Continuing the Dialogue on Canada’s Safety and Security

November 3-5, 2017 Regina, Saskatchewan

For the first time since its inception, the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) met in Regina, Saskatchewan. The 31st meeting of the Roundtable offered members an opportunity to share community-based insights with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness as well as senior officials from the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Department of Justice, Global Affairs Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). CCRS members also had the chance to hear from and exchange with two local organizations—the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations—on their realities and initiatives being undertaken to address challenges faced.

Both Minister Goodale and Public Safety Associate Deputy Minister, Vincent Rigby, took the opportunity to thank members for their participation in the Roundtable. They acknowledged the significance of CCRS members’ unique perspectives on strategies to protect the safety and security of Canadians. The breadth and diversity of their experiences and background yields invaluable input that helps the Government of Canada make decisions about complex issues.

The meeting theme, “Continuing the Dialogue on Canada’s Safety and Security”, served as a platform for government officials to gain community-based insight from CCRS members on several policy files and initiatives. CSIS obtained input on effective strategies for building trust with the public and fostering confidence in the Service. Suggestions included increased investing in a diverse corporate culture, fostering long term relationships with key people within communities, re-visiting its website content to promote a more positive image of the work CSIS does, and translating communications products into multiple languages.

The Department of Justice also benefitted from members’ perspectives with respect to the Canadian Criminal Justice System review. The need to focus on preventative measures, address the issue of Indigenous overrepresentation and thoroughly consider the implications associated with mandatory minimum sentencing were emphasized by the Roundtable. Members cautioned on the overreliance on mandatory minimum sentencing, particularly as it relates to crimes that are not serious in nature, as they believe it may do more harm than good for achieving societal change. Alternatively, increasing the focus on preventative approaches was advocated as a more efficient and effective way forward. Justice’s forthcoming consultation efforts will offer formal opportunities for the CCRS members to contribute.

A concrete initiative brought forward to the Roundtable for members’ awareness and comment was Public Safety’s national public awareness campaign on drug-impaired driving targeting youth aged 16 to 24. PS presented a series of animatics considered as a basis for the video that will launch the advertising campaign. Members commended the project and saw potential in every scenario given that they all featured youth characters at the forefront. The Roundtable put forward ideas to further help grab the target audience’s attention such as amplifying slower reaction times, incorporating consequences to a youth’s appearance / physical self (e.g., wheelchair), and involving the death of a youth’s friend.  

PS also provided an update on the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence at this meeting. According to CCRS members, the occurrence of radicalization to violence among youth continues to be of ongoing concern to communities across the country. Members’ recommendation for raising public awareness and understanding, as well as to help reduce the sense of marginalization, is to invest in horizontal versus vertical relationships (such as with other community groups). In addition, they recognized the importance of cultivating relationships with local law enforcement agencies and broader community groups. Civic engagement, getting people involved in their communities, was also seen as an important step to preventing radicalization.   

As a precursor to more in-depth consultations in the near future, an IRCC representative briefed CCRS members on settlement stressors and integration challenges faced by newcomers to Canada as well as on the complexity of the human trafficking issue in Canada. On the former subject, members agreed with IRCC that there are many critical factors at play vis-à-vis an immigrant’s ability to settle and integrate in Canada (e.g., cultural diversity, gender, language, employment, mental health, and availability of social programing). Regarding human trafficking, members expressed an interest to learn more about the issue in Canada such as trends on successful convictions and effective deterrent factors. The contextual information presented as part of these discussions has set the stage for the Roundtable to provide knowledgeable input on key initiatives over the coming months.

When asked about the efforts undertaken by the Government to engage Canadians, in terms of the value and frequency, CCRS members shared the view that public consultations can be valuable if they are targeted to relevant segments of the population. Members were also of the opinion that both traditional as well as newer methods of engagement need to be taken into consideration and long processes should be avoided so as to not delay actions or decision making.

Throughout the weekend, topics were raised by CCRS members as being of importance to their communities. This included the settlement of Syrian refugees and the irregular border crossing of asylum seekers, racial profiling, guns and gangs and the number of youth from minority groups that are incarcerated / in protective services. The upcoming legalization of marijuana was also identified as a concern in terms of its potential impact on the youth crime rate. These suggestions, along with timely government priorities, will be considered for the next Roundtable meeting in early 2018.

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