Speech by Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness at the Third Annual Levene Leadership Dinner


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RCMP Heritage Centre
Regina, Saskatchewan
April 28th, 2016

Good evening everyone.

Greetings and good wishes from Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada. And thank you Dean Gaudes for your kind invitation to be here tonight.

Before I begin, I must express the deep sorrow and outrage that all Canadians feel at the news earlier this week that John Ridsdel - an innocent Canadian with ties right here in Saskatchewan - was brutally killed by terrorists in the Philippines after being kidnapped and held hostage for more than seven months.

There are no words to comfort his grieving family and friends, no possible explanation for this monstrous violence. We all join in extending heartfelt condolences, and in condemning this cold-blooded murder.

Given three more lives remain in jeopardy, nothing further can or should be said publicly at this time. But these tragic events underscore the risky, uncertain, too often dangerous world in which we live - a world in which safety and security have become major preoccupations.

Kenny Levene is a friend of mine. We were all delighted with his generous donation - almost 11 years ago now - which was used so effectively to develop, advance and promote the Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business at the University of Regina.

This annual dinner in his honour brings together people from business, professional, academic, government and other backgrounds - to celebrate excellence in education and enterprise, and to contribute to graduate student scholarships. I'm very glad to be part of it.

And in my new capacity as Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I'm happy to celebrate the new Levene School MBA in Public Safety Management - unique in all of North America. Teaching, learning, research, knowledge and skills development in this big and vital field are and will continue to be of utmost public importance.

Courses on the "Economics of Public Safety", "Public Safety & Community Policing" and "Inter-professional Collaboration in Public Safety, Health & Learning" go to the heart of contemporary challenges faced by those who carry safety leadership responsibilities. Developing leadership capacity is indeed a key priority.

So bravo to the Levene School.

I'm happy to tell you that officials from my department and the Public Safety Canada portfolio will be meeting, within the next month or so, with Dean Gaudes and his staff to expand our existing relationship. They will be exploring new areas of collaboration such as curriculum development, access to existing and future research, and a roster of expert guest lecturers to visit the school from time to time.

The good relationship between my department and the Levene School will generate, I hope, future opportunities for cooperation on an even larger scale. We'll also be interested in building on other strong University of Regina activities in the Public Safety field.

As one prime example, I think of the world-class work on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Operational Stress Injuries among First Responders being done by Dr. Nick Carleton in the Psychology department. I'm also highly interested in the cyber-security expertise of Dr. Alex Couros.

The Public Safety portfolio is enormous and complex. It plays a leadership role nationally in emergency preparedness, response and recovery. It also includes responsibility for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Correctional Service of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, and a range of oversight bodies that supervise these agencies.

It adds up to 65,000 employees working to keep Canadians safe. Annual investments of some $9-billion. The largest non-military portfolio in the Government of Canada.

Marching orders for Public Safety Canada were laid out in my Mandate Letter from the Prime Minister when the new Cabinet was sworn in last November. For the first time ever, all Mandate Letters to all Ministers were made public - so the Prime Minister's instructions are completely transparent.

Just six months into our first term, I'm happy to report several important objectives have already been achieved.

More than 25,000 Syrian refugees have been rescued from the vicious scourge of ISIL and Syria's civil war. The RCMP, CSIS and CBSA were heavily engaged in designing and running the layers of security screening that made this important humanitarian project possible.

We've modified Canada's role in the coalition against terrorism in Iraq and Syria. With a more balanced, whole-of-government approach, we are using Canadian skills and resources more effectively, including the deployment of more extensive Canadian intelligence activities.

We're expanding our capacity to provide more Canadian police officers in international peace-keeping missions.

We're enabling members of the RCMP - for the first time ever - to choose their own collective bargaining representatives. And we've launched a series of measures to get at the harassment issues within the Force, with more steps yet to come.

Our budget earmarked more than half a billion dollars to begin repairing years of neglect in funding and infrastructure for police, security and border operations.

And we've embarked on a better border arrangement with the United States to enhance security while facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods across the longest, most lucrative, unmilitarized border in the world. Some 400,000 people and $2.4-billion in trade go back-and-forth across that border every day. The new arrangements were set in place during the Prime Minister's state visit to Washington in March.

That's not a bad start. But much more remains to be tackled.

My Mandate Letter lays out an important agenda to support the skillful and courageous people who work as First Responders - firefighters, police officers and paramedics. These are the people we expect to keep the rest of us safe, and every day they are called upon to face high-stress, life-threatening situations that are simply unimaginable to most Canadians.

To better support them, we are providing new funding to rebuild the emergency response capabilities of heavy urban search-and-rescue teams across the country. We will also work with provinces and municipalities on how to better predict, prepare for, and respond to weather-related emergencies and natural disasters.

We're committed to a new federal Public Safety Officer Compensation Benefit to help the families of First Responders who are killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

And we're assembling a National Strategy on PTSD among First Responders because they are disproportionately affected by the consequences of operational stress. The sometimes horrific circumstances they encounter take a toll on their mental health and well-being. Their country needs to ensure they have the tools, resources and support systems to cope and recover, and to do so without delay and without stigma.

My department hosted a National Roundtable on this topic at the University of Regina this past January. More than 50 people participated - from academia (including Dr. Carleton), all levels of government, police, fire and paramedic services (both front-line officers and Chiefs), not-for-profit groups, and others.

That discussion produced a clear consensus in favour a National Strategy, a strong willingness to collaborate, and a sense of urgency to get moving ... on necessary research, the identification of warning signs, the tools needed to intervene without stigmatization, accessible timely treatment, and the pathways to get back on the job.

My mandate also includes action to deal more effectively with assault weapons and handguns, and to combat illegal guns and gangs.

And on marijuana, instead of the failed regime that exists today - under which Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users of marijuana in the western world and organized crime is enriched by billions of dollars in illegal money every year - we will propose a new legal regime, including strict regulations, restrictions and taxation, to keep our kids safer and cut off cash-flows to crime lords.

Canada's correctional system is also on my agenda. Investments in prisons and prisoners are never popular. But here's the reality - most offenders (some 23,000 of them in federal institutions at the moment) are going to be released at some point. Will their experience in corrections make it more likely or less likely that they will endanger society and re-offend? A sound, evidence-based correctional system is an investment in public safety.

A previous emphasis on the language and symbols of retribution might have been satisfying to a certain constituency, but it made society less safe, not more so. Corrections that work need to focus on the tools of rehabilitation and restorative justice, as much as possible.

So we're reviewing the changes made to our criminal justice system over the past decade - including sentencing - to assess their merit. Are they actually increasing safety? Are we getting value for money? And are those changes aligned with smart public policy objectives?

Was it good policy to restructure chaplaincy services, close the prison farms, and end funding for programs that had an 80% success rate in preventing recidivism among sex offenders?

We also need to ask questions like ... what is the correct use of solitary confinement? Are we properly handling mental illness? Why do Indigenous people make up 4% of Canada's population, but 25% of federal inmates? And why are the numbers of Indigenous people in jail increasing 5-times faster than non-Indigenous people?

And finally, let me touch on national security and the fight against terrorism.

Woven throughout my mandate are two essential imperatives that must be achieved in lock-step together:

First, we need to be effective in keeping Canadians safe. And simultaneously, we need to safeguard Canadian values, our rights and freedoms, and the open, generous, diverse, inclusive character of our country - the very qualities that make Canada, Canada.

Those who would attack us want to change all that. They hate the free way we live. They seek to instil division, fear and loathing in everything we do. That's what terrorism is all about. They want us to see our neighbours with suspicion.  They abhor pluralism and accommodation. Freedom, democracy and respect for human differences are to be despised.

We cannot enjoy our individual rights and freedoms without effective collective security, but we must achieve that collective security in ways that do not give-in to would-be attackers and impair the very essence of that which we seek to protect. It's a tough circle to square.

Built by diversity, and stronger because of it, Canada is fundamentally a safe and peaceful nation. The Aga Khan says Canada is the finest expression of pluralism the world has ever known. But we are not immune to tragedy, as demonstrated by the horrible events in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Ottawa in October of 2014.

2015 was another year of international horror and loss - twice in Paris, and in San Bernadino and elsewhere. And this year began with the painful loss of Canadian lives in Jakarta and Burkina Faso.

A knife attack followed on a Canadian Forces recruiting office in Toronto. And then there was Brussels and Lahore. And now, the Philippines.

We must not be foolish. Unwavering vigilance is required. That's why national security is regularly on the agenda for Federal/Provincial/Territorial meetings of Justice and Public Safety Ministers. And meetings with Municipal leaders too.

Likewise, Canada is actively engaged with our "Five Eyes" security and intelligence allies in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

All our partners are wrestling with the core issues in my Mandate Letter - in a world of uncertainty, risk and rapid change, do we have the tools necessary to keep people safe and are we using all our tools in ways that also safeguard our best values?

One common thread is the need for wise, thoughtful, inclusive dialogue and consultation. Not fear-mongering. Not naivete. But the public wants to be honestly informed and sincerely engaged.

There was a unique moment in the painful aftermath of the tragedies in October of 2014 when Canadians could have been drawn together in common cause to find that delicate intersection between collective security and individual rights.

The whole country shared in the grief of those sorry days. We leaned on each other, including people on all sides in Parliament. There was a clear sense that laws and procedures had to be strengthened. And there was palpable will to try very hard to get it right, together.

Unfortunately, the way the government chose to proceed let that extraordinary moment of potential collaboration evaporate. And new legislation which many Canadians found seriously problematic (Bill C-51) was the result.

We have pledged to do five things in response:

First, before the summer we aim to present new legislation to create a new national security committee of parliamentarians to review and scrutinize the security and intelligence activities of all departments and agencies of the Government of Canada.

Virtually every other democracy has such a vehicle, in the public interest. Canada is the anomaly. And we'll fix that. We'll also consider what other instruments of review and scrutiny are necessary to ensure those two key imperatives - effectively keeping people safe, and safeguarding our values, rights and freedoms.

Secondly, with funding in the recent budget, we will launch a new national office for community outreach and engagement - to identify and counter threats of radicalization to violence.

As an open, pluralistic society, we need to get really good at this.

How does radicalization take place? Who is most vulnerable to it? What are the effective ways to counteract the negative ideologies and messages that suck people in - especially young people?

Where can people go for help? How can we intervene while there's still time to avoid a tragedy? How do we engage the right communities, the right families, the right role models at the right time?

Some good research work has been done federally and internationally. Engagement efforts have been undertaken by my department and by the RCMP. Cities and police forces in Montreal, Calgary and elsewhere have taken some important steps locally. The Province of Quebec has a full counter-radicalization strategy.

What's missing is a national centre of excellence to coordinate all this work, and take it to a world-class level. And we'll fix that.

Thirdly, based on consultations with Canadians, we will repair the remains of C-51. For example:

  • to protect citizens' rights to protest, demonstrate and advocate;
  • to correct defects in so-called No Fly Lists to ensure the proper use of data, redress mechanisms, and far fewer "false positives", while still making sure that air travel is as safe as it can be and would-be terrorists are kept from travelling to become foreign fighters;
  • to more precisely define "terrorist propaganda";
  • to draw a clear line between security services and police forces;
  • and to ensure compliance with the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms.

Fourthly, we'll conduct a complete re-examination of Canada's cyber security capabilities - both in government and beyond - including the safety of the critical infrastructure systems upon which we all depend every day of our lives.

We live in a highly networked world where technological innovation is always forging ahead, bringing great advancements to our quality of life, but also evolving threats to our security.

How well are we protected from the hackers who are trying to penetrate Canadian data systems hundreds of thousands of times every day? Cyber crime around the world costs society something like $400-billion every year. Before the end of this decade, that number could be more than $2-trillion in annual losses.

And fifth, we need a thoughtful discussion about the legal framework that applies to new technologies. On the issue of encryption, for example, is absolute privacy the only "public good" that needs to be safeguarded, or is there a point at which criminal or terrorist investigations should be properly and lawfully assisted? And if so, where?

And to what extent can intelligence information be converted into evidence admissible in court, and how do you properly balance the accused's right to know the source of the case against him?

These are big questions that merit serious discussion and debate.

Well, that's an overview of what's on my plate.

I've often said this portfolio is a relentless firehose of tough issues. The volume and velocity never diminish.

Let me just say ... the more qualified MBA's you can graduate with the knowledge and judgment to help make sound decisions, the better off our country will become.

We're all in this together, to get it right.

Thank you.

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