THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL
SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, March 7, 2016
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
met this day at 1 p.m. to examine and report on Canada’s national security and
defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities; and to study and
report on security threats facing Canada.
Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I'd like to welcome you all to the Standing
Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for Monday, March 7, 2016.
Before we begin, I'd like to introduce the people around the
table. My name is Dan Lang, senator for Yukon, and on my immediate left is the
clerk of the committee. I'd like to invite each senator to introduce themselves
and state the region they represent, starting with our deputy chair.
Senator Day: Joseph Day from New Brunswick.
Senator Carignan: Good afternoon. I am Senator Claude
Carignan, Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Dagenais: Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.
Senator Kenny: Colin Kenny, Ontario.
Senator White: Vernon White, Ontario.
Senator Beyak: Senator Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator Ngo: Senator Ngo, Ontario.
The Chair: Today we'll be hearing from four panels and
then go in camera to consider future business of the committee.
Joining us on panel 1 is Michel Coulombe.
Welcome back to the committee. We're pleased to have you here so
you can update Canadians on the threats to the security of Canada.
The committee was informed in late 2014 that over 318 Canadians
were radicalized and involved in terrorist activities; 145 of these Canadians
were overseas, 93 Canadians were trying to leave the country and 80 had
returned. One year ago, when Mr. Coulombe appeared before this committee, he
informed us that the numbers had increased. Last week, he informed the public
that 60 more Canadian foreign fighters had been identified in terrorist acts and
returned back to Canada.
Mr. Coulombe, this update was welcomed by our committee, and we
hope CSIS continues to provide such updates to Canadians on a regular,
quantitative and unambiguous fashion, as recommended by this committee in our
report of last July.
Mr. Coulombe, it seems like yesterday when we experienced the
attack on Parliament and Canadians witnessed the murders of Warrant Officer
Vincent and Corporal Cirillo. Since then, Canadians have been made aware of
terrorist activities in almost every provincial jurisdiction, and we have also
witnessed attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Burkina Faso where
Canadians lost their lives. Just today, reporter Stewart Bell reports the death
of another Canadian jihadist in Libya.
The situation of Canadians, dual-nationals and the radicalism
movement remains a significant concern for this committee and all Canadians, and
we're looking forward to your comments. Please proceed.
Michel Coulombe, Director, Canadian Security Intelligence
Service: Good afternoon, honourable senators. Thank you for your invitation
today to discuss threats to the security of Canada. I will focus my remarks on
the current security environment, and in particular, on the evolving threat to
Canada posed by terrorism.
Mr. Chair, as Director of CSIS, it is my job to give the best
assessment of the nature and the scope of the terrorist threat environment. I
will not overstate the terrorist threat, but I feel strongly that we must resist
complacency in the face of this complex and evolving environment. Minimizing
this threat would be to gamble with the security of Canadians.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the impact of the
attacks of October 2014. There are some who might say that this event was
limited in scale and that, although a very tragic event, it should be put in
perspective as two separate murders, and that the terrorist threat is being
I disagree with this analysis because it ignores important
factors. First of all, we must always be mindful of the somewhat less visible
but very significant impacts beyond the human tragedy that terror attacks have
on our nation's psyche and our sense of security.
Second, as you are well aware, terrorist attacks also have a
tremendous impact on the economy. As an example, given the significance of our
cross-border trade, we are all aware of what the immediate impact of an attack
could look like if the result was a lack of confidence among our partners in the
Third, this analysis does not take account of the potential
terrorist attacks in Canada that have been pre-empted, and those who have been
convicted of terrorism-related criminal activity.
In addition, beyond our borders, we only need to look at the
recent terror attacks in Paris or San Bernardino; in Jakarta, where a Canadian
was killed; or in Burkina Faso, where six Canadians lost their lives, to realize
that terrorism has a global reach and that we, as a country, are not immune to
its impacts. And for every terror attack that takes place in Canada or abroad,
many more are disrupted.
As such, terrorism remains the service's investigative priority.
All available expertise and resources are being leveraged to address the
significant operational tempo.
As you will be aware, honourable senators, conflicts abroad,
particularly those in Iraq and Syria, continue to shape the nature of the
terrorism threat to Canada. We have never before faced a threat of the scope,
scale, and complexity as that posed by extremists inspired by the violent
ideologies of ISIL or al Qaeda.
Canadians with extremist views continue to seek to undertake
terrorist activity, whether they remain in Canada or travel abroad. While the
terrorist traveller phenomenon is not new to Canada, the volume of threats, the
speed at which they evolve, and the use of technology and social media, has
created significant investigative, technical, and analytical challenges for the
ISIL, in particular, has developed a sophisticated and effective
social media presence and has succeeded in recruiting thousands of individuals
to travel to Syria from all corners of the globe. ISIL also calls followers to
perpetrate attacks in their own countries or to facilitate the terrorist
activities of others.
Canadians are among this group. The service is currently aware of
approximately 180 individuals who have an access to Canada, who are engaged in
terrorist activity abroad. Of these, around 100 or so are believed to be in
Turkey, Syria, or Iraq. The activities of these extremist travellers vary
widely, ranging from paramilitary activity, training, and logistical support, to
terrorist fundraising and studying at extremist Islamist madrasas. The
participation of Canadians in these conflicts is destabilizing and harmful to
the countries in which they operate, and Canada has an international obligation
to prevent and deter terrorist travel.
The service is also aware of around 60 returnees. Extremists
returning to Canada have the potential to pose significant threats to our
national security. However, I must be clear with the committee when I say
“potential”, as returnees may respond in a number of different ways — from
returning to normality, to radicalizing others, to financing or facilitating the
travel of others, to planning attacks here.
Senators, I have referenced numbers of terrorist travellers in
the past, as I believed at that time it was important to give senators and the
public a sense of the scale of this phenomenon — that we were speaking of
hundreds of people, not thousands. I am providing you with an update on the
current numbers today.
However, I must emphasize that the numbers of “travellers” or
“returnees” do not adequately capture the scale of this threat. Individuals who
have never travelled — whether they aspire to or have been prevented from
travelling or, for a number of reasons, choose to remain in Canada — and are
engaged in threat-related activities at home are not included.
Members must understand that every extremist prevented or
deterred from travelling abroad may become an individual at home who requires
ongoing investigation. Both of the perpetrators of the separate October 2014
attacks desired to leave Canada but were unable to do so.
I want to assure honourable members of this committee and all
Canadians that CSIS is taking every step to identify terrorists and their
activities. Terrorist activity, whether travelling abroad to participate in a
regional conflict, engaging in an attack plot or facilitating the activities of
someone else, is rarely sudden or spontaneous, and it typically requires
financial resources, planning and logistics. We are continually refining and
improving our methods of identifying when an individual is moving from holding
extremist ideas to taking action.
Our challenge is not just to detect complex plots over time
involving multiple players, but also to identify the simpler, smaller-scale
versions of the threat that often can be difficult to detect. In every case, we
share information with our domestic and foreign partners, as appropriate.
Mr. Chair, while the current focus is, of necessity, terrorism
and extremism, other threats to Canada's national security, such as espionage,
foreign interference and cyberattacks, persist.
Canada continues to be the target of malicious cyberattacks by
foreign entities. These attacks have become a tool of choice for a range of
hostile actors including both state and non-state actors because they are
efficient, cost effective, and most importantly deniable.
A number of foreign states continue to be involved in traditional
espionage and foreign interference activities as they attempt to gather
political, economic, and military information in Canada through clandestine
means. Such states will pursue their own national interests through covert
means, targeting Canadian businesses, political institutions, and members of the
diaspora. And Canada also remains a target for illicit procurement efforts by
those pursuing advanced technology including weapons of mass destruction.
In short, national security threats are increasing across the
spectrum. And while the immediacy of the threat of terrorism requires the focus
of a significant portion of our resources, we must be vigilant against other
Our continued cooperation with other Government of Canada
departments and agencies, as well as with our foreign partners, is and will
continue to be integral to mitigating both domestic and international threat
Honourable senators, the service is continually reassessing our
operation and the security measures we have in place to respond to the dynamic
and complex security environment.
With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude my remarks.
I welcome any questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Coulombe. I appreciate
your opening remarks. On behalf of all members of the committee, I want to say
we appreciate the agency and the work you do on behalf of Canadians. The number
of plots that you have been able to identify and negate over the last number of
years is to the credit of the men and women that serve with you and with the
other law enforcement agencies.
You stated in your opening remarks stated you were happy to
provide us “with an update on the current numbers today.”
I'm not clear in respect to the exact the scope of the question
of Canadian jihadists who are involved in various activities, whether it be here
in Canada. The last time you were here in 2014, you clearly identified the
number of individuals who were attempting to leave the country, to your
knowledge, and I believe that number was in the neighbourhood of 90. Those
actually involved overseas were 145, and the balance of 80 had returned.
Perhaps you could clarify for the record exactly what we're
facing in regard to those three categories. For example, the 60 that you
identified two weeks ago, does that mean now that there are 140 returnee
jihadists in Canada?
Mr. Coulombe: Regarding the returnees, it's not 60
additional. In fact, the 80 went down to 60. There are a number of explanations
People have actually come back and then returned. People were
counted as returning, but after further investigation and receiving additional
information, we realized that in fact when they were overseas, they were not
involved in threat-related activities.
There are a number of reasons why that number fluctuated. It's
not 60 additional. We have now 60 returnees that the service is aware of.
About a year ago, we were talking about 140. That number is now
up to 180 people with a nexus to Canada that the service is aware are overseas,
involved in threat-related activities. Of that 180, around 100 of them are in
Iraq and/or Syria.
The Chair: How many Canadians looking to leave the country
have been identified?
Mr. Coulombe: That's a number I don't have with me, but I
would say it's probably around the same range as a year ago, 90 to 100. Again,
it's very difficult. We learned of a number of people leaving after the fact, so
that number does not capture the actual scale of the phenomenon.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Coulombe. I think that clarified
the record to some degree.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you very much for your
presentation, Mr. Coulombe. I would like to talk about fighters who come back
from abroad. I know that some details must remain confidential. However, what
resources are earmarked for the surveillance of fighters who have come back from
abroad? What does this represent, cost-wise, in your budgets?
Mr. Coulombe: I do not have specific information on the
number of returns. Approximately 55 per cent of our operational budget goes
towards fighting terrorism.
What one must understand is that the 60 individuals who have
returned are a potential threat. Some come back to their normal lives. After a
certain period of time, we deem them no longer to be a threat. Others will
continue to be involved in a number of ways. For example, by funding or
radicalizing other people. Because of their experience, they can sometimes
facilitate the travel of others. Based on their activities, we assign resources
based on the imminence of the potential threat.
With regard to the resources assigned to the surveillance of
returnees, I could give you an answer at a later date given that I do not have
the information with me today.
Senator Dagenais: In your opinion, are the resources
assigned to the surveillance of these people, in order to make sure that they do
not become radicalized once again, enough, or do you require more? We understand
that there are however some grey areas.
Mr. Coulombe: We have already mentioned that, just like
the RCMP, the service had to reassign resources to the fight against terrorism,
amounts that were reassigned from other programs. However, as you will remember,
we obtained additional resources in the last budget for the next five years so
that we may increase our capacity to fight terrorism.
With regard to whether we have sufficient resources, we will
never say no to additional resources. That said, I believe that current resource
levels, as well as those assigned to us over the next five years, put us in a
very good position to manage terrorism without negatively impacting our other
Senator Kenny: Welcome, Mr. Coulombe.
When Jim Judd appeared before this committee some time ago, he
testified that 50 per cent-plus of CSIS's resources were being spent on one
country, and that was China.
Describe to the committee how your organization and your focus
has changed when you come to us today and say that 55 per cent of your resources
are now focused on terrorism. Where does China sit? The other responsibilities
that you have, how have they changed? How have they been diminished? How has
that increased the concerns that Canadians should have about our security?
Mr. Coulombe: I can't comment about the 50 per cent back
when Mr. Judd was director. What I can say is that probably 50 to 55 per cent of
the resources are on counterterrorism. For the service, the number two priority
I think the difference is that we now have a much more focused
program in terms of our collection and leveraging a lot more partners, both
domestic and foreign, in terms of burden sharing and working together to fill
Despite the fact that the number of resources allocated against
other files, other than terrorism, might have gone down, we have again refined
the way we work, partnerships, and the net outcome in terms of collecting the
intelligence that is required, that our clients are looking for. I would say we
haven't really seen a degradation of the value of our different programs, be it
China or any others.
Senator Kenny: Are you telling us, then, that China isn't
still a serious threat and is not the principal country involved in espionage
Mr. Coulombe: No, that's not what I've said. What I've
said is espionage is a serious threat. It's our number two priority, but despite
the fact that we have possibly less or the same level of resources for those
programs, we have refined the way we work in those programs in terms of a more
focused collection through our regional offices and a better leveraging of the
capacity of partners, be it domestic or foreign, in order to meet the
requirement of the client, which is the government.
Senator Carignan: My questions will address two subjects.
I would first like to discuss foreign combatants. I understand that 55 per cent
of your resources are assigned to the matter?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, to fighting terrorism and foreign
combatants. As I mentioned, that is why it is dangerous to mention numbers.
There are 180 people with ties to Canada who are currently abroad.
However, that is just one threat among others. There are also individuals in
Canada who have never intended to travel, who pose a threat, and to whom we have
Senator Carignan: You say that there are 180 people
abroad. I understand that about a hundred of them are in Syria or in Iraq.
Mr. Coulombe: Exactly.
Senator Carignan: There are therefore 80 in other
Mr. Coulombe: Yes.
Senator Carignan: You must assign a considerable amount of
resources to tracking these people. One must not forget the domestic threat.
Some foreign combatants or other people are a threat because they could decide
to come to Canada. We have seen Europeans, Belgians and the French. These are
people who have an easier time coming to Canada and can do so. However, these
needs already account for 55 per cent of the budget.
I am worried because when this is all over, these people will
come back to Canada or their country of origin and they will have unhindered
access. How will you be able to track all of these people?
Mr. Coulombe: You raise a very good point. We often hear
that we will militarily eliminate the Islamic State, in Iraq and in Syria for
example, though that will not spell the end of the terrorist threat as we know
There are currently 25,000 to 30,000 foreign combatants in Iraq
and Syria, and as was the case in the past in Afghanistan and in Bosnia, they
will one day return to their country of origin or go to another theatre of
Honestly, it is a threat we will have to continue to investigate
for decades to come. My answer also comes back to what I mentioned earlier with
regard to the other question.
For example, in the case of those who are abroad, the
180 individuals, when they will return, our partnerships will be our strength.
Indeed, no intelligence service can face this threat alone. We must work
together and share information. Some have better capacities in certain regions
of the world and we must therefore work with them in order to best identify the
As I mentioned, these individuals constitute different threat
levels because they are involved in different types of activities. We need tools
in the field and analysis grids in order to define our priorities and assign
resources to the surveillance of individuals whom we deem to be the greatest
threats, and fewer resources to others, all whilst regularly re-evaluating the
Senator Carignan: If I understand correctly, you are
preparing a plan so that when these people return to our country, you will have
specific surveillance tools to evaluate these threats. Is that provided for in
Mr. Coulombe: Yes. Once again, based on the threat level,
we know exactly what operational measures and tools will be used. However, we
must first know when they are on their way back and, to know this, we must first
know when they left from there. It is very difficult to identify all of these
Senator Carignan: Are we talking about thousands of
Mr. Coulombe: Yes.
Senator Carignan: I would now like to discuss a second
The Chair: I’ll put you on second round, senator.
Senator White: Thank you very much, Mr. Coulombe, for
coming today. As always, it's appreciated that you're here.
In Bill C-51, the agency was given authority to work on the
interruption of the Internet by Islamic State and others unnamed and its efforts
to recruit Westerners. Could you give an update on success stories or whether
it's been helpful?
Mr. Coulombe: On taking down websites?
Senator White: That's correct. The U.K. has taken down
dozens, I think.
The Chair: It is 55,000.
Mr. Coulombe: That was an amendment to the Criminal Code
and that would be more law enforcement, the RCMP.
Senator White: It is. Obviously, you're connected to them.
Do you have any indication whether or not the RCMP has been successful?
Mr. Coulombe: I don't have that information. The service
could be involved in the sense of like we do on all files, sharing information
with the RCMP, giving them leads, but the actual action of do we meet the
threshold and then taking action to take them down would be for law enforcement,
and I don't have the information.
Senator White: Since he didn't have an answer, can I ask
The Chair: A very short follow-up so everybody gets an
Senator White: This is kind of a follow-up but a different
There were concerns raised about insider information as a result
of the Khawaja case when he worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs. I know
it was raised through law enforcement but also through your agency. Can you give
us an update as to whether or not any more has been done with federal agencies
in particular? We had some questions about a year ago around integrity testing
for ongoing employees so we would deal with some of the other issues that come
about, like Snowden as an example.
Mr. Coulombe: Certainly. Since Mr. Momin Khawaja, which
goes back to 2004, a lot has been done on what we label the “insider threat.” A
lot has been done. The service has the lead in terms of working together with
all federal departments to strengthen the understanding of the phenomenon and
also the type of measures that must be put in place to prevent, detect and deal
with the insider threat, and, again, working with foreign partners in terms of
understanding us. So a lot has been done.
Senator White: Has it been successful?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, I believe so. Of course, you could
always say, “Well, what about Delisle on the East Coast?” But again, when there
is a case like Delisle, we learn a lot from it, and we adjust and improve the
measures place in a different department.
Senator Day: I'd like to explore a little further a
question that Senator Kenny asked.
We read in public documents, Mr. Coulombe, that ISIS, or Daesh,
is very well financed. Part of the reason for their success in the Syria and
Iraq area is the fact that they're well financed and able to pay international
mercenaries to come and fight for their cause.
To what extent is CSIS involved in following the money that's
going there? We know about the oil and about banks being robbed, but in the
broader international sense of trafficking in persons, kidnapping, and then
selling the hostages back to nations, to what extent are you able to put
resources into following that type of activity? Part of that has to be what
you've talked about here, even though terrorism and extremism are, of necessity,
your current focus, 55 per cent, and other threats to Canada's national
security. Then you talked about the espionage issue. Intellectual property theft
is a big one that generates a lot of insecurity to Canadian companies.
Can you talk about that aspect of money that is leaving Canada
and impacting economic security for Canadians?
Mr. Coulombe: On your first question, yes, the service is
involved in terrorist financing. We have a unit that works at that.
What's different with Daesh is you could almost label it as a
proto-state. A lot of their financing is collecting taxes. You mentioned the
petroleum industries, selling antiquities. It’s very difficult to understand
exactly where all the money is coming from and how to counter it, although lots
of effort is put into that. But the service is involved with the financing
aspect of not just of Daesh but also other terrorist organizations.
On the second question of intellectual property, especially now
with cyber, if people do not take the proper measures to protect their
intellectual property, it can be extremely costly for the economy of a country.
It's very important. With partners like the CSE on the cyber side, we devote
resources to try to counter that, but a lot of it is also education of the
private sector in terms of the proper protection for their assets.
Senator Day: Could you explain to us your role in the
educational aspect of Canadians?
Mr. Coulombe: Public Safety has the lead. A cyber strategy
put forward. This current government has a commitment to review the cyber
strategy. But one of the pillars of the current cyber strategy is engagement
with the private sector in terms of the protection critical infrastructure, for
example. The third pillar is how to educate and enable private citizens to
protect themselves. So there is a cyber strategy and one of the pillars is
engagement with the private sector.
Senator Day: Thank you, Mr. Coulombe.
Senator Ngo: Mr. Coulombe, comments were made by the NATO
commander about jihadists flowing into Europe as refugees. Given that CSIS has a
mandate to screen refugees, including the 25,000 Syrian refugees who have
entered Canada, what other steps have you taken so far? Are you 100 per cent
certain that none of these individuals have links to the radical jihadist
Mr. Coulombe: I'll start with the last part of your
question. As I have said before, we can never be 100 per cent certain. Bringing
the risk down to zero is just impossible.
As I have stated before, I'm confident that the system in place
was robust. All of the people were screened to the same standard as our normal
refugee screening process, but to be here and state that I'm 100 per cent
certain is impossible. I cannot make that statement.
The Chair: Twenty-five thousand refugees have been
committed to come from Syria. Is that over and above the normal 25,000 refugees
Canada takes in on an annual basis? Is that in addition? Perhaps you could give
us a number. Are you able to cope if that's what the numbers are?
Mr. Coulombe: We are certainly able to cope in terms of
screening the number.
Is it in addition to the normal quota? That's something I would
have to check with our immigration refugee group. I don't know off the top of my
The Chair: Could you provide us that information?
Mr. Coulombe: Sure.
Senator Beyak: Thank you very much, Mr. Coulombe, for
another very thorough report and for the excellent work you do on behalf of
Canadians in securing us.
You have a recently published report on the freedom fighters and
the phenomena. In it one of the contributors states that more Canadians
proportionately are dying in Iraq and Syria than any other nationality. Would
you be able to tell the committee approximately how many Canadians or dual
nationals have died in the jihadist movement?
Mr. Coulombe: I don't have the number of people who have
died. We have to be extremely careful because I know of a number of occasions
where people were reported to be killed and resurfaced on Twitter. That's why in
our 180, the number of people overseas, we continue to count people who have
been reported killed until we have confirmation, because too many times we have
seen that type of reporting that in the end was wrong. So I can't give you a
number of how many people we know or believe have been killed.
There was another report yesterday or today in Libya. We can come
back, but I would take those numbers with a grain de sel, as we say in
Senator Mitchell: Thanks, Mr. Coulombe. You have probably
one of the most stressful jobs in the country, and you seem to be holding up
well. Thanks for doing it.
This is a very specific question. There seems to be a strange
contradiction. On the one hand, you spend a great deal of your resources trying
to prevent potential terrorists from leaving Canada and going to fight a
terrorist war. On the other hand, we have the dual citizenship legislation that
was brought in last year, which says that we would cancel Canadian citizenship
for convicted terrorists and then send them back to the country of their second
citizenship. How do you square that circle?
Mr. Coulombe: Well, I think that's more of a policy
discussion. It's not really for me to comment. Canada is not the only one;
France is now considering revoking French citizenship for people involved in
That said, I truly believe that, as a country, we have an
obligation to prevent Canadians from leaving in order to conduct terrorist and
threat-related activities and killing people overseas. We have an obligation. We
are signatories to an international obligation, including one that was not long
ago passed by the UN exactly for that reason, to prevent people from leaving
their country of origin to become involved.
To go back to your question, how you square that circle, that's a
policy discussion. We use the tools that are given to us.
I'm not sure there is a contradiction. It's a complex discussion,
because on the one hand I have heard the argument that if people want to leave,
just let them go and they will end up being killed. Again, as a country, we have
a responsibility. We cannot just say to people, “Go and fight in Iraq, Syria,
Libya, Yemen and elsewhere because that problem is no longer our problem.”
That's why we are investigating Canadians overseas, because it is our problem.
Senator Mitchell: Exactly.
You mentioned a couple of times in your presentation the question
of cybersecurity, and I'd just like to pursue it a bit further. It's very much
divided jurisdictionally. We have provincial government issues and federal
government issues, and we have the Department of National Defence within the
federal government. Clearly you have responsibility for the federal government
up to the Department of National Defence, one might argue. Then there is the
Is all of this being coordinated by the Department of National
Defence, or do you think it needs to be better coordinated? Does there need to
be more focus? It's so disparate and so significant.
Mr. Coulombe: It is a complex file. You're right in the
sense that DND through the Communications Security Establishment, us — you
haven't mentioned the RCMP, which is another player in cybercrime.
At the federal level, there is pretty good coordination. People
talk and we know our respective roles and we share information. There has been a
lot of work done. I was talking about Public Safety having the lead with the
cyber-strategy and engaging not just the private sector, as I mentioned earlier,
but provincial, which goes down to municipal.
That engagement is taking place. Is there room for improvement?
Yes, there is room for improving that dialogue with the provincial governments
and with the private sector, but that dialogue is taking place.
Senator Carignan: Mr. Coulombe, you said, in the other
place, that the services have used disruption powers as authorized by Bill C-51.
Could you tell me how many times you used this power? In addition, could you
explain how those powers were used and the reasons why this rather exceptional
disruptive power is important to your service?
Mr. Coulombe: As I already stated, I believe that this is
an important tool. Whether or not it is exceptional depends on your perspective;
most of our foreign partners also have this capacity.
For operational reasons, I am not able to tell you how many times
we used this power. But what I can say, and I mentioned it during my appearance
before the House of Commons parliamentary committee, is that we have used threat
mitigation measures that did not require a warrant. Therefore, we did not have
to turn to a federal court. These are the only measures that we have used to
this day. I cannot provide you with more details on the types of measures in
question and the number of times that they have been used as that is part of our
Senator Carignan: Could you at least provide us with an
order of magnitude? Did you use these dozens or perhaps hundreds of times?
Mr. Coulombe: No. One must understand that when Bill C-51
received royal assent and became law, we did not go to work the next day and
begin to use threat mitigation measures. First came the creation of departmental
directives. From these, we had to develop our operational policies and related
governance. We also had to organize training where need be. We were only truly
ready after a few months. Of course, we wanted to act in a responsible way given
that we had a new mandate. It therefore took months. With regards to an order of
magnitude on how often these measures were used, they were certainly used less
than two dozen times.
Senator Carignan: Over what period of time?
Mr. Coulombe: Perhaps since the beginning of the fall.
Senator Carignan: Can we expect that this will occur more
frequently in the future, given that the system is now in place?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes. Once again, it is just one tool among
many, which is always used in consultation with our partners. Before taking any
measure to reduce the threat, we consult the RCMP to ensure that it will not
disrupt the RCMP’s own investigations. There is a strong, solid oversight
framework for any issue related to threat reduction.
It is difficult to provide the frequency or the number. It may so
happen that in any given period, its use is not justified; therefore, we will
not use it. Given that it’s new, it is difficult to give you an order of
magnitude by saying that on average, in a given year, it would be used a certain
number of times. We will have a better idea after a longer period of time. The
government will review its national security policy, and we will see what impact
that will have on this measure, among others.
Senator Dagenais: Our committee had recommended that there
be closer ties between your services and those of the RCMP to identify
individuals who represent a security threat, and also in order to encourage
greater efficiency among your services. Have you been able to strengthen ties
and exchange information? Are you satisfied with how everything is working?
Mr. Coulombe: I have been with the service for 30 years
now, and I have always been involved in files that require interacting with the
RCMP. Ties with the RCMP have never been closer than they are currently. For
example, measures are in place with RCMP divisions, at the regional level, for
information sharing on a regular basis; the same is true at headquarters. We
hold joint management team meetings every six months, which my team and I
attend, as does Commissioner Paulson and his team, to discuss more strategic
issues that affect both organizations.
About five years ago, we implemented, with the RCMP, a framework
to define all procedures with respect to intelligence, when the RCMP and CSIS
are carrying out a parallel investigation. We called this initiative “One
One month ago, Commissioner Paulson and I signed One Vision 2.0.
After four or five years, we have learned a great deal. New court decisions have
slightly changed the procedures of both organizations. We therefore updated this
I could not tell you the number of conversations that occur
between the service and the RCMP on a daily basis, but they are non-stop across
The Chair: Can I follow up on that, colleagues? I think an
important recommendation from our report was to ensure that there was a protocol
between CSIS and the RCMP. It's not between, necessarily, yourself and
Commissioner Paulson; it's actually the corporal who is in Fort St. John or in
Whitehorse, he or she. Is there a requirement for them to contact CSIS to
ensure, when they are reaching out to bring the community together, that the
people they are reaching out to don't have a past that comes out to haunt them
later on as they try to move the community ahead?
Mr. Coulombe: I understand. When I talked about the
meeting between the RCMP — Commissioner Paulson — and myself, it was just to
show the breadth of the interaction. But this One Vision 2.0 I was talking
about, this framework, is not for me and the commissioner. It's the framework
for the people working on the ground in Montreal, in Toronto, in Edmonton, in
The Chair: And Whitehorse.
Mr. Coulombe: And Whitehorse. What is the framework? There
is no one recipe that will fit all cases. This is the framework on which to base
yourself when you are interacting with your partner.
The Chair: So it's being done the ground? That's the
Mr. Coulombe: Oh, yes.
Senator Kenny: Just to follow up on your comment about
screening, Mr. Coulombe, can you please tell us why we should be confident in
the screening you and your people do? What sort of tests do you put forward to
rely on a propos of refugees?
Mr. Coulombe: For the refugees themselves? As I said, for
the 25,000 in the Syrian operation, in terms of the standard that was applied by
the service for screening, it was the same standard we applied through our
normal screening programs. The same types of checks, the same operation — at an
increased tempo, I'll grant you that, but exactly the same measures were put in
That's why I say I'm totally confident, because I have confidence
in our screening program. It has been running for over 30 years, and the exact
same was applied to this operation. But again, I want to stress, that doesn't
mean the risk becomes zero.
Senator Kenny: What I was asking you was sir, is: What are
the elements that give you the confidence?
Mr. Coulombe: I don't want to go into the operational
details, but it's first of all important to say that normally when a red flag
comes up on a file, that's when we will launch an investigation. We will dig
deeper and do interviews with people.
In this case — and it was said publicly — if a red flag came up
and we had no time to do this because of the tempo, that file was put aside. It
is important to understand this: The moment there was a concern, that file was
put aside and was no longer one of those 25,000 refugees. All of the other files
— and it's not just us, it's CBSA and other partners — went through the same
process, the same immigration screening that we've done every day for the last
30 years. I am confident in our system, and that system was applied to the
The Chair: Senator White has a follow up on Senator
Senator White: A lot of people misinterpret what is
happening in Europe with migrants and what is happening in Canada with refugees.
Could you explain the difference between the two so that Canadians understand?
Mr. Coulombe: That's a good point. It's totally different.
In Europe, they have this flow of refugees that are just entering the countries
without any screening. Here, what we're talking about — again, yes, it's on an
accelerated basis — is bringing people in who, before they boarded the plane,
had gone through every check: national security, criminal, Health Canada, and
had actually received permanent residency before they arrived. All of the
screening was done prior to their arrival, which is totally different from the
situation in Europe.
Senator White: Just to be clear, the ones in Europe aren't
vetted? They claim refugee status when they arrive. They are a migrant,
Mr. Coulombe: Tens of thousands.
The Chair: Senator Ngo has a follow up on this question as
Senator Ngo: You mentioned vetting. Can you tell us some
of the difficulties or challenges for CSIS involved in verifying whether each of
the refugees welcomed in Canada is in fact who he or she claims to be? Do you
have any difficulties or challenges in that regard?
Mr. Coulombe: Do you mean for the 25,000, or in general?
Senator Ngo: In general. Twenty-five thousand, plus.
Mr. Coulombe: It's always a challenge, but again, in the
case of 25,000, biometrics were checked. Everything was done to make sure that
the person saying “I am Mr. X” was actually Mr. X.
But I'm not going to sit here and say there were no challenges.
That's why we cannot bring that risk down to zero; there is always a chance. But
all of the possible measures were put in place. Again, I'm not going to talk for
other agencies, but at the service, we have applied the same standards that we
apply for our normal role in the immigration screening program.
Senator Carignan: One of your answers raises a question.
You say that the people who are entering the country are the 25,000 individuals
who are truly above suspicion and that, in the event of any doubt, they are set
aside. You say that that is the practice in all countries. At least, most
countries that practise refugee control have a more robust access process, as is
the case in the United States, for example. This means that a rather significant
number of high-risk individuals are walking around Europe and can decide, for
whatever reason, to enter by other means. They could come here as students or as
visitors. There are many ways to enter Canada without necessarily going through
the refugee process. How can you assure us that these high-risk individuals are
not using other means of entry than the one given to them by their refugee
Mr. Coulombe: We can ensure this thanks to information
sharing among the services. When an individual has been identified as being
linked to the Islamic State or having fought for the Islamic State, the
information is shared.
In any case, if the individual tries to enter Canada by a process
other than the refugee process, if this process is part of the service’s
screening program, and if the information is found in our databases, because we
have exchanged information with a European service, for example, that is when
the alarm bells start ringing. Once again, no system is 100 per cent effective
against individuals who wish to enter the country.
Senator Beyak: Mr. Coulombe, last June our Senate
committee had a report on terror. We identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a
concern. Other nations in the world, the U.K. and the United States, are
currently scrutinizing the Muslim Brotherhood carefully. I wonder if CSIS has
made any recommendations to our government about the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Coulombe: We have looked at the Muslim Brotherhood;
and we are looking at the Muslim Brotherhood.
A word of caution: I would say that it is very difficult to talk
about “the” Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is different
from the one in Jordan and from the ones anywhere else in that part of the
world. To label as “Muslim Brotherhood,” in my opinion, is the wrong way to
But we have looked at this. We are in discussion with our
partners in terms of what they have and whether they have them listed. As far as
I know, for example, the U.K. has not listed the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is not just the Muslim Brotherhood because all potential
terrorist organizations are assessed in terms of listing them under the Criminal
Code, for example. Do they pose a threat here? Would it be justified for the
service to devote resources against them?
Senator Mitchell: Mr. Coulombe, you mentioned the 60
returnees. A question that immediately jumps to mind is: Why aren't they all in
jail? What is it they did or didn't do over there that wasn't intense enough
such that they would be arrested the moment they arrived?
Mr. Coulombe: Well, that is a question for the RCMP.
Having information that somebody was involved in threat-related activities
overseas does not necessarily mean that the information meets the Criminal Code
threshold. Is it enough for the RCMP to charge an individual? It's a pretty
difficult thing to do. Again, it's more for the RCMP to answer. There is a fair
bit of a difference between the threshold for us to launch an investigation and
the threshold to charge somebody under the Criminal Code. Proving that the
person was actually in Iraq and Syria fighting, financing and on social media is
a difficult task.
Senator Mitchell: It isn't just that you exchange
information with the RCMP, as the legislation allows you to exchange information
with 16 other agencies and departments. Has any effort been made to write
memorandums of understanding on how that information can be used and had how
long it can be kept?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, we are working with a number of federal
departments. We have started to work on the MOU where that exchange of
information is the highest between the two organizations.
Senator Day: Mr. Coulombe, during your earlier remarks you
talked about extremists who were prevented from leaving Canada also pose a
serious workload for you and your organization, even though they haven't
travelled but perhaps more so because they haven't travelled. I wonder if we
could take a practical example. You went on to say that both perpetrators of the
separate October 14 attacks — the two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and
one soldier in Ottawa — desired to leave Canada but were unable to do so. Can
you explain to us in general terms CSIS's role and how it happened that they
were unable to leave? How did you know, how were you able to say that they were
prevented from leaving, and how would that increase your workload?
Mr. Coulombe: Well, specifically those two cases I do not
remember all the details. We know that Couture-Rouleau attempted to leave the
country and the RCMP intervened at least on one occasion or maybe two.
Zehaf-Bibeau had applied for a passport, but it was being reviewed in terms of
his application. How we became aware of this is something operationally that I
don't want to get into.
We are aware of a number of people who want to leave, and that
certainly adds to our workload. Also, a number of people under investigation by
the service or the RCMP have never expressed a desire to leave. This whole issue
of people leaving or wanting to leave is not the only terrorist threat here.
Some people who have no desire or no capacity to travel, for whatever reason,
still pose a threat. That's why I'm always a bit wary when we focus so much on
how many Canadians are overseas and how many returnees there are. Yes, it's
important; but it is just one aspect of this whole phenomenon of terrorism
Senator Day: I want to understand how you want us to take
your comment. Did you want us to believe that you knew that these two
individuals wanted to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activities
abroad? Did you know that?
Mr. Coulombe: I would qualify that and say that we
suspected. Again, it goes back to suspicion, to reasonable grounds and charging
Senator Day: Yes, I understand.
The Chair: I'd like to ask a couple of questions. First, I
want to go back to Senator Mitchell's point in respect of the number of
Canadians identified as either involved directly or indirectly in terrorism
activity. From my understanding, that's against the law. Now it depends on which
section of the Criminal Code or other statutes, but it's against the law. We
read in the newspaper yesterday that four British citizens, I believe, were
charged under the terrorism act for wanting to leave Britain for the purpose of
being involved in the jihadist Islamic movement in Syria and Iraq.
I don't quite understand, and maybe I'm just a boy from
Whitehorse: We have 90 to 100 Canadians identified as wanting to leave this
country. We have already experienced the situation where two individuals had
wanted to leave this country and were denied. They then committed murder and an
attack on Parliament. Why isn't anyone being charged for being involved in these
activities? Why are we leaving them on the street, similar to what Senator
Mitchell is talking about, and similarly, if you could respond to me, those that
are coming back? Am I missing something here?
Mr. Coulombe: No, and it's not a question of avoiding the
question. This is really a law enforcement question. This is for the RCMP. I
don't want to mislead the committee. I don't want to say something that is wrong
in terms of the RCMP's role and explanation. This is really for the RCMP to
Senator Kenny: On this, I thought your answer was that the
amount of information you collected didn't meet the test of the Criminal Code.
Mr. Coulombe: It's not just the information we collect;
the RCMP is conducting a criminal investigations. Again, collecting evidence to
the threshold of being able to charge somebody when their activities are taking
place in a conflict zone like Iraq and Syria is not a simple task. Again, the
RCMP would be better placed to explain the challenges and the reasons, to answer
The Chair: Colleagues, I want to thank Mr. Coulombe for
being as frank as he is. We appreciate the position you have and we want to
again commend your organization for the job they're doing. Hopefully we continue
to negate the plots that are out there and that you have to scrutinize and try
to cope with. Thank you.
Joining us on panel 2 today is our Chief of the Defence Staff,
General Jonathan Vance. General Vance grew up in a military family and at the
age of 13 started uniform life as an army cadet. He joined the Canadian Armed
Forces in 1982 and was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1986. He has
commanded at all levels within the field force, from platoon commander to
brigade commander and in combat operations as joint task force commander.
Following his tours in Afghanistan, General Vance served in Army
Headquarters as Chief of Staff Land Strategy and as Director of the Strategic
Joint Staff at National Defence Headquarters. He completed a tour as Deputy
Commander of the Allied Join Force Command in Naples in July 2014, before
assuming his position as Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command in
September of the same year.
His decorations include the Order of Military Merit in the rank
of commander, the Meritorious Service Cross with bar and Mention in Dispatches,
and in 2011 he was awarded the Vimy Award for his contributions to the defence
and security of Canadians.
General Vance was promoted to his current rank and formally
appointed as the Canadian Armed Forces Chief of the Defence Staff in July 2015.
General Vance, welcome to the committee. The floor is yours.
General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, National
Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Mr. Chair, senators, ladies and
gentlemen, thank you for having me here today.
I am happy to have the opportunity to provide you with a brief
update on the refocused military mission, and I will be happy to take your
questions at the end.
As you are aware, last month the Prime Minister announced a new
whole-of-government approach to the crisis in Iraq and Syria. This approach
looks at security, diplomacy, humanitarian assistance and development. The
Canadian Armed Forces will be part of this comprehensive approach and continue
to play an important role in the fight against ISIL.
I have total confidence in this new approach. It indeed
represents a greater commitment along a critical path for the ultimate defeat of
A thorough analysis of the evolving situation has been conducted
by me and my staff. Overall, we will increase the number of deployed personnel
on Operation IMPACT to roughly 830 people from approximately 650 before.
Operation IMPACT will have as its main effort the train, advise
and assist role with the Kurd forces in the north. We will also significantly
increase our intelligence capacity. Our Polaris air refueller and Aurora
surveillance aircraft will continue to serve as critical enablers for the
We will also be offering a ministerial liaison team to the
Government of Iraq as part of a coalition effort. This team will help connect
with Iraqi ministries and will be led by a Canadian general officer.
Capacity-building efforts will be undertaken in Jordan and
Lebanon, although they are still being scoped at this time.
An increased medical presence to support Canadian and coalition
personnel and to offer support to the Iraqi security forces will be put in place
as part of the new force.
We also intend to deploy a small helicopter detachment with
aircrew and support personnel. This will provide safe, reliable and dedicated
transport for our troops and for our materiél
and equipment and be used in extremis for casualty evacuation.
Although there are many risks associated with this new operation,
the Canadian Armed Forces are well trained, prepared and ready to participate in
this train, advise and assist mission. Indeed, we will prevail.
Such missions belong to a new chapter for Canada on the
operational spectrum, where we and others support those inside conflict zones
for their benefit, as well as to meet coalition and Canadian objectives.
We continue to operate as part of the coalition, and we are all
in the battle against ISIL together. In this armed conflict, the coalition
continues to successfully target ISIL’s personnel, infrastructure, command and
control nodes, equipment and supply routes.
It has prevented ISIL from retaking territory and is continuing
its mission to halt, degrade, and ultimately defeat ISIL. Defeating ISIL will
require well-trained, well-advised and well-assisted ground forces.
Therefore the coalition is intensifying all lines of effort,
including train, advise and assist missions to ensure local forces are
successful. The other lines of operation include stabilization, stopping ISIL
finances, counter-messaging and stopping foreign fighter flow.
Local forces want to continue to be successful, and they welcome
our support. They have already countered ISIL throughout Iraq, including on the
Kurdish-held northern front lines.
So the degradation continues, and we have played an active role.
I'm very proud of the CF-18 contributions to the coalition's efforts to stop
ISIL militarily in Iraq and contribute to their degradation. We are working
towards this next phase of the campaign because the realities of the mission
demand it. The mission is evolving.
We started in the North, and we're continuing in the North. We
developed relationships there, and it's critical terrain. The ultimate
objective, I think, in the mid to long term, will be the Iraqi Security Forces’
effort to free Mosul. Where we are deploying, we will be providing support to
those who are working to contain ISIL in Mosul and ultimately lead to their
defeat there. We will work with our partners in Northern Iraq, where we've
developed those strong relationships, and in doing so help to assure the defence
and security of Northern Iraq as well, providing, in its unstable environment,
an element of stability as the campaign continues. But the whole-of-government
effort Canada is undertaking will also address the region as a whole.
Ladies and gentlemen, our refocused military mission against ISIL
is part of a comprehensive approach to the region, which is made up of our
military contributions, as well humanitarian assistance, development and
The coalition will continue to target ISIL's personnel
infrastructure, command and control nodes, their equipment and their supply
routes. We will continue to train local and indigenous forces to enable them to
stabilize the northern flank with increased capacity and capabilities.
Our efforts will further empower local forces, enhance
intelligence and support local governance and coalition forces. It will have
risks, but our personnel are well trained and ready.
I'm intensely proud of the work we have done and will continue to
do. We always stand ready to deliver for Canada and Canadians and for those in
the world that Canada has decided to support militarily.
Senator Dagenais: General Vance, thank you very much for
your testimony. I would like to come back to Operation Impact, which was carried
out in Iraq and Syria with a view to neutralizing the Islamic State. I would
like you to tell us about the success of your contribution to military
operations. In addition, how do you view your future operations, which will
include members of the Canadian Armed Forces?
Gen. Vance: Thank you, senator. I am more comfortable
answering your question in English.
Gen. Vance: You asked two questions: to describe the
successes to date and then look ahead to next operations.
If you recall, back in 2013 and 2014, as ISIL was developing,
Canada participated with a number of coalition nations in a rapid response to
the region. It was an emergency situation. ISIL was advancing down the Euphrates
and Tigris River valleys. Baghdad was their objective, and their momentum had
increased dramatically as a result of the Iraqi Security Forces failing to halt
their advance. The immediate reaction of our allies was to stop ISIL, prevent
the collapse of Baghdad and try to stabilize the situation as much as possible.
The initial mission was to militarily stop ISIL in Iraq, support the training
necessary to put Iraqi Security Forces back on the offensive, ultimately
contribute to wider regional stability by looking at Syria, and then manage
regional dynamics such that regional actors, nations, could participate in this
coalition, providing a wider element of stability.
The coalition as a whole absolutely, categorically stopped ISIL
in Iraq. They were stopped. It's a challenging, determined enemy, and they
adapt, as does any force. They adapt to the pressure that the coalition puts on
them. That means they stopped advancing on a large front, and you've seen the TV
coverage with flags and armoured columns. They can't do that anymore. The air
power and the Iraqi Security Forces that were in place at the time have
Now there have been some minor and in some cases — in Ramadi —
very substantial skirmishes and battles on the periphery. But, ultimately, there
have been no game changers, and ISIL has been pushed back, losing about 40 per
cent of the territory that they had taken over.
Nonetheless, it wasn't just a matter of stopping them. The
coalition nations wanted to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. The defeat of
ISIL militarily in Iraq will come as a result of continued degradation, which we
participated in, and ultimately putting Iraqi Security Forces on the offensive
so that they can reclaim their terrain, clear ISIL from within their country and
re-establish the reach of governance that is necessary to go in behind where
ISIL has been.
There is a lot of support politically that Iraq will need to do
this — to remain a viable, unitary state that will effectively govern its
people. That, I would suggest to you, is the ultimate state we want to get to.
The military part of this operation is condition-setting for
that. Get rid of the clear and present danger of ISIL. Defeat ISIL in situ
by, with and through Iraqi Security Forces.
Canada's part in this, I think, was tremendous. We responded very
quickly with the CF-18s as part of a coalition air effort to stop this very
rapidly advancing enemy, and that happened. We also contributed intelligence
assets, air refuelling to support the other coalition efforts, and some key
staff officers throughout the area, and we started with a modest train, advise
and assist mission with Iraqi Kurds. All of that contributed to the North, with
our coalition allies and the Peshmerga and the Kurds being relatively stable
along the line they established, and to our part in ensuring that ISIL was
stopped, that degradation commenced and that our staff officers contributed to
overall campaign management.
The next steps in this campaign militarily — I stress
“militarily” because the defeat of ISIL in all of its forms, its ideology, its
attractiveness to the disenfranchised, will take a wide effort that involves a
political solution and addressing some of the causes as to why this happened.
Our role in Operation IMPACT is to look at the military situation in Iraq and
Syria, but principally Iraq.
The next steps are to increase the holding power, the defensive
capability, and improve, through the train, advise and assist mission, the
performance of Peshmerga forces in the North, such that they can hold and
effectively repel any ISIL attacks and contribute to the effort that will, over
the next several months, develop. It's very difficult to put a timeline on it,
but, in 2016 or 2017, I would suggest to you that the battle for Mosul will
develop. It's already starting.
If you think of Ramadi, that was a difficult battle, lots of back
and forth. Iraqi Security Forces have been largely successful there. It's not
entirely complete. Ramadi will be a city inside Iraq that is going to need a
great deal of attention from the government in terms of providing services and
so on, but, militarily, Ramadi is almost done.
The next significant battle — and potentially the last
significant battle of this campaign — with the fall of Mosul and ISIL eliminated
from Mosul, could very well see the end of Mosul being militarily significant in
any way in Iraq, at least for the time being. We don't know how that battle will
go. That battle has yet to be designed. It will be conducted by Iraqi Security
Forces. They have to get trained. They need the numbers to be able to handle
that incredibly difficult fight. ISIL has been preparing defensive positions in
Mosul for a long time. It's a defended city. We will be on terrain that
essentially surrounds the northern and eastern flanks of Mosul, though not right
on the city limits, with the Peshmerga. Therefore, the Kurdish forces there will
form a strong part of the contain function, to prevent ISIL from being able to
escape easily from Mosul. The Mosul dam will be in our vicinity, a key piece of
infrastructure that the coalition is determined to help Iraq maintain in good
order. It's a question mark whether or not it will hold.
So this battle develops and is completed in the next two years,
potentially. No military estimate can determine exactly when it will happen, but
that's when we hope it will happen.
To get to that point, ISIL still needs to be targeted well by
coalition air forces and by Iraqi ground forces. The battle has to be won
elsewhere. Ultimately, we'll be contributing to that through increased staff in
the coalition; increased intelligence capacity through the Auroras and through
our own process to allow for even greater and more effective and rapid targeting
of ISIL on the ground; and, finally, with our forces in the North supporting
that contain function.
Senator Day: General, thanks for being here.
Could you clarify for the record whether the coalition is a
coalition of the willing, coalition of the United Nations, or a coalition of
Gen. Vance: It's a coalition of the willing, senator. It
consists of over 60 nations all up, 40 nations contributing military forces.
Senator Day: Thank you.
I think you made the point, but perhaps we could expand on it a
bit. You're going up to 830 personnel under the revised coalition. Is this
coalition terminology of whole-of-government or is that just Canada's
terminology? Are we within the coalition with respect to the whole-of-government
aspect? Outside of the military portion of that, does it involve other countries
as well as Canada?
Gen. Vance: Right. The 830 are contributing to the
military coalition effort. The military part of this coalition, although your
point is valid, the coalition is political as well. The nations have agreed to
collaborate against this threat. The military part is, I suppose, more clearly
defined as we put headquarters on the ground and contribute with command and
control relationships that allow our forces to be used by coalition partners.
That said, it is a wider coalition. It has aspirations among
multiple lines of effort — stabilization, humanitarian support, countering the
ISIL message, stopping foreign fighters. It takes a multi-agency,
whole-of-government effort to try to deal with this. Many nations are
contributing to that. Not all nations contribute the same way. Canada, in this
mission, has decided to contribute in a particular way.
I think it’s correct to say that the coalition of the willing is
largely used to describe the military coalition, but I think it's accurate to
say that this is a coalition of nations that are using any number of instruments
of power and persuasion to deal with this.
Senator Day: To round this out, the number of 830 is
military personnel only. Can you give us the global figure for Canada of the
whole-of-government approach? How many more?
Gen. Vance: I don't have those figures available, senator,
in terms of numbers of other Canadians that will be on the ground participating
and contributed by the departments of the Government of Canada.
Senator Day: Is there a budget for this
whole-of-government approach that was recently announced? Do we know what other
departments or who is coordinating all of the government activities?
Gen. Vance: The military part of this, the approximately
$300 million —
The Chair: Per year?
Gen. Vance: — for one year has been announced. I'm not
really in a position to answer how the other government departments will be
We do know that where they touch the military directly, we will
actively coordinate with them be it for intelligence gathering or for diplomatic
activities in Baghdad or elsewhere. I'll give you an example.
As we look at the capacity-building effort in Lebanon and Jordan,
as we scope those missions out, there may be roles for military as well as other
government departments to meet the needs of those two nations. At this stage,
however, I don't have any details on how those other government departments will
contribute, although they already are in many ways, including the tracking of
Senator Day: But you're not meeting together here in
Gen. Vance: For those things that affect my part of the
campaign, we do meet with other government departments to determine what it is
that we're going to do and how we actually operationalize that.
The Chair: That's an interesting question. I don't know,
General Vance, if you can take it upon yourself to ask the various departments,
or whomever it is, to provide us with the overall information so that we all
know, including yourself, just exactly what we are committed to doing over
Gen. Vance: Perhaps I didn't quite understand your
question. The overall Canadian effort has many parts to it. For example, the
movement of Syrian refugees out has been a part of relieving the region of part
of the challenges that they're dealing with. To contribute to development
assistance, that is largely done through the good offices of the Canadian
government but through partners on the ground. I don't have a military
connection directly to that. I'm an expert at where we have a military
connection to the whole-of-government effort. Where we do not, we can certainly
participate in a wider response.
The Chair: General, we'll inquire of other agencies.
Senator Carignan: Thank you, General, for joining us. I
have several questions for you.
First of all, my question is for the army general: Are we at war
Gen. Vance: Thank you for asking me this question.
I've seen this question asked before. I want to be perfectly
clear with you about the use of the term “war.” I think it is asked sometimes as
a way to clarify something that is so complex as to try and boil it down to a
single word. The word “war” today is used to describe many things. It's used to
describe a major effort, a major undertaking — the war on drugs or the war on
poverty. You can name any number of things that have the word “war” attached to
“War,” as a legal state between two states, is one way of looking
at war and largely has not been used for a long, long time. It's been addressed
by the Kellogg-Briand Pact and by the UN Charter. It is simply not used in this
context today. We are party to an armed conflict against a non-state actor.
That's the legal terminology. We are a lawful party to an armed conflict against
a non-state actor.
The word “war” doesn't enter the lexicon, and it doesn't
necessarily matter. From my perspective, it doesn't change the status of my
forces. Whether we put the “war” word against it, it doesn't alter the benefits
and allowances that the soldiers get. What guides the mission is the intent of
the Government of Canada and the tasks that come out of that and the tasks,
ultimately, that I assign the forces.
To answer your question specifically, no, Canada is not at a
declared state of war.
Senator Carignan: Your answer is interesting; it makes
reference to legal and recognized states, namely, typical states.
Part of your answers also demonstrated your approach to borders.
However, it seems that in this region, borders no longer count. States that
normally lead or manage institutions no longer do so; these are traditional
states that we are seeing. There are many radical groups. Furthermore, the Tony
Blair Faith Foundation claimed that 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the groups
fighting Assad were Islamic radicals. It is hard to know what is what.
However, can you tell us which groups the Canadian Armed Forces
are working with? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? With which
groups have we had positive experiences and who are our opponents? Whether it be
in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya or Yemen, can you give us a list of our
friends and foes?
Gen. Vance: Our allies in Iraq are the coalition and,
ultimately, the Iraqi government. Our adversary in Iraq is the Islamic State,
ISIL. That's our adversary.
We are not conducting military operations in Syria in this
refocused mission, but the adversaries throughout the region are many. The
challenges are many. Ultimately, the ISIL phenomenon that grew out of Syria and
Iraq is our principal focus.
But I think the world has agreed and is trying to wrestle to find
ways to get to a solution in Syria that will involve and has been involving
military force. From the coalition's perspective and from Canada's perspective,
the adversary of note is ISIL.
There are others involved in Syria, and that's what makes it so
complex and doesn't lend itself to a simple solution. There are many other
groups at play, such as the regime forces and those who are opposing the regime
but who would also oppose ISIL. There's ISIL. There are various subordinate
actors to ISIL in the region, such as the al-Nusra Front, as well as various
types of other forces, indigenous and foreign, that make Syria intensely
At this point in time, Canada is not conducting operations
against any forces in Syria.
To go wider, from a military mission and planning perspective in
the wider region, particularly in Lebanon and Jordan, the adversary is anything
that would deliberately destabilize those two countries and therefore contribute
to wider regional instability, which would just not be productive or useful, nor
would it contribute to an ultimate resolution of this conflict.
I'll end by saying that I think it's well known and well
understood that we are in the midst of a wider conflict — a conflict that has
been going on for millennia, with challenges that have been going on for a long
time between two major sects of the Islam faith, Shia and Sunni, regional power
posturing that pits Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other, and various proxy
efforts that go on as a result.
I can't sit here and tell you that it's all clear as to how we
will proceed. At this point in time, the contribution of Operation IMPACT is to
deal with a clear and present massively destabilizing effort that is causing
untold harm to civilians and that could potentially contribute to wider, faster
and more dangerous destabilization of the region. So the military defeat of ISIL
in Iraq is our principal effort now.
I believe Canada, like other nations, will track very closely and
contribute where they can regionally. We are doing that, in part.
Senator Kenny: General, I just wanted to go back briefly
to the all-of-government concept that Senator Day raised. It's my impression
that an all-of-government approach is somewhere between a “mixed bag” and a
“disaster.” This committee, when it first went to Kabul in Afghanistan a little
over a decade ago, we found that the colonel who was commanding Camp Julien had
never met Chris Alexander, who was our ambassador there. We found similar
problems on subsequent visits going back. Our impression was that the CF had
their act together, but it was very hard to tell what the rest of government was
This isn't something that you're accountable for. Having said
that, I have a bit of the impression that we're going down the same road when I
hear “all of government” in that the CF is doing stuff, but nobody is quite sure
what anyone else is doing.
Gen. Vance: I think we do know what we're doing as a
country. It's been announced and spoken to by ministers as to what each ministry
is undertaking in the region.
There are marked differences between this mission and the events
and operations that will make up the mission, and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan,
for example, we had territorial responsibility — “battle space ownership,” we
call it. We don't have that in Iraq. The Government of Iraq is the Government of
Iraq, and their security forces are the ones who not only want to but need to
address this. Their government apparatus, their ability to extend government,
their ability to address the grievances and bring together a unitary state and
address the challenges of governance writ large are their responsibility. We are
there militarily to set conditions for them to ultimately be able to do that.
The whole-of-government effort, be it supporting the migration of
refugees, to contributing to development and aid relief, capacity-building for
borders and wider regional stability, is, perhaps in your experience, somewhat
more indirect than you would have witnessed at the tactical level in Afghanistan
The Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan occupied a relatively
small tactical footprint — an important one, nonetheless, but tactical. The
money and effort that Canada spent through its whole-of-government approach,
with expert officers to direct where the funds went, contributed to a wide range
of government programs in Afghanistan.
So it didn't necessarily connect, and it didn't necessarily have
to. When you're on a tight focus like you had in Kandahar, where we wanted the
support of other government efforts to appear and be successful after we cleared
territory, that's slightly different; that's counter-insurgency warfare. This is
Iraq's war to fight, and we are supporting Iraq and the region with
contributions through various Canadian government ministries and others to
address a wider range than just the military effort.
If you look at the foreign fighter, we collaborate with allies
and regional partners in an effort to stop foreign fighters. That's a
whole-of-government effort. It's got funding, it's got people, and it's an
important effort. It doesn't necessarily contribute directly to better security
in the territory we're on or where we're flying from, but it does contribute to
So I think in this case, in this operation, just like our
coalition partners, everybody, I think, is largely undertaking the same efforts:
contribute militarily to deal with the military problem, but there is a wider
effort that includes all manner of governance and support to populations.
Senator Kenny: When we were at Camp Julien in Kabul, the
principal operation of the Canadian soldiers who were there was evaluating the
training that Afghans were getting, and they were very frustrated with their
work. The reason they were frustrated was that at the time there was a
restriction on them from going into combat with the soldiers they were training.
Could you tell us whether you think that restriction is going to
be true if our soldiers don't go into combat with the people they're training
Gen. Vance: We're always careful about that term “going
into combat,” because that's one way to describe it. “Going on operations” is
another way to describe it. So they weren't just restricted from going to fight
with them; they were restricted from going on patrols with them where no
fighting occurred. They were restricted from being with them during the conduct
of their daily missions. At that point in time in the campaign, if you're
speaking of early in the campaign, out of Camp Julien, that was the method that
the coalition or, at that time, ISAF, was undertaking. That was the effort. We
weren't equipped — nobody was — to be accompanying Afghan forces. In fact, we
had to use our training effort to try to increase their capacity.
To relate that to today, again, is comparing two very different
conflicts. We are in the north with the Kurds dealing with a classic call-out of
citizenry to protect their land. These are civilians. There are some elements of
professionalized and partly professionalized forces, but they're almost
exclusively civilians that need training on the use of small arms, their
weapons, and that need to understand how defensive battles are conducted, to
protect themselves, and to use a map and compass all the way through to how to
read a GPS to get something done.
It's largely a defensive posture that we're supporting, with the
ability to conduct offensive operations. We do not accompany them on offensive
operations, but we do support them in their effort to plan their defence. Should
they come under attack — and they have — we will be there with them in the
advise-and-assist function to help them run their defensive operation.
So we are largely with them as we conduct training in the
background and behind their lines, as they conduct planning forward and where we
have the ability and the mandate to defend ourselves and those who we are with.
If we are with them and they're being attacked, we can respond, but our
principal effort is to help them do it themselves and do it well.
As they would move forward to conduct offensive operations beyond
their line, into ISIL territory, we help them with the planning of it, and that
can mean planning their routes, planning the weapons they will use, planning the
preparatory fires they will use, working out all of the command and control
methods that are necessary to be successful. We'll help them with the planning.
We'll help them with the targeting, but we won't go with them. We're not
That is not unusual for the coalition forces right now. It's
consistent with what our allies are doing as well, in large part because they
need to and want to do this themselves. They just need the training and the
capacity to do it.
Senator White: Thanks for that, general. Thanks for coming
I wonder if you can give us an update on DND personnel in Europe
in relation to Russia and Ukraine. It was on our radar heavily about a year and
a half ago, but I'm not sure we're heard much on it lately.
Gen. Vance: Thanks for the question, senator.
We have Operation UNIFIER, which is being conducted in West
Ukraine, that principally focuses on training infantry, training at the rifle
company level and below, with a mandate or a ceiling on our effort of about 205
people. That goes up and down, depending on how many people are in theatre at
any point in time, because we also contribute to military police training,
counter-ID training, flight safety training and logistics training.
Senator White: In the Ukraine?
Gen. Vance: In the Ukraine.
So the bulk of the effort is training the proper Ukraine army as
they rotate out of the line, give them expert training on small unit tactics,
but we're also contributing to a wider effort to the military police, flight
safety programs, and so on. That is a specific effort with allies in Ukraine.
The wider NATO posture under Operation REASSURANCE includes the
deployment of our ship right now, the HMCS Fredericton, which is deployed
in the Aegean. We have a persistent rotational presence with about a company
size, a little over 100 people, who are persistently present on the ground doing
infantry army training in Poland and elsewhere, but recently it's been
principally in Poland.
We have contributed to the air policing effort, and may do so
again. So we've done Baltic air policing. In the past we've done Icelandic air
policing, and we may do so again. In fact, that air policing mandate will start
to include southern air policing. In the army, navy and air force realms, we
have contributed and will continue to contribute.
There's one other aspect to this, if I may. The alliance has
worked hard to ensure that the training tempo has increased, that we demonstrate
the capacity to operate large forces, high-tech, high-quality armed forces. So
we did that last fall in exercise Trident Juncture on the Iberian Peninsula, and
Canada played a significant role in that. We were one of four nations that
provided a brigade headquarters on the ground, ran a significant amount of the
training and contributed over 1,000 people, including ships and aircraft and
people on the ground.
All up, the alliance is quite active to both reassure allies and
demonstrate to Russia this deterrent effect.
Senator White: We've seen those shifts since October. That
is expected to be our continued role in that area, I take it. We see a shift in
the Middle East. That's why I'm asking.
Gen. Vance: Sorry?
Senator White: We're not seeing a shift away to something
different as we saw in the Middle East since October, since the election. Do we
anticipate this will be our continued activity there?
Gen. Vance: At this point in time, I have no direction
from the government to undertake any changes, no.
Senator Mitchell: Thanks, general. Before I get to the
topic, I'd just like to acknowledge your efforts to deal with harassment in the
military and say that your leadership and taking it on in the way you've done is
exemplary, and I wish you well on that very important effort.
I'm interested in getting a sense of the magnitude of the
training. So you've outlined that it looks like you're training largely raw,
civilian recruits. Are you training 10,000? Are you training 5,000? Can you say?
A year from now, how many will you train and what is the critical mass that
needs to be trained? Also, what portion of all the training being done by
coalition forces are we contributing to?
Gen. Vance: The magnitude of the training is interesting.
I don't have firm figures on who in the Peshmerga forces is available at any one
time for operation. It's a sort of continuum where an individual shows up for
their rotation. They come from home and say: “Okay, I'm ready for operations.
I'm going to operate for three days.” If that person has already received their
training, they may get a bit of a refresher to make sure they can use their
weapon properly, and then they do their time on the line.
If an operation is being conceived to adjust the line — think of
almost like World War I, where they wanted to move the line forward onto more
advantageous ground — there is a battle procedure that occurs. Those who will be
participating in that operation, through the Peshmerga chain of command, will be
rehearsed and trained up specifically for that, and then they will conduct that
There's not a set figure that we're going through. We're not
building an army; we're building an effect that will last as long as it needs to
last. Ultimately, as I described, perhaps foreshadowing the battle of Mosul,
they will need to reinforce the line, I suspect at times, with all they have
available to make certain that they don't get penetrated or lose any terrain.
Right now, I don't have a good sense of the all-up numbers,
because we're expanding our territory. In the territory that we're in right now,
we're in the range of 400 to 500, but I think we want to improve that. We want
to make certain that there are still more and more people available, subject to
operations. We're going to be mentoring and training, advising and assisting in
other sectors of the line.
We're also looking at professionalizing some discrete forces. One
of the programs will try to take conventional forces and give them a bit more
focused training. This is where we're going to equip people. So we will try to
take a roughly a battalion size of 300 to 400, give them training for months,
and equip them so that they have a stronger core of more professional fighters
that can reinforce the line, if necessary, or conduct defensive operations —
potentially even in time to support the battle on Mosul.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, General Vance.
I was called to the Senate three years ago. Prior to that, since
2005, I worked in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe with political
associates on national defence and security and anti-terror efforts. One of our
major concerns in all the nations was the use of chemical warfare. Recent media
reports have indicated that the Islamic State is using mustard gas in Northern
Iraq. Could you comment on the accuracy of those reports? And, given our
commitment to more personnel in the region, do you have any concerns about
chemical warfare there?
Gen. Vance: Thank you, senator, for your question. I have
concerns about all threats against our forces, chemical attack being one of
them. So absolutely, I share your concerns.
We can mitigate it. We have the best detection equipment in the
world, and we have great protection equipment. We believe that with the
improvement to our intelligence gathering, we'll try to forecast if in fact
there's an imminent threat of the use of chemical weapons. That only will
account for so much, and the potential is that we could be surprised by its use.
We have the equipment that's immediately at hand and the drills to protect
The reports that ISIL is the possession of rudimentary mustard
and chlorine chemicals and rudimentary delivery means are accurate. It is
rudimentary and relatively small-scale, but I don't take any solace in that. It
could grow and it could get more dangerous if they were to get their hands on
other types of chemical weapons, be they nerve agents or otherwise. I don't have
any indication of that right now, but it is a huge concern.
It's also, if you can imagine, a concern because of the impact it
could have on a civilian populace. Although we can protect ourselves, we have
witnessed, as a global community, what happens when civilians get hit with
chemical weapons. It's a terrible thing.
The Chair: I'd like to follow up with a couple of
questions and then Senator Kenny has a question on a different subject.
I want to stay with the Middle East. First of all, the conflict
seems to be getting wider and broader in respect to the various regions that are
getting involved. We have had discussion about Libya, and I think last week you
mentioned Libya in your address to the Canadian Defence Association. I know on
the weekend there were apparently air strikes that took place on the
Libya-Tunisia border, I believe. Have we been asked to participate, and do we
have any Canadians involved, at this stage, in respect to that particular
Secondly, with respect to Saudi Arabia, there has been a fair
amount of debate in respect of the question of the military equipment being
provided to Saudi Arabia. Because of the transaction with Saudi Arabia, are any
Canadians involved on the ground there either directly or indirectly? It seems
to be getting broader and broader, and all of a sudden, as I think Senator Kenny
pointed out, you find out this is a lot bigger than anybody else thought it was.
The third question I have relates to the one posed by Senator
Carignan. I don't think his question was answered, and the question, I think,
has to be about the good guys versus the bad guys. Do we have a list of those
organizations that we will support? There are a lot of organizations there that
aren't ISIL, necessarily, but they believe in the same objectives. With ISIL,
the difference is they just want to be number one versus number two. Do you have
that list? Could you take a note of that, general?
Gen. Vance: To clarify that last question, Mr. Chair, is
that in Iraq, or in the region?
The Chair: In the region.
Gen. Vance: To take your questions one at a time, we're
not on the ground in Libya. We have not contributed, as a nation, to those
strikes. We are involved in the efforts under way to keep abreast of what is
going on there through small groups. Not coalitions, because we haven't put
together a coalition, but Italy has been leading an effort to have a look at
this problem. We have been an observer in that. We're doing everything we can to
stay abreast of what's going on and what is being contemplated.
We do that, largely, to be in a good position to offer the
Government of Canada options should it wish to act. We're not presaging anything
or foreshadowing any decisions, but it's prudent military information and
intelligence gathering to make certain that if the government does ask, I'm in a
position to provide useful options.
We are not in Saudi Arabia in a military sense or operating with
Saudi Arabia at all. This is an equipment purchase. We are not tied to that
equipment or operating with them.
I will check, however, to make certain there's no function that
DND has to assure any sort of quality assurance or delivery. I don't know. I've
never been involved in a major deal like this. I don't feel like I am on this
one either; that is to say, I don't have any forces assigned to it. But just to
be thorough in the response, if there is any departmental involvement in the
delivery of that equipment, we'll certainly take that on notice and get back to
Finally, we've got lots of lists of bad guys.
The Chair: Do we have any good guys?
Gen. Vance: Right. There's the coalition and the states in
the area. We can do our level best to provide, on notice, the list of terror
actors on the ground, the violent extremist groups that we think are on the
You asked, as an end to that, whether they are good guys or bad
guys: That’s a judgment call.
Let's look at Libya, for example. If we were to act militarily
there in concert with the Government of Libya, the Government of Libya would be
the good guy, and all the forces arrayed against a legitimate government's
ability to rule, including ISIL, would fall under that “bad guy” category. But
that government doesn't exist yet and is still being pulled together.
At this time, if I were to start to list those people who are on
the suspect list of who might be good or bad, I wouldn't be doing anybody a
service. What you need is a professional response from the Armed Forces,
something better than I can give right here. I can walk you around the world and
tell you who I think are, but ultimately those standing in the way of progress
aren't necessarily good guys and bad guys. I can sponsor the view of the
Canadian Armed Forces of the known violent extremist groups, how they're
affiliated and the nation-states that we're trying to support, but in some of
them we may not have a fully-fledged credible partner.
With regard to Syria, Canada has been categorical about the Assad
regime, but there needs to be a credible partner on the ground. Ultimately,
there has to be, if we're going to ever work with Syria, not militarily, and
have normal relations, at some time in the future there has to be a legitimate
government. Who forms that government and how well that comes to pass is history
that has yet to be written. We'll do the best we can, and if it's not
satisfactory, I'm more than happy to keep trying.
Senator Kenny: On a different topic, general, I have a
question on unmanned air vehicles. Go back to 2006. The CF was looking for, I
believe, 15 UAVs under a program called JUSTAS. We've gone through several stops
and starts on it. Right now, we're hearing maybe in 2023 there will be a fleet.
We don't have any friendly allies who don't have UAVs. Everybody else seems to
be equipped with them. They seem like awfully useful tools for the military to
have. What's taking so long? Why don't we have UAVs available now?
Gen. Vance: We have some UAVs available, small ones.
You're talking about the larger armed UAV — the Predator, the Reaper and the
Global Hawk. I agree with you, senator, that we need them. The Joint Unmanned
Surveillance and Target Acquisition System program, JUSTAS, is alive and well. I
am working on it and have increased the priority on this. I don't know if 2023
is actually accurate now. After I've spoken to the project, I need to see what
the delivery date might be now. If it was 2023 before speaking to them and it's
2023 after I speak to them, I'd be concerned.
I agree that we need UAVs. I'm of the opinion that we need armed
UAVs. We need UAVs for a number of reasons, not the least of which is
surveillance of our own territory: to have a constant presence in high-risk
areas for search and rescue to pinpoint the spot right away; to conduct
surveillance against humanitarian disasters and threats; to look closely at the
ice pack and downstream effects if something is going to be flooded out; and for
Senator Kenny: You've convinced me, but where's the
Gen. Vance: There's no roadblock.
Senator Kenny: We don't have them. It's been a long time
Gen. Vance: We need to keep working on it. There's no
The Chair: General, can we keep you for two more minutes?
Senator Day would like to ask you a question. I know it will be short.
Senator Day: Are we providing assistance to the Kurdish
regional government in Northern Iraq, or are we providing assistance to the
Gen. Vance: What sort of assistance? Military assistance?
Senator Day: Yes, the military assistance that we're
giving now, the participation that's going on in Northern Iraq.
Gen. Vance: The train, advise and assist mission is
focused in Northern Iraq, in Kurdish territory, centred really on Erbil. We are
assisting their local forces with training, advising and assisting. We are going
to be contributing through the wider coalition effort. Staff is important to get
all the needed work done at the various coalition headquarters. We're
contributing directly to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, we hope. We're still
scoping out how we'll do it through this ministerial liaison team, which will be
I believe we're providing military assistance to Iraq in general
by the contribution of intelligence and refuelling. It's indirect, but we're
certainly supporting their effort to rid themselves of ISIL. That's the military
assistance we're providing.
Does that answer your question?
Senator Day: I'm just wondering to what extent the
Kurdistan Regional Government is independent of Iraq as far as our activities
are concerned. That's what I was getting to.
Gen. Vance: I understand. They are not independent of Iraq
in our eyes; they are a regional government. We are in Northern Iraq because
Baghdad says we can be in Northern Iraq. We clear customs in Baghdad. We have an
absolute desire for there not to be any internal political challenges to the
capacity for Iraq to deal with this threat. At the same time, we don't normally
interfere with the internal dynamics of a country. It would do us no good if
there were an internal struggle between Kurdistan and Iraq while they have a
clear and present danger right in front of them.
The Chair: General, thank you very much for your time.
You've given us a little more time than we had allocated, which we appreciate. I
want to convey our thanks through you to the men and women serving in the
Canadian Armed Forces. Once again, thank you for appearing.
Joining us on our third panel today from the Canada Revenue
Agency is Ms. Cathy Hawara, Director General, Charities Directorate, Legislative
Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch; and Mr. Alastair Bland, Director, Review
and Analysis Division, Charities Directorate, Legislative Policy and Regulatory
Ms. Hawara and Mr. Bland, welcome back to the committee. I recall
your presentation a number of months ago, and I think we all felt that it was
very well prepared and well done. We have one hour for the panel and I
understand you have an opening statement.
Cathy Hawara, Director General, Charities Directorate,
Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch, Canada Revenue Agency:
Yes, I do. Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much.
I would like to thank you for the invitation to appear before the
committee once again. My name is Cathy Hawara, and I am the Director General of
the Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). With me today is
Alastair Bland, Director of the Review and Analysis Division.
We are pleased to be able to provide the committee with an update
on the charities program in relation to the risk of terrorist abuse, further to
our appearance before the committee last year.
As you are aware, the CRA is the federal regulator of over
86,000 registered charities. The Charities Directorate oversees this function
and ensures that the tax incentives reserved for charities are only made
available to organizations that operate for exclusively charitable purposes and
that charitable funds and services reach intended, legitimate beneficiaries.
To address concerns around the risk of terrorist exploitation of
the charitable sector, the Charities Directorate formally established the Review
and Analysis Division in 2003. The division focuses especially on protecting the
integrity of the charity registration system from the threat of terrorism.
The Review and Analysis Division takes a risk-based approach to
the detection and suppression of terrorist financing activities within the
charitable sector. It conducts in-depth reviews of applications for charitable
registration based on the presence and extent of terrorist financing risks and
selects organizations for audit based on the potential risk of abuse posed to
the charitable sector and Canadian society as a whole.
Like the Charities Directorate's general functions, the
division's role is administrative. While it cannot confirm or validate that
terrorism as a criminal activity or offence has occurred, it can take steps to
disrupt activities where there is a risk of terrorist abuse. Where risks related
to terrorism financing are identified, the division chooses the most appropriate
course of action, taking into consideration the circumstances of each case. This
includes refusing to register organizations as charities, imposing sanctions or
penalties, or revoking registered status.
The division also takes steps to share relevant information
related to the risk of terrorist financing with national security partners.
During our appearance before the committee last year, we noted that the CRA was
authorized to share certain charity-related information with the RCMP, CSIS and
FINTRAC. This authority was recently broadened with the coming into force of the
Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. The CRA may now share taxpayer
information with 16 government institutions designated in Schedule 3 of that
The sharing of this information is not without limit. As was
previously the case, the CRA may only disclose information when it is relevant
to an investigation of a threat to the security of Canada or an investigation of
a terrorism offence. In addition, information will only be shared when it is
relevant to the receiving institution's national security responsibilities. The
CRA has updated its internal policies and procedures to reflect this change.
We would be pleased to answer any questions the members of the
committee may have.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Before we go to questions,
I want to set the scene in respect to your previous presentation that was given
here on June 1.
You gave us information that eight charities had their status
revoked because of links in one manner or another to terrorism, and you
committed to tabling this list with the committee. My office and the clerk's
office have followed up on numerous occasions so we would have that information
for members of the committee. Could you update us in respect to that information
and are you going to be tabling it today?
Ms. Hawara: Thank you, chair.
We had prepared the package and we were ready to forward it on to
the committee. Unfortunately, the dissolution of Parliament prevented us from
sharing it with the committee, but it is ready and we will share it with the
committee. I don't have it with me today. It is a rather voluminous package, but
it will be provided to the committee very shortly.
The Chair: You say it is a voluminous document. I would
have thought it would be a three-page document outlining the organizations that
had their charitable status removed, and where and how and what was being done
Ms. Hawara: As a package, we have prepared a number of
letters that were sent to the organizations confirming our intention to revoke.
Each letter can be quite lengthy. In total, we have six letters to share with
the committee, one of which has been translated into French to give the
committee a sense of that, so that's what I refer to. There's a short cover memo
attaching a number of lengthy letters.
The Chair: Colleagues, I want to pursue this further
because I remember our conversation fairly clearly. I think it's important for
the record to point out that we're trying to understand the scope of terrorism
financing in Canada, either coming into Canada or going outside of Canada. In
conjunction with that, are you going to provide us with a list of the
organizations, the amount of money that's involved in the types of transactions
that have been identified and if any of these cases have been referred on to
other law enforcement agencies?
Ms. Hawara: The letters that will be provided to the
committee provide detailed information about what we found during the audits,
and it will get into some of the details of what you're looking for in terms of
Each case is different, but the letters provide a full account of
what we found during the course of these audits. That's why we thought they were
the best documents to put in front of the committee. It will give you a sense of
what we have found in those instances where we've conducted audits and proceeded
The Chair: I will conclude by asking if we can expect them
to be mailed to us within the week.
Ms. Hawara: I will make best efforts, absolutely.
Senator Kenny: Is there any reason why we can't have a
short summary as well?
The Chair: A verbal summary here right now?
Senator Kenny: No, a short summary of what the document
said. You talked about a three-pager in addition to the material they're
forwarding. You don't have a firm commitment for a week, so they're going to
take a while. Give us a summary and —
The Chair: No, I'm sorry; you misinterpreted me, senator.
All I expected from them was a short summary of what the eight charities were
and a breakdown. That's what I was expecting to receive, which we didn't
receive. I have received nothing, if that’s what you're —
Senator Kenny: No, what I'm suggesting is that there's
other material coming. Let's also have what you were expecting.
The Chair: Perhaps you want to elaborate further on what
you actually do have? Is that the question to the witness?
Senator Kenny: Yes, what have they got?
The Chair: Senator, could you please ask your question?
Senator Kenny: I would like a summary of what's in the
Ms. Hawara: We were asked three questions, and so we've
provided an answer to the three questions. In addition, we are providing the
letters that were sent to charities confirming their revocation of registration.
They are the actual letters we sent to the organizations indicating the grounds
for revoking their registered status.
To be clear — and we had this discussion last time — while I had
mentioned that there were eight, in some instances we don't always make note
with the charity of the terrorism link, the concerns we might have from a
terrorism perspective. Our role, to go back to my opening remarks, is an
administrative role. Our role is not to prove that a terrorism offence has taken
place. Our role is to protect the registration system for charities by applying
the provisions of the Income Tax Act.
Senator Kenny: Mr. Chair, the witness is providing an
index, not a summary. A summary would tell us what the substance is in a brief
form, and instead we are just getting a list of documents she's sending.
The Chair: In fairness to you, you are a witness here, but
you can understand the frustration from this side because what we want to do is
to find out, in a very general way, how much money was involved in the financing
of terrorism through these charitable organizations, how many people were
involved, and what has happened and transpired since this was identified. This
is illegal activity.
Alastair Bland, Director, Review and Analysis Division,
Charities Directorate, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch, Canada
Revenue Agency: If I may, we're doing our best to strike the appropriate
balance here. As was mentioned, we do not have a mandate to conduct criminal
inquiries. Terrorist financing is a criminal offence.
What we do have the mandate to do is to protect the integrity of
the registration system against the threat of terrorism. So where there is
unacceptable risk or concern that an organization, through its activities, may
lead to financing terrorism in one way, shape or form, we have certain powers
available to us to deal with that.
What we're going to be providing, I think, is six of the eight
letters outlining our grounds, under the Income Tax Act provisions, as to why
they were revoked.
Now, the reasons for their revocation are likely to be things
like they funded non-qualified donees. Now, in those letters, we do raise the
concerns that we have that because they may not be operating purely for
charitable purposes, there is an opportunity there for that money to be
unaccounted for. Because of the context around the situation, one of those
potential areas would be to end up in the hands of a terrorist organization. But
we don't go down there. We do not prove that these funds were raised and will
therefore be used for terrorist financing. That's not our mandate. Our mandate
is to enforce the regulations. That's why we have those regulations under the
Income Tax Act, to be able to protect the sector and the assets that are in it.
I don't think you're going to get a handle on the amount of
terrorist financing through charities by looking at those letters, but it will
give you an indication of the type of regulatory work we're doing.
It's a bit of a nuanced question. We did our best to answer the
question, but it's not as simple as how many charities are funding terrorism.
Senator Beyak: Supplemental to the chair’s question, is
there a step that should be taken after you, somewhere you can send things to? I
understand exactly what you're saying. It's not your agency's job. Everyone
says, “It's not my job,” but it isn't. What could we recommend, as a Senate
committee, to make this easier?
Ms. Hawara: So we view ourselves as being a piece of the
larger government effort to tackle terrorism and terrorist financing, and
information sharing is critical to that. So, in the work that we do, there's a
lot that we can share with our partners, and then they can consider it as part
of their responsibilities and accountabilities to determine whether there is
something more that they can do.
I think the mechanisms are in place for that to happen, and we
are actively sharing information, within the confines of the Income Tax Act, in
order to enable others to do their work.
You're right: There is a limit to what we can do. Our role is
very much a preventative one in terms of protecting the charities themselves and
the charitable sector, but we are dealing with those organizations, not the
individuals involved with them. There are others in government who need access
to our information, and we're there to provide it.
The Chair: Colleagues, I just want to follow up. They
always say, “Follow the money,” and you people, in your responsibilities, are
following the money. I don't quite understand this: If a charitable organization
has been identified, in one manner or another, as being involved with terrorist
activity, why wouldn't you know the amount of money involved within that
charity, because you've revoked their charitable status? What happened to the
money? Who gets the money, and how much money was involved? It would seem to me
to be very important to the general public that is watching this meeting. They
would want to know how much money was involved in these charitable
organizations. Now we've gone from eight to six, and you haven't explained why
we went from eight to six organizations. How much money was involved? Because I
think Canadians have the right to know. If you can't tell us, who can?
Ms. Hawara: If I may, chair, in each of the letters, as I
was mentioning earlier, there's a full accounting of what we found. So if we
audited over a period of two or three years and we found that money went
overseas or money was used improperly in whatever way, all of that information
is in the letter. The letters are available to the public upon request. A
summary is published on the CRA's website. Usually in the summary we also
include what the most significant findings were, and if there is money attached
to that, we will highlight it.
I take your point, and we certainly do —
The Chair: Just to conclude, and then we'll get on to
other questions, it will take us to look at the letters, and we're going to get
six letters out of eight. We can add or subtract, and then we'll get the amount
of money that was involved with respect to these charitable organizations. Is
Ms. Hawara: That's right.
The Chair: Okay, just so I have that clear.
Senator Dagenais: I would like to come back to the issue
of charities whose charter has been revoked. Obviously, you revoked their
charter because, as administrators, you suspected that sums might have been sent
to organizations that were not necessarily “terrorists” but of which the
objectives were somewhat suspicious.
When you revoke the charter of certain organizations because you
have doubts about the destination of sums of money, do you notify the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police so that it can conduct an investigation? I imagine that,
the moment you have any doubts, as administrators, you notify the RCMP?
Ms. Hawara: Yes. We have a very good relationship with the
RCMP. We send it the information that we obtain through our audits. An agreement
exists between the two organizations.
Under the Income Tax Act, we have the authority to share this
type of information and we do so regularly, because we all have a role to play
in this file. However, there is a limit to our authority and, by sending the
RCMP information to which we have access, we help it fulfil its mandate.
Senator Dagenais: I understand that you have revoked the
charter of eight organizations. You are not obliged to tell me how many you have
in your crosshairs. However, I imagine that, in your work as administrators, it
is possible that you are monitoring other organizations, that you have your eye
on them. I will not ask you how many, but is it possible that there could be
other organizations that are being closely examined by your administration?
Ms. Hawara: Yes, certainly. We have many responsibilities.
We do not just conduct audits, we also conduct surveillance. On an ad hoc basis,
we examine the activities of various charitable organizations. The sector is
vulnerable, but not all charitable organizations interest us with respect to
this particular concern. The number is still quite small. In the context of our
work, we are always gathering information and examining the activities and
annual statements of organizations to determine where we need to concentrate our
efforts in this respect.
Senator Carignan: You say that eight charters were
revoked. I also read in January, in a publication, that five organizations were
subject to revocation following an investigation of political activities. There
is no doubt some overlap. Are some of these five organizations also found in the
eight previously mentioned?
Ms. Hawara: No, they do not overlap. To be more specific,
the five organizations you mentioned have not yet had their status revoked. We
have stated our intention to revoke them, but the organizations in question have
the right to an appeal, and we have decided to allow them to exhaust their
appeal rights before making a decision. We have not yet revoked the charters of
the five organizations you mentioned. More specifically, there is no overlap
between the eight and the five.
Senator Carignan: In the context of your prevention
process or your detection methods, I assume that you have a team or a special
division responsible for conducting research to identify organizations
susceptible of funding terrorist activities. Other than this division within
your department, are there other detection methods in place? I would like to
suggest one: the online publication of data. I know that data is transmitted and
accessible to the general public on the Web. In another life, I used it myself
to find the transactions that I deemed inappropriate. The information that I
used on the site was extremely useful to me, but I had to combine it with other
Have you considered publishing more information on charities, for
example, on the donors and the individuals or organizations who receive money,
by the size of the donation? You understand that 40 million people could consult
this information, which would increase your detection ability.
Ms. Hawara: That is one of the main reasons why we publish
this information. We do it not only to allow donors to make informed decisions
about the organizations they want to support, but also, as you say, to bolster
our efforts to ensure compliance.
We are currently conducting a review of our system with a view to
making improvements. We think that we can improve the information that is posted
on the website. Will we go as far as publishing the names of donors? I do not
believe that we will go that far. We currently do not ask charities to provide
us with this information, except in certain specific circumstances involving
A balance must be struck between the administrative burden
imposed on charities and the information that must be gathered, both for the
public and for us. Certainly, one of the important sources of information is
what we receive from our partners. This information is examined through the work
of the division you mentioned.
Senator Carignan: When do you aim to change the rules or
Ms. Hawara: We are nearly at the midway point in our
process. We should have a new statement and a new process for submitting
information in electronic format by the end of 2018.
Senator Day: I want to get an understanding as to your
relationship with other security agencies in Canada. I guess that would be
Mr. Bland, but from a statistical point of view, how many revocations have you
had as a result of a court finding that a terrorist activity has taken place by
one of these registered charities using charitable money?
Mr. Bland: I don't know of any that resulted as a result
of a court finding.
Senator Day: So they're all based on your forensic audit
looking at a risk analysis of various registered charities, and then your
dialogue; that is, all this writing back and forth asking, “Why did you use the
money for that purpose; so explain to us?” We will find all of that in the
correspondence that you will be sending to us in due course. Is that correct?
Ms. Hawara: Yes.
Senator Day: We will get a good flavour for that side of
Mr. Bland, as head of analysis doing the audits and the
risk-based analysis, do you take a look at those particular areas — not the ones
where you've decided and gone all the way down the line and suspended, but there
are others in between. Do you look at who is on the board of directors, which
lawyers were involved, all of that activity, and do you make that information
available to other security agencies in Canada?
Mr. Bland: Yes. This question came up with
Senator Dagenais as well.
Since 2008-09, there have been 110 occasions where we saw fit to
share information about either an applicant or a registered charity with the
RCMP. In almost all the situations — in fact, the numbers are the same — we saw
fit to share similar information with CSIS as well.
There are occasions where we would share or solicit information
from FINTRAC with respect to either a charitable applicant or one of the
Senator Day: Do you share that to get some information
back? Is that why you are doing this?
Mr. Bland: There are a number of reasons why we share
information. Primarily, in order to ask their assistance on a matter and to get
proper context around what it is that we're asking, we have to divulge the
information about the taxpayer to them so that would be considered a disclosure.
There are other times where we're perfectly comfortable in dealing with the
situation ourselves through our own mandate, but we feel an obligation to share
with them because there might be something here that they may want to pick up
on. I would call that proactive.
There are other occasions where they will actually ask us about a
particular ongoing investigation and whether there are connections to the
charitable sector or any registered charity in Canada. We will look through that
and determine whether or not there are connections to their existing, ongoing
Senator Day: Following that forward, you determine the
relevancy. In your submission you said the CRA may disclose information when it
is relevant. So you determine relevancy. Do you have a memorandum of
understanding with any of the 16 other government institutions with which you
share this information to make sure that it's not then misused by them in any
Mr. Bland: We have existing memorandums of understanding
with the RCMP and with CSIS. Our primary reason for dealing with FINTRAC would
be to share information. Their primary function is to share with intelligence
services, so sharing with them automatically makes information — or the purpose
of doing so is to make the information available to CSIS and the RCMP.
With respect to the other organizations identified, we haven't
developed them as yet because we hadn't, until August, had the express authority
to share specifically with them. Now that we do, if there's regular sharing that
isn't just one-off, we'll certainly look at the necessity of having a memorandum
But it's clear in our letters, when we articulate why we're
sharing the information and under what authority we do so, the limits of that
authority and their ability to use that information.
Senator Day: My concern is that it's gone up from 3 or 4
agencies that you could deal with and keep your arms around to 16 agencies under
the new legislation. That's a lot of personal information that was with Canada
Revenue Agency now being shared with 16 different agencies, all of which have
relationships with other international organizations.
If I were a lawyer and happened to have been involved initially
in helping to incorporate this agency, this could impact very seriously on my
credibility later on, perhaps without my knowing anything about this until it's
down the road quite a ways. So there has to be some sensitivity to the sharing
that you're doing. I'm looking for some reassurance from you that such
sensitivity is there.
Mr. Bland: Yes, certainly. As Ms. Hawara mentioned, there
are limitations on our ability to share. First and foremost, it's at our
discretion whether we share or not.
Senator Day: You determine whether it's relevant.
Mr. Bland: We will look at it and determine whether it's
relevant to that organization's national security responsibilities. We document
as to why we feel it is relevant.
Also, it must be relevant to a terrorism offence or a threat to
the security of Canada as defined under the CSIS Act. It still needs to meet
those two tests as well.
Senator Day: But you're applying the test. You're not
going to a judge. You're not going to an independent third party. You're reading
the CSIS Act and determining whether you should provide this information.
Mr. Bland: That's correct.
Senator Beyak: Do you proactively review and critically
examine charities operating in zones of radicalization such as Syria, Pakistan
and Libya? Can you tell us if you've found anything in the past few years? It
may be out of your reach, but I wanted to ask.
Mr. Bland: We receive between 3,000 and 4,000 applications
a year for registered charitable status. We use risk indicators to help be
efficient and effective in only focusing on those particular applicants that may
pose a threat or a risk in this area. An area where there are conflicts, such as
the ones you mentioned, certainly is an indicator that we would need to take a
closer look at that particular application to ensure that there are no concerns
that the organization's activities would fall afoul.
We deny applications based on unacceptable risk. Some of those
applications have come from organizations proposing to operate in those areas,
yes. I'm afraid I don't have the numbers on me, though. Sorry.
Senator Mitchell: You've been talking about information
that you had the prerogative of giving to some other organization. What about if
one of those organizations, like CSIS or the RCMP, came to you for information?
Would they need a warrant?
Ms. Hawara: If they're looking for our information in
terms of their activities?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Ms. Hawara: In the context of information related to
national security, there is now a mechanism through the Security of Canada
Information Sharing Act. It's the process that Mr. Bland was describing, where
you have to meet two thresholds. You need to either demonstrate that the
information would be relevant to an investigation of a threat to the security of
Canada under the CSIS Act or a terrorism-related offence. If we are satisfied
that the information would meet that threshold, then we ask ourselves whether it
would be relevant, in your example, to CSIS's or the RCMP's mandate. If those
thresholds are met, we could share that national security information with CSIS
or the RCMP.
This does not displace, though, the processes that are in place
in terms of seeking warrants to obtain information from the agency. It is
strictly limited to information-sharing for the purposes of national security.
Senator Mitchell: So in terms of information shared for
any other reason, they would need a warrant, but with information for the
purposes of national security, they wouldn't need a warrant?
Ms. Hawara: There's a mechanism now looking at the Income
Tax Act and looking at the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act
specifically to allow for more information-sharing in relation to national
Senator Mitchell: If a group is deregistered, are they
told explicitly — and maybe we'll see it in this documentation that you'll show
us —why they have been deregistered? If it's based, on the other hand, on secret
information, in the process of an appeal, are they entitled to a special
advocate to be their representative?
Ms. Hawara: In all of the cases we've handled up until
now, we've exercised our authority under the Income Tax Act and applied the
usual principles of administrative fairness. We share our concerns and the
grounds upon which we believe the charities should be sanctioned or revoked, and
they have an opportunity to provide representations to us. Then we make a
decision. It's transparent to the charity in terms of our concerns and the
grounds upon which we will rely in terms of our action.
There is another piece of legislation called the Charity
Registration (Security Information) Act. We see it as a reserve power. If the
information we needed to rely upon was intelligence or secret information, there
is a process outlined in that piece of legislation for proceeding using a
certificate process and putting the certificate in front of the court. But we
see that as a reserve power, a sort of last resort. We prefer to operate under
the Income Tax Act and fully explain to the charity the grounds for revocation
and provide them an opportunity to respond.
The reserve power is important. We have not used it, but it is on
the statute books.
Senator Mitchell: I know that it is against the law for
registered charities to receive funds from state sponsors of terrorism. There
were two, I think, the last time you presented here in June 2015: Iran and
Syria. Are there any others now?
Ms. Hawara: Not as far as I'm aware. I believe it's still
Mr. Bland: To my knowledge.
Ms. Hawara: To my knowledge, yes.
Senator Mitchell: If it were to anybody's knowledge, who
would that be if not you?
Ms. Hawara: I believe there's a process for amending that
piece of legislation in the annex that lists those countries. I believe it would
be my colleagues at Public Safety, but to be honest, I'm not 100 per cent sure.
It could potentially be Global Affairs Canada.
Senator Mitchell: And they would tell you?
Ms. Hawara: Yes.
Senator Dagenais: I would like to come back to the
organizations whose charters you revoked. What were the arguments of these
organizations following this revocation? Did they contest your decision? Did
they present arguments to change your mind?
Ms. Hawara: Some organizations presented arguments and
others did not. In one of two cases, the organization was no longer active, and
there was therefore no one to make arguments.
Other organizations told us that they thought they were doing
good work, but their submissions were not convincing. The letters that we will
provide give an overview of the submissions that we received.
Senator Dagenais: They thought they were doing good work
when they were collecting funds for organizations that were possibly financing
terrorism? They did not go any further in their arguments? Normally, when a
defense is presented, I imagine that it must go a bit further. They did not go
further, and just claimed that they thought they were doing good work?
Ms. Hawara: I am giving you a very general summary because
I do not remember the cases exactly. I hope you will forgive me.
Senator Carignan: I would like to come back to the
question asked earlier about the revocation of the status of the five
organizations linked to political activity. In the release, it was stated that
there were some 30 audits underway that led to five revocations. So this is
fairly high revocation rate. I imagine that it is not the same rate in the case
of activities linked to terrorism; at least, I hope not.
Can you give us an idea of the selection criteria for the
organizations that are being audited and of the number of audits that allowed
you to identify eight cases?
Ms. Hawara: I think you are right. There is a high rate
with regard to political activity. This is partly because the audits are not
random. They are audits that we selected ourselves because we had concerns. We
were quite sure that we would find something, that is, non-compliance. It is the
same thing for audits that we perform in the case of terrorist activities; these
audits are not random either. The Charities Directorate has a general auditing
program that includes different types of auditing, which includes random audits.
When we look at the auditing program as a whole and we look at the number of
revocations, the figure is much smaller. However, and I do not want to compare
them because we are talking about two different things, with regard to both
political activity and terrorism-related activities, we target the most
sensitive cases that could be problematic. That is why the rate is higher.
Senator Carignan: What about the selection criteria and
Ms. Hawara: Concerning selection criteria, we have risk
indicators. We have an array of information sources concerning the returns that
the organizations themselves fill out: yearly returns, information from our
partners, our own research, et cetera. Based on that, we apply risk indicator
criteria that we have developed according to the type of activity the
organizations carry out and the regions in which they work.
Senator Carignan: With only those two criteria, it remains
Ms. Hawara: Yes.
Mr. Bland: It gives you an idea of the types of things we
look at, without giving a public playbook of exactly how we select files. It's
fair to say that with regard to the regions in which an organization proposes to
operate, people can accept that it may or may not pose a risk. The amount of
money they propose to expend in that area in relation to activities they may be
conducting domestically may play into that as well. If there are some concerns
around certain people associated with the charity or suspected of being
associated with the charity, and concerns around their linkages, that is
certainly relevant as well.
Senator Carignan: Are religious leanings taken into
Mr. Bland: In what context?
Senator Carignan: You could perform fewer audits on
Catholic charities as compared to other charities that are more closely linked
to groups such as Sunnis, as compared to Shiites who may be closer to the source
of terrorist activities?
Ms. Hawara: We look more at the type of activity and other
indicators. Religion is less of a factor. You must understand the context in
which these activities occur. That is why the work is so complex, because we
have to understand the dynamics and the context in which the charities operate.
Mr. Bland gave you some examples of risk indicators that we use to guide our
Senator Carignan: I have one last question, because I did
not receive an answer to my previous question.
How many organizations were audited in order to allow you to
Mr. Bland: It's difficult to put a specific number on that
because of the way we used to operate and the way we would triage the audits we
Now that we have the capacity to do so, there are certain
organizations for which our division will conduct the audit. The context in
which those organizations are operating is crucial to fully comprehend the
context in order to get an appropriate finding or outcome of the audit. There
may be other occasions where we'll have a look at the organization. There may be
concerns around linkages to terrorism, but there are glaring and obvious
violations of the provisions under the Income Tax Act, and in all likelihood you
could have a simple audit on those areas and revocation would be the net result
of something like that. There's no need to use these specialized resources
within my division to conduct such an audit because in all likelihood they will
be revoked anyway. So it's very difficult to say exactly how many audits were
done in order to come to that number of eight.
I can tell you that in the period of 2008 until last year, we
concluded 16 audits ourselves. We revoked the organization on eight occasions.
We have the capacity now to conduct or keep an inventory of
approximately 10 ongoing audits in any one year. Some audits take two, three
years to conclude. We don't start and finish in the same year, but we have the
capacity to have an inventory of 10.
Senator Carignan: That's enough.
Mr. Bland: It's really hard to determine how much is
enough. We could audit all 86,000 if you want. It's getting the right balance
and taking a risk-based approach. We'll pick the top 10, yes.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Ms. Hawara and Mr. Bland.
A previous witness to this committee recommended that the CRA
limits cash donations to charities to prevent such funds being misused or being
used to fund radical terror-linked purposes. Has this been considered by the
CRA, and what actions have been taken to move such an idea forward?
Ms. Hawara: I just want to make sure I understand. The
idea is to limit the amount of cash donations?
Senator Ngo: That's correct.
Ms. Hawara: Writ large or coming in from foreign sources?
Senator Ngo: From foreign sources.
Ms. Hawara: The Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for
administering the Income Tax Act as it's currently drafted. Something like that
particular idea would likely require an amendment to the Income Tax Act, and
that would fall to our colleagues at the Department of Finance. It wouldn't be
something that the CRA itself could impose.
Currently there are no particular restrictions, with the
exception of the donations from state sponsors of terrorism. The limitations or
the requirements apply to the resources of the charity, not where they come
Senator Ngo: So you have no authority to prevent them from
outside. How about inside of Canada?
Ms. Hawara: A registered charity, regardless of where the
funds have come from, has to operate in a certain way and within certain
requirements. That's our role: ensuring that they're operating for exclusively
charitable purposes, that they maintain direction and control over their assets
and resources, whether it's here or abroad. The requirements apply to the assets
once they've been amassed.
Senator Mitchell: Are you stuck at eight? Are there no
more since you last reported to us?
Ms. Hawara: Not since we were here last.
Senator Mitchell: I guess it's conceivable that once they
lose their charitable status, an organization can continue to collect money and
just not give a charitable deduction. Then, if there were a problem, it would
become a police problem.
Ms. Hawara: Essentially, that's correct. There are
requirements in terms of winding down the charity. A charity that's been revoked
has to wind down within a year and give up all of its assets. The assets have
been allowed to grow within the charitable sector and they must stay in the
charitable sector, so a charity would need to demonstrate to us that they have
spent all of their assets or donated all of their assets.
That is correct: There is nothing preventing them from continuing
on as a non-profit organization or in some other form, but they would no longer
be registered with the CRA and they would no longer have the ability to issue
The Chair: Could I follow up on Senator Mitchell and get
this clear for the record? An organization that has had its charitable status
revoked for terrorism activities, which has accrued a great deal of money, has
the ability to pass that money on to whomever they wish?
Ms. Hawara: Not to whomever they wish. They must either
spend their assets themselves or make gifts to what are called eligible donees:
registered charities in good standing with the CRA and at arm's length from the
organization that's been revoked.
The Chair: And you monitor that and you ensure that
Ms. Hawara: We have a team within the directorate that
looks after what we call the revocation tax.
The Chair: Colleagues, we're coming to the end of the hour
Senator Dagenais, do you have another question?
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have two short
questions to ask our witness.
Ms. Hawara, you mentioned charities whose status had been revoked
and who came back with very few arguments. It was impossible for two of them
because they had already ceased their operations. Is it because your
investigations took so long that these two charities were forced to cease
Ms. Hawara: I do not believe that it was because of the
time it took. I would have to look at the details of those two cases again.
However, from time to time, we find certain organizations that are inactive and
in our opinion, as a rule these organizations must operate solely for charitable
purposes. So when we realize that a charity is inactive, that raises concerns.
Senator Dagenais: Please correct me if I am wrong, but
didn’t the minister recently receive a mandate not to investigate charities that
devote themselves to political activities? If that is the case, has this
influenced how you work?
Ms. Hawara: Senator Carignan already mentioned this.
Minister Lebouthillier made an announcement, I believe on January 20, concerning
the program that we implemented further to the 2012 budget concerning the
political activities of charities. That is completely separate from the issue of
Therefore, the 2012 budget gave us the mandate to increase our
monitoring activities, and for this purpose, we planned 60 audits focusing on
political activity in particular, because there are specific rules that apply to
the political activities of charities. When the minister made her announcement
we had completed 30 such audits, 24 were underway and 6 had not yet begun. Given
that the results were largely acceptable, we decided to end the program. In
short, the 24 audits that were underway will be completed because that is the
appropriate thing to do given the arm’s length role of the Charities
Directorate, but the 6 that had not yet begun will not be part of this program
on political activity.
That was the announcement made by the minister on January 20 of
this year. We are continuing our work on the 24 audits that were already
Senator Day: Are all of your decisions to revoke final? Is
there a “Clean your act up, we'll give you a year, and then we'll come back,”
kind of situation?
Ms. Hawara: I really appreciate this question, because we
have been very focused on revocation, but there are other tools at the
directorate's disposal, and the Review and Analysis Division uses them as well.
We do take an education-first approach.
We have other tools: If at the conclusion of an audit we find
minor issues of non-compliance, we send the charity an education letter. If it's
something more troubling and we want a written undertaking on the part of the
charity, we negotiate a compliance agreement with them, outlining the corrective
measures. Oftentimes we will go back and verify that they have indeed done what
they said they were going to do. We also have the ability to impose sanctions:
either financial penalties or the authority to suspend the receipting privilege
of the organization, and then, of course, there's revocation.
In the case of the Review and Analysis Division, we've used all
of those tools. We have focused today on revocation, but we have also found
instances where other approaches were more appropriate given the circumstances.
Senator Day: Thank you. I didn't realize my question would
take that long.
Mr. Bland, how many auditors do you have? How many analysts do
you have that are working on determining whether you should or should not do an
Mr. Bland: There are approximately 40 staff in my
The Chair: Is that 40 auditors?
Mr. Bland: It's 40 staff. Investigative analysts and
auditors and geopolitical analysts all work together on audits, as well as
research analysts and risk analysts.
With all due respect, I don't think it's a question of how many
auditors there are. Depending on how complex the audit is, it may be just an
auditor and a research analyst, but in all likelihood, if we're taking the audit
on, it's a team approach. We would have a geopolitical analyst, an intelligence
analyst, a research analyst, a risk analyst and an auditor.
Senator Day: I'd be interested in following through on
that, but I wanted to make sure that I have all the legislation that you're
I was making a note as you were answering various questions. The
Charities Registration (Security Information) Act is one you don't like that
much. You prefer to use the Income Tax Act in the process as opposed to the
Then there's the recent Security of Canada Information Sharing
Act, outlining the 16 agencies that you can share with.
The Anti-terrorism Act amendments last year — you're involved
In the CSIS Act, you have to interpret certain sections to
determine whether something is relevant for disclosing.
Are there other pieces of legislation that you need as well that
are pertinent to your work?
Ms. Hawara: The primary one is the Income Tax Act. That's
the act that sets out the requirements for how charities must operate. We have
to read it in conjunction with the common law. So a lot about charity law is
actually outside of the Income Tax Act. We rely quite heavily on the decisions
of tribunals, which have helped form charity law in Canada.
Senator Day: Have I mentioned all of the pertinent pieces
of legislation under which you operate?
Ms. Hawara: I would think so.
The Chair: I want to clarify a couple of things for the
When do you expect the 24 audits, which Senator Dagenais referred
to and you brought to the fore, to be done? The audits date back to 2012, when
Ms. Hawara: They didn't all begin in 2012. They were
launched over a period of four years, between 2012 and now. I'm hoping to have
them done as quickly as possible. Some are more complex than others and will
take a bit more time. I don't have any specific timelines that I can share,
Senator Carignan: Do you intend to transfer the budget of
the section that audited political activity to the section that audits terrorist
Ms. Hawara: Not necessarily. The people on the team that
focused on auditing political activity came from different teams within the
directorate. Gradually, as we complete the audits, I expect these employees to
return to the directorate but not necessarily on one team rather than on
another. We are also going to determine where the employees would like to work.
The Chair: I want to make a clarification. I don't think
the committee is satisfied with respect to the information on the terrorism
files that you were involved with. In view of the fact that you will be
corresponding with us, and I'm expecting that to be within the week because the
letters are available, I would assume that if you're called upon you would come
back to us to answer any questions the committee has in respect of those
Ms. Hawara: Yes, of course. We are always at the
The only thing I would mention is that we are somewhat limited in
terms of how much we can say about individual charities. The Income Tax Act
allows us to disclose the grounds upon which we make decisions; so we will
provide that to the committee.
It will depend, perhaps, on the nature of the questions.
The Chair: If you have to plead the “fifth amendment,”
then you have to do so. I want to know that you will make yourself available to
the committee because, quite frankly, the information we were looking for wasn't
Ms. Hawara: Yes.
The Chair: In terms of the Internet and access to the CRA,
I want to reiterate that trying to find four or five files in here out of 32,000
is not an easy task. I would suggest that somebody who understands how to put a
website together and make it easy for the general public to find, like me, would
be very advisable, and then perhaps you wouldn't get some of the questions you
With that, I want to say thank you very much. We appreciate your
coming. I'm looking forward to seeing you again.
Joining us on panel 4 today are a number of witnesses from Public
Safety Canada, as we begin to look at threats to Canada’s critical
infrastructure. We are pleased to have with us today Ms. Monik Beauregard,
Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, National and Cybersecurity Branch; Mr. Patrick
Boucher, Acting Director General, Critical Infrastructure and Strategic
Coordination Directorate; Ms. Suki Wong, Director General, National Security
Operations Directorate; and Ms. Colleen Merchant, Director General, National
Cyber Security Directorate.
Welcome. I understand that you have an opening statement. Please
Monik Beauregard, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, National
and Cybersecurity Branch, Public Safety Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair and
members of the committee, for the opportunity to discuss the resilience of
Canada’s critical infrastructure.
By way of context, critical infrastructure consists of the
physical assets, information technology systems, networks and services essential
to the health, safety, security, and economic well-being of Canadians.
Canada has 10 critical infrastructure sectors including: finance;
food; transportation; government; information and communication technology;
health; water; safety; and manufacturing.
Our critical infrastructure sectors are confronted by a complex
mix of risks and threats, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks and cyber
incidents. The risk environment is continuously evolving. For example, natural
disasters and severe weather events are striking with greater frequency and
While severe weather events are becoming more destructive, the
terrorist threat is taking on new and evolving forms. The most recent public
report on terrorist threats to Canada highlighted the threat posed by citizens
who travel abroad to commit acts of terror and who subsequently return home to
Not all extremist travellers who return to Canada represent a
terrorist threat. However, some have gained credibility from their time abroad
to encourage and recruit aspiring violent extremists in Canada, and it is
possible that some returnees could plan and carry out terrorist attacks in
Canada. The government is actively dealing with this issue and is seeking to
limit travel abroad by violent extremists through the Combating Terrorism Act.
The threat environment facing Canada’s critical infrastructure
sectors is compounded by their reliance on secure cyber systems. Increasingly,
hostile actors, such as foreign intelligence agencies, terrorists or
“hacktivists”, are able to attack Canada’s critical infrastructure without
actually having to set foot on Canadian soil.
Public Safety Canada and our portfolio agencies are aware of a
wide range of targeting against the private sector in Canada, including attacks
against the telecommunications sector, the oil and gas industry and other
elements of the natural resource sector.
Ultimately, the challenge of protecting our vital assets and
systems from these risks and threats demands a cooperative approach to ensure
resilience. To this end, Canada’s National Strategy and Action Plan for Critical
Infrastructure established a collaborative, federal, provincial, territorial and
critical infrastructure sector approach to mitigate the full range of risks and
threats facing our vital assets and systems.
Building on the strategy’s central themes of partnerships,
information sharing, and all-hazards risk management, sector networks were
established for each of the 10 critical infrastructure sectors, which are led by
a responsible federal department or agency, such as Natural Resources Canada in
the case of the energy sector and the Public Health Agency of Canada in the case
of the health sector.
Public Safety Canada is responsible for leading the overall
federal effort to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure. In
particular, we bring value to the public-private sector partnership by bringing
stakeholders together to address risks, by providing regular threat briefings,
hosting cross-sector exercises and developing risk management tools and guides
designed to mitigate the impact of disruptions.
It is important to note that critical infrastructure owners and
operators bear the primary responsibility for protecting their assets and
systems. They are also responsible for emergency response planning and
implementation along with the provinces and territories and municipalities
within their respective jurisdictions, given that the majority of disasters
occur at the local level.
Public Safety Canada's leadership role is reflected through our
shared work with federal departments and agencies which are responsible for
their respective sector networks, provinces and territories responsible for
leading critical infrastructure protection activities within their
jurisdictions, industry partners who own the majority of Canada's critical
infrastructure, first responders and international allies.
Recognizing that our prosperity and security as Canadians depend
on the complex array of interconnected networks, systems and facilities, Public
Safety Canada has established a number of public and private sector engagement
initiatives and developed tools to manage risks, reduce vulnerabilities and
strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure.
For example, we have established the National Cross-Sector Forum
to bring together senior representatives from all 10 sectors to help set
priorities and determine action items and to strengthen our collective
resilience. It serves as the centerpiece for partnership and engagement to
address cross-sector issues such as interdependencies and cybersecurity.
We've also developed a critical infrastructure information
sharing framework to support collaborative efforts among critical infrastructure
sectors and all levels of government. As part of this framework, Public Safety
Canada has created a secure, web-based platform to make it easier to exchange
best practices and information among critical infrastructure sectors and
jurisdictions. This online gateway is where we have posted a number our risk
management products, including a tabletop exercise or “TTX in a Box,” which
helps owners and operators develop and test measures to enhance their resilience
against a full range of risk and threats.
Recognizing that critical infrastructure is connected across the
border, we have several joint initiatives under way with the Department of
Homeland Security. For example, we have launched the Regional Resiliency
Assessment Program, or RRAP, which is a tangible, boots-on-the-ground way for
governments and industry to work together to examine vulnerabilities and threats
and implement corrective measures.
The RRAP features site assessments, which culminate in a
dashboard for owners and operators of critical infrastructure to evaluate their
own resilience to both physical and cyber-threats. The products our clients
receive include benchmarking against other facilities in the sector and region,
and recommendations for enhancing resilience. We have conducted site assessments
of critical infrastructure across Canada, including electricity grids, water
treatment facilities and major transit hubs.
Keeping our cyber networks secure and resilient is one of the
most challenging issues facing the government, private businesses and citizens,
and our allies. This is why collaboration has been central to our cyber security
efforts. These collaborative efforts are guided by Canada’s Cyber Security
Strategy, which is founded on three pillars that complement the efforts of our
partners at home and abroad — securing government systems; partnering to secure
vital cyber systems outside the federal government; and helping Canadians to be
We have made great progress in all of these areas. For example,
we are working to upgrade and streamline federal government information and
technology systems. These efforts are improving the security of our systems
while enhancing the integrity of the supply chain throughout our supporting
infrastructure. We are working to secure the vital systems outside of the
federal government, which includes increasing the capacity of the Canadian Cyber
Incident Response Centre, or CCIRC.
The CCIRC is mandated to help the provinces, territories,
municipalities and the private sector organizations to secure their networks. It
acts as a central hub for information sharing about cyber threats in Canada, and
coordinates the national response to major cyber incidents.
Canadian firms and institutions are encouraged to alert CCIRC
when they experience a cyber attack. In return, CCIRC provides information and
guidance to registered firms to help them protect their systems from complex
Cyber-threats are constantly evolving and Canada needs to work to
stay ahead of those risks. As a result, the department is leading a review of
existing measures to protect Canadians and critical infrastructure from
cyber-threats. The review will inform policy and program decisions that will
make critical infrastructure more resilient to cyberattacks and help keep
Canadians safe online.
I will conclude by noting that Public Safety Canada remains
committed to working with public and private sector critical infrastructure
partners to enhance resilience. To meet this goal, we need active participation
from all levels of government and the private sector to drive meaningful
risk-management action such as risk assessments, contingency planning and
Thank you for your time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I know it's late in the
day and we really appreciate you coming here to present to us.
Before I go to my colleagues, I will ask a question. There was a
study done by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
back in 2004. The report was entitled National Emergencies: Canada's Fragile
Front Lines, An Upgrade Strategy. Are you familiar with this report?
Ms. Beauregard: We'd have to look at that.
The Chair: Could you undertake to have someone go through
that report and give us, in writing, as best you can, an update on the
recommendations and if anything has been done with the recommendations?
Ms. Beauregard: Okay.
The Chair: I would ask if it could be done fairly soon
because we are going into our study, and this will serve as the basis to some
Ms. Beauregard: We'll definitely follow up on that.
The Chair: Thank you very much; I appreciate that.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you to our guests. My question is
about critical infrastructure security. Could you make a comparison with what is
being done in the United States or in Great Britain, if you can, in terms of
critical infrastructure security?
Ms. Beauregard: As I mentioned in my statement, we work
very closely with our closest allies, the so-called “Five Eyes”. We also work
very closely with the Americans. When it comes to critical infrastructure, there
are not necessarily any borders, particularly given the way that things work
from east to west. I will ask Patrick to continue.
Patrick Boucher, Acting Director General, Critical
Infrastructure and Strategic Coordination Directorate, Public Safety Canada:
Thank you for the question. As Monik indicated, we work very closely with not
only our American colleagues to the south but also the Five Eyes community.
Related to critical infrastructure specifically, we have what's called the
“Critical Five.” This is a forum of our Five Eyes allies that we convene on a
regular basis to discuss issues very specific to critical infrastructure and
critical infrastructure resilience.
As Monik indicated, we work very closely with those partners on
various initiatives. A good example is the RRAP program. It's an American
methodology, and we've worked in very close collaboration with them to not only
employ that here domestically in Canada but also to conduct joint border RRAP
assessments with them as well.
Senator Dagenais: We are also talking about cyber attacks
to which we could fall victim. Could you give us an idea of the profile of those
who commit these cyber attacks and of the countries from which they might
Ms. Beauregard: Cyber attacks can come from a large number
of actors. They may be nation-states who are simply looking to pursue espionage
activities or to seek a certain economic advantage. The government may be
targeted for espionage reasons, while the private sector might be targeted for
economic reasons. Terrorist groups might also choose to undertake cyber attacks.
There are various motives. In the case of nation-states, the motives will be
different from those of “hacktivists”, as they are known, who are often seeking
no other gain than the prestige of having successfully pirated a government
There are many actors. There are also many motives.
Unfortunately, we must focus on the impact. When it comes to our infrastructure
resilience, it is the result that is the most important aspect for us, and not
necessarily the origin of the threat. The result will be the same.
Senator Mitchell: This is a huge area of responsibility
and coordination. Are you the person who wakes up every morning with that
responsibility or can't sleep with it?
Ms. Beauregard: For the last six weeks, sir, yes. I do
report. I have a deputy minister and a minister for Public Safety, but it's a
whole-of-government concern, of course. We look at cybersecurity. We look at the
security of critical infrastructure. As I indicated in my opening remarks, we
have sector working groups, and, depending on what that sector is, we have a
different government department that will be the chair of that working group. As
I indicated, for example, Health will chair the working group that is looking at
critical infrastructure in the domain of health.
At the end of the day, public safety is as much about
coordination. It's a whole-of-government approach. We have to work with all of
our government partners, federal or provincial or territorial.
Senator Mitchell: One of the areas that is of particular
concern — and you emphasized it in your presentation — is the private sector.
The bulk of our vulnerable infrastructure, cyber-wise, might well be in the
private sector. I think you made that point.
When you do the RRAP feature site assessment and you find
something lacking and the private sector entity doesn't seem to take it as
intensely as you do, what recourse do you have?
Ms. Beauregard: It's a collaboration. When we do the
RRAPs, it's either at our suggestion or their request. It's not “you must
implement the recommendations.” It's a collaborative effort.
Do you want to speak to the RRAP specifically?
Mr. Boucher: Sure.
Senator Mitchell: What if they must? What if it's that
Mr. Boucher: As Monik indicated, this is very much a
collaborative approach. So we go in there. It's boots on the ground where we do
our assessment. We're in there for about three to four days with various experts
that we have. We conduct the assessment in close collaboration with the owner
and operator. We often also have a representative from the provincial government
who participates in those assessments. At the end of the day we give them a
dashboard of sorts that identifies possible vulnerabilities and also how that
stacks up to other critical infrastructure that's comparable to their
infrastructure so that they could gauge how they stack up compared to other
entities as well.
At the end of the day, these are recommendations. The input that
we've gathered from them, through the 70-odd assessments we've conducted over
the last few years, is that it's very positive. The owners and operators
appreciate the recommendations and are utilizing the information accordingly.
The Chair: Do you want to follow up on that?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
I think you may have covered this earlier, but I'm not sure. I
think you said you're kind of agnostic about what the source of the hack might
be, but clearly there is a lot of suggestion, if not evidence, that we are
vulnerable to cyber-espionage by China. Is that something you focus on in a
Ms. Beauregard: The work that we do in cyber is mostly
done in the CCIRC, the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre. The work that we
do is really working with the private sector, the provinces and the territories,
sharing with them information about the kinds of hacks that we've received.
Again, it's not that we're totally agnostic as to what the origin is, but what
we're trying to understand is the actual hack itself. Why were we vulnerable to
that hack, to that incident, and are there trends that we need to be conscious
of? Can we share that information with the private sector so they can best
Other parts of the government are not so agnostic as to where the
threat comes from, but our part is really to be in a position to understand the
incident, how we are vulnerable, how we can fix that, how we can build our
resilience and share that beyond the government.
Senator Day: Thank you all for being here. I appreciate
your presentation, Ms. Beauregard.
I recall this committee visiting several first responders in the
past, and I believe it was during the time that there was in existence this
wonderful organization under the acronym OCIPEP, the Office of Critical
Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness. That has disappeared in
name, but is it now one of the divisions within Public Safety Canada?
Ms. Beauregard: It has morphed into Public Safety. The way
that we're organized now at Public Safety, we have five major branches. So
National Security and Cybersecurity sits with me and my DGs here. Emergency
Preparedness would be another assistant deputy minister. It's another full
branch, where they have search and rescue and they have the Government
Operations Centre. That's another full branch in Public Safety. Then you have
policing, et cetera.
Senator Day: So I can get all that information off the
Internet, off the website.
Ms. Beauregard: Yes, the structure of Public Safety and
who does what, absolutely.
Senator Day: My recollection is that in the past there was
a jurisdictional issue. The provinces had major jurisdiction in this area, but
the federal government was trying to show leadership. In order to do that, they
had a program with a lot of money in it that encouraged cooperation.
Are there still significant funds available through the federal
government for first responders across Canada for emergency preparedness
Ms. Beauregard: I would have to get back to you on that
specific question because it does deal with another branch.
Senator Day: I would be interested in knowing how it's
developing along the way.
The final question I have relates to another area that has come
within your umbrella, and that is Shared Services Canada. We saw the creation of
that, and we follow the media attention on Shared Services. Is that coordinated
in some way with your activity? It is a separate agency?
Ms. Beauregard: Yes.
Senator Day: What role do you have to play in relation to
Shared Services Canada, which provides, across-government, federal government
assistance and coordination in relation to computers and all the information
technology that exists in each of the departments?
Ms. Beauregard: Yes, you're absolutely right that it is a
separate department. As a separate department, it's a partner with which we have
to work on a daily basis on all of these issues. For example, as we launch into
a cyber review, Shared Services will be one of the major partners that we
consult and that we work with in conducting the cyber review.
Senator Day: From your point of view, does it make it
easier to protect against cyberattacks to have a Shared Services Canada
situation than each department looking after itself?
Ms. Beauregard: I don't know that it's any easier or any
more complicated. I think we have a lot of departments and a wide array of
systems throughout the government. CBSA has many of their own systems; so does
DND. That's why we have to all work collectively.
I don't know if you want to weigh in on Shared Services, but I
don't think it makes it any more or less complicated.
Senator Day: Senator Merchant, do you wish to make any
Colleen Merchant, Director General, National Cyber Security
Directorate, Public Safety Canada: From a security perspective, they've put
some interesting things in place. In particular, they've reduced the number of
connections to the Internet, which means there are fewer places that need to be
protected, which is easier. Also, they've instituted some security standards
across government, so you don't have a weaker link, in many cases.
I think that while Monik said it's not necessarily any more or
less complicated, some benefits have accrued for cybersecurity.
Senator Day: Has that been implemented as a result of your
encouragement and Public Safety Canada's encouragement, or are they taking the
lead on that?
Ms. Merchant: Part of it was due to the cybersecurity
strategy that was released five years ago. The first pillar of that is to
protect government systems. That was one of the resulting activities that were
Senator Beyak: I share Senator Mitchell's concerns about
the massiveness of the tasks that you're undertaking.
I was more concerned with the mandate letter to the minister.
It's filled with tasking even more collaboration. What has been your observation
of the timeline that you've been given for that and the minister has been given?
Is it going to work? Will it need to be extended? Can you bring all the partners
in adequately in the timeline you've been given?
Ms. Beauregard: Can I just ask for clarification? You're
only speaking about the cyber review, not the entire mandate letter?
Senator Beyak: Actually, the entire mandate letter was a
concern to me. It's massive. I'm not sure where your part fits into it.
Ms. Beauregard: Thankfully, I don't have all the reviews
in the mandate letter to carry out. There are other ADMs at Public Safety, and
we share the burden of carrying out these reviews.
I think at this point we're all looking at the scope of the
reviews and thinking about how to carry them out, putting the framework around
it and thinking about how wide or narrow we want to go with these reviews. We're
still in the preliminary stages. I think we're following some short timelines in
terms of getting to cabinet and all that, but otherwise we're still scoping it
Senator Beyak: It is the Minister of Public Safety, so I
know you're just the cyber branch. But do you think I should read it into the
record so that people watching these telecasts are aware?
Ms. Beauregard: You mean the portion of the mandate?
Senator Beyak: The whole mandate.
Senator Day: You're going to read the mandate letter?
Senator Beyak: No. There's quite a bit, actually. The
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is expected to:
Lead a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our
critical infrastructure from cyber-threats, in collaboration with the Minister
of National Defence, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic
Development, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Minister of
Public Services and Procurement, and the President of the Treasury Board.
I'm just wondering, as I said, about the timeline and how you're
going to coordinate all that.
Ms. Beauregard: As I mentioned, we are working with all of
our partners that are mentioned in the mandate letter to work together to scope
and then to make proposals to the minister.
Senator Beyak: All the very best to you.
Ms. Beauregard: Thank you.
Senator Carignan: In your definition of the term “critical
infrastructure”, you refer to that which is essential to health, safety,
security and well-being. In the United States, there seems to be a broader
definition, key assets, which include potential targets. I will say it in
— “potential targets whose destruction may not endanger vital
systems but could create a local disaster or profoundly affect national morale.”
Examples are given, such as sports stadiums and shopping centres.
In France, the terrorists attacked a concert hall and a sports stadium. In
Africa, shopping centres have been the target of attacks. Do you have a broader
definition of critical infrastructure, and do you also take into account
elements of these key assets in the context of your security concerns?
Ms. Beauregard: This might be a long answer. We have set
out 10 sectors of critical infrastructure according to a very specific
definition. If one of those sectors is hit, there could be negative
repercussions on the entire country.
When we examine terrorist threats, we look at them through the
lens of critical infrastructure sectors, but we also look at terrorist threats
through other lenses. We study foreign trends, particularly in the
transportation sector, which directly affects these 10 areas. We also know that
the tourism sector is a potential target for terrorist attacks.
We have witnessed attacks on vulnerable targets in foreign
countries: stadiums, bars and hotels. We look at these targets more from the
perspective of analysing terrorist threats that have an impact on the entire
country, for example if there is a sector that is hit by a cyber incident or by
a natural disaster.
So we use several different lenses to evaluate threats.
Senator Carignan: How do you look at threats from the
point of view of prevention? In your brief you often refer to the provinces and
territories. You did not often refer to municipalities. You mentioned them a few
times while discussing cyber attacks. I did not hear the word “municipality”
very often. You collaborate with the municipalities. They have local
infrastructures and they must be particularly concerned about security and
When you speak with municipalities to determine which targets are
vulnerable, are measures taken to support, educate, and equip them? Do you not
think this would be important, given that all municipalities are not at the same
Ms. Beauregard: I would say that the work is essentially
done when a threat appears and we have undertaken a fairly serious assessment of
a possible threat. We primarily work with law enforcement, such as the RCMP or
municipal police forces, because we can share certain sensitive information with
As for terrorist threats, we work closely with police forces, and
it is they who decide in due course what to do with the information.
Senator Carignan: So we are in reaction mode, and not in
Ms. Beauregard: No, I am talking more about preparation.
If indeed there are signs of a potential attack, we essentially work with law
enforcement, whether that be to prepare or to respond.
Senator Carignan: That is what I said, in reaction to
signs. However, if there are not any, we do not have a plan, training, or direct
communication with municipalities to inform them of the problems they might face
and to give them the possibility to put preventive measures in place.
Ms. Beauregard: Work on the ground is largely undertaken
with the sectors themselves through the Regional Resilience Assessment Program,
that we discussed earlier, which includes a municipal lens for assessing a
Mr. Boucher: I will take this opportunity to emphasize the
interconnected nature of securing the critical infrastructure. We've touched
upon a few of the different pillars. First of all, there are the owners and
operators, and their crucial partners. They bear the primary responsibility to
protect their assets.
Municipalities are also partners in this, and they have a role to
play. We talked about first responders. That's the role they play in this, with
the support of provinces and territories, if need be.
Provinces and territories are other very important partners and
are responsible for leading critical infrastructure protection activities within
Then there is the federal government and the role that we play in
terms of coordinating the overall national approach. If events do cascade into
events of national significance, that's where we kick in.
But as Monik indicated, when it's localized events, you have
municipalities working with the owners and operators to subdue the threat or to
Ms. Beauregard: We work with the provinces, and the
provinces would then reach out to the municipalities. Through the GOC that I
mentioned earlier, the Government Operations Centre, a lot of information is
pushed out to the provinces, territories and municipalities.
The Chair: I want to go to an area that is becoming more
and more debated publicly; namely, the question of the electromagnetic pulse.
That is primarily in the United States, but now it's becoming a question for
Canada as well. I understand our energy and cyberspace could be threatened by
this. Could you give us your observation on how critical this particular issue
is and what is being done in respect to addressing it?
Ms. Beauregard: In terms of our observations, it's a very
serious issue that we're looking at closely, and we are looking at what's
happening in other parts of the world. We're looking at how the Americans are
reacting to this.
In terms of how we're responding, however, it would be more of an
NRCan lead on that rather than Public Safety. In that sense, we would invite you
to direct your questions to our NRCan colleagues.
The Chair: But it is of grave concern, from what I
understand you said; is that correct?
Mr. Boucher: We would refer to it as being part of
high-impact but low-frequency or probability-type events — Black Swan events, as
some people call them. They're rare but they could be devastating, so it does
require special attention.
The critical infrastructure community as a whole has recognized
the need to better address these issues, and NRCan is leading the charge from a
federal perspective on that front.
There are things that we've done at Public Safety to help support
owners and operators to better deal with those types of events. For example,
we've put together guidance documents in working with partners, owners and
operators, NRCan, the provinces and other important partners to talk about
readiness for such events.
We've conducted that in three different areas for these
high-impact, low-probability events. We've looked at space weather, or EMPs, as
you referred to, senator; we've looked at catastrophic earthquakes; and also
major cyberattacks. So there is work that Public Safety has done in terms of
providing guidance and guideline documents to those owners and operators in
order to better bolster their resistance.
The Chair: Obviously, it's an area where we will have to
Let us turn to one other issue here, the question of the foreign
companies and the investment in critical infrastructure. For example, in the
U.S. and the United Kingdom, parliamentary committees raised serious concerns
about a foreign company. In this case, it was a Chinese telecommunications
company that offered to sell equipment for use in critical infrastructure. There
was a similar situation in Australia, where they blocked a commercial
transaction for national security reasons.
Does Canada have a mechanism to stop a foreign company that is a
security risk from participating in our critical infrastructure, do we have the
power to use it, and who identifies that critical infrastructure for such an
Ms. Beauregard: Yes, we do have tools in place. We have
the Investment Canada Act that gives us the tools to look at investments in
Canada and to conduct assessments in terms of the security of investments.
Suki can delve into the details, if you wish.
Suki Wong, Director General, National Security Operations
Directorate, Public Safety Canada: And we'd be happy to follow up, senator,
with more detailed information for you.
In Canada, there is, under the Investment Canada Act, a national
review process that allows our minister to provide counsel to the Minister of
Innovation, Science and Economic Development in terms of a national security
review process and whether the Public Safety minister should play an active role
in terms of looking at the foreign investment's implications are for Canada. So,
yes, there's a role for our minister.
Senator Ngo: To follow up on your question, can you tell
us what is the percentage of Canada critical infrastructure currently owned and
operated by private industry?
Ms. Beauregard: In Canada?
Senator Ngo: In Canada.
Ms. Beauregard: I believe it's about 90 per cent.
Senator Ngo: So what you asked is very relevant.
The Chair: Colleagues, I'd like to thank our witnesses for
coming. We very much appreciate it. I know it's later in the day, so I'll excuse
If we could go in camera for just a few minutes, I'd appreciate
(The committee continued in camera.)
(The committee resumed.)
The Chair: I understand that Senator Mitchell has two
motions with respect to the question of budgeting for the committee.
Senator Mitchell: Yes. Do you want me to do them one at a
The Chair: Yes, if you would.
Senator Mitchell: I move:
That the following budget application as pertains to our order of
reference dealing with the security threats facing Canada for $190,158 for the
fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, be approved for submission to the Standing
Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration following a final
review by the Senate Administration that will be overseen by the Subcommittee on
Agenda and Procedure.
The Chair: Can I put the question? Is everybody agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Mitchell: I further move:
That the following budget application as pertains to our order of
reference dealing with Canada’s national security and defence policies,
practices, circumstances and capabilities for $14,742 for the fiscal year ending
March 31, 2017, be approved for submission to the Standing Committee on Internal
Economy, Budgets and Administration following a final review by the Senate
Administration that will be overseen by the Subcommittee on Agenda and
The Chair: You have all heard the motion. Agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Ngo: In the budget, you put the year ending March
31, 2016. There is a typo.
The Chair: That will be corrected in both documents. Thank