Summary Report of the Meeting of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security

October 12-14, 2018
Vancouver, British Columbia

Members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) met in Vancouver for a productive weekend of meetings that featured a site visit to the Vancouver Police Department, two consultation sessions, a number of interactive and strategic discussions, and networking opportunities. Officials from Public Safety (PS), the Department of Justice (JUS), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Department of National Defence (DND), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) participated.

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, met with CCRS members on the Friday evening. The Minister acknowledged the dedication and commitment of Roundtable members to the CCRS. She expressed appreciation for the advice and perspectives that CCRS members bring on matters of public safety and security. Minister Wilson-Raybould agreed with members on the importance of investing in cultural sensitivity training as well as ensuring that Canadians see themselves reflected in the criminal justice system.

The weekend began at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) with lessons learned and best practices from locally-designed strategies to combat gang crime and support youth looking to exit gang life. The Roundtable learned about programs designed to tackle the lower mainland's unique gang issue by focusing on criminal behavior as opposed to interventions based on geographic location, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Both the VPD's Gang Crime Unit and British Columbia's (BC) Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit attributed the success of their anti-gang initiatives to law enforcement's efforts towards building relationships with youth, developing community partnerships and involving parents.

The agenda for this Roundtable meeting centered around consulting with members on two important government initiatives: the enhancement of the Passenger Protect Program (PPP) and the commitment to transparency in matters of national security.

In members' view, an enhanced PPP must include safeguards around the storage and sharing of Canadians' personal information. It should also allow for false-positive cases to be dealt with sooner than at the airport through a timelier validation process that involves the individuals directly. Members further expressed the view that individuals should be notified if they are flagged as a near match.

Overall, there was consensus that Canadians need to be more informed and educated on the PPP.  How the program works, how personal data is managed and stored, who has access to it and what the public can do to protect their information should be readily available. Members offered several ideas on how the government could effectively communicate the enhanced PPP with Canadians. These included simplifying and clarifying privacy statements, involving third party websites, such as Expedia, to publicize travel notices, and making information available in multiple languages beyond English and French.

CCRS members also were of the view that if a federally acceptable piece of identification is mandatory for domestic travel, it should be more readily obtainable. For example, the government could make passports free to everyone for one year, free for children or available through sliding scale fees based on income. Other suggestions in regards to identification included the removal of gender identity and location of birth on passports, to prevent potential bias, in addition to more training for air carrier agents to prevent cross-race bias when confirming someone's identity.

Another consultation session focused on federal government-wide efforts being pursued to deliver on its transparency in national security matters commitment. In direct support to
Bill C-59: National Security Act, 2017, departments and agencies involved in national security will be working towards making related programs and activities more transparent.

Asked what this could look like, members were of the opinion that education is needed on this issue as it is not clear to many in the general public what national security is, who the major players are, how this applies to Canadians and why they should be interested. An interactive tool or infographic were suggested to depict Canada's national security infrastructure. Members cautioned the need to find the right balance and method for disclosing information publically so as to not instill fear.

While members recognize that some information should not be made public, they advised the government to keep the lines of communication open by sharing what it can and by offering an explanation when additional details cannot be provided. One recommendation was to involve subject matter experts in reporting directly on issues as opposed to the current practice of having ministers deliver press releases to the media.

CCRS members identified cyber-security, domestic terrorism, foreign interference in elections, immigration and refugee action plans, and countering radicalization to violence as topics that should be prioritized as part of the government's transparency commitment. From organizing in-person town halls within communities and universities, hosting interactive discussions on digital platforms such as Facebook, to broadcasting on traditional media such as newspapers, television and radio, the Roundtable had several suggestions on how to best engage and communicate with Canadians with respect to transparency on national security and related intelligence activities. Regardless of the medium, Roundtable members emphasized the need to be proactive and use consistent, neutral and plain language.  

Another timely topic that was presented for members' input was the issue of hate, including in the context of online speech. Right-wing extremism, islamophobia especially towards Muslim women, the lack of real data on the issue and the added challenges associated with social media's omnipresence and viral nature were of particular concern to CCRS members. Advice from the Roundtable included investing in social media literacy to build individuals' critical thinking skills, conducting more research that focuses on the impact of hateful messaging on the communities they target and supporting the work of youth influencers who promote positive messaging. 

During the meeting, Roundtable members had the opportunity to liaise and interact with two groups based in the lower mainland: the Department of National Defence's (DND) Advisory Committee on Diversity and PLEA Community Services Society of British Columbia.

The Advisory Committee on Diversity was created as a pilot project in the Pacific region to bring together a variety of voices, experiences and perspectives to inform DND on the Canadian Armed Forces' Diversity Strategy. This includes advice for improving diversity in recruitment and training, fostering an environment of inclusivity, and eliminating harassment in the Canadian military. Recognizing that progress has been made, some members emphasized that more work is needed to eradicate discrimination, especially in traditionally male-dominated occupations like army soldiers, lawyers, etc. Opportunities for CCRS members to share lessons learned and facilitate links at the community level will be explored as DND considers the possibility of replicating the Advisory Committee on Diversity model in other parts of the country.

A not-for-profit organization and recipient of the Youth Justice Fund, PLEA is dedicated to delivering programs that are equipped to respond to diverse individual needs, circumstances and cultural differences. To expand upon and provide continuity for PLEA's curriculum for Indigenous youth struggling with drug addiction, the Roundtable offered to facilitate linkages with elders involved in post-secondary education.

The meeting concluded with an update on Public Safety's "Don't Drive High" drug impaired driving public awareness campaign. The update included a report on results achieved so far (e.g., how the campaign is reaching its target audience of 16 to 24 year old Canadians), a preview of new/additional tactics to reach young Canadians and steps to broaden the campaign to reach rural Canadians, parents and Indigenous communities.

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