Markham Town Hall on the National Security Framework - November 27, 2016

This town hall public consultation took place on November 27th, 2016 from 16:00 – 18:00 at Markham District High School.

A total of 108 participants were present; four of whom were Members of Parliament: Liberal MPs John McCallum for Markham-Thornhill, Jane Philpott for Markham-Stouffville, Gary Anandasangaree for Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ontario, and Majid Jowhari for Richmond Hill, Ontario. The town hall was hosted by the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The session was moderated by Manon Abud from Hill and Knowlton Strategies.

The session began with opening remarks from Minister Goodale who expressed the government’s desire to hear Canadians’ priorities with respect to reshaping Canada’s national security framework. He provided a brief overview of the 10 commitments made by the Liberals during the election with regards to national security and communicated the two main objectives of the consultation: to ensure that Canada’s national security framework is effective moving forward; and to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.

To help frame the discussion, Manon Abud then reminded participants of the three over-arching questions presented in the background documentation: 

  1. Accountability: What steps should the Government take to strengthen the accountability of Canada's national security institutions?
  2. Prevention Radicalization to Violence: Are there particular prevention efforts that the Government should pursue?
  3. Protecting Security and Rights: How to best achieve the dual objective of keeping Canadians safe and safeguarding rights and freedoms?

Throughout the town hall, participants shared their views, experiences and ideas on these and other related topics, also taking the opportunity to ask questions to the three ministers. The most frequently discussed topics included the ‘no fly list’ and the Passenger Protect Inquiries Office; government accountability and public trust; and the prevention of radicalization.

Many of those in attendance represented families whose children were on the ‘no fly list’: infants and toddlers who have been ‘flagged’ since birth due to duplicate names; children nearing 18 who expressed concerns as to their status once they entered adulthood. They spoke of the stress and stigmatisation that comes with being on the no fly list and searched for answers to questions such as: ‘When will I be removed from the no fly list?’ ‘Why is my child on the no fly list?’ And, ‘when will a redress system be put in place to deal with duplicate or similar names?’ They advocated for redress and an interim solution to address the flaws in the current system, fearing that it could still take years for the systemic issues to be fully resolved. 

A number of participants warned against expanding the powers of agencies like CSIS, calling on government to focus instead on rebuilding public trust in its management and oversight of national security through greater transparency and accountability. Many also expressed concerns with the collection, holding and sharing of their personal information by government agencies, in Canada and abroad. In particular, they stressed that ‘not knowing how, why, and for what purpose their personal information is collected erodes trust between the government and the public’. For example, one participant stated that ‘Canadians recognize that honest mistakes will be made, but identifying and publicizing those mistakes goes a long way to retaining trust’.

To prevent radicalization, participants agreed on the importance of proactively countering the marginalisation and stigmatisation of certain groups and cultures through educational programs and community resources (e.g., community programs, community centres). One participant explained that ‘there are a lot of individuals that do not live in multicultural areas and thus do not have the chance to understand and interact with other cultures’. Attendees also agreed that positive engagement and partnership with the Muslim community was critical to changing attitudes and identifying potential security risks.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Minister Goodale thanked attendees for their active participation and insightful comments. He reminded them that this is the first time in Canadian history that Canadians have been invited help shape the national security framework and that the Government of Canada is determined to safeguard both national security and the rights and freedoms of Canadians. The moderator concluded the session by inviting participants to fill out an optional Feedback Form and to share their views in more detail by participating in Public Safety’s national security framework online consultation.

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