Evolving Issues in Safety and Security

May 4-6, 2018 Ottawa, Ontario

The Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) convened with subject matter experts from federal departments and agencies to discuss the impact of “Evolving Issues in Safety and Security” on Canadian communities. Representatives from Public Safety (PS), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Correctional Service Canada (CSC), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Transport Canada participated in the discussions. Mr. Vincent Rigby, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada, underscored the importance of members’ openness and frankness in the input they provide. He encouraged the Roundtable to continue to challenge and contribute to government officials’ policy-making process.

The meeting began at CSIS headquarters with briefings on current threats to national security and public safety in Canada. Members gained an in-depth appreciation of how CSIS’s intelligence information and assessments support the work of other government departments and agencies, as well as law enforcement authorities.

The Roundtable also had the opportunity to liaise with Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO), a local organization whose municipal-level initiatives aim to reduce crime and promote community safety. CPO is part of the Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention that brings together municipalities from across the country, including the localities of half of the CCRS membership. This information-sharing Network serves as a resource for communities dealing with common challenges such as gangs and street violence. Guns and gangs are a topic of ongoing concern to members and their communities. Although each community’s capacity to carry out social programing varies, members shared the view that a comprehensive vision, enabling longer-term funding is necessary for these communities to continue making a difference. Part of the concern is the fact that successful programs are being phased out as funding expires. In addition to a more sustainable approach, members recommended that Government funding support initiatives involving horizontal partnerships between organizations that work together to ensure efforts target multiple protective factors for youth.

This meeting further enabled CCRS members to delve into the situation around asylum seekers, including how migration patterns have changed over time increasing the demands on Canada’s system. IRCC solicited members’ feedback on potential directions for the asylum system so that it can be more efficient in responding to current pressures and challenges while maintaining the integrity of the program. Members acknowledged the need for accelerating the claims process but also underscored the need to re-examine the definition of “refugee”. The current definition was developed by the United Nations Refugee Agency as part of a 1951 Convention and, in members’ opinion, it needs to be updated to reflect the present environment. Members also recommended that the government do more to: promote success stories, expose the fact that public safety risks associated with asylum seekers are minimal, and support asylum seekers by filling job market gaps in Canada. Members suggested, for instance, that the processing of temporary work permits be done in conjunction with asylum requests.

Another issue considered by the CCRS was the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice system. A panel of subject matter experts from CSC, DoJ, and the RCMP presented the historical context and circumstances that have led to the current situation. Government officials outlined efforts being pursued to address systemic discrimination and barriers, both inside and outside the criminal justice system. Roundtable members urged government officials to do more to: ensure the sustainability of funded projects and efforts dedicated to addressing issues, rebuild nation-to-nation relationships, involve Indigenous Peoples in decision-making as well as day-to-day policy development and operations, educate and mobilize non-Indigenous Peoples and promote stories of successful Indigenous communities. Members further underlined the importance of not underestimating the value of building trust outside of formalized structures and of establishing best practices from lessons learned. 

The Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (Canada Centre) joined the Roundtable to further the discussions on the National Strategy for countering radicalization to violence (CRV). In addition to showcasing the preliminary results from the recent online public consultation, the Canada Centre engaged members in a dialogue on possible strategies for reaching out to and mobilizing youth. In members’ experience, websites serve as an effective resource primarily for teachers and other professionals working with youth. In their view, effectively reaching youth on CRV will require identifying strategies that are aimed at addressing reasons why youth decide to get involved in radicalization in the first place (e.g., need for a sense of belonging). The Roundtable also indicated that at least two distinct approaches will be required since two different groups are at play: youth at risk of being influenced by and those already on the path to radicalization. The Settlement Workers in School program led by IRCC was mentioned as a potential best practice for the Canada Centre to consider as part of its youth outreach efforts.

The Roundtable’s feedback was sought by IRCC on new requirements and service delivery framework being considered for Canada’s enhanced use of biometrics to enable a broader collection and verification of travellers’ biometrics. The proposed changes would apply to all those seeking a visitor visa, a work or study permit (excluding U.S. nationals), permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status. While members were supportive of the overall initiative, they expressed concerns with the safeguarding of personal information being collected. As members of diverse communities who travel, they recommended that careful consideration be given to data security, data storage and privacy. Based on how the information will be used, members further underscored the need to anticipate and prepare for the increased reliance on technology so that the infrastructure can meet the demands of the expected volume of data. 

The forthcoming legalization of cannabis was further discussed in the context of the new proposed legislation—Bill C-45 and Bill C-46—and how they will affect Canadians. Of greatest concern for members are the potential impacts of the new legal framework on incarceration rates. Members were also keen to know what positive outcomes, if any, are anticipated by the government as a result of the legalization of cannabis. PS indicated that positive outcomes are expected, including a decrease in the number of Canadians entering the criminal justice system, as well a decline in organized criminal activity.

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