Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence
Issue 6 - Evidence - Meeting of May 5, 2014
OTTAWA, Monday, May 5, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day
at 1 p.m. to study the policies, practices and collaborative efforts of Canada
Border Services Agency in determining admissibility to Canada and removal of
inadmissible individuals; and the status of Canada's international security and
defence relations including, but not limited to, relations with the United
States, NATO and NORAD (topic: ballistic missile defence).
Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on
National Security and Defence. Before we welcome our witnesses, I would like to
begin by introducing the people around the table. My name is Daniel Lang, a
senator for Yukon. To my left is the clerk of the committee, Josée Thérien. On
my right are the Library of Parliament analysts assigned to the committee, Holly
Porteous and Wolfgang Koerner.
I would like to go around the table and ask the senators to introduce
themselves and state the region they represent, starting with our deputy chair.
Senator Dallaire: Senator Dallaire, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and my
depleted ranks are with me.
Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.
Senator Dagenais: Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.
Senator Beyak: Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator Wells: David Wells, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Chair: This afternoon, the committee will be meeting for the full
four hours. In our first two panels, we will continue our study of the Canada
Border Services Agency; in our third panel, we will continue our look at
ballistic missile defence; and in our final hour, the committee will meet in
camera to discuss committee business.
For those members who are on the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, we will be
meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 today to consider changes proposed in the budget
implementation act, Bill C-31.
Colleagues, on December 12, 2013, the Senate adopted the following study
That the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence be
authorized to examine and report on the policies, practices, and
collaborative efforts of Canada Border Services Agency in determining
admissibility to Canada and removal of inadmissible individuals; and
That the Committee report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2014,
and that it retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90
days after the tabling of the final report.
Today, we will examine the increasingly complex relationship of the Canada
Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
With us in this panel from Citizenship and Immigration Canada are Mike
MacDonald, Director General, Operational Management and Coordination; Maureen
Tsai, Acting Director General, Admissibility Branch; David Quartermain,
Director, Program Integrity Division; Chris Gregory, Director, Identity
Management and Information Sharing.
It sounds like we're going to get a lot of direction this afternoon. Welcome.
I understand there's an opening statement. Please begin. We have one hour for
Mike MacDonald, Director General, Operational Management and Coordination,
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable
senators. It is a pleasure being here to talk about security screening. As
stated, joining me today are David Quartermain, Maureen Tsai and Chris Gregory.
First, I would like to discuss Citizenship and Immigration Canada's role in
determining admissibility to Canada. Second, my colleague will outline some of
the key reforms we are implementing to protect the safety and security of
Canadians and the integrity of our immigration system.
We trust that this information will help inform your examination of the
Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) role in determining admissibility to
Canada and in removing inadmissible individuals from the country.
We would then be happy to respond to any questions that senators may have.
CIC selects and welcomes immigrants to Canada, offers protection to refugees
and supports family reunification. We help immigrants and refugees settle and
fully integrate into Canadian society and economy, and we encourage and
facilitate the path to Canadian citizenship.
In the course of managing Canada's immigration system, CIC, together with our
security partners, including the CBSA, screens refugees, potential immigrants
and visitors to prevent inadmissible people from reaching Canada.
Our efforts are guided by two main drivers: CIC's visa and admissibility
policy frameworks. Both of these frameworks are informed directly by the
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which sets out various objectives for
Canada's immigration program.
These include, for example, maximizing economic, social and cultural
benefits, while protecting the safety and security of Canadians.
The first component of managing access to our country is Canada's visa
policy. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, all foreign nationals
require a visa, except citizens of countries for which an exemption has been
granted or those entering for a specific and recognized purpose.
Canada's visa policy decisions are made on a country-by-country basis and
seek to ensure that there's a balance between welcoming visitors to Canada and
protecting the safety and security of Canadians. Visa-required nationals must
apply for a visa and satisfy an officer in advance that they are not
inadmissible to Canada, while, generally, visa-exempt nationals may simply
present themselves for examination at a Canadian port of entry for admission to
the country. Currently, nationals of 147 countries and territories require a
visa for Canada; 51 countries are visa-exempt.
The visa requirement is an effective tool for safeguarding the physical and
economic security of Canadians by helping to detect non-genuine travellers
before they come to Canada.
This in turn generates savings for Canadian taxpayers as the government,
through the CBSA, will not have to carry out costly enforcement actions such as
removing these individuals from the country.
As I mentioned previously, the second component is our admissibility
framework. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act sets out nine
admissibility provisions that help CIC and our partners manage the entry of
foreign nationals on a case-by-case basis. In terms of the breakdown in
responsibilities, CIC is responsible for the following six admissibility
provisions in the act: serious criminality and criminality; inadmissible family
members; misrepresentation; non-compliance with the act, such as someone
attempting to enter Canada without proper documentation; inadmissibility for
financial reasons; and, finally, inadmissibility on health grounds.
As you are likely aware, the CBSA is responsible for the other three
provisions: security, human or international rights violations, and organized
Every foreign national who seeks to enter Canada on a temporary or permanent
basis must satisfy an immigration officer that they are not inadmissible. This
can be done through a variety of checks, including various levels of security
screening by CIC and CBSA officers, as well as referrals to partner agencies
such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, for more in-depth review.
To give members an idea of our operating environment, in 2012 Canada received
close to 1.9 million applications for temporary residence. These are people
applying to come to Canada as visitors, temporary foreign workers or students.
Every one of these applicants had to be screened for admissibility, and 17 per
cent of these applicants were refused entry to Canada because they were
determined by an officer to be inadmissible for one of the nine admissibility
provisions I mentioned above.
Mr. Chair, I would like to turn to my colleague, Maureen Tsai, who will
outline some of CIC's key initiatives to strengthen the management of our
Maureen Tsai, Acting Director General, Admissibility Branch, Citizenship
and Immigration Canada: Thank you, Mike. I would like to briefly highlight
progress being made on CIC initiatives that may inform your study, namely
commitments under the Beyond the Border Action Plan, such as electronic travel
authorization and enhanced information sharing with the United States; the
implementation of biometric screening; and legislative changes made to the
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to further protect the safety and
security of Canadians.
CIC is continuing to work with security partners to implement measures under
the Beyond the Border Action Plan to improve verification of visitor identities,
pre-arrival screening of visitors to North America and the management of flows
of people across the border.
The implementation of the electronic travel authorization is on schedule. It
will be a new light-touch electronic document requirement for visa-exempt
foreign nationals (with the exception of U.S. citizens).
This will allow CIC to screen those nationals at the earliest opportunity
before they seek to board a plane to Canada in order to determine whether or not
they pose an admissibility or security risk. Additionally, under the action
plan, Canada and the United States committed to implementing an automated
biographic and biometric information-sharing capability toward third-country
nationals when they apply for a visa or make a refugee claim.
Both countries have already begun sharing limited biographic immigration
information and biometric immigration information-sharing will be implemented in
The CBSA has also completed the first two phases of the four-phase program
implementation of entry/exit information sharing between Canada and the United
States. This will provide valuable objective travel information on clients,
which will assist with the processing of cases and identify instances of fraud
across multiple lines of business.
CIC has also successfully implemented biometric screening in its temporary
resident immigration program. As of December 2013, temporary resident applicants
— visitors, students and temporary workers — from 29 countries and one territory
have been required to provide their fingerprints and have their photograph taken
as part of their application to Canada.
This will put Canada in line with over 70 other countries around the globe
that are also using or preparing to use biometrics in immigration and border
management, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New
Zealand, and countries in the European Union and Schengen zone.
Finally Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, received
Royal Assent in June 2013. The bill was the result of an in-depth review of the
admissibility and related provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection
Act, which revealed opportunities to strengthen the act to make it easier for
the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from Canada, make it harder
for those who may pose a risk to enter the country, and remove unnecessary
barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
Certain provisions are now in force, including limiting access to the
Immigration Appeal Division for serious criminals. Also, the Minister of
Citizenship and Immigration now has the authority, in exceptional cases, to deny
temporary resident status to foreign nationals whose entry into Canada would
raise public policy concerns. Supportive regulatory amendments are being
developed to bring into force additional amendments, including a provision that
will increase the consequences for misrepresentation from a two-year
inadmissibility to enter Canada to five years.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We would now be happy to talk in more detail about any
of our opening remarks.
The Chair: We're very pleased that you are here today.
It is a very complex area when we, as a committee, try to sort out the
responsibilities of the Canada Border Services Agency as opposed to your
responsibilities and how they tie together.
From your comments here, I can see steps are being taken and have been taken
over the last number of years to tighten up the overview of individuals as they
apply to come to Canada.
At the same time, we have heard various reports and have had testimony here
that we're in the neighbourhood of almost 40,000 to 50,000 people who are in
Canada, or claim to be in Canada, who are inadmissible, which is one side of the
question. Then we have the situation in respect to individuals coming into the
country, and this leads me to my first question to Ms. Tsai, if it's okay with
the deputy chair. That's where you have commented about the face-to-face
interviews of individuals applying to come to the country. At the same time, we
have been told that in many cases, and perhaps you can clarify for the record,
that that responsibility is not being directly done by the departments; those
face-to-face interviews are being done by contractors or individuals from those
particular countries. So they're not necessarily trained to do those interviews.
Ms. Tsai, perhaps you could comment on the general steps that are taken when
one does apply or when the initial face-to-face interviews are done, and to what
degree are they being done at this time? Perhaps Mr. MacDonald can comment as
Mr. MacDonald: Thank you for the question. The question of
face-to-face interviews also depends on what application is being submitted. You
will reference the large number of applications received for temporary resident
arrivals, which is close to 2 million. There's the reality of logistics on how
you implement face-to-face interviews with that many people.
Permanent residence applications need to be done in a face-to-face contact by
legislation. But what is important overall, and Mr. Quartermain may expand a bit
more on this, is the fact that when we process applications, no matter what
business line it is — citizenship, permanent residence, temporary residence — we
use a series of risk indicators to help us determine admissibility questions and
also, frankly, to determine application relevancy and processing of
When risk indicators are indicated, that causes or triggers more in-depth
analysis. Our visa officers abroad are the ones who undertake these activities
and do those types of face-to-face interviews when they're required, as an
David Quartermain, Director, Program Integrity Division, Citizenship and
Immigration Canada: As you may have heard, we now use a lot of visa
application centres overseas where individuals may submit an application.
They're not decision makers whatsoever. The purpose of a VAC, a visa application
centre, is to ensure that we have a perfected application. That means there are
no errors on the applications.
On a daily basis those are then rolled up and delivered to our missions
overseas. That's when they're processing overseas at one of our central
processing regional offices. If there's a need for an interview, at that point
an interview will be triggered in the system and then our officers will
interview an individual as required.
The purpose of interviews is normally to determine admissibility or to ensure
there's eligibility. They look at the eligibility criteria under the act.
The Chair: I don't quite understand this. I believe the Auditor
General made some comments a number of years ago as well in respect to those
initial interviews. I am trying to sort this out. Did I just hear that if you
fill out your paperwork okay, you're going to be fine; if the paperwork is not
filled out you might be red-flagged?
That's where the concern is. You are shaking your head, Mr. Quartermain.
Could you clarify that?
Mr. Quartermain: The purpose of the visa application centres is so
that the application that is given to CIC is perfected and that there are no
errors on it. What that means is that the information with respect to the
passport, all the information that we require is submitted, because often what
happens is people will submit applications that are incomplete. Then we have to
send them back to the applicant. There's this back and forth.
The VAC makes sure the application is complete, perfected. Then it is sent to
the CIC office, which then processes it. The VAC's role is to gather the
information and make sure it is accurate. That's the pure role.
Mr. MacDonald: Maybe for simplicity and clarity, because it is
complicated, it is a bifurcated responsibility that our officers have. One,
they're checking for applicability for the applicant to apply. There are quality
checks for efficiency. We have some contractors in these visa application
centres that help that process along. That way, when an application comes to
CIC, it can be processed much more efficiently and quickly, and our service
standard to the clients is greatly improved.
The bifurcation occurs also at the same time; the responsibility of our
officers is also to check admissibility and to do that check as well. Those
functions often occur concurrently. They occur at the same time.
The Chair: I would like to welcome Senator Tkachuk here from
Senator Dallaire: I will go on to visas and then refugees. There are a
few sub-questions — for example, the fact that we have 141 countries that need a
visa. Is this the norm with, let's say, the Dutch, the Germans, the Brits,
knowing we have la Francophonie, we have the Commonwealth? Is any sort of
criteria there being used or not used anymore?
In the visa application process, which is the front lines of people coming
in, I'm quite interested in knowing what training these people get. How are they
upgraded into the complexities of what they are facing? What sort of directives
do they get in regard to visa applications that keep them current in what is
going on in the world?
A small example is that ex-members of the Rwandan government who are now
making up the government apparently are still considered rebels, and yet they
have been the legal government identified by the international community for the
last 20 years. Could you give us a feel for how the front-line troops get their
updated information and how they're assessed in doing that?
Mr. MacDonald: Thank you for the question. Again, I'll provide some
context and Mr. Quartermain can come in and give a bit more detail.
The reason we will answer the question first off is that one of Mr.
Quartermain's responsibilities is as the actual director of program integrity.
Some of your points, senator, are about how in CIC we're improving and enhancing
our program integrity, part of which goes to training, as you know, sir.
In terms of your first question about visas and which countries Canada
determines require a visa and which countries don't, and how we compare to our
closest allies, with the Commonwealth and so on, Maureen could give more
detailed numbers, but some of the principles remain. The government will make a
case-by-case determination. Yes, we will be aligned with some partners. Some
partners will have more; some partners will have fewer. That's the point I
wanted to make on that.
In terms of training for visa officers, at CIC we have a foreign service, an
FS component within the department. We actually hire them from the beginning of
their training period as young foreign service officers. Those individuals work
and they're rotated throughout our department. If fact, in my area right now I
have several people who are on assignment overseas, but they're coming to me for
two years, for example.
This is very much a stepped process, like other professions that we have in
the federal government or agencies.
Those visa officers who work in missions abroad undertake their training from
day one. They are part of the Foreign Affairs overall training. We contribute
heavily, coordinated through my area, to the head of mission training manuals
that go out every year or so to foreign service officers, including the missions
abroad and for the heads of mission.
We have individuals, including myself at times, who provide training sessions
to all visa officers when they go out as a mission and so on.
In terms of directives, that is an excellent question. One of the
responsibilities of my area again is to provide all of the field direction out
to the field through the form of operation bulletins.
Operation bulletins are basically procedures for how you are to process or
how you are to pay or whatever you are supposed to do. Those are posted publicly
as well so that everyone can see the criteria, the directives that Citizenship
and Immigration Canada provides for its officers abroad.
Those operational bulletins are also applicable to Canada Border Services
officers who may be performing immigration-type functions for us as we together
work again on the theme of efficiencies and so on.
Those officers in CBSA or CIC will receive the same operational bulletins. In
fact, just on Friday, my area released a new operational bulletin that I
coordinated with the expertise in CBSA in drafting even before I approved it and
sent it out to the field, for example.
My last point, senator: Our foreign service officers who do visa functions
and so on are rotational. Their entire career is spent moving within the ranks
up, going to various missions abroad. We ensure that they go to small missions,
large processing missions, Beijing, Moscow, Mexico, smaller areas where they
perform different functions, including headquarter stints.
Like many organizations, senator, the training is literally career-long, but
directions are centralized and come out of headquarters.
It was a long response, chair. I just wanted to cover everything.
Mr. Quartermain: Between CIC and CBSA we actually have shared manuals
for the immigration purposes. Whether they are in Canada or overseas, whether
they are working for CBSA or CIC, officers have access to those manuals, and
they explain how to process certain types of cases. It is broken down by
As Mr. MacDonald mentioned, we have operational bulletins that are sent out.
We also send out operational reminders, just to remind individuals that they
should refer to certain areas from time to time as well.
Before officers are posted overseas, they do go through a dedicated process
on training. That's under way right now, as a matter of fact. So officers are
given training specific to the area they're going to as well as general and
Senator Dallaire: You didn't touch on how a country is chosen or not
for a visa. The other thing is, how do you get hard intelligence? It is one
thing to write SOPs or standard operating procedures. Another thing is how do
you get hard, updated intelligence on someone or some group that has been
identified as unacceptable or that has been now cleared?
The reason I ask is I look at the refugee side of the house, and particularly
let's say the minors coming in and how they are being assessed in regard to
their applicability. As an example, an ex-child soldier who has been caught up
in a war, one way or another, are there criteria that prevent him from being
acceptable to this country because of previous history in that sense? Remember,
we're talking about countries in conflict; we are not talking about bandit gangs
in downtown Toronto here.
Ms. Tsai: With respect to visa policy decisions, in Canada, the
decision to impose or lift a visa is based on a holistic assessment of several
criteria. That would include a country's socio-demographic profile, immigration
issues such as asylum claims, travel document integrity, safety and security
concerns, border management operations and human rights as well as impacts on
These considerations are considered as a whole before a visa policy decision
is made, whereas in the U.S., they have legislative criteria.
You mentioned minors. Just to note that in terms of minors who commit acts
that would make them inadmissible, there is an exemption in our legislation for
youth who have convictions under the Young Offenders Act, and if it's a foreign
national from outside the country, they would have to make that equivalent
determination to see if the offence, if committed in Canada, would also have
been an offence that would have been considered under the Young Offenders Act.
Mr. Quartermain: To add to this, Senator Dallaire asked about Rwanda
and hard intelligence. From a screening perspective, whether it's permanent or
temporary residence, the department uses mandatory and non-mandatory indicators.
Based on those indicators, we then refer, case-by-case, individuals to our
security screening partners such as CBSA, CSIS or the RCMP, who then undertake
an assessment and provide us with information about individuals so we can make a
final determination with respect to their admissibility.
We work very closely with our partners in those types of instances. That's a
daily activity that occurs.
Senator Dagenais: My thanks to the witnesses. My question is for Ms.
With millions of non-Canadians coming to Canada each year, is there anything
more that we can be doing to screen immigrants or visitors that is not being
done now, especially from high-risk countries? If so, what more could we be
doing if the resources were not in question?
Ms. Tsai: One of the things the department is looking at along with
our security partners is risk indicators. We are constantly reviewing those with
our security partners. We will assess country conditions, and, based on those
conditions, we would revise those risk indicators accordingly.
We're also looking at trying to do more to facilitate travel for low-risk
travellers, essentially moving resources away from the less risky travellers so
we have resources available for those who might pose a higher risk.
Senator Dagenais: We understand that there are 3,566 high-risk
individuals who are believed to be inadmissible on grounds of criminality,
including security threats, human rights violations, organized crime and
immigration refugee border exclusion in Canada, and warrants are outstanding for
them. Is this the number of warrants for people deemed inadmissible for 2013 or
in total? Why is it so high? Are we failing at adequately screening high-risk
Mr. MacDonald: To be honest, senator, that question is very much a
CBSA question about their workload and how they triage and move forward. In
terms of CIC, we're really not in a position to answer that. I apologize.
The Chair: Could I perhaps follow up on that? The question basically
is this: Statistics have been provided to the committee that state that there
are 3,566 individuals who are inadmissible to Canada and were allowed into
Canada in 2013. Is that an accurate number? That obviously would be very much of
interest to you, whether or not your people are doing the job necessary to
screen them prior to their coming into the country.
Secondly, is that 3,566 for one year, or is that a total for the last 10
Ms. Tsai: I can't address the statistics themselves, but I could speak
about why some of these individuals are being permitted to enter the country.
Our legislation and our regulations specify the authority of the minister's
delegate who is at a port of entry to issue removal orders for certain
inadmissibilities. The authority of the minister's delegate is fairly narrow.
For example, for permanent residents, the minister's delegate has very limited
authority to issue removal orders only in cases of non-compliance with respect
to residency obligations.
For foreign nationals, and I believe your question is aimed more at foreign
nationals, again, the minister's delegate can issue a removal order only for
very specific circumstances, for example, on grounds of in-Canada criminality,
misrepresentation related to revocation of refugee status, certain acts of
non-compliance and being a family member of an inadmissible person.
All other alleged inadmissibilities have to be referred to the immigration
division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The act also provides that if
that is the case, an individual who is the subject of an inadmissibility report
may be permitted to enter Canada to await their admissibility hearing.
A person who is authorized to enter Canada will usually have conditions
imposed upon them, including the condition to report at a specific time, for the
completion of the hearing. If the person fails to appear, a warrant for arrest
may be issued.
I also wanted to point out that at ports of entry, and this is a fairly
recent development, officers now have additional powers with respect to arrest
and detention. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual
is inadmissible on serious grounds, such as criminality, serious criminality,
organized criminality, security, or human or international rights violations,
they now have greater powers to detain those individuals.
The Chair: Colleagues, could I pursue this for a second because I
think this is very important. I don't think we got an answer to the question.
There are 3,566 individuals, according to the statistics we were provided
with, who were admitted into this country in 2013, who are high risk. They have
criminal backgrounds, possible criminal offences and various other aspects that
make them high risk.
The question that our committee is asking is this: How did they get into the
country in the first place? Is that statistic of 3,566, which you must know, for
one year, or is it indicating that every year 3,000 or 4,000 individuals are
getting here who are causing problems for everybody? If you can't answer that,
could you get back to us?
Ms. Tsai: Maybe I could try and my colleagues could help me out if I
am not clear enough in my explanation.
Basically, I am trying to say that the act says we don't have the authority,
if you're inadmissible on those most serious grounds, to say, "Don't come in. We
don't like you." We have to send them to the immigration division of the
Immigration and Refugee Board to make a determination as to whether or not
they're inadmissible. That's in the act.
Mr. MacDonald: If I may propose, we will take this back and turn
around as quickly as we can to answer, as you suggested, in more detail.
We're not aware of this statistic personally, but we can look into it and
return to the committee with a response, if that's acceptable.
The Chair: Colleagues, would that be acceptable? We would like it
clear to the committee how many inadmissible individuals have come into this
country in the last five years and how they got through the screening process to
get into this country and be a high risk to our fellow Canadians.
Senator Beyak: Welcome, everyone. My question is along the same lines.
There are countries on a list that unapologetically and openly support
terrorism. What steps are we taking to see that we limit the number of
immigrants we allow in from those countries?
Ms. Tsai: Under the act, we basically have two tools to prevent
individuals who could pose a threat to safety or security from entering into
Canada. One of those is our visa policy. For countries where we know there are a
high number of individuals who would pose a terrorism risk, I think I could
confidently say there are visa requirements on those countries. That means they
have to fill out the application in advance of travelling to Canada.
We also have the admissibility requirements that apply to everyone seeking to
enter Canada, and those include admissibility provisions with respect to
security and threats with respect to terrorism.
Senator Beyak: I'm not sure that was a direct answer. There are
specific countries listed as supporting terrorism, supporting Hamas. They're on
a long list. Have we taken steps to specifically limit the number of immigrants
from those countries? I understand the six criteria and the three criteria, but
there are countries that are direct supporters of terrorism.
Ms. Tsai: I think all I could say is that we screen individuals. We
have a visa policy, which is an additional screen, but we don't set limits on
how many individuals can come from any one country. Every application is
Senator Wells: Thank you, witnesses, for your presentations so far. I
want to ask a question of clarification before I get to my question.
We have permanent residents, temporary residents, visitors and tourists — I'm
assuming that's the same group — and students. Are there any groups that I'm
Mr. MacDonald: Good question, senator. The lines of business are
easiest to start with. In the lines of business we're responsible for in our
department, you have temporary residents, permanent residents, citizenship and
you also have refugees.
To address part of your question, students, temporary foreign workers and
visitors fall under your temporary resident category wherein you're here for a
short period of time, whatever that may be. Those are the broad lines of
business, and some of what you said was in the temporary line of business.
Senator Wells: I understand. CIC and CBSA work closely together on
entry of persons. Is that fair to say?
Mr. MacDonald: That's very fair.
Senator Wells: What percentage within the groups is required to have
interviews? Are they done by CBSA at the border, or are they done by CIC prior
to reaching the border?
Mr. MacDonald: I'll answer, and Mr. Quartermain might look at some
Let's start with the easiest. When it comes to citizenship applications,
people who come here and become citizens, there is mandatory screening that
occurs on those individuals — in fact, mandatory referrals to our security
Senator Wells: What is involved in screening?
Mr. MacDonald: Screening is determining the admissibility to Canada.
That's what we generally refer to as screening. You are looking at whether there
are admissibility concerns and whether the person is in fact inadmissible.
Senator Wells: Those are the six bullets that I read on page 3 of your
Mr. MacDonald: Correct. By law, citizenship is mandatory screening and
refugees. With those two lines of business, we do mandatory screening to check
for any concerns we have as provided for in the Immigration and Refugee
There are always nuances, but generally speaking, when it comes to temporary
residents and permanent residents, our officers perform the two checks, the one
for completeness of eligibility for the program and we also look for
admissibility, but it is not an absolute requirement to send every application
to our security partners to check for screening.
Again, with that said, the CIC officer — in some cases the CBSA officer is
doing that work for us at perhaps a port of entry or maybe in a small mission
overseas. They are required to go through those two processes, one of which is
always checking for admissibility.
Senator Wells: Thank you for that. I want to ask you about the visa
application centres. They're independent operators overseas. Is that correct?
Mr. MacDonald: Correct, under contract with our department.
Senator Wells: I will make a statement, but tell me if I'm correct in
this. They are only looking at the applications for completeness; they're not
doing any verification of information within the application.
Mr. Quartermain: They are verifying that the information is accurate,
so the individual may show up with their passport, et cetera, but they're not
verifying your work history or anything along those lines. They are just making
sure the application itself is complete.
Senator Wells: So the next step would be for it to go to CIC or one of
Canada's overseas officials.
Mr. Quartermain: That's correct.
Senator Wells: For instance, if we were looking at admissibility on
health grounds, is there a verification process of a person's claim of good
health? I would imagine that if people want to be admitted to Canada, they would
certainly say, "I'm healthy and not going to be a drain on your terrific
Is there any verification of those claims of good health or of whatever else,
financial ability, for example?
Mr. MacDonald: Absolutely. That is a very good question. There are
indeed processes. Our department is largely responsible for providing field
direction to the network of health professionals who are abroad. Health is an
admissibility provision, so we have perfected ways of using e-medical apps, for
example, where doctors can verify tuberculosis and danger to the public from a
In their applications, individuals, when required and depending on their
circumstances, have to go through and have submitted for them or submit
verification of their health because it is an admissibility provision that is
Senator Wells: That would be a letter from a doctor saying, "I don't
have tuberculosis"? Is it as simple as that?
Mr. MacDonald: Yes. It's more than a letter; it is an actual check
with verification and it's now done largely, in many countries, electronically.
That's something we have implemented recently. Also, part of our foreign service
complement includes a network of doctors in certain locations overseas doing
that on site.
Senator Wells: Are 100 per cent of the permanent resident applicants
Mr. Quartermain: No, they're not. I'm not sure we have the accurate
stats right now, but usually the range is between 9 per cent and 15 per cent
that are actually interviewed.
Senator Wells: Of the permanent resident applicants?
Mr. Quartermain: Yes, between 9 and 15 per cent.
Senator Wells: Is that the highest of all the categories?
Mr. MacDonald: Is that the highest of all — sorry?
Senator Wells: Of all the categories — temporary residents, visitors,
tourists, students. Is the permanent resident one the highest percentage of
interviews within the various categories?
Mr. Quartermain: It depends on what you mean by that. Overseas, the
visa officers process permanent residents. They're then issued a Confirmation of
Permanent Residence. That person then arrives at the port of entry and is
interviewed by a CBSA officer. Those folks are 100 per cent interviewed before
they are actually what we call landed.
Overseas, you will not interview 100 per cent of all applicants. Some are
temporary foreign workers or what have you in the country and they have a
history, et cetera. That percentage is about 9 to 15 per cent, depending on the
Whether that's the highest of all categories, I don't have the answer to
Senator Wells: Obviously, some of these people are turned away at our
border, or are they admitted for some sort of further check or questioning or
process that may still deem them to be inadmissible?
Mr. Quartermain: Perhaps we could get clarification. Are we talking
about permanent residents or persons in general?
Senator Wells: Permanent residents.
Mr. Quartermain: The way the process works is if they're applying
overseas, their case is processed. If they're approved, they receive a
Confirmation of Permanent Residence. They would then go to the port of entry,
and they would be interviewed again before they are landed and issued a
permanent resident card. If they are in Canada already, again there may be an
interview, in which case they would be landed as well at some point.
The inadmissibility or the eligibility is already determined at that point.
If at the time of the interview a port-of-entry officer, for example, determines
that there is an issue or that the person may be potentially inadmissible for
some reason that was not identified at the time of the application, that person
would not be landed at the time, and they would be referred inland or what have
you, depending on the situation or circumstances, for further investigation.
Senator White: Thank you to all of you for being here today.
My question will surround biometrics. I'm trying to get my head around the
collection of biometrics, in particular for those overseas, how they're managed,
how they arrive here, whether or not improvements are needed in that system,
changes to gather more or to utilize the biometrics in a different way.
Chris Gregory, Director, Identity Management and Information Sharing,
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: We now have the Temporary Resident
Biometrics Project that got up and running last fall. We now require
fingerprints and a digital photograph from people applying for visas to come to
Canada from any of 30 countries that are listed in regulations that we've
That project is coming to a close. It's now days or weeks away from moving to
a steady state. It's a new tool that we now have at our disposal.
If you are from one of those 30 countries and making a visa application, you
will go to a visa application centre usually, just because there are so many of
them around the world, and in the process of handing in your application, you'll
provide your biometrics there. There is a fee for that.
Those biometrics are then sent to CIC, where they immediately go to the RCMP
system for checking primarily against three things: We check all of the
fingerprints we collect from visa applicants against Canadian criminal records;
we check them against anyone who has made a refugee claim in Canada since we
started taking prints in the early 1990s; and we verify to see whether any of
these people have ever been deported from the country. We also have those
records on file.
After those checks have been done, if there are no matches to any derogatory
information in our system, we will also check them against our immigration
database of fingerprints. Moving forward, that will grow. Then we'll see if
someone has been turned down one day under a certain name, for instance, that
they don't come back a few months later with a new identity that they've somehow
procured somewhere and try to apply again and see if they're more lucky the
That's primarily how it works. That doesn't take long. That information then
goes back to the visa issuance officer who will receive the application from the
visa application centre, the VAC, and any information that comes from those
checks will be used in a visa determination.
The information will also be made available to Canada Border Services agents,
the border service officers, at ports of entry. If somebody has been through
that process and given a visa and no adverse information has come out of the
checks against those databases I told you about, they will get on a plane. We
then have the ability to make sure it is the same person who lodged the
application to begin with when they arrive. If that works out, they enter into
We have those prints on file for a period of time, and it makes it easy to
identify the person moving forward. Ideally, it facilitates entry in the future.
If there are questions about who the person is, a quick fingerprint check can
quite easily determine, "Yes, you are that person. Welcome back," and off you
Senator White: That's all great, but you didn't tell me you run those
fingerprints against the prints collected by U.S., U.K., Australia and Canadian
officials in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, Pakistan, for example. I
take it you're not running those prints to see whether they have any terrorism
connections gathered in any of those other forms. This is only about
Mr. Gregory: Right now it's about identification, and it's to verify
whether or not this person has committed a crime in Canada, whether they made a
refugee claim in Canada, whether they have been deported from Canada. On the
books, we now have approval to move forward with a system as early as the end of
this year to share those prints with the Americans. It doesn't happen now. As
early as the end of next year, we will get those prints. As they are routed to
the RCMP, they will anonymously be routed to the U.S. government as well.
Whether there is a match or not, those prints will then be destroyed. They
will disappear as soon as they get there. If there is a match against a U.S.
record, the U.S. can say, "Yes, we know those prints. They belong to
such-and-such a person." We can then see if it's the same person, if that person
is using the same or a different identity.
Perhaps even more interesting than that, if the U.S. has derogatory
immigration information on file, they will share that information with us. "Yes,
we know that person. They were deported from our country on this date, for this
reason." That happens automatically. We say, "Thank you very much." We will be
able to use that information in making our own independent determination about
Senator White: To be fair, this could take up the rest of the time. I
think maybe we'll have a further discussion off-line.
I am concerned about the fact that we are gathering those prints and not
fully utilizing all of our access points with the nations we are connected to.
In fact, in what you have described, we are comparing those prints to the 3.5
million Canadians who have committed crimes. We are not comparing them to the 35
million sets of prints found at crime scenes in this country as well.
Mr. Gregory: Mr. Chair, may I comment on that?
The Chair: Go ahead.
Senator White: It wasn't a question, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Gregory: The regulations that were passed some months ago allow
for secondary use of those fingerprints. We are collecting those prints
primarily for immigration purposes, but while they are there at the RCMP, prints
that come in from crime scenes, collected by RCMP officers or other officers,
will be run against those prints. The officer submitting the prints from a crime
scene will be given the telephone number of a CIC or CBSA employee. They can
phone and say, "I have been told to phone this number. I have reason to want
know the identity of someone," either because it is a missing person or someone
who needs to be found or prints that come from a crime scene or someone who has
been arrested. You don't know who they are, but the prints are taken. We will
share with you their identity in that case.
It is fairly prescribed, it's in the regulations, but we do allow for that
Senator White: A quick question. Vern White arrives at the Abu Dhabi
airport. I give my passport over to an Air Canada official, or United Arab
Emirates, whoever it is. They run my passport through their little keyboard
there. That information doesn't automatically get sent to Canada, even though
that's where I'm going. Instead, it departs Abu Dhabi three hours after I have
left on the plane, and it was a surprise to me and many people, I would suggest,
that the information is delayed such a long period. In fact, the plane is in the
Would you not agree — and if you don't, please say so — that that
information, immediately upon collection, should be forwarded to the authorities
in the incoming country so we can take action to tell the airline that he or she
is not to get on the plane?
Mr. Gregory, I looked at you, because you answered my other question.
Mr. Gregory: It's another case where I think that the government sort
of agrees with the general principle of the question and has already made moves
to move toward that. Just as though it is already on our books to share the
fingerprints in a certain prescribed way with the Americans and vice versa, the
government has already decided to move forward with what we call colloquially a
board/no-board system. Some of the other witnesses have maybe talked about this.
Through the Electronic Travel Authority system and the Interactive Advance
Passenger Information system, we will be requiring, moving forward, that
airlines provide us with passenger manifests, with the names of people who are
getting on their planes, before the plane leaves, so that we can then verify
that that person is admissible to the country and reply back to the airline with
a board or a no-board message.
That is the plan. It is on the books. We are busily building that system now
and working with airlines to roll that out in the coming year or years.
Senator Dallaire: First of all, the print information that is being
exchanged with the Americans, they have different access to information
criteria. Are we at ease with feeding that information to them and getting that
information back? Is that acceptable, or has it been deemed to be acceptable to
our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Why are previous refugee claimants being identified specifically in that
listing? The answer I got from Ms. Tsai about child soldiers is incomplete,
because you said they go through a juvenile — what do you call it? A minors
court or whatever. We have already seen what happened to Omar Khadr.
Tell me: Is an ex-child soldier considered under those criteria? Should one
be in this country and all of a sudden it is found out they're an ex-child
soldier, are they subject to possibly being deported?
I need from you, sir, the criteria of the 30 countries that we use that
insist on this biometric, if you could provide us with that.
The Chair: Senator, could we take that as a written question and you
will get back to us?
Senator Dallaire: The last one, yes.
The Chair: We're looking at two o'clock and we have another panel to
come on right away.
Could you get back to us in writing for all those questions?
Mr. Gregory: Yes.
The Chair: If necessary, we can call witnesses, senator.
Senator Dallaire: Thank you very much.
Mr. Gregory: As you wish. I could do them quickly.
The Chair: Go ahead, if you can do it within two minutes.
Mr. Gregory: I suggest the words "at ease" are probably not entirely
correct. A big part of my job is to worry about privacy and to work closely with
my colleagues at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Any time we share
information with a foreign government, we do so only in the most circumscribed
way. A lot of protections are built around. It is not so much that we're sharing
fingerprints with the U.S. government. In fact, we are not. We are querying a
U.S. government database using digitized fingerprints of ones and zeros. If
there's a match, they will tell us the name associated with this print. Either
way, the fingerprint is immediately destroyed as soon as it goes to the U.S.
They do not retain those prints. They don't keep them. We're not sharing in the
sense that they have that and own that and can use that print moving forward.
Why refugees? It is just that we've never collected fingerprints from any
other business stream before. Moving forward, we will run our new prints against
all of our old immigration prints — refugees, temporary residents, whatever — to
make sure that it is not the same person who has been removed and who is trying
to come back with a new identity.
The 30 countries were chosen in much the same way we choose the visa
countries: how many people from these countries come to Canada and commit a
crime, how many people from these countries come to Canada with false documents,
and other more general foreign and trade policy considerations.
The Chair: Thank you for coming.
As we continue our study of the Canada Border Services Agency, we are pleased
to welcome Dr. Steven Bucci, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center
for Foreign Policy Studies and Senior Fellow, Homeland Security & Defense Issues
at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Bucci comes to us with a wealth of experience, having served for three
decades, beginning as an Army Special Forces officer and ending his government
career as a top Pentagon official.
Dr. Bucci grew up in Dobbs Ferry, New York, graduated in 1977 from the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point, and received his master's and doctorate degrees
in international relations in 1986 and 1987. Dr. Bucci served as a military
assistant to the Secretary of Defense prior to and following the terrorist
attacks of 9/11 and went on to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Homeland Security and Defense Support for Civil Authorities, responsible for
overseeing policy issues involving the defence domain, air, land, maritime and
cyber, National Guard domestic operational issues, domestic counterterrorism,
readiness exercises, and response to natural and manmade disaster. He was the
primary civilian overseer of U.S. Northern Command.
Dr. Bucci is an adjunct professor of leadership at George Mason University
and an associate professor of terrorism studies in cybersecurity policy at Long
Dr. Bucci, welcome. I understand you have an opening statement. We have one
hour for this panel. Please begin.
Steven P. Bucci, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for
Foreign Policy Studies; and Senior Fellow, Homeland Security & Defense Issues,
The Heritage Foundation, as an individual: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and
honourable senators. As mentioned, my name is Dr. Steven Bucci. I do work at The
Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. The views that I express in this
testimony are my own and should not be construed as representing the official
policies of The Heritage Foundation.
Also, as mentioned, I spent 30 years in the United States Army as an Army
Special Forces colonel, and then eventually a defence attaché. I served as the
Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Defense Support
for Civil Authorities. I was DOD's plug into the U.S. Department of Homeland
I have spent a good deal of time on America's borders, some spent crawling on
my stomach in the dark with a weapon in my hand, and at the other end,
supervising the deployment of about 8,000 U.S. national guardsmen along our
southwestern border, for a two-year period.
I now act as a commentator and an analyst for all of these involved issues.
America and Canada have more than just a common border. We're siblings, not just
neighbours. We already cooperate extensively to share information, intelligence,
enhanced law enforcement cooperation, and to thwart potential air and sea
threats through North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD. This is the
only truly binational command that I'm aware of in the world and it is
definitely the one that works the best if there are any others out there. This
is an effort that protects the entire continent, not just our individual
nations. By building on the existing initiatives and working closely to foster
perimeter-based security, we seek to enhance joint counterterrorism efforts and
facilitate safe and efficient trade and travel.
The cooperation between the military is not our only connection. The RCMP and
the FBI are definitely linked, as are U.S. Customs and Border Protection and
Canada Border Services Agency. Additionally, the local border communities that
face each other across the continent work together as partners quite regularly.
That said, our citizen populations and some of our leaders tend to underestimate
the challenges posed by our common border. The sheer size and, in many cases,
the emptiness of that vast expanse, when combined with the open policies and
civil liberties that so uniquely mark our two countries, make border security a
hugely complicated task.
The Beyond the Border program has been a success. It is a model of how two
friendly nations, with their separate national interest calculations but common
beliefs, can work together for their mutual benefit. The four principles on
which this program is based still apply: address threats early — using the NORAD
model of perimeter defence, we have to stop these threats before they come into
our countries, which is a lot easier than stopping them once they get here;
build on trade and economic growth, rather than allow well-meaning security to
kill those two things that make our countries so special; foster continued
cross-border law enforcement cooperation; and strengthen critical infrastructure
To continue the progress, I recommend the following: The first one, which is
really for the U.S., not for you, is to eliminate the U.S. 100 per cent cargo
screening mandate because, frankly, it is impossible to do and wastes a lot of
assets that could be used elsewhere. We need to foster coordinated visa and
entry policies. Our respective programs must be seamlessly coordinated. I had
the chance to listen to the last panel; and, obviously, they're not quite as
seamlessly coordinated yet as we would all like them to be. We need to build on
the lessons learned from Beyond the Border between Canada and the U.S., while
working with Mexico, which more and more is being drawn into this continental
program. We need to enhance our efforts to spur private investment in
border-relevant infrastructure. No walls, please. There are a lot of areas where
we could apply our technologies to do a better job in securing our respective
As well, we need to expand cross-border law enforcement programs. This is an
effort that's never going to stop. We need to increase cooperation to deter
cybercrime and espionage. This is a problem that will only grow, and this one I
would love to talk to in more depth because there's a lot of conflation of some
of these issues that is endangering some cooperation already there. We
essentially have one grid, one communications system and one Internet. We really
need to defend it together, not as individual nations. We need to develop more
comprehensive binational disaster plans building on the local efforts that
already exist. We need to reject any and all protectionist measures because
these will lessen our security, not increase it.
If we can continue and expand our efforts, our respective nations will be
more secure and more prosperous. With the economies, societies and
infrastructure of the U.S. and Canada so closely intertwined, a threat to one
nation is a threat to the other. The right approach to joint U.S.-Canada
security serves to emphasize the two nations' economic and diplomatic ties and
to ensure that North America remains free, safe and prosperous.
I thank the committee again for inviting me to testify. I look forward to
answering your questions.
The Chair: We appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to
come to Ottawa to present your brief.
Senator Dallaire: The bulk of the terrorism concern is homegrown.
They're already inside our borders, certainly since 9/11. That in itself is a
whole different world, so we're trying to look at building a wall around North
America in respect of our security.
You have used drones to go after American citizens in foreign countries. What
is the process by which you are able to handle U.S. citizens coming back from
conflict zones and compare them to immigrants? Are you covering that base in a
Mr. Bucci: I would disagree that the bulk of the problem is solely
domestic. There are still many groups and organizations out there that really
hate us and the West in general. Unfortunately for you guys, you get kind of
lumped in with us all the time. That is still a threat, so I would not dismiss
the international component. There is a great deal of threat domestically
because we all have very diverse populations that have come from a lot of places
and, in some cases, have ties back to those groups.
For us and I think for you it's a domestic law enforcement issue. In the
United States, we leave that in the hands of the FBI. When someone comes back
from a conflict zone, and we have large groups of folks coming back from
Somalia, Ethiopia and other African countries and the Middle East, they're
watched. There's some question as to their activities when they go back there.
Obviously, it's an imperfect system. Look at the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston.
The older brother went back home to Chechnya, hung around and obviously got some
sort of contact there. When he came back, we did interview him, but the decision
was made that he was not a threat so they dropped the case. That was obviously a
It is very much an art to decide how they're going to go forward — whether
they're just going to watch them, interview them, or take some other action.
Like in Canada when a citizen hasn't committed a crime, there's not a heck of a
lot we can do to preemptively stop them other than to try to keep track of them
if there is some suspect behaviour.
Senator Dallaire: The Entry/Exit Program is costly. Your organization
has said it may not be the most effective tool. We don't have an exit position,
but we're discussing that. Are you not getting pushback from organizations that
go through the people engaged overseas, let's say the NGO community in conflict
zones? Are they in any way, shape or form being identified in your mind for
assessment or evaluation by the entities that look at people coming home from
conflict zones and how they have been performing in the field?
Recently, I received the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Reflections
of Hope Award, and it wasn't from someone on the outside; so we will balance
each other out on that one.
Mr. Bucci: To my knowledge, we don't do any additional surveillance on
the NGO community when they come in from overseas unless there is specific
evidence that would be cause for concern.
We do watch if someone has made multiple trips back home to a conflict zone.
They're going to pop up on the FBI's radar screen and we're going to look into
it and see what they are doing. We will then probably use our assets in that
particular country to try and find out what they may have been doing there.
We don't have a pre-emptive view that the NGO community is suspect. We
applaud the work that those organizations do in most of those countries because
in a lot of them they're putting themselves at risk to go over there. Again,
short of some specific intelligence that popped up and said that Steve Bucci was
doing something other than handing out meals in country X, then they're not
going to get any additional scrutiny over anyone else.
Senator Dallaire: They're not under them.
Mr. Bucci: No.
Senator Wells: The new paradigm in our world today is freer trade,
open investment, a welcome flow of capital crossing borders and, of course,
foreign direct investment.
As much as we can we protect our land, our sea and our air borders, there's
also a cyber border, which I'm not sure if we protect well enough. Compared to
the threats that we face from a cyber perspective, are the objectives of the
protection of our security and the open flow of capital at odds with each other?
If they are, what should we do to stop it, prevent it or mitigate it?
Mr. Bucci: The objectives of total security and totally free and open
trade are always at odds. One of the difficulties with democracies like ours in
dealing with these things is how to achieve the balance of the responsibility to
protect the physical well-being of your citizens and the interests of your
country with the respect that we have for civil liberties.
When you get into the digital world, it's even more difficult because people
get so concerned with things like privacy and with their communications.
However, some of those same people are very open with the information they put
into those means. They don't want the government looking at it, but they don't
mind everybody else looking at it.
The problem is you then have that same balance when that particular
individual or entity gets hit, either with identity theft or with intellectual
property being stolen from their entity, and they can't understand why the
government didn't protect them from that. We ask the government to do a really
tough balancing act between those two elements.
It is very difficult, frankly darn near impossible, to do as well as any of
us would like, and it is a constant battle, particularly in the digital world
because the adversaries we face, everything from individuals to organized crime
to other business entities to nation states, are awfully good at what they do.
Frankly, it's a lot easier to do the offensive stuff, whether it be stealing
information through espionage or doing damage to somebody's network; it's a lot
easier to do that than it is to do the defensive piece, particularly under a
system like we have and like you have in Canada, which is quite open.
Senator Wells: Do you think the cooperation with respect to
cybersecurity between Canada and the United States is adequate — not the level
of it, but the level of cooperation between Canada and the United States?
Mr. Bucci: There's quite a bit of cooperation between the two
governments, and that is probably as open as we have with anyone else in the
world. The issue is it's not just the governments.
The majority of the digital infrastructure, like critical infrastructure
across the board, particularly in countries like ours, is not owned by the
government. It's owned by the private sector. Trying to mesh the efforts of the
private sector with the government is a much more difficult task.
I know some people in our capital city think that the solution to that is to
just establish some regulatory rules and say everybody needs to get right here
to security and then everything will be fine. That's a pretty naive view of how
the digital world works. Once you've set the regulation here, all you've told
the bad guys to do is they need to get to here. Once they do that, then they
have the keys to the kingdom.
Regulation, at best, is glacial with its speed of development and
promulgation. It's really impossible to apply it to the cyberworld, which
operates at a speed far faster than any other sector of our society or
A regulatory solution is not the answer. In fact, it might actually make us
less secure because people will say, "Okay, I met the government standard; I
must be okay." We already have CEOs of companies saying, "I'm not going to spend
that money for that." Now they can say, "Well, look, we spent the money to meet
the government standard, so we're not going to do anything else," when, in fact,
they will still be vulnerable because it is a very dynamic field. The bad guys
are very motivated because they can make a whale of a lot of money and do a lot
of ideologically motivated damage if they choose.
There's a lot of cooperation between our two governments, but that's not the
whole ball of wax. There's a lot more we need to do.
Senator White: You probably know where my question is going to go if
you listened earlier. You have raised questions surrounding biometric
improvement and whether or not it's appropriate use. I take it your discussion
surrounds primarily identification of individuals, and knowing the wrong person
is here is not the answer, obviously.
I would like your feedback on that, but also on whether or not biometric data
would allow us to start again comparing some of the information — the U.S.
military has been particularly spectacular at capturing biometrics in theatre —
and whether or not it would allow us to actually start focusing energy before
they arrive in our countries to ensure they don't get here in the first place.
Mr. Bucci: The problem we have with biometric data is not that it's
not useful; it can be quite useful if you use it. The problem in the United
States anyway, which is where our comments focused in the papers I think some of
you may have read, is that our system and our rules are talking about adding
biometric data collection when they're not using the information they already
have. Why spend the incredible amount of money to develop all the biometric data
collection capabilities, or to add to the nascent ones we already have, when
you're not going to do anything with it?
Our point is we need to fix our immigration and naturalization system, little
things like when a student's visa runs out, somebody walks up and taps them on
the shoulder and says, "Hey, Bucci, go home." We're not doing that. If Bucci
leaves two years into my four-year degree that I've got a visa for, the school
doesn't have to tell anybody.
Until we fix all of these glitches in our system, just adding more data to
the pile will not necessarily help us.
We are not reflexively against biometric data collection. I agree. What the
military did in Iraq and in Afghanistan was very helpful there, where they were
taking actions to use that information to try and stop the bad guys. However,
until we fix our rules and policies for immigration, collecting all that data is
a waste of money. We'd rather see them focus on fixing the system and listening
to the testimony and the questions you were asking and say, "Okay, so you're
collecting data on all the people, against other Canadians and people that have
committed crimes here, but you're not checking it against terrorists and the
people we're really trying to keep out."
Both our countries were founded on immigrants. I'm a grandson of immigrants.
All four of my grandparents were immigrants to America. Both our countries
thrive on that, but they were all legal immigrants who came here and worked and
followed the rules, and in some cases it wasn't very much fun following the
rules, but they did it. That's what caused our countries to flourish.
If we're going to have these rules, we need to enforce them. If people have
violated those rules, we need to move them out and send them home. In our
country we're obviously having a big battle with that. There's a movement now
with some of our legislators to come up with a great idea. At the same time,
we're drawing our military down by approximately 25 per cent. They want to pass
a rule that allows illegal immigrants to sign up to join our military, which
would then put them on a fast track to citizenship.
I don't know about all of you, but it doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not
allowed to comment on specific legislation, so I won't mention it. But that
concept of letting people in who are knowingly violating our laws, which is
supposed to disqualify you from serving in the service, and then putting them on
a fast-track while at the same time kicking other people out who have already
served in combat doesn't make much sense. We have a lot of rules like that that
we're working through, and from the testimony in the last panel, it sounded like
you're working through the same things.
Senator White: I appreciate your response. More than 80 per cent of
our population live within one hour of the border you talk about. The
relationship we have is extraordinary, not just spectacular. I would suggest you
probably already have, but do you have a thought around the importance of a
North American security perimeter allowing our border to be more open but the
border around us to be more strict and stringent, not just working together but
maybe even a joint strategy and a joint policy that we would have?
Mr. Bucci: That is absolutely essential to the security of both of our
countries. It would be kind of a waste to have the kind of relationship and the
cultural and historical connections that the United States and Canada have and
to not do what you just described. We do it to a degree. It's much easier for me
to fly here to Ottawa or to drive across the border — I have a home in northern
Michigan — than it is to fly anywhere else in the world. It's the easiest border
in the world to cross, but it should be completely open. It should be based on
our security around the perimeter. It should be like me driving from Virginia
into Maryland. It's not quite there yet. I don't know if we'll ever get there. I
think our various federal institutions, law enforcement and immigration are
moving in that direction, and I hope they go faster. I read in your paper this
morning about the American end of the bridge in Detroit and Windsor. I think
it's absurd that the United States is not pulling its weight in that regard. I
will talk to some of my friends who work on that part of our policy. I don't do
that piece of it for heritage, but that's an embarrassment to me.
Senator Dagenais: Could you please discuss the challenge the United
States faces in identifying and turning back people who should not be permitted
entry into the United States?
Mr. Bucci: The main challenge, senator, is that right now our
executive branch has told our Customs and Border Protection people that there
are certain categories that they can't turn back. They have ordered them to not
enforce our federal law. They have also done a great many things to hinder
states along the border, not the northern border but our southern border, to
hinder their ability to enforce their own laws. That's a problem.
We need either to change the laws or to enforce the ones we have.
I think the main problem we have now is sort of an internal debate within the
United States as to whom we're going to send home and whom we're not. I used to
tell people that if they really wanted to hear some nuanced, very articulate
views on illegal immigration and movement of personnel across borders, they
should talk to the 25- or 30-year-old Customs and Border Protection agents along
the southwest border. These are men and women who deal with these problems every
day, who deal with them with a gentleness that is just extraordinary,
considering they do deal with some pretty rough folks along that border as well.
The majority of people they deal with are just nice people who want a better
life, but there are a lot of bad folks mixed in with them.
Our biggest problem is that there are lots of people in the world who want to
come to the United States and to Canada, all for the best reasons, all for the
reasons that make us proud to be citizens of our two countries. The problem is
that there are some other folks mixed in with them. That's the reason we have
the laws we do. The best way to enable the good people to get here is to enforce
the laws so that we catch more of the bad people and not just look the other
way. That, then, allows the bad people to come in and kind of screws up the
system for everybody.
Our biggest problem, senator, is getting our executive branch to allow its
own law enforcement agents to enforce the laws passed by our Congress.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much, Dr. Bucci. I couldn't agree more
with every word that you have said today. Thank you for your vast experience and
knowledge in this field.
I wonder if you could answer the question that I asked our previous panel.
Maybe we could learn something from you. Have you taken steps to limit the
number of immigrants from countries who unapologetically and openly support
Mr. Bucci: We do, but not to the degree that I think we should. I
think it would be a heck of a motivator to some of those governments if we
squeezed their ability to send people to this country so that they would not
support terrorism. Iran, for instance, is an implacable enemy of my country, and
we still allow people to immigrate from Iran. It might motivate them a little
bit. Probably not so much. Some of these others — Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and
others that are nominally our friends — have a little problem policing up their
own ranks as far as the support of terrorism and have a lot of folks in their
governments or in their citizenry who support terrorist organizations with their
financing or other business networks they have. If we put a little more pressure
on them as far as allowing immigration, it would give them pause. They like
sending their kids to our schools. They like being able to come here to do
business. That's a leverage point that we do not utilize enough. For some — as I
say, the Irans of the world — it's pretty tough to get here, and we watch the
people who come very carefully. We just had the recent UN ambassador kerfuffle,
where they were sending a guy who was in the whole embassy seizure, which we
still owe you guys for, by the way. Thank you very much. We do keep track of
that. We do watch it, but we have to have relations with the countries of the
Using that spigot of immigration approval would be useful, and I don't think
we do it as much as we could. We probably should do it a little more.
Senator Beyak: Following up on Senator Dallaire's concerns earlier
about homegrown terrorism, we had a case here that you are probably familiar
with, a Canadian of Pakistani origin who started up a terrorist group. What does
the United States do to address that issue?
Mr. Bucci: This is like the insider threat problem with cybersecurity.
When someone is inside the borders — they're here in Canada, here in the United
States — particularly if they've become a citizen already, they get a heck of a
lot of freedom and movement to do things. We don't want our citizens to lose
that, even if they occasionally go bad. The only way we can handle those is
continued information sharing between our law enforcement authorities, who,
despite what some people think, are pretty darned circumspect about what they
share and how they share and how they keep it under control. Neither of us has
law enforcement authorities that wear jackboots. Though sometimes people like to
say they do, they don't. They're awfully careful with all of our civil
liberties. In a situation like that, there really isn't a good answer. There
will be times when someone who has been given the blessing of citizenship in one
of our two countries has another agenda. Maybe they developed that second agenda
after they became citizens, or, in some cases, they have no connection with
another country and were born in our countries, like Anwar al-Awlaki. He was
born in the United States. In my opinion, he obviated the protections of that
citizenship when he went to war with the United States. I can tell you that if I
had run into him on the battlefield, I wouldn't be checking his citizenship
card; I would be shooting at him. While he was a philosopher on the Internet, he
also managed to radicalize the army psychologist Nidal Hasan, who then committed
an act of terrorism — not an act of workplace violence, thank you very much,
United States Army, of which I am a proud veteran but that embarrassed me. Mr.
al-Awlaki no longer deserved the protections of citizenship when he was fighting
the United States of America in a war from a foreign country. The fact that he
was hit by a missile bothers me not at all. If he was in the United States or in
a country like Canada, where the law enforcement would cooperate, we should have
gone, knocked on the door with the police, arrested him, read him his rights and
taken him away that way. In Yemen that was not a possibility so we took other
means. You don't get a free ride because you were born in a country at one
point, if you go to war with that country later on.
The Chair: I want to raise the question of biometrics versus
biographic profiling. You referred to a report that was published by you and
others in respect to advocating for more emphasis on what they've referred to as
biographic profiling as opposed to biometric. One reason was expense; the other
was actual effectiveness.
I would like to hear more about that because that's one of the areas that we,
as a committee, are looking at, namely, the information provided about
individuals prior to coming to Canada, not when they get here in Canada.
Mr. Bucci: The biographic data is traditional intelligence gathering
and analysis. We look into the individual's background, people he has associated
with in the past and other countries he has visited. We do an analysis of that
information and make a decision as to whether that person should be allowed in
and, if they're allowed in, whether they should be given an extra degree of
scrutiny over someone else coming in.
Biometric data, while very useful in spotting an individual person we may
already know about, because of the expense and of the additional infrastructure
that has to be purchased and put into place to gather it and utilize it
correctly, given the other problems with our systems in the United States as far
as policy and procedures, was not a worthwhile investment of time or effort to
address this problem. The additional benefit — and there is some additional
benefit, don't get me wrong — of adding all that biometric collection and
utilization did not warrant either the effort or the expense when we were not
fully utilizing what we were already getting through the more traditional
I know that's a debatable issue. At a time when both our countries are not as
flush with finances as they may have been at other times, it becomes a pretty
compelling one when you are doing trade-offs in expenditures and effort. We
could get a much faster payback in effectiveness by just fixing the systems we
have and using them more effectively than by adding additional data collection
The other aspect that I think is not irrelevant is the fear, in some cases
irrational fear, which some people have today about data collection. Given the
post-Snowden environment in the United States, there are people who will go
bonkers if we start telling them that we will start collecting everyone's
retinal scan and fingerprints. They remember all the movies they have seen and
get nervous about all that. From a political standpoint, I'm not sure if it's
worth the additional cost that it would throw onto the government to move
helter-skelter down that road.
Senator Dallaire: There's something that just doesn't compute in the
exercise. As you say, it's easy enough to get in-between our two countries, but
we just spent a billion bucks arming our border patrol people. I don't know why,
but we have done that.
I have just come back from Germany, through Holland, and didn't see any
border people there at all. I only met them here when I arrived in Canada.
I think the disconnect — and you have been alluding to it — is either because
of legislation or direction from the executive and not legislation once they're
in. It's fine to say that we have to clean up the system once they're in to find
out whether they are to stay in or whether they have overstayed and potentially
monitor what they're doing, but what do you think? We are a big country with not
that many people. This whole exercise started with the fact that we think there
are 40,000 people running around amok in this country without any links
whatsoever. What do we do? My point is this: How can we divorce the border from
what's going on behind it? It's fine to say it's the FBI's job to do that, but
it makes no sense if the border guys have let them through and there is no
follow through by the border guys. Where do we sort that out?
Mr. Bucci: First, there should be follow up by other people. There
should be more stringent screening at the perimeter borders of the continent. If
we could get to the point where that level of scrutiny gave us all sufficient
confidence, then we could begin this process that we mentioned earlier of
lessening the efforts on the border between our two countries.
The main problem we have is that we have two of the most open countries in
the entire world, right next to each other, and two countries that are most
attractive to many people around the world. They all want to come here.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad people who want to take advantage of that
openness as well. The job of our respective governments is to somehow strike the
balance between keeping that openness and freedom that we all so love and
cherish while at the same time providing sufficient security.
I agree with you that if you travel across Europe you don't see many security
people. If you go into their airports, there have been more security people
there for 20 years than any of us have seen even since 9/11. You don't have too
many armoured cars cruising around the Ottawa airport — at least if you did, I
didn't see one. They have them all over Europe. They recognize that there are
threats out there. It may not be a Frenchman to Holland, but there are other
people within their countries and around that they keep track of. I would also
maintain that, despite the European histrionics aside, the Europeans in general
have way more internal surveillance and security stuff going on than either of
our countries ever imagined, even with Mr. Snowden. They are doing surveillance
of their citizens way more than we do. They need to.
Look at the U.K. If either of our countries tried to pass the kind of
authorities that MI5 have, everybody would go crazy. Yet they still can't
control their immigrant communities. They're hotbeds of very dangerous activity.
I'm not implying that if they didn't have that security things would be
wonderful — it's a chicken or egg kind of environment — but, senator, I
understand what you're saying. I wish we didn't have to have armed guards on our
borders. I don't think the armed border people in Canada are there to protect
Canada from your average American citizen. I think they're there to protect
Canada from some of the people who have come into our country with bad intent
and who may think it would be easier to pull off the job if they came up into
Canada to gather certain things. It is a pretty easy border to get across. It's
not totally open, but there are bad people in both our countries.
Senator Dallaire: The guys at the border are one thing; behind it is
what I was really going after. I was hoping that you would give me some harder
facts on who should be going after these people who are in but we have lost
That brings me to the entry-exit exercise. Can you speak about whether it is
a worthy endeavour to go that route with biometrics?
Colonel, you served well, I'm sure — you were Special Forces down in Tampa. I
suppose you were posted there at some point.
Mr. Bucci: I spent a lot of time at Fort Bragg.
Senator Dallaire: Let's hope you landed on your feet every time after
Mr. Bucci: I did — most of the time.
Senator Dallaire: My only cyber question is, could Google go rogue?
Mr. Bucci: Could they? Absolutely. It's unlikely, because they really
just want to make a lot of money. They have more effective surveillance and
analysis of what they do than we have in the government. I don't know how many
of you have Gmail accounts — I do — and it's kind of creepy when I get an email
from my pastor and suddenly all of the ads turn into Christian ads. I get one
from a colleague at work, and suddenly I get some about master's degrees in
international studies. That is instantaneous, and the algorithm is not just meta
data; it is analyzing the content of those emails.
We did not ever do that, so, yes, there is way more intrusive surveillance
being done by commercial companies today than by any government on this
continent. Maybe a few governments on other continents are more like it.
They could go rogue. It's unlikely, because they are old-fashioned
capitalists, and they would just as soon continue to make money because they are
making it hand over fist. Much more likely scenarios would be things like Google
and Amazon pushing the technological envelopes forward faster than the rest of
us are comfortable with. My wife gets very upset when we see stories about
Amazon flying drones around to drop off packages, and I said, "If you think
that's not going to happen, you're dreaming." It will; it undoubtedly will
happen faster than any of us are comfortable with, but it's going to happen.
Google right now is a powerful international force, and they're probably only
going to get more so. I don't think they're bad people, but they're making a lot
Senator Dallaire: And nobody is keeping an eye on them.
The Chair: I would like to follow up in respect to the issue of
"outside of our borders" and compare ourselves, perhaps, with your experience
and the United States government. It goes back to Senator White, who
continuously brings up access to international information on certain
individuals around the world about whom, for one reason or another, various
countries have information that others don't.
Through the immigration system and screening that goes into other countries
as individuals apply to come into the United States, does their name
instantaneously go into that databank to be reviewed to see whether there are
any flags in respect to that particular individual or individuals so that the
individual responsible for visas can immediately say, "There is reason to look
into this case"?
Mr. Bucci: No, sir, it does not.
The Chair: If not, why not?
Mr. Bucci: It's mostly because government is nowhere near as adept at
utilizing big-data analytics as we're all afraid they are. The commercial sector
is pretty darned good at it, but there are numerous databases I know just within
the United States government — when you start to throw in the governments of our
allies, there are that many more. They should all be seamlessly linked together.
When Bucci's name is scanned at the airport, at least everywhere I'm projecting
to go and anywhere in the vicinity ought to get an alert that Bucci is getting
on an airplane and "is there anything in anybody's database that we need to know
about?" It doesn't happen.
Even post-9/11, the report from the 9-11 Commission said there were too many
"silos of excellence" — or "stovepipes" of information — as we like to call them
in the United States. While we're not as bad as we were then, we still are not
integrated to the degree we could be.
Big-data analytics allows you to do some incredible things, and it's not all
"the first sign of the apocalypse," as people like to worry about; it's just a
tool that can be utilized so that our law enforcement and security folks can
look the bad guys. I'm concerned that probably the biggest downside of the
Snowden revelations is that they scared the pants off of so many people that
they think the government has gone rogue, and so they're going to try to roll
back all of this wonderful capability we have with the digital world. Most of it
is really good stuff and could help us be more secure while still anonymizing
and protecting. The comment the gentleman made about the fingerprints going to
the U.S. database and if it doesn't pop up on a flag, they just disappear. You
could build in a lot of safeguards that way so that you are not creating a
global Big Brother to supplant national Big Brothers.
That can all be built into the system, but the combination of governments
being, one, generally underfunded — and I know that sounds strange, particularly
coming from a guy from Washington, where nothing is underfunded — governments
don't do such a good job with this kind of information and capability. The
American government used to be the leader in this kind of technological stuff.
It was at the beginning of the Internet, supercomputers and all that. Now they
are hopelessly behind.
The private sector is way out in front of them, and we really need to get the
private sector engaged with helping our governments use this data we have. If we
can get to the point where that sort of integration occurs, then collecting
biometric data would be a very worthwhile investment. I don't know how long it's
going to take us to get to that level of integration. I suppose if we hired
somebody to do it, I wouldn't hire Huawei — and I know that's an issue up here
in Canada. It's an enormous problem right now.
I apologize for the long answer, but, no, we are not as seamlessly integrated
as we should be across all those databases, even within our countries, let alone
Senator White: You refer to the U.S. and Canadian systems, but I think
I'll be right in stating that somebody who is ineligible who arrives in New York
City wouldn't be permitted to stay; they would be put on the next flight out.
Somebody who is ineligible and arrives in Toronto will be told to return in a
few days and actually is allowed to stay. Isn't that correct?
Mr. Bucci: That's my understanding.
I wouldn't give the Americans quite as much credit as you're giving them. If
someone gets off the plane, they sequester them. If they come to the border,
say, in Texas, in many cases they are not; they're being told to just let them
go, and we have the same kind of system. We tell them to come back in a couple
of days after we review their file. I can tell you, if they're a good person,
they may come back. If they're the bad guy, they're gone; they're never going to
come back again, because you've just told them, "We've got your number, buddy —
we will catch you." They will disappear. That is an insufficient system, in both
Senator White: We both have it wrong.
Senator Dallaire: Again, do we or do we not introduce exit-strategy
staffing? We have entry, but we don't have exit. Should we crank that up?
Mr. Bucci: We should have an exit process.
Senator Dallaire: Between the two of us?
Mr. Bucci: Yes, sir, we should but we don't. It would move us in the
Again, I don't think doing it solely through biometrics is the answer. But we
need to find the people who have overstayed and we need to find the people who
are questionable at that point. We may find out they haven't done anything
wrong; they have just forgotten to renew. Our systems are flexible enough that
we can adjust for those good people who have made a mistake. The problem is that
there are a bunch of people taking advantage of our respective systems and
staying illegally. Both of our countries are based on the rule of law, and we
need to live by the rule of law; if we don't like that law anymore, we should
change it, not just ignore it.
Senator Dallaire: With so many troops who have served in some very
complicated theatres of operation where we are not into classic warfare anymore,
as you know, has there been an increase, among the veterans, of getting into
problems with the communities because of that experience — as an example, with
the use of weapons that are so prevalent in your country?
Mr. Bucci: The jury is still out, senator, as to whether or not the
seeming statistical increase in suicides and some of the other things are
attributable directly to the experiences they had in combat — which clearly
influences something that triggers something in some people — and how much of it
were people who may have had some degree of trouble already, but because we
expanded our enlistment criteria they were allowed in and came in with baggage
that was added to by their experience in combat. I would still maintain that the
vast majority of veterans come back; I came back from Iraq and every time
somebody slammed a car door it made me flinch because it sounded just like a
mortar going off on the other side of a building.
I also drove underneath underpasses and did this to see if there was anybody
up there for a couple weeks after I got back. But then once that was over, I
integrated fine. The vast majority of veterans in both of our countries are in
the same boat.
As far as the excessive use of weapons goes, the Nidal Hasan incident was a
terrorist event. That was not a cranky veteran. He had never been anywhere yet.
The gentleman who just did the second shooting at Fort Hood had actually been in
Iraq, but all he had done was drive trucks out for four months at the end of the
war. He never had a shot fired at him in anger so it is really hard to attribute
his problem to that. I don't know what his issue was. Something made him really
mad and he lost it. The idea, by some people in our country, that we should just
arm everybody on a military post is a little bit loony. That's not a good idea.
I think responsible rules for handling firearms are an important thing for
anybody, not just for veterans. I like to remind people that not everybody who
serves in the military is Jason Bourne. They don't all get training to shoot the
eye out of a fly at 500 yards. Most of them hardly touch weapons at all or they
touch weapons that don't look anything like a pistol because they're artillery
pieces or airplanes or something.
We need to be responsible about those things, but I think some more research
needs to be done on the effect of the last decade of combat on our military
Senator Dallaire: Your wife agrees that you have come back home?
Mr. Bucci: She has. My wife's a nurse practitioner so she's watching
me all the time.
The Chair: Before we conclude, I want to go back to Senator White's
question, as well as the one I followed up. I wanted to hear your opinion.
There is an information base out there, the way I understand it. It may not
be perfect, but it goes through what they call the Five Eyes — it is not just
the United States — where individuals who are of the character that we would
class as undesirables in one manner or another are on that particular database.
Would it not be advantageous for Canada and the United States to require that
the name of anyone applying to come into our country, at the point of
application, goes through that bank, with the aspect of privacy being protected,
to ensure that there are no red flags at that point?
Mr. Bucci: Absolutely, Mr. Chairman. There's no doubt. There are a lot
of different databases you can look at. We have no-fly lists, the über-terrorist
list and a bunch of them in between those. There needs to be one that adequately
covers people that would be of concern if they were trying to immigrate to your
country, and through the Five Eyes program that these applicants' names should
go through that list. It doesn't mean you are giving the rest of the countries
those names. It just runs it through. If it pops up with Bucci's name, then your
immigration people know, "We need to talk to this guy Bucci before he gets off
The Chair: I would like to thank our witness for attending today. I
appreciate the fact you came as far as you did. We will continue your testimony
when we come to our report.
On December 12, 2013, the Senate adopted the following reference:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be
authorized to examine and report on the status of Canada's international
security and defence relations, including but not limited to, relations with
the United States, NATO and NORAD; and
That the committee report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2014;
and that it retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90
days after the tabling of the final report.
As we continue our study on ballistic missile defence, we are pleased to
welcome Lieutenant-General (Retired) George Macdonald. Lieutenant-General
Macdonald served for 38 years in the Canadian Forces and was Vice Chief of the
Defence Staff from 2001 to 2004, prior to which he had served for three years as
the Deputy Commander in Chief of NORAD. He went on to hold many leadership
positions, both in Ottawa and serving with NATO forces in Germany and Norway as
well as NORAD. He also held the position of Director of Operations in the
Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat in the Privy Council Office.
Lieutenant-General Macdonald is currently a senior member with CFN
Consultants, a consultant firm specializing in defence and security issues. He
has written on several topics, including ballistic missile defence.
Lieutenant-General Macdonald's tenure as Deputy Commander of NORAD and as
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff coincided with the debate over ballistic missile
defence that eventually culminated in 2005 with the government's rejection of
Lieutenant-General Macdonald, welcome. I understand you have an opening
statement. We have one hour for this panel. Please begin.
Lieutenant-General (Retired) George Macdonald, Former Vice-Chief of the
Defence Staff, as an individual: Good afternoon, chair, and members of the
committee. I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in your review of
the status of Canada's international security and defence relations, and
especially that related to ballistic missile defence. I'll keep my comments
Previous witnesses have provided you with input on a fairly wide range of
issues related to BMD. I am really unable, nor am I qualified, to offer further
comment on some subjects, like nuclear proliferation, the NATO BMD policy or the
specific ballistic missile threat. However, I can certainly address the
operational considerations related to the U.S. missile defence system from
As Mr. Chairman has said, I was Deputy Commander in NORAD from 1998 to 2001.
At that time the U.S. had reached a point where they were investing heavily in
the development of a viable ground-based ballistic missile defence system.
Within NORAD it was assumed that Canada had an interest and a role in this
project. Just as Canada participates with the U.S. in NORAD for aerospace
warning and aerospace defence, it was a natural extension that Canada's
participation in ballistic missile warning would evolve to engagement in
ballistic missile defence when the technology was mature enough to declare an
During my time in NORAD headquarters, I was a participant in frequent
discussions and reviews of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system being
implemented. More importantly, Canadians participated actively in BMD exercises
on a regular basis. The larger versions of these involved dozens of personnel
using a prototype command and control system and individuals playing the role
they would have in real life. I acted as the Commander in Chief of NORAD on
several of these exercises, providing threat assessments, communicating with
U.S. national authorities, and authorizing ballistic missile interceptor
I participated in post-exercise debriefs with the key players, which
included, for example, an official acting for the President of the United
Needless to say, the Canadians who were involved learned a great deal about
the system and were direct participants in offering our advice on how to improve
the procedures followed, the computer screen presentations used, and the
coordination of the information flow, which is critical in a time-sensitive
mission like that.
When I returned to Ottawa as the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff from 2001 to
2004, I was an active advocate for Canada's involvement in BMD. Needless to say,
I was disappointed with the decision in 2005 to decline participation. I felt at
the time, and still do, that we missed a great opportunity to reinforce our
NORAD relationship, not to mention ensuring the protection of our sovereign
territory from a rogue ballistic missile threat. At the time I argued that NORAD
could atrophy as a result of our apparent disinterest in sustaining it with this
new capability, but I'm happy to see that this has not actually happened.
Nevertheless, NORAD is not as complete an alliance as it could be. We
subscribe to the necessity of the alliance to defend North America, and yet we
have abrogated our responsibility to the partnership with regard to the
ballistic missile defence mission. We have left it to the American side of NORAD
to perform using their territory, their resources and their rules.
Many specious arguments were used to defeat the case for Canadian
participation in 2005. I have reviewed them again and the testimony of those you
have already invited for input to this committee. In short, not much has
changed, in my view. The threat from North Korea and Iran cannot be ignored. I
don't believe that a limited ballistic missile defence capability is
destabilizing for either China or Russia. BMD is not an offensive system. BMD
does not involve weapons in space. BMD does work, although not as well as the
U.S. would like it to, and they are putting resources into improvements.
Before I left NORAD in 2001, I witnessed a successful live test of a BMD
system test from the command centre. The interceptor video was astounding. The
kill vehicle just didn't nick the target, it nailed it in the geometric centre.
Overall, the technology to provide an effective defence of our sovereign
territory from a ballistic missile attack is at hand and continues to improve. I
believe it is our responsibility to be an active party in providing this
protection in concert with the United States. Serious consideration of the
circumstances, putting aside the negative, misinformed hype that has plagued
this issue, is clearly warranted. I encourage committee members to do just that
and to help resurrect this issue through logical reasoning and informed
We should engage with the United States to determine and assess how we can be
involved. It is the responsible course of action for Canada.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to providing whatever assistance I
can in answering any questions you have.
The Chair: Thank you very much, lieutenant-general, for a
well-thought-out and concise brief.
Senator Dallaire: General, George, welcome. It has been a while since
we've served together. I remember you very clearly being a strong proponent of
NORAD when you were commanding down there. I also remember the 1987 white paper
and how we tried to make that thing work, but that's very much history.
If we are to do logical reasoning — I loved the last sentence that you used —
we only recently found out that, in fact, NORAD wasn't even part of the DPMS,
the defence program management system, that it wasn't even initiating its own
requirements, let alone who would initiate the operational deficiency that would
have to be met by a ballistic missile system.
I'm most curious as to where the air force is as a level-1 sort of player,
where ADM (Pol) is and how Foreign Affairs fiddled in that. Was there ever a
requirement written appropriately within DND to defend the requirement of an
operational system deficiency to our security that would be met by a system like
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: NORAD doesn't submit requirements per se to each
of Canada and the United States. The Commander of NORAD identifies on a regular
basis his priorities and solicits support from the two partnership countries to
provide the capabilities to meet those priorities. He wouldn't say, "We need a
ballistic missile defence system. Here's your part Canada, and here's the United
States' part," or, "Here's what we need to get for it." Rather, he would say,
"It's important for me as Commander of NORAD to build to defend against
ballistic missiles, and I seek the cooperation of the two partnership countries
to make that happen." Of course, Canada didn't pony up to that or indicate any
positive way in which we would contribute to it, so the United States pursued
developing and employing a system on its own, using the resources that the
United States has and had developed for that purpose.
There really isn't a mechanism for what we would do nationally or
domestically to generate a requirement and fulfill it.
The Commander of NORAD responds to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
and the Chief of the Defence Staff, but for something like a new capability, it
becomes a government issue with Foreign Affairs, as you suggest, DND, the PCO
and all the key players participating.
At the time, after the 9/11 attacks, we entered into a series of discussions
with the United States to determine how NORAD might evolve to address the
domestic threat but also how U.S. Northern Command, as it came to be known, was
going to be formed and what involvement NORAD had with that. Is it one command
with Canadians and Americans, or two commands with NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM being
a U.S. command only? Foreign Affairs was involved in that. The Assistant Deputy
Minister, Policy, DND was involved, I was involved with a number of staff
people, and we had a number of meetings back and forth. Eventually, because we
didn't commit to BMD or to any dramatic changes to NORAD, the U.S. formed its
U.S. Northern Command that was responsible for North America, and NORAD
continued on much the way it was until a ballistic missile defence decision was
taken, and then the course was clear for the future.
Senator Dallaire: We recently went down there and General Parent
explained to us that he's finally allowed to put requirements into the DPMS. But
coming back to the BMD to the time of debate, I'm curious whether National
Defence, the air force maybe or whatever, actually went as far as putting into
DPMS an operational deficiency or requirement to be met by such a capability.
Was it even staffed within the series of priorities that were inside DND, or was
the political decision taken even before you were able to take that staff
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: The direct answer to your question is no, it was
never entered as a specific requirement, but it was not because a political
decision was taken. It was because it had not been taken. Had Canada decided to
participate in BMD, that would have generated a requirement to provide the
resources to do that, but until that political binational high-level strategic
decision had been taken, there was no specific generated requirement.
Senator Dallaire: General, I know policy is the backdrop to all
requirements, but surely somebody said that Canada is at risk or has some risk
if it doesn't have BMD. Somebody in the air force or somewhere must have written
that somewhere on whatever, a listing they had or even a wish list of projects.
Was that ever articulated? We're seeking to find out that operational deficiency
that BMD might be able to meet, let alone the political exercise.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I think I can say modestly that I was probably the
main proponent, being the representative from NORAD that knew the situation —
and understood what capabilities were provided. I certainly lobbied within DND
and any chance I had to represent the cause, but I don't think I can say there
was any specific documented requirement that came as a result of that.
Senator Dallaire: That's very significant. Thank you.
Senator Wells: Thank you for appearing with us today.
I'd like to ask you about the logistics and geography with respect to
ballistic missile defence. The United States has Alaska, and they have,
obviously, the continental United States and areas in the Pacific. There is also
access to the base in Thule, Greenland.
What could Canada bring to the table in efficacy or efficiency of a ballistic
missile defence system with respect to geography?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: At the time of Canada's consideration, there was
an expectation from the Americans that Canada would become involved. Some
analysis and operational research was done on what Canadian geography could
offer. I'm afraid I can't answer that quantitatively, but qualitatively there is
a perception that the positioning of a ballistic missile defence site in Canada
would be advantageous to the system.
The one that was talked about most was an X-band radar at Goose Bay, or even
more centrally located at a place like Churchill. It would provide that extra
nearness to the possible intercept area, especially for an Iranian or a
ballistic missile that came from over Europe, and would give that advantage of
being that much closer to the intercept area. But to my knowledge, there was
never any specific definition — or, at least, that may have been done by U.S.
evaluators — that a radar here will make it 10 or 25 per cent better or anything
like that. It was hypothesis only.
Senator Wells: Would that benefit that comes from Canadian geography
be in the identification of the threat as it's being fired in ballistic
targeting — the firing or the fallout? Where would the greatest benefit be? When
I say "fallout," I mean striking and having it drop into absolutely empty
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: There are three options here. One is to put
interceptors on Canadian soil. Another one is to put an X-band radar on Canadian
soil, which defines the target itself once it's been detected. It defines it and
helps interceptor get to the target. Another option would be to provide an early
warning ballistic missile radar on Canadian soil. There's already one at Thule.
The last one is a possibility, but it wouldn't be as effective. Interceptors
could be put on Canadian soil, but that is more politically sensitive and, from
my understanding, not technically necessary. The X-band radar would provide the
best advantage as a Canadian installation which would aid in the earlier
discrimination of the target cluster, the warhead and possible decoys, and
assists then the interceptor to engage it a little farther distance from the
Senator Wells: That would make the system better, whether it is
targeting a Canadian or an American city; is that correct?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Yes.
The Chair: Could I follow up on the radar system?
We learned when we were down in Colorado Springs that the North Warning
System in Northern Canada is coming to the end of its life in 2020. I don't know
what the implications are of that in technology as we move along with programs
such as the ballistic missile defence program. Knowing that it will have to be
replaced, would you be prepared to comment in respect of the timing if the two
governments did come to a mutual decision to move ahead? Would that play an
important part in respect of the further refinement of programs such as this?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: One has to make sure to keep separate aerospace
warning and defence from ballistic missile warning and defence. The North
Warning System and the related forward operating locations and fighters that
support it are related to aerospace warning and defence. We're talking about
cruise missiles or bombers, or just our sovereignty, to be able to identify
anybody penetrating or flying in the North.
The ballistic missile system is quite independent of that. Nothing that is
done to upgrade or improve the North Warning System will enhance ballistic
missile capability in any way. It's totally independent technically. The only
way there might be some interchange is if we were to agree hypothetically to
ballistic missile defence and get into a negotiation about what Canada was
willing to contribute to ballistic missile defence in a NORAD context — what
quid pro quo there might be instead of direct contribution, and what we might do
to the North Warning System. It would be a resource-sharing or
resource-balancing argument rather than a technical,
Senator Day: A point of clarification: You mentioned Thule, the U.S.
base well up in Greenland, fairly close to Alert, as I recall. Is there only a
sensing establishment in Thule and no interceptor? Is that correct?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: That's correct. It's a ballistic missile early
warning radar site. It has always been there to detect ballistic missile threats
against North America. It now has ability not only to detect and help to assess
the threat but also to cue the intercept capability of the United States.
Senator Day: I wanted to clarify that as you made a comment about
You were in a position to hear some considerable discussion about this, I
would assume. You saw the system in its early stages of development when you
were in Colorado Springs in 1998 and 2001 and as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
when you were back here. Do you recall whether at the time any reason was given
for the decision not to participate? Was it the technology that scared some
Canadians, or was it the cost? There had to be a reason for this decision
because, as you say, everybody was expecting that we would move along and be
part of NORAD aerospace warning.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: The simple answer is no. I was one of three people
who were prepared to provide what they called the "technological brief" for a
positive decision. We would answer all the questions that people had. The then
Assistance Deputy Minister of Policy for DND was there as well as a
representative from Foreign Affairs. We three rehearsed questions and were
prepared to respond. I think the only answer that anybody has is the obvious
public opinion at the time — that it doesn't work; it's weapons in space; it
costs too much; and the Americans want to do it so why do we need to do it. All
the issues generated in an emotional response in the media ultimately captured
the majority of cabinet ministers to make the decision. Mr. Graham, who was the
Minister of National Defence at the time, admitted publicly afterwards that he
lost the argument.
Senator Day: I suppose if we were to have the opportunity to meet with
Mr. Graham, it would be interesting as he would be able to tell us.
Were you ever invited to cabinet to make a submission from the technical
point of view?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Yes, I was.
Senator Day: I won't ask you what happened at cabinet because you will
say you can't answer; but at least cabinet had a technical briefing on it before
the decision was made.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Yes.
The Chair: Senator Day, you should know that the Honourable Mr. Graham
will be here as a witness on May 26, I believe, just to confirm that.
Senator Dagenais: By deciding not to participate in ballistic missile
defence, is Canada abandoning or absolving itself of its primary responsibility
to protect its citizens?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Yes. The reality is that whether we really agree
that ballistic missile defence is absolutely necessary, we've signed on to a
bilateral partnership with the United States. They feel it's important. It's a
natural extension of the current NORAD mission. I think we should be participant
to it for our own interests. In fact, I wrote an article just before the
decision was made. We should be acting in our interests, and one of our
interests is to stay close to the United States for the partnership in defending
North America and protecting our mutual sovereignty.
Senator Dagenais: Would a monetary contribution be an essential
requirement for full Canadian participation, or can Canada contribute our
satellite RADARSAT at minimal cost?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Potentially. The reality is that we don't know
because we haven't explored what contribution the Americans would consider
necessary or valuable. At the time of the decision, I made the case that there
was no evidence that the Americans would ask us to provide anything directly —
not early warning radars or satellite capabilities or anything. I suggested that
we should consider offering a geographic location for radar, for example, and
adding personnel to NORAD to man radar sites or ballistic missile sites — and we
have Canadians at some of those sites already — or that we should do some
asymmetric contribution. I think you have been briefed on the Sapphire satellite
capability that monitors objects in space. That had not been developed at the
time. It was one of the things I suggested to assist NORAD and the United States
that would be an asymmetric contribution. Presumably there may be others, such
as the polar communications and weather satellite system.
Senator Beyak: You answered most of my questions in your presentation.
All the information was there in 2004, and I think all the reasons that I
supported it at the time as well. Is there anything we could do differently in
presenting it to the public as a good security thing for Canada?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: The main issue with the decision in 2005 was the
fact that people simply did not understand what a ballistic missile defence
system was. To be fair, I don't think much has changed since then. The system
has evolved and is more robust and developed than before; but the threat has
evolved at the same time. You've had a briefing on the threat from North Korea
and potentially from Iran and others. The Chinese and Russian nuclear strategic
capability has not changed dramatically from a point of mutual deterrence.
It's an issue of being clear in what a ballistic missile defence capability
actually does. It's not weapons in space; we're not exploding bits and pieces on
orbit; it's not something that will destabilize nuclear deterrence as it exists.
But it will address unstable regimes like North Korea should they decide to
launch a missile towards North America; and it's a totally defensive system.
The other thing is, how much will it cost? I don't think we really know that
until we have some substantive negotiations or discussions with the United
States. It will be harder now as their defence budget is under more duress than
it was then. Presumably they would expect some sort of contribution from us.
Senator Beyak: In your opinion, how serious is the threat to a
Canadian city like Edmonton or Montreal of an errant missile or a deliberate
attack? How could we defend ourselves in our current situation?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: To be totally objective, the United States will be
the primary target. The reality is that anybody who lives in Canada or the
United States would be struck very emotionally if a missile of any kind impacted
the territory of either of our countries, whether it was a nuclear missile or
not, and whether it landed out in the boonies or whether it landed in downtown
The reality is that a ballistic missile defence system can defend against all
of those, a limited threat, and the potential of the United States to defend
against an attack on Canada, if it's identified as such, is fairly high
regardless. It's in their interests to defend.
When a ballistic missile is launched, the capabilities that the United States
has can fairly quickly identify where it's going to land. Once the rocket motor
burns out, then it is essentially ballistic. In the system they had at the time
we were doing our exercises, they would draw an ellipse on the map that was
maybe 200 kilometres across so you could identify if it was targeted on
Washington, D.C. You could not distinguish Vancouver from Seattle, but you could
give a general area.
At that time we had a very limited number of interceptors, so in the exercise
scenarios the decision had to be whether you would expend any number of
interceptors against one or two ballistic missiles hoping that you could address
the entire threat with the interceptors that you had.
With more interceptors that they have now, it becomes a little less critical,
and we are entering an area where the ability to defend against even a half
dozen interceptors is fairly high. It's a little difficult to determine the
threat, but it has certainly evolved in the 10 years or 15 years since this was
initiated to the point now where North Korea shows no signs of backing off from
their threat. They now have a quasi-nuclear capability and are developing the
missile to deliver it.
Senator White: My question actually surrounds the impact Canada's
participation had and whether or not you see us being marginalized in the NORAD
scheme of things on the playing field. If so, do you see our entry into the BMD
as trying to gain back some of that space?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I felt at the time that we would be marginalized,
and while it's difficult to identify the specific impact of that, it certainly
has materialized in some point.
Preparatory for this, I called one of my colleagues, Major General Viens, the
J3 in Colorado Springs. I think you met him. I asked him about some of the
issues he was dealing with on ballistic missile defence, and I was impressed by
his lack of direct involvement in any of it.
That's what we expected. You had General St-Amand come and brief you. While
he's not the right person to give you any specifics on ballistic missile
defence, the fact that he really had no direct knowledge of it too was an
indication that we Canadians are out of the picture, really.
As I mentioned, we had Canadians positioned at some of these early warning
ballistic missile radars. You can imagine the flurry if a ballistic missile
attack occurs and you have the capability of defending against it. Once you've
identified that it's a threat and it's coming, then, "Okay, Canadians, step
aside and we'll take it from here."
That's essentially what's happened even with the close coordination between
Northern Command and NORAD in Colorado Springs. Eventually if it comes down to
defending against a ballistic missile attack, and once the Canadians have done
their NORAD mission, then they're out of the picture, whereas there's a
considerable overlap between the two missions. Things can be done coincidentally
and together in a coherent fashion, and it's not entirely advantageous for the
United States to have to step in or to become uniquely involved or uniformly
involved without Canadian help or participation when the going gets to the point
of actually executing an intercept.
Senator White: When you say "impressed," you don't mean in a positive
sense? I think you meant to say it left an impression.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Yes.
Senator White: Do you see Canadians at risk of a strike as a result of
not having a somewhat equal footing or a somewhat equal place at the table? Ten
years in you have a perspective that most people don't have.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: As I mentioned before, the capability of the
system has evolved to the point where the U.S. would probably take action to
defend against a ballistic missile attack in Alaska, the Continental U.S. states
or Canada almost equally perhaps, unless they were suddenly overwhelmed, which
is not expected.
There's a moral issue here. We talked at the time of what is the protocol?
You've got two missiles inbound and one is headed for Winnipeg and one is headed
for a missile site in North Dakota, do you defend against both of them? Yes, I
think so. What if there are five missiles inbound and you can only defend
against three of them, how do you prioritize that?
The U.S. talks about defending against retaliation, ballistic missile launch
sites, major command and control nodes and civilian population, but in Canada
we're concerned about our population centres mostly.
Without direct participation or involvement in the system, we're at the mercy
of the United States employing the system and what their interests are. Morally
it would be much more appropriate for us, because we're partners in NORAD,
because we have an interest in defending our sovereignty and protecting our
territory, doing the best for our citizens that we should be involved in
identifying what those priorities might be and even contributing directly to
Senator White: This is the right thing to do. In all likelihood this
is probably as close as we're going to get anyways, but this is the right thing
to do from your perspective?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Absolutely.
The Chair: I want to follow up in a totally different context. It's my
understanding that in Russia they do have a ballistic missile defence program in
close proximity to Moscow, and that also — if I'm not mistaken, perhaps you
could correct me if I'm wrong — substantial dollars are being set aside for
future work for a ballistic missile defence for Russia in the future. I heard a
figure as high as $40 billion. I don't know how accurate that is.
At the same time, there's an argument being put forward by those who are
opposed to a ballistic missile defence partnership by Canada, that with our
partnership it would cause a further proliferation of the arm's race, yet Russia
is going ahead in any event.
Do you want to comment on that?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Mr. Chair, I can't comment on what Russia may or
may not be projecting to spend on ballistic missile defence. I wouldn't be
surprised if it's a significant undertaking. I'm not sure of the operational
status of their Moscow ballistic missile defence system. It has been there for
some time. I doubt that it's very effective.
The Chair: But it is there.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: It was there. I'm not sure whether it still is or
The argument that a limited ballistic missile defence system erected by the
United States or Russia would be destabilizing to either side, I think, is
questionable. The number of warheads, even radically reduced from what they have
been in the past, is still sufficient to overwhelm any limited system. It
doesn't compromise the ability of either Russia or the United States to deliver
a fairly significant nuclear attack on a country that they choose to attack, or
I don't think we should be worried about Russia developing a ballistic
missile defence system, nor should they be worried about the U.S. doing the same
thing, or NATO doing the same thing.
Senator Dallaire: Quite rightly so, keeping the ICBM exercise separate
from this very targeted capability, as was explained to us because the only way
they could deploy capabilities in Europe was to guarantee that it wouldn't be
lined up against Russia or China but, in fact, against Iran, Korea and maybe
Look at what's going on in the Ukraine right now. You've served with the
American forces closely, mostly on the air force side. I've served a lot with
the army side. I'm not so convinced that when they explained to us the number of
limited interceptors the burst fire capability that they would probably have to
use to guarantee a hit, because of the reliability of the systems now that they
would have less than an optimal number of interceptors should a series of these
missiles be sent.
That brings me back to Canada and the United States. We may think that if
they try to blow away Edmonton, the Americans would react just as much as if
they tried to take out Oklahoma or something like that. I don't believe that. I
think that targeting us would be just enough to make things uneasy and difficult
and that they might want to reserve their capabilities in order to meet
potential future threats if they can't get into Korea or Iran to actually stop
the other missiles coming.
It seems to me we're playing a bit of a game of chicken with these guys by
having such a vacuum in an operational requirement that guarantees that we would
be assessed equally to an American target versus hoping our friends will do it.
Do you not feel that that's an argument strong enough to initiate an
operational requirement within National Defence in our government?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I think we reached the same conclusion but maybe
not from the same direction. I don't disagree with the fact that we do have a
vacuum, that we should address it and that we should raise an operational
requirement. How important that might be in a future geopolitical situation
remains to be seen.
I don't think that Russia or China will ever figure into the negation of a
ballistic missile defence system. If a BMD system exists in a limited number of
interceptors, like the 30 or 44 that the U.S. proposes, that gives you — I'm not
sure if it's totally accurate — about a four-to-one ratio to get assurance. So
that would give you protection against 10 or 11 in-bound targets, which should
be ample to protect against North Korean or Iranian or other attack in the
future. It certainly won't do any good against Russia.
As long as the defence system continues to advance, quantitatively and
qualitatively, to meet those threats, I think that things will go well enough,
but who is to say what might develop overnight, the Ukraine being an example of
instability that we didn't expect?
Regardless, it is in our best interests, as you suggest, to be involved in
the system and to be participant in it in whatever eventuality may develop in
Senator Dallaire: I'm not worried about the Russians and the Chinese
because we have built the equilibrium as we did in the Cold War, so we have got
systems balancing each other out on that side. That's a completely different
exercise than rogue countries having a capability of just creating significant
international problematics, which BMD is lined up against right now.
The second side of this is that BMD has been moved a lot into Europe as part
of the system, and there are ships out there in different waters also, the Aegis
cruisers. Do you think that Foreign Affairs probably doesn't want to play in
this because it brings us into an envelope of such capabilities, which limits
our ability to manoeuvre with other countries because we are so close to the
Americans on BMD and that might have ramifications on our relationships with
other European countries or on our ability to manoeuvre to be an entity that can
reduce tensions with potentially rogue countries?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I suppose that's a possibility. I think the fact
that we're a NATO member, that NATO is deploying missile defence in Europe and
that our closest ally, the United States, is deploying it makes us associated by
the fact of our alliances, whether we have the capability or not. So I suppose
there's some thread of an argument, as you suggest, to be a go-between or of
some sort of assistance to world stability, but I think we're already painted by
the same brush that our NATO and NORAD allies are.
Senator Dallaire: During the Cold War, we had the capability of
delivering nuclear weapons. We didn't own them, but we had the capability,
within NATO, to deliver them from the air or ground means. So we were part of
it, but not part of it. We were part of the NATO defence capability that would
potentially use tactical nukes, and we could be one of the players that would
use them. So why is there such a different exercise with BMD within NATO?
If NATO is with BMD and believes in that capability, why is there the
argument that Canada doesn't want to participate with BMD when the threat to our
own mainland is far more real than many of the European threats that were out
there even during the Cold War?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I'm not sure. It is a gap in logic, in my view,
that we are not more actively concerned about BMD for the defence of Canada. It
would seem a logical extension if our 27 NATO partners have agreed that BMD is
an issue and something that has to be addressed. The United States feels the
same. As you say, Russia is developing some sort of a capability, potentially.
Why wouldn't we? It's an obvious question.
Senator Day: General, I share all of your views and the inconsistency
with respect to our participation in NATO apparently without any caveats in
relation to what is going on there. That's from the best information we can get.
There was one other point that we tried to explore, and we haven't been able to
get the document. I think you are aware of the 2005 protocol or agreement that
Canada passed on to the U.S. We're still looking for that. Anything you could do
that would help us?
As I understand it, it is Canada saying that we have no difficulty, in NORAD,
sharing the aerospace information that is being gathered to be used for
ballistic missile defence.
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I can't find the document itself either, but my
recollection is exactly that, that it was signed by the Minister of Foreign
Affairs and his U.S. counterpart, and that it allowed the U.S. to continue doing
what they were doing vis-à-vis ballistic missile defence. There were no
restrictions, if you will, from NORAD about Canadians and Americans collectively
providing information to the ballistic missile defence cause for the United
States to continue, pending an agreement to participate or not by Canada.
If we had said, "No, there's no way that NORAD is going to share that
information," then the U.S. would have had to take a unilateral decision, "Okay,
step aside with everything to do with ballistic missile warning or defence, and
we'll take care of it."
Senator Day: In other words, the end of NORAD?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: It allowed us to continue on with what we were
Senator Day: The other area I would like to explore briefly helps us
understand. If this committee is inclined towards making a recommendation to
change the policy in relation to Canada's participation, then it is helpful for
us to have all of that background information and know what the state of affairs
was and what information was likely shared by the cabinet at that time. The
politics of it we will investigate, but you did suggest that you were involved
in NORAD, in successful intercepts and successful demonstration of the early
stages of this ballistic missile defence back in your time there.
At this time frame, in the early 2000s, up to 2004 or 2005, when the decision
was made, was there any discussion still on the books of using interceptors
launched other than from a ship or from land?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: No.
Senator Day: Okay. The other half of that question: Was there any
discussion with respect to having the missile — the interceptor being a missile
— launched having a nuclear warhead?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Never. I should make one clarification. You
characterized me as participating in a successful intercept. I observed it.
Canadians were not participating. I participated in a number of exercises and we
intercepted everything generally pretty successfully.
Senator Day: That is fine. I wanted to make sure that we all
understood you had very good knowledge of just what was being developed and the
plans that were moving along with respect to ballistic missile defence.
Senator Wells: I will ask your opinion. Back in 2005, when the debate
was ending, essentially, because the government had decided not to proceed, what
would you say was the thing that moved the government the most to make their
decision? Would you say it was public opinion, cost, or some other factor?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: We had not specifically gone to the United States
and said, "Okay, we want to participate. How much will it cost? What do we need
to do," and so on. We had suggested some ideas, but nothing had been
crystallized. My own personal opinion was that it was totally public opinion and
public opinion as experienced by MPs in government at the time. The extent of
the media participation and the fact that people could pile on issues like
weapons in space and using nuclear weapons, and that sort of thing, was a great
story generator for journalists.
To be honest, I was very surprised the government made the decision they did.
I thought we were clearly going to participate, but the cause was simply the
pressure of public opinion and the appearances of doing so.
Senator Wells: It was a communications issue that government saw
rather than a public policy issue, in your opinion?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: In my opinion, yes. I truly think the federal
government has the responsibility to act in the best interests of defence of our
territory and sovereignty, regardless of what the public opinion is, as long as
they are committed to that course of action as the obvious and the necessary
thing to do.
Senator Dallaire: I had just arrived in the Senate at that time and
was sitting in caucus and had the opportunity to participate in a number of
political decisions by subcommittees on defence policy, foreign policy, and
things like that. The overriding factor amongst many of those who were less
inclined to the emotional baggage that the Reagan Star Wars stuff pursued — and
having George W. Bush Jr. there didn't help, either — was the fact that the
system was still quite unreliable.
There was a consensus that maybe if the system gets better, is more reliable
and is more effective, we could look at this capability again. The emotional
one, however, was like that absolutely stupid emotional exercise we had about
not wanting to test cruise missiles in Canada, if you remember, up in Churchill.
Can you imagine how dumb that was?
We now need to get a better feel of the delta between the reliability of the
capabilities then, including numbers of systems, and the reliability and
capability of the system now. That has to be brought to the fore. Is it possible
to argue that we have now seen enough of that to defer any of the arguments that
the system isn't worth the investment?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I would like to say yes, but if you get somebody
who studied the intercept success of the ground-based mid-course interceptor
system, they will say there hasn't been a test for a few years and the last two
tests, or whatever, were unsuccessful. I'm not sure of the numbers. The
empirical evidence would not support that.
As I said in my opening remarks, the United States is not happy with the
performance of the system thus far. It is evolving and they're putting resources
toward improving it. They're expanding the number of interceptors as well. I
think they're committed to invest whatever is required in a system to make it
work and be effective. They will do that.
What has changed since 2005? The system is evolving. It is getting better. It
is certainly broader and more capable quantitatively. The threat has evolved as
well. It is more urgent, if you will, more real.
If you go back to equating the argument between 2005 and 2014, what is the
downside for Canada? What's the downside for Canadians? What would have gone
wrong or what would have been negative about a decision to participate in 2005?
Maybe we would have committed a few more people to NORAD; maybe we would have
committed to build a $500-million X-band radar in Goose Bay; maybe we wouldn't
have had to do anything. Our NORAD alliance certainly would have been a lot
tighter when it comes to ballistic missile warning and defence.
The same situation exists now.
What's the downside? The cost would probably be higher, as I said, because of
sequestration, the defence budget and the resources required to do this, but I
think we're in essentially the same situation that we were before. Perhaps there
is a little more compelling argument, but the reality of the situation is that
we could effectively communicate a positive decision and get public opinion on
The Chair: I believe Senator Dallaire and Senator Day talked about
whether there were any agreements between Canada and the United States back in
2004-05. I am going through information that was provided to me. In 2004, the
agreement for NORAD was amended and there was a section that enabled NORAD to
share missile defence-related warning information with USNORTHCOM.
Is that the section that permitted the two notes between the two governments
to allow our information — whatever information, either indirect or direct — to
be provided and to assist in a program such as BMD, if that information was
Could you give us an undertaking and see whether or not that is the area
where that particular authority would derive from?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: The August 2004 amendment to the NORAD agreement
was very specific. It was to provide the provision of that information to the
ballistic missile defence capability in the United States from NORAD.
We were not agreeing to assist in ballistic missile defence. We were simply
agreeing that the NORAD information that was generated for ballistic missile
warning could be used for ballistic missile defence. The NORAD agreement itself
was renewed in 2006.
The Chair: That was included?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: I think the NORAD agreement itself would be the
vehicle or the mechanism, perhaps with exchange of notes or letters, to agree to
ballistic missile defence by both parties.
Senator Dallaire: Is there room for any technological advantages to
Canadian research, and so on, to join ballistic missile defence at this time?
What you are articulating in its deficiencies is the reality that we were
informed about. There's a lot of room for some smart capabilities to be
introduced in that. By us signing up, would that not open up the door for us to
be able to punch some stuff in there?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: Potentially, but we kind of missed buying the
ticket on that train.
Senator Dallaire: Totally?
Lt.-Gen. Macdonald: We have a very strong aerospace and defence
industry in Canada. There may well be capabilities in Canada that could
contribute to the system, but I think we're probably beyond the point where we
should have any expectations in that regard.
Senator Dallaire: It is to reinforce the point that if we are not even
assisting in making it better yet it is a threat to us, it is a double whammy of
how stupid it is not to be involved in it. Thank you very much.
The Chair: It is nice to know, senator, that you don't have an opinion
It is 4:30, so I would like to thank our witness. I very much appreciate your
testimony here today. It definitely gives us another perspective and reinforces
what has been said over the last number of months on this particular issue.
I should inform you, lieutenant-general, that it is our intention to have a
report at the end of June, if everything goes well. In going back over the
testimony today, if you see any areas where more information could be provided
to us, please contact us. We would be happy to receive it. I would like to
excuse you at this time. Thank you very much.
We're going to adjourn for three minutes and we will go in camera to discuss
the various reports.