Minister Goodale provides remarks to the Canadian Police Association (CPA)

Speech

Good morning everyone.  Bonjour tout le monde.

As we gather on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, it’s my pleasure to bring you greetings and good wishes from the Government of Canada

My thanks to President Stamatakis and the Canadian Police Association for inviting me to join you once again this year.  And thank you for your on-going help and support on so many important public policy files.  Your constructive engagement is always much appreciated.

Attending the annual CPA conference is an honour!

The work your members do every day on the frontlines of law enforcement across this country is truly impressive.  Your country, at all levels, is deeply grateful for your service – to keep us all safe and secure.

The year that has passed since we last met here has certainly been eventful, and at times, very difficult.

Police officers have been absolutely vital in helping Canadians get through many of their most challenging moments:

You were prominent among the 80 or more First Responders on the scene of the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash in my home province of Saskatchewan, one year ago this week.

You provided extraordinary and highly professional support during Canada’s Presidency of the G-7 process last year, including the Leader’s Summit in Charlevoix.

You responded with incredible speed and skill to one of the most violent incidents in Canadian history, the horrible and deadly van attack along Yonge Street in Toronto.

One tragic Friday last August, two of your comrades reported for duty in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but never came home – instead laying down their lives in unflinching acts of bravery to protect their community from a mass shooter who was bent on carnage.  The courage and proficiency of all members of the Fredericton Police Service that day clearly averted a much larger calamity.

You advised, prepared and engaged as Canada became only the second nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis for adult use, and as we instituted some of the toughest impaired driving laws in the world.

You were among the first on the scene of the “storm of the century” as an unprecedented six tornadoes hit Ottawa and Gatineau – you were helping victims to safety and helping to tame the chaos.

In co-operation with national security and intelligence officials, you helped prevent a tragedy in Kingston, Ontario, by intercepting a would-be terrorist before any lives were put in jeopardy.

And when the horrible news arrived about what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, your members pro-actively began visiting Mosques and knocking on doors in Muslim communities – to ensure their safety and reinforce their confidence …

… just as you had done a few months earlier after a vicious attack on a Synagogue in Pittsburgh caused fear and anguish in the Jewish community.

These are just some of the stories that Canadians see and hear and react to on a national scale.  There are countless others that never attract much “news”.

But Canada’s 160 police services, from our smallest towns to our biggest cities, can take enormous pride in how they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities they serve – through law enforcement work, outreach activities, prevention efforts, charitable service and so much more.

Being the Minister of Public Safety means I’m compelled to deal with a lot of tough and unpleasant stuff, from drug smugglers peddling fentanyl to terrorists trying cause mayhem.  You know that all too well.  Sometimes, it’s hard to find the “UP-side” in this portfolio.

But without doubt, being associated with police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other First Responders, and emergency workers of all kinds – that is, by far, the very best part of being the Minister.  And I thank you.

Let me offer a brief update on some of the key public safety policy issues that we’ve discussed together over the past few years.

To start with, I’m happy to report that both Bill C-4 and Bill C-7 have been passed into law, as promised.  C-4 was about restoring several fundamental rights to organized labour, including police unions.  And C-7 was about extending those rights – for the first time in history – to members of the RCMP.

Secondly, we are putting the finishing touches on a National Strategy to deal with post-traumatic stress injuries which disproportionately affect public safety officers.  I look forward to having more to say about this strategy very soon – within a few days.

We’ve had the benefit of your engagement and advice on this vital topic – about the further research that’s required, the early warning signs for detection, the need for effective and accessible treatment tools, the information and measures necessary to combat stigmatization, and how we can best get people healthy again and back to work and successful living.

In recent federal budgets, we’ve allocated more than $50 million to PTSI and mental health issues pertaining to public safety officers.  A full National Strategy will be available shortly.

Thirdly, over the past year, we’ve also rolled out new investments to better tackle gun-and-gang violence across the country.  These are largely tailored to meet the unique needs of each province and territory.  Altogether, we’re providing $327 million in new funding over the coming five years (rising to $100 million per year thereafter) based on what we heard from you and other stakeholders:

  • $8 million will beef up the Youth Gang component of the National Crime Prevention Strategy;
  • $25 million will enable my department to provide coordination, research, better data collection and analysis;
  • $30 million will help the RCMP to better track crime guns and nefarious activities like straw purchasing;
  • $50 million will strengthen CBSA’s work at the border to attack smuggling; and
  • the biggest share, $214 million,  is going to the 13 provinces and territories for prevention, intervention, disruption, law enforcement and prosecutions.  To date, funding agreements have been reached with 11 of these jurisdictions and the remaining two are close.

Nimble flexibility is a key characteristic.  In one community, the biggest need may be for targeted services that steer kids away from gangs, or extricate them from that lifestyle.  In another, it may be correctional programming or enhanced law enforcement, or greater work on prosecutions.  I hope our provincial partners will look to you for good implementation advice.

Our guns-and-gangs package goes in parallel with new firearms safety legislation in Bill C-71.  This new law will increase the effectiveness of background checks, improve license verification procedures, standardize good business practices for commercial record-keeping, bolster safety when restricted or prohibited weapons are transported, and take political considerations out of the classification system.

The Senate is due to finalize its work on Bill C-71 this spring.

On another front, last month’s federal budget announced new investments to fight two of the greatest law enforcement challenges of our time – money laundering and the scourge of online child sexual exploitation.

As we work toward comprehensive new plans to combat the exploitation of children, as well as human trafficking, I’m pleased that this new funding will help raise awareness of this very serious issue, and how prevalent it is.  We need to reduce the stigma associated with victims reporting it, and we need to increase Canada’s ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.

This being the First of April, I want to acknowledge that we are now at the one-year anniversary of Canada’s new Memorial Grant Program for First Responders

As you know, this program provides a one-time, tax-free payment of $300,000 to the family of an eligible first responder who dies as a result of his/her duties.  That includes deaths resulting from occupational illness or psychological impairment, as well as catastrophic incidents.

So far, we have supported more than 19 grieving families of fallen first responders, and a further 53 applications are in process.

The good work of the CPA is much appreciated in making certain that all eligible families know of the grant, and receive it.

You worked hard on the program’s design features, and to ensure the Memorial Grant came into being – one year ago today.  It is a small gesture of respect and gratitude to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  I’m glad, together, we got done, and it’s working.

Looking ahead as I finish these remarks, I want to flag two other areas of emerging concern where we will need exceptional police work and strong collaboration.

One is combatting what we saw in New Zealand – the rise and the violent activation of ultra-right-wing, neo-nazi, white supremacist extremism.  It shows itself in antisemitism, Islamaphobia, racism and misogyny.  It is filled with hate and terror, and there can be no room for it – certainly not in Canada.

Christchurch wasn’t the first incident.  Before that there was the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  And the van attack along Yonge Street.  And Charlottesville.  And the Mosque in Ste Foye.  And police killings in Moncton and Mayerthorpe.  And Dawson College and Ecole Polytechnique.

All the product of the same depraved mentality.  Dealing with it is an important public safety and national security priority.

Secondly, we need to be alert to the dangers posed by those who have gone abroad to associate themselves with the Daesh terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq, or other brutal terrorist groups.  Some of them seem to think they want to come back to Canada.

This is a global problem.  As many as 40,000 of these so-called “terrorist travelers” or “foreign fighters” originated from various countries around the world.  Canada’s portion is small.  It’s reported at about 250, with only a small fraction of that total actually going into the Syria-Iraq-Turkey theatre.

About 60 of these people are believed to have returned to Canada from various places around the world (again, only a small number of them from Syria-Iraq-Turkey), leaving about 190 still overseas and many of them are likely dead.  A few have been captured in the region.  Most of the travelling by these people, both going over and coming back, occurred before 2016.  The overall numbers recently – over the past three years – have been basically stable.

Going forward, one significant complicating factor is this – whether still living or dead, a number of these terror collaborators or participants acquired spouses and families along the way.  Some of them are among the captives – in a dangerous dysfunctional part of the world where Canada has no current diplomatic presence, and no legal obligation to facilitate a return.

Our top goal with respect to all these people is to investigate them, compile sufficient evidence to lay charges and to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.  They need to be held accountable for their outrageous behavior.

Finding evidence that will stick in Canadian courts is a challenge.  While we have successfully done so in four cases to date, we also need a full suite of other measures to utilize – further investigations and interviews, surveillance, terrorism peace bonds, intelligence gathering and lawful sharing, on-going threat assessments, no-fly listings, criminal code listings, the refusal or revocation of passports, and legally authorized threat reduction measures.

It will take tight cooperation among all our security, intelligence and police agencies to make sure of three things:

  • First, that we know everything we need to know about the whereabouts, actions, risks and threats associated with these people;
  • Second, that we employ the right combination of prosecutions and all other legal tools in each and every circumstance to keep Canadians safe, and deliver justice to the guilty; and
  • Third, that we contain the scourge of terrorism, stop it from spreading to another generation of children, and find the most effective means to prevent or disrupt deadly radicalization before it leads to extremist violence.

All of this is a tall order, but I have every confidence in the judgment, skill and capacity of Canadian police officers to do the job.  And do it properly.

I commend your professionalism.  Your respect for civilian authority and oversight.  Your transparency and accountability.  Your pursuit of excellence and high standards.

Your work is among those things that set Canada apart.  You keep Canadians safe, while simultaneously safeguarding our rights and freedoms, our national character as an open, diverse, inclusive and generous society … all the various qualities that make Canada, Canada.

You help to make all that possible.  And I thank you for your service.


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