Note for remarks by the Honourable Ralph Goodale, PC, MP Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness to the Vancouver Board of Trade


May 25th, 2016

Vancouver, BC

Good afternoon, everyone.

Greetings and good wishes from the Government of Canada.

My thanks to the Vancouver Board of Trade for giving me this opportunity to address this important organization, and also to Telus for being today’s event sponsor.

My last presentation to this Board of Trade was more than 10 years ago when I was Canada’s Minister of Finance. Now as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness – it’s good to be back.

Being Minister in this portfolio is very much like riding a fire hose. The volume and the velocity and the gravity of the issues are unrelenting.

My Public Safety responsibilities include emergency planning and response at the national level, plus the RCMP, The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Correctional Service and the Parole Board, and a variety of review bodies that scrutinize the work of all these agencies.

It all adds up to 65,000 people working to keep Canadians safe. Annual investments of some $9-Billion. This is the largest non-military portfolio in the federal government.

Most recently, it’s my emergency response duties that have tended to have the highest profile as we’ve been working in close collaboration with the Province of Alberta – from the very first spark – to combat that evil Beast of a fire in and around Fort McMurray.  This is probably the worst fire disaster in Canadian history.

For nearly a month, the Beast danced around and through Fort Mac, causing repeated evacuations, displacing some 90,000 people, destroying nearly 15% of the community and leaving the rest heavily damaged by smoke and water, multiple kinds of pollution and other factors. Critical infrastructure was put in jeopardy. Local businesses were shut down. The oil sands industry was seriously curtailed, losing more than a million barrels-a-day in petroleum production.

The fire has consumed more than half-a-million hectares, and it’s still burning out of control.  A thousand more firefighters are being recruited – mostly now from outside of Canada.

But hopefully we’re getting to the point where we can begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a schedule now, starting June 1st, for when people will be able to return and begin rebuilding. But already, in the midst of this catastrophe, there have been at least a few silver linings:

  • First, to this point, despite the horrendous nature of this disaster, there was no human life lost as a direct consequence of this fire – and that’s a miracle. It’s also a great tribute to the skill and courage of all the First Responders who have battled the Beast on the front-line;
  • Secondly, from the very beginning, there has been absolutely seamless cooperation between Alberta and Canada in responding to this inferno, and the federal “Government Operations Centre” in my department has received outstanding support from every relevant federal department and agency and from all our provincial and territorial counterparts; and
  • Third, the generous humanitarian response of Canadians everywhere has been heart-warming and inspiring. From the personal care-and-attention provided in the evacuation centres in Lac La Biche, Edmonton, Calgary and elsewhere … to the millions-of-dollars donated so rapidly through the Red Cross … to the simple spontaneous messages of solidarity – “Hey Fort Mac, we’ve got your back” – Canadians have again demonstrated the “better angels” of our national character.

And we’ll be there for the long-haul – without stinting, because that’s what Canadians do. This recovery won’t be quick, simple or easy.

Neither is Fort Mac the only fire crisis we’ll face this summer. People around Fort St. John in this province know that already. The entire Boreal forest from coast to coast is tinder-dry … and we’re still in the month of May!

The scientific community, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and many others are sending Canadians a powerful message – weather-related and other natural disasters are likely to get more severe, more frequent, more damaging and more expensive. We all need to make preparedness, planning, protection and mitigation-in-advance among our leading national priorities.

As you may know, doing just that is part of the mandate I’ve been given by the Prime Minister. It’s all very public. In a major demonstration of transparency, Mr. Trudeau published all of his Mandate Letters to all of his Ministers last November.

My “to do” list is quite ambitious. Beyond emergency preparedness and response, in my first six months in this portfolio, I’m happy to be able to report progress on several other key priorities:

  • More than 25,000 Syrian refuges have been rescued from the vicious scourge of ISIL and Syria’s own dysfunctional government. To do that safely and successfully required the expertise and hard work of the RCMP, CSIS and CBSA to design a security system in which everyone could have real confidence.
  • 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.
  • In the March budget, we earmarked more than half-a-billion dollars to begin repairing several 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 for both countries 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. Our new arrangements were set in place during the Prime Minister’s State Visit to Washington in March. They include a business plan for a major expansion of the Preclearance system for Canadian travellers into the United States, including in the rail and cruise-ship sectors here in BC.

That’s not a bad start. But my Mandate Letter demands much more.

We have a big agenda to support Canada’s First Responders – with a new National Strategy to battle PTSD, a new Compensation Benefit for the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and the restoration of federal funding for Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces (like the vital one based right here in Vancouver).

Better combatting gun violence is also in the Mandate. We’ve laid out a program to deal more effectively with handguns and assault weapons, and to deploy more resources against “guns and gangs”.

On marijuana, instead of the failed regime that has persisted for years – 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 profits every year – we will implement a new legal regime, including strict regulations, restrictions and taxation, to keep our kids safer and cut cash-flows to crime lords.

In the Correctional system – never a popular topic, but an essential one – we need to ask tough questions about whether the laws and practices of the past 10 years have actually increased or decreased public safety? What about the use of solitary confinement? Why are the numbers of Indigenous people in jail increasing 5-times faster than non-Indigenous people? How well are we dealing with mental illnesses?

And then, of course, there’s my Mandate for National Security. On this score, the Prime Minister’s instructions are crystal clear:

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

We cannot enjoy our individual rights and freedoms without effective collective security, but we must achieve that collective security in ways that do not damage the very essence of that which we seek to protect.

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 (and elsewhere on other occasions too).

So how should we respond? One thing is clear – Canadians want wise, thoughtful, inclusive consultation and dialogue. Not fear-mongering. And not naiveté. 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, on all sides. 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, and to do it together.

Unfortunately, that extraordinary moment of potential collaboration evaporated. And new legislation which many Canadians found to be seriously defective was the result.

Now in a new government, we have pledged to do four things in response.

First, we will soon table 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 – to help ensure those two key imperatives:

  • Effectively keeping Canadians safe, and
  • Safeguarding our values, rights and freedoms.

Secondly, this summer we will launch a new national office for community outreach and engagement – to identify and pro-actively counter threats of radicalization to violence. As an open, pluralistic society, we need to get really good at this.

How can we best intervene with the right people at the right time in the right way to head-off tragedies before they happen?

Third, we will specifically amend the law to ensure compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protect advocacy and protest, deal with defects in the No-Fly list, better define “terrorist propaganda”, and provide for a full review of the legislation after three years. We will also give Canadians the full opportunity to be consulted about what else needs to be fixed in the wake of C-51 – the opportunity they were denied two years ago.

And fourth, we will bolster Canada’s cyber security capabilities.

It’s in my Mandate to lead a review of all existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical Infrastructure from all manner of cyber-threats.  I will do that in collaboration with the Ministers of Defence, Innovation, Infrastructure, Public Services and the Treasury Board.

This is a rapidly evolving field. Every country is scrambling to keep up. So is the private sector around the world.

Many people, industries and governments first developed an understanding of their cyber vulnerabilities in all the hype about “Y2K” before the turn of the millennium. Nothing happened then, but that was a long time ago now. The risks have multiplied and accelerated, and grown more malevolent.

Virtually every dimension of how we live our lives is dependent on information technologies. So are the most critical infrastructure systems that underpin our economy and our society. We’re all heavily inter-connected and networked, which adds huge value to our quality of life, but it also compounds our vulnerability.

In complex commercial supply chains, a successful cyber-attack on one enterprise can ricochet downstream to impact all their customers and upstream to affect all their suppliers. We’re only as good as our weakest link.

Major corporations – like our Telus hosts today and their telecommunications competitors, and the big financial institutions, and the large utility and infrastructure and info-tech companies and others – they are totally engaged in the global cyber challenge. And they’re investing mega-bucks to protect themselves. But many others – especially small and medium-sized enterprises – are not.

This represents real vulnerability. And a lot of missed opportunity.

The hackers and scammers who are constantly trying to break into our information systems are a motley, but potent combination of foreign states and militaries, terrorist groups, organized crime, petty thieves and vandals, and the lonely computer geek in the basement in his underwear.

Their objectives range from espionage, sabotage and mayhem to theft, extortion, revenge and just sheer nuisance. There are millions of potentially malicious cyber activities every week.  The hacking tools readily available are cheap and prolific.

Cyber abuse could well have played a role in the loss of Nortel.  A couple of weeks ago, an innocent Canadian NGO had its database forcibly encrypted and then a ransom was demanded to get it back.  It’s estimated that cyber-crime globally causes some $400-Billion (US) in economic losses every year, and before the end of this decade that figure could exceed $2-Trillion.

We’ve seen the damage done in Ukraine when a foreign government cyber-attacked Ukraine’s power grid. We cannot even imagine the consequences of a terror group getting access to air traffic control systems or the technology that underpins banking or telecommunications or healthcare. Or so much more.

But while we need to be acutely aware of these massive risks, we cannot be driven by crippling fear and defensiveness.  I want to approach our Cyber Review as an opportunity to build Canadian excellence and thereby transform a liability into an asset.

This matters to Canadians. On a per capita basis, we spend the most time on-line of any country in the world – at 41.5 hours per Canadian per month.

If we get really good at Cyber security – at every point in supply chains, at every level of government, and in our personal use of the Internet – we can multiply our potential and capitalize on all the advantages and benefits of new technology and a digital economy.

If we have justifiable confidence in the security of our information systems we can thrive and excel in this digital age.  But more than that – we can sell our skill and confidence to the rest of the world where there’s a huge appetite and market available.

The world-wide market for Cyber security products and services stands at some $105-Billion today. By 2020, it’s likely to balloon to $170-Billion or more.  This presents huge opportunities for Canadian science, research and development.  For the most cutting-edge of innovation.  And for knowledge-intensive jobs.

Cyber-security professionals, are a highly-specialized, highly-sought-after, and highly-paid subset of IT workers.  The global job market for “Cyber pros” is expected to rise by some 6-million over the next 4-5 years. And current projections indicate a shortfall of 1.5 million qualified candidates.

Talk about a career and employment opportunity for young Canadians!  And a profit centre for businesses.  And a lucrative place for science.  And a huge opportunity to build a powerful Canadian BRAND.

But there’s no sense of any of this in Canada’s current Cyber Security strategy which dates back to 2010 and is woefully out-of-date. 

It’s also under-funded – about $430-Million has been allocated to the strategy for the 10 years ending in 2020.  By comparison, the UK has announced Cyber Security investments of $4-Billion over the coming 4-5 years. The Americans are at $19-Billion. A Canadian Review is overdue.

We will intensively examine Cyber structure, governance and funding issues within government.

We will assess and hopefully bolster the partnerships that exist through the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre … and the Canadian Cyber Threat Exchange …. and the Critical Infrastructure Tables … and the “GET CYBER SAFE” awareness campaign.

But with your help and guidance, input and ambition, we need to take our Cyber game to a whole new level!

I would hope our Canadian Cyber Security Review will raise the profile and the understanding of the Cyber threats that face our country – and also the Cyber opportunities that we might embrace.

I would hope it would lay the foundation for a new, upgraded Canadian Strategy

  • One that protects the safety and security of Canadians, and our critical Infrastructure;
  • One that defends fundamental rights and freedoms on-line;
  • One that fosters innovation, economic growth, exciting jobs and prosperity;
  • One that’s nimble and flexible to anticipate change and adapt to new technologies as a constant fact of life;
  • One that defines roles and co-ordinates across jurisdictions, sectors and borders.

Our Review needs to re-think how the Government of Canada can best provide leadership.  It needs to vigorously engage and animate the private sector.  It must stimulate a whole new generation of Canadian Cyber talent.

It could also trigger a useful discussion of where Canadians want the intersection to be found between encryption and absolute privacy on the one hand and legitimate investigations to protect the public good on the other. And what are the safeguards?

A Review should also help us define a Canadian interest in global governance issues for the Internet.

There is obviously a whole lot to be tackled.  I hope you’ll participate vigorously!

Thank you.

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