to all departments and in respect to all U.S. government interests. It would not have been viewed as appropriate at the time by the U.S. government as incorporating this into the Department of Homeland Security.

The United States Solicitor General is not responsible for prisons, reformatories or police. Indeed, to complete the confusion, it is actually the U.S. Department of Justice that is responsible for their Federal Bureau of Investigation. Their system is quite different than ours.

I hope that explanation is of help to the committee.

Senator Cools: I wish to respond to a couple of those points. The witness seems to be labouring under a considerable constitutional misunderstanding. I would submit that the role of the Solicitor General in Canada, in addition to the prisons and the reformatories, National Parole Board and Correctional Service Canada, still maintains by common law all of those duties, rights and responsibilities that accompany the junior law officer of the Crown.

The fact that they were not articulated in the statute in 1966 in no way obviated them, and I think it is wrong to believe that they did.

In addition, it is very wrong to suggest that the position of Solicitor General of Canada was created by a statute in 1887. The position of Solicitor General pre-dated that, and Sir John A. MacDonald re-established it after Confederation because this grand act called the BNA Act intended that most political and legal life would continue after Confederation mostly as it had before.

If you were to look at the BNA Act — as you cite it — and the provinces, as examples, since when does the federal government follow the lead of the provinces? I was under the impression that the provincial folks should follow us — to my view — but to the extent that you have cited examples of different provincial statutes where they have done away with the name of the Solicitor General, I would like to invite you to consider the fact, for example, we can cite another one.

The Chairman: Senator Cools, if we can have a question, it would be helpful.

Senator Cools: I thought I was supposed to respond.

The Chairman: The way it works here is you ask the questions and they respond.

Senator Cools: I will ask other questions. I can keep you going with questions for quite some time.

You have given me a legal analysis in which you have come to a conclusion that there is no constitutional impediment. You have cited a somewhat limited history, but you have not given me any analysis, nor have you given me any constitutional authority as to why you could put this bill before us in this form. I have heard that someone in the department adopted a conclusion that it is only a name and it can be changed, and then this bill is before us.

However, you have not given us the constitutional authority that says it can be changed.

The Chairman: The question is, Senator Cools?

Senator Cools: I will put a question. What is the constitutional authority for this government to bring a bill before us which purports to alter the nature and the character and the name of Her Majesty's Law Officer?

Mr. Pentney: The former Solicitor General, under the former statute has been a creature of statute since 1966 with a set of defined roles and responsibilities. The Constitution in our submission contains nothing which prevents or limits the government's ability to change the title of that office or to assign other roles or responsibilities to that office. If Parliament adopts the legislation through its supremacy, the Constitution would not inhibit Parliament from deciding the different roles or responsibilities than those assigned in 1966, and should attach to this department. Parliament would not be limited from changing the title of the minister that is responsible for this department.

Senator Cools: I still have not had my question answered. Again, you have made an assertion. You are reaching conclusions and saying the conclusion is the reason. The Constitution of this land vests all executive authority in Her Majesty. This is not nostalgia or an ornament. This is a fact of law.

The two law officers of the Crown are Her Majesties two personal agents, — so to speak — and have an entirely different role than any other minister. They may be in cabinet or they may not be. In some jurisdictions they are in, in some they are out. You have given me no constitutional reasons whatsoever as to how you can simply propose to change by simple bill a fact that really concerns the office of Her Majesty in this country.

Senator Mercer: This is an interesting debate and one that maybe we want to have, but we have the opportunity to have the minister with us this afternoon and her time is limited. I am sure the officials could come back if that were the committee's wish at some other time. I would like us to get on. I would personally like to ask the minister more questions.

Senator Cools: I was hoping —

The Chairman: I will recognize you in a moment, Senator Cools. That is a constructive suggestion. We have devoted almost a quarter of the time allotted to this subject. Perhaps, if you have another question, we can continue.

Senator Cools: I have a few more. We are told again and again of ministers' accountability in Parliament, but it is very hard to have a dialogue with a minister. I found it over the years quite often and quite difficult. I thought that is what I came here today for, to have a dialogue with you.

Last night Professor Pue made a suggestion to the committee where he essentially said, and I accept it, that one can combine the two different roles in the same person. If Ms. McLellan, you were Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety, I would not raise this.

The Chairman: Senator Cools, please ask a question.

Senator Cools: Last night Professor Pue made a suggestion that he believed, and I believe too, could fix the problem in this bill. If you look at the bill, clause 1 is the title, but clauses 2 and 3 are around the question of creating the department and creating the minister.

If you were to look at a parallel document, being the Department of Justice Act, which you would have been responsible for at one point, you will find that it does the same thing. As a matter of fact, these words are borrowed from it. It says that there is "established a department," et cetera, et cetera.

The second clause, it says the Minister of Justice shall ex officio be the Attorney General of Canada. I am sure the officials from your department should know this.

The Chairman: Senator Cools I am sorry your time is exhausted. We are going on with other questioners.

Senator Forrestall: I bring the minister around to intelligent capabilities, coordination and oversight. Could you provide us with an appreciation of how government intelligence requirements are established and communicated to the agencies involved in the collection, analysis and enforcement?

Ms. McLellan: The Prime Minister is overall responsible by virtue of his office for the national security of the country. We have a committee. If you are talking about actually determining the intelligence priorities for a given year, that is done in consultation, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, bringing together all key departments and agencies. We develop a proposal in terms of the intelligence priorities.

Senator Forrestall: Minister, when you say "we," who is we?

Ms. McLellan: There is a committee of relevant ministers and agencies chaired by the Prime Minister, separate and apart from the Committee of Public Safety. On an annual basis, we review the intelligence priorities and make whatever changes, modifications or enhancements we view as necessary. For the forward-looking year, that represents the intelligence priorities for the Government of Canada and its intelligence-gathering agencies.

Senator Forrestall: How do you check the veracity of that year's work? How is that analyzed? How are conclusions drawn from that, first of all, as to veracity because when we have less than absolute information and when we have slightly incorrect information, we have trouble. How do we check it?

Ms. McLellan: There are a number of different mechanisms. Clearly, there are oversight mechanisms. If individuals or organizations believe that CSIS has carried out an operation or provided information in relation to suspected activities that is detrimental to them, as we have seen in many circumstances, they can lay a complaint before SIRC. SIRC reviews the conduct of CSIS and will issue a report in terms of how that agency has gone about its duties.

We have various kinds of oversight mechanisms in relation to other entities that might gather intelligence, such as the RCMP.

In terms of information and its veracity, we collect information and we share it with appropriate entities within the Government of Canada, other levels of government and our international allies. There is, to some extent self-policing around the quality of the work that is done by various agencies globally. While CSIS is a relatively small intelligence-gathering agency in comparison to the big ones in the United States and the U.K., its work is generally viewed as being of high quality. That does not mean that the veracity of every bit of information that is collected in every operation is checked. We have formal oversight mechanisms, but what I have just described laterally is more of an informal oversight based on reputation. If you are in the business of intelligence gathering but are not good at it, not careful and do not exercise good judgment, that quickly gets known in terms of the people with whom we share information.

We certainly have formal oversight mechanisms. The Auditor General, as well, exists to help us understand not the veracity of every piece of information or intelligence that is gathered but the integrity of the organization as an entity, namely, whether it is carrying out its main mandate.

The Chairman: Minister, you referred to SIRC as an oversight mechanism.

Ms. McLellan: Yes.

The Chairman: Is it in fact a review mechanism?

Ms. McLellan: Yes.

Senator Forrestall: I will come back to an operable level. Regarding the practical day-to-day handling, I told Senator Meighen that I do we not know where he got that information. That was two weeks ago. Things have changed. I am in support of that.

I draw your attention to the fact that our friends to the south constantly have people in the air. They make sure, before their chair tables a report with their co-secretary in the United States, that the information contained in that report is up-to-date, that nothing has happened between February 10 and February 2 when the information was dated as having been collected and that it remains the same. Do we have in place that capacity?

Ms. McLellan: We do in terms of trying to ensure not only veracity, but timeliness. It is an ongoing challenge. The example you give, which is a timeliness issue, is an ongoing challenge to ensure that the information we are collecting is analyzed and timely. One of the criticisms of the Auditor General was that a lot of the information that formed the basis of things like watch lists and so forth was not timely. It was out of date. In fact, we immediately turned our attention to rectifying that situation.

Ms. Bloodworth: I could say a lot of intelligence is not necessarily just information. It is judgements. The intelligence agencies will continually make judgements and pass them on. Those judgements may change from time to time. A number of assessments of various levels are issued by CSIS, for example. Most intelligence that either I or the minister see would be more in the nature of a judgment as opposed to a simple piece of information. It will be a judgment based on information gathered from a number of sources.

There is always an issue not just with timeliness but also judgment based on a number of pieces of information that can change. That is why CSIS issues new judgements every day.

Is that a perfect system? No, it is one that continually has to be assessed by many. One of the informal mechanisms is the readers of that within government. If it is not credible, it becomes apparent that it is not credible.

That said, intelligence is never a perfect science. It is always judgements.

Senator Forrestall: I am trying to relate this to CSIS, in a sense. Minister, you have told us that you supported the requirement for a broader based CSIS collection capability offshore, both quiet intelligence — not threat-related — and otherwise.

Have you been able to divert some additional funds to CSIS for this activity? Is it showing up in a higher quality of work and improved work?

Ms. McLellan: I have made a budgetary request for this year. It remains to be seen whether the Minister of Finance will see fit to fund my request. I have made a request that would permit the gathering of additional foreign intelligence. It is one of the things that I have talked about before and the fact that we live in a world where it is incumbent upon each of us, as countries and allies, to ensure that we are doing our fair share, both in terms of being able to protect our own people and having that which we share under appropriate circumstances around foreign security intelligence with our allies.

While CSIS does collect foreign security intelligence now, I have made no secret of the fact that I think they should collect more. I have made a budgetary request to that effect.

Senator Forrestall: If you need our help, give us a call.

Ms. McLellan: I will.

The Chairman: I take it from that, Minister, that CSIS will be collecting non-threat related intelligence?

Ms. McLellan: No.

The Chairman: I take from that that government has made a decision that foreign intelligence is properly the purview of CSIS and not some other agency?

Ms. McLellan: No final determination has been made in that regard. I am making a request for funding to permit us to collect more foreign security intelligence. I have not indicated where the locus of that gathering would be.

Senator Meighen: Minister, this committee has been at this business for a number of years now. One of the threads that has run through many of our conversations with government officials, whether they be in airports or ports, is that in many instances, there has been a reluctance, in our view, to share information with the committee. I realize that we, by choice, are not cleared top secret, but then that would prevent us from sharing information we receive in that fashion with anybody else. It cuts both ways. We are happy with the situation we have. There seems to be a culture of, "We do not dare say this," or, "We do not dare say that." For example, early on we went to Toronto's Pearson Airport and were told everything has been done in accordance with the directives of the Department of Transport. Lo and behold, we went back and found there were no such directives from the Department of Transport.

We were told that mail was checked by Canada Post, and Canada Post told us that mail was checked by people at the airport. It turned out that nobody was checking the mail. Frankly, it would still appear that nobody is checking the mail.

We submitted 66 questions to CBSA in December and got responses, after some prodding, to 60 of them, but for six of those questions we did not get satisfactory responses, and the reason given was security reasons.

These questions revolved around the total number of times — I am reading this so I get it right — CBSA conducts a given type of inspection in a year, such as Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System,VACIS, destuffing, radiation, or whatever. That apparently is a big dark secret and cannot be shared with us.

I am not satisfied personally with that answer. I do not think it puts national security in jeopardy to say that, over a total of one year, so many containers are inspected using VACIS. It makes no sense to me. Surely that is not a culture we want to encourage. Why cannot such data be released?

I have one other item for your consideration. CBSA comes before us and says they are doing much better. How do we know? They will not even tell us the poor record they had before they started doing much better. If we cannot know what the baseline was a year ago, how do we know they are doing much better? Is this just, "Trust us, and we will let you know what we want to tell you."

Ms. McLellan: You raise a very important question. We touched upon cultural reticence earlier in terms of intelligence-gathering agencies sharing among themselves. In fact, there is a cultural reticence beyond that in terms of various organizations — maybe it is the CBSA in a given case, and maybe it is the RCMP or whoever — in terms of providing information that might help Canadians, let alone all of you, understand, one, the nature of the threat environment in which we live, and two, what their government and their agencies are actually doing to keep Canadians safe.

It has come to my attention that in the United States — I do not think it is fair to say in the U.K., but in the United States — you often see public office or agency heads in the press saying more than it would appear that our agency heads or even secretaries or ministers do. They may be in a position to say more.

One thing I have asked my department and agency heads to look at is, in this world in which we live since September 11 with increased public interest and scrutiny around things like intelligence-gathering and how agencies police and otherwise conduct themselves, is it possible for us to be more forthcoming, without blowing a criminal investigation, without unnecessarily revealing the possible identity of an informant or whatever the case may be.

The question you raise is important, and there is a culture of secrecy to some extent that we need to review. I do not question the bona fides of the people who assert it, and the necessity in their minds for it. I just think that sometimes we would be better served, and Canadians would actually feel better about what their public agencies do, if we were able to share more information in given circumstances.

For example, do you VACIS 2 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent or all of them? I guess the CBSA probably would feel that may be giving away valuable information in relation to security. If you are checking everybody, that is one thing. If you are checking 2 per cent, that is another thing in terms of risk assessment, if you are the bad guy in terms of assessing the risk of getting caught. My guess is that if those are the kinds of numbers they are not giving you, that is why they do not give them to you. Again, I will be pleased to go back and push them and ask them whether, in the name of national security, we need to be as closed as we are in relation to some of these things.

Your point on benchmarking is also a good one. If you do not know where people started, how do you know whether they are doing better? If the Americans VACIS 2 per cent of all rail, is that the bench mark we should hit, or should we VACIS 5 per cent or 20 per cent? How do you as a committee make a critical judgment and offer recommendations if you do not know? Is there a global benchmark? Is it 2 per cent? If so, what are we doing? You cannot really help us very much if you do not know those things.

Let me ask you a question. If you were in the United States, would they tell you the percentage of rail shipments that are inspected using VACIS?

Senator Meighen: Yes, they will.

The Chairman: In fact, your officials tell us that.

Senator Meighen: But we cannot know ours.

Ms. McLellan: CBSA would share that information with their counterparts in the United States.

The Chairman: Just to clear the record, Minister, we heard testimony that 100 per cent of the rail traffic going south was inspected using VACIS, and zero per cent of the rail traffic going north was inspected using VACIS. The problem is, your gang missed a good story. The level of inspections has improved so much over the last three years, and we get witnesses that are responsible to you coming before us and sitting there with their mouths zippered and saying, "I cannot tell you. It is a secret, and I will have to shoot you." We are fed up with it.

Ms. McLellan: I understand.

The Chairman: We came, having heard testimony from, for example, the Port of St. John where they VACIS 98 per cent. We have also been to the port of Windsor where they only have the VACIS machine on for eight hours a day, and all the truckers know it. Notwithstanding any of that, there was a good story to tell, and CBSA would have looked terrific if they had said, "Here is what we are doing." It was a generic question, and they chose not to answer it. We probably exhausted this, but there is a point that really needs to be registered.

Ms. McLellan: I will say, again, although I do not think it really answers your main concern, that they did respond. Alain Jolicoeur, who is President of CBSA, responded that they would provide you with that information in camera. They will give you the information, but it just would not be in a public session.

As I have said, I have already asked these agencies to look at how we communicate with the public, because the public has questions. If the RCMP carry out an operation and someone is arrested under the Anti-terrorism Act, obviously there are limits on what you can say. We all know that, but the public in the world in which we live actually wants more information, not less, about what that tells them about their collective security. I think we need to revisit some of these things.

Senator Meighen: I liked the first part of your answer best. The contrast between us and the Americans puts us at a disadvantage. If Americans are telling the world they are checking every bag of each air traveler, and we are so secret that we cannot tell anybody, obviously you conclude we are not testing anybody, and that is an incorrect assumption. We know we have made improvements, but we also know there is one terminal in Toronto where they are not being tested. The bad guys know a lot more than I know, so I am not going to be telling them anything.

Let me leave you with one thought that I would be interested in some day, although perhaps not today. Much of this testing is done on a risk assessment basis, and we think it comes from a doubtful source, so we are going to examine that. Have you got any system to test your risk assessment system to know how you are doing?

Ms. McLellan: That is a very good question. Risk assessment is a global enterprise in terms of the fact that we work with others in developing risk assessment tools. It is, to the best of my knowledge, a fact that they are evaluated as risk assessment tools in terms of whether they are achieving their purpose in a fair, impartial and effective way.

Ms. Bloodworth, do you have more information about that in terms of who tests the people who develop the risk assessment tests?

Ms. Bloodworth: You refer to the CBSA that has to do that, but in fact the risk assessment is something all organizations are supposed to use because we cannot do things 100 per cent. If there is one thing I have learned about risk assessment that is you can never say it is done. It is something that has to be continually reviewed. I think that the intelligence community in government — and I am using a wide term in that — does that as well as anyone else in government. That is not saying it is perfect. It is not saying they could not do it better and we could not do it better. By and large, they do it as well as anyone else. It is a very imperfect science, as I am sure if you have seen it, you would know. The most important thing about risk assessment is you can never declare, "Well, I have got my system and that is what it is going to be forever." You have to have a system that continually reviews that. Indeed, the border agency and other organizations do that, which is not to say they cannot learn to do it better, as we all can.

Senator Meighen: But you agree that the assessor should be assessed?

Ms. Bloodworth: Absolutely.

Senator Banks: Thank you for being here. My questions are much less rarefied than the ones which you have been answering. They all have to do with spending money. They are therefore very specific.

We travelled all over the country and have been to most major cities and many that are not so major. We have looked at the very pointy end of the stick that you referred to earlier. All of my questions arise from your opening remarks.

You were talking about the fact that the true first responders in almost any emergency are the city police department, the town fire department, and the emergency medical technicians, et cetera. You talked about the meeting that was held here between the provincial and federal authorities in January, dealing with the question of emergency response. You did not say anything about municipalities having attended and they are the people who actually do it. Did they attend?

Ms. McLellan: No, municipalities were not in attendance in terms of the ministerial meetings. No, absolutely not. In fact, when you look at something like the development of our critical infrastructure strategy, clearly that involves not only provinces, but municipalities and the private sector. As you pointed out, they are key to that.

Since we have not had a meeting in 11 years, we decided we would invite provincial and territorial ministers and see whether people felt it was an important forum that we would want to continue in terms of working on these shared challenges. I think that in the future one might foresee inviting representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, FCM, the committee that they have on critical infrastructure. I do not think that either I or my provincial or territorial colleagues foresee a time when we would invite a representative from every municipality that deals with critical infrastructure. They have their own organizations that can bring to the table their collected views in terms of the challenges they face and the resources they need. You are right to point that out, whether it is emergency response or critical infrastructure protection that takes place in a given locale. In some cases they may be integrated national systems but if one is talking about a water system or a chemical plant, for example, an event happens in a local place and the people who show up are local municipal officials at least at the very first.

Senator Banks: I think they would take great comfort from your suggestion that FCM represent them at some future meetings.

Ms. McLellan: I would be happy to do that and of course the chiefs of police also are a key part of first response and emergency planning, and we do meet with the chiefs. We have representatives from local fire chiefs, for example, who help design our national training programs for first responders. They are very much integrated into the various things we do.

Senator Banks: Some of them feel left out.

Ms. McLellan: I am sure.

Senator Banks: I am suggesting that might be a good idea the next time you have a meeting of that kind to include the other order of government, even if it is just for hand-holding purposes.

Ms. McLellan: It is a good idea to think about inviting FCM representatives who think about these issues.

Senator Banks: You talked about the operations centre. The manager of the Government Operations Centre has told this committee that it is up and running, and is one of the successes of the first kick at the cat. We remember when Senator Munson was in a different job and in a situation where he was writing memos by candlelight and sending them out by fax. This gave rise, I hope, to some of the considerations in the Government Operations Centre. Is it in fact up and running now, and is there a redundant duplication of it somewhere?

Ms. McLellan: I will let Ms. Bloodworth respond to some of that but I think Senator Munson was not in our Government Ops Centre. He was in the Langevin Block, was he not? There was a redundancy built into the PCO, PMO offices over there and a redundancy, as I understand it, which had been tested. An emergency back-up had been tested just the month before and it all blew. That is not to excuse anything, but it was not that there was not redundancy; it had even been tested very recently before the event, but it blew. We have to build, in that kind of situation, greater redundancy. Now people understand what happened there. We are confident as much as one can be that we have a system in there to prevent that from happening again. The Government Ops Centre did learn a lot from the power outage situation. We have now a Government Ops Centre and that was part of my obligation. When I took up this job, the Prime Minister wanted to ensure that we had an outstanding first-rate Government Ops Centre. It is not where we want it to be completely; I am not pretending that it is. We need additional resources to move forward, but it is there, and it is responding, for example, with the Vancouver mudslide situation and the floods, very fast off the mark. The tsunami situation is another example, although that was driven out of the Department of Foreign Affairs as a response; the Government Ops Centre sending information in relation to the state of play around the tsunami situation.

I think you are right, senator; it was always a Department of Foreign Affairs lead. There were some issues there that we are looking at in terms of response and making sure that while acknowledging and respecting the Foreign Affairs lead that we make sure everybody understands the role of the Government Ops Centre, and what it is there for. For example, around the Vancouver floods, we connected immediately to the provincial ops centres that were up and running at various points around the province, providing regular updates. Is it perfect? No. Is there more work to do; absolutely.

Ms. Bloodworth: I am glad you finished with that because I wouldn't want us to declare complete victory in the operational centre. We still need a permanent site but we are enormously better off than we were a year ago. It is not simply the operations centre. There is also the other issue you talked about, business continuity plans. One of the responsibilities the department is given, for which we hope to receive resources shortly, is to audit business continuity plans of government. We in government have always been required to have them but there has been no one auditing them. I think it is fair to say that is a function that needs to happen.

Senator Banks: In respect of both of those things and other things as well, is there a formalized, codified, lessons-learned compendium someplace to which everybody is going to have access, and from which you will continually learn and we will all continually learn all of those lessons as we go along? There will be new ones the next time. Is there such a thing?

Ms. Bloodworth: No. There are different lessons learned and that is certainly part of the plan. We have already talked with the provinces about having a lessons-learned site that we might share with them. Part of the price of getting a password would be to enter your own lessons learned. It is a work in progress. We are certainly better off than we were 18 months ago, but we still have some way to go on lessons learned.

The Chairman: I apologize to Senator Atkins because we have exhausted our time. We have many more questions that we would like to ask our witnesses.

Ms. McLellan: I will be back before the committee for its deliberations on the CBSA legislation on border services when it comes before the Senate.

The Chairman: We will have to wait and see.

Ms. McLellan: If so, I will be back in the not-too-distant future.

The Chairman: Set aside six hours, minister.

Ms. McLellan: As long as you provide lunch or dinner.

Senator Munson: For the record, I have never left my post and I kept the candle for historical reasons.

The Chairman: On behalf of the committee, Minister, I thank you for your testimony.

For members of the public who are viewing this program, if you have any questions or comments, please visit our website at www.sen-sec.ca. to find witness testimony and hearing schedules. Otherwise, you may contact the Clerk of the Committee by calling 1-800-267-7362 for further information or assistance in contacting ministers.

The committee continued in camera.