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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.

[English]

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 reference:

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 this panel.

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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 criminality.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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 borders.

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.

[Translation]

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 late 2014.

[English]

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 well.

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 applications.

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 example.

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 Saskatchewan.

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 different topics.

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 specific training.

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 bilateral relations.

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.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: My thanks to the witnesses. My question is for Ms. Tsai.

[English]

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 individuals?

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 years?

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 screened individually.

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 missing?

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 statistics.

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 partners.

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 presentation.

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 Protection Act.

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 system."

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 health perspective.

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 screened.

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 interviewed?

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 year.

Whether that's the highest of all categories, I don't have the answer to that.

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 published.

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 second time.

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 the country.

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 go.

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 identification.

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 admissibility.

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 use.

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 air.

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 Island University.

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 Security.

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 and cybersecurity.

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 borders.

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 particular way?

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 mistake.

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 economies.

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 terrorism?

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 world.

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 biographic-type monitoring.

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 capabilities.

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 count of.

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 jumping.

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 of money.

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 between them.

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 our countries.

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 right direction.

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 veterans.

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 plane."

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 Canadian participation.

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 initially brief.

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 first-hand experience.

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 operational capability.

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 launches.

I participated in post-exercise debriefs with the key players, which included, for example, an official acting for the President of the United States.

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 discussion.

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 BMD?

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 action?

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 territory.

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 target.

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, let's-make-the-system-better argument.

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 Thule.

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 Edmonton.

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 doing that.

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 not.

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 each other.

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 even Pakistan.

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 the future.

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 doing.

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 side.

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 salient?

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 on this.

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.

(The committee continued in camera.)