Summary Report – Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security Meeting

December 1, 2023, Virtual

The Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) met virtually on Friday, December 1st, 2023, from 1 to 4:45 p.m. EST. This was its first formal meeting since reconvening in June 2023 and the agenda focused on hate crimes/social cohesion and foreign interference. 

The Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, opened the meeting and reflected upon his own experience of being a member of a diaspora community. He strongly condemned hatred and all forms of violence and discrimination and emphasized the government’s work to address hate crimes and social cohesion via legislation, policy and programs.

Members echoed how complex the hate crimes file is, especially as conflicts flare up abroad and affect diaspora communities in Canada. He noted the many transnational repression issues communities are experiencing and the link to foreign interference.

This first third of the meeting was dedicated to discussing hate crimes and social cohesion, specifically learning from roundtable members to ensure the government’s work in this area reflects what is required on the ground.

A highly insightful and collaborative dialogue emerged. There was an agreement that we are seeing unprecedented levels of hate and violence.

There was a discussion on the perception of lack of public trust in our institutions and the impact of such distrust on the effectiveness of initiatives and work done in this area.

Contributing to lack of trust is the perception that not enough is being done on the ground by governments. Members flagged that more engagement to highlight successful government intervention and support might help to better inform communities. They also discussed the importance of engaging their communities in finding solutions and the importance of listening in addition to taking action – “Nothing about us without us.”

Members also highlighted the importance of providing examples of what positive dialogue between communities could look like. They noted that most Canadians don’t see a distinction between municipal, provincial and federal governments (and departments) and action by one agency affects trust levels for all governments.

To wrap up this discussion, Associate Deputy Minister Tricia Geddes emphasized the government’s commitment to continue to listen to trusted experts, such as the CCRS members, and to take feedback and advice and put it into action.

Then, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, echoed the Minister of Justice’s message and provided an overview of the many conversations he has had over the past weeks with colleagues, stakeholders and community leaders. He emphasized how important CCRS input is to inform the government’s work to help Canadians feel safer in their communities. He then provided a high-level summary of the recently launched Foreign Interference (FI) consultations and the proposed legislative amendments.

Colleagues from Public Safety, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Justice Canada then walked through their respective areas of the proposed legislative amendments set out in the FI consultation and solicited member feedback.

The discussion with Public Safety and CSIS involved threat assessments, reporting and datasets. Members asked CSIS for more clarity on information sharing and threat assessments. They expressed how helpful threat assessments are to communities as a preventative measure and asked how more could be shared with vulnerable communities and their leaders. Members also expressed the need for a reporting mechanism for Canadians to report suspicious activity.

The latter part of the CSIS conversation focused on new judicial authorizations and datasets. Members were supportive but noted that in order for their communities to buy in, there will need to be clear communication and reassurance regarding the safeguarding of data. They explained that the consultation needs to allow people to express the types of safeguards they are looking for and understand how protections are being built-in.  

The discussion with Justice focused on members’ perceptions of how they see FI affecting Canadian society (work, institutions and communities) and asked what is most important for them and the communities they represent. Members talked about foreign nationals who have the potential to be agitators in Canadian society and the need to create laws to address the issue of foreign governments using people in Canada to do their work and/or advance their agendas.

As during the hate crimes discussion, members noted that the consultations need to focus more on the participant’s knowledge about their community. There is a need to work from the ground up to develop approaches and solutions.

Finally, members expressed appreciation for the meeting and commented on how they learned so much regarding what the government is doing to address these important issues; echoing the earlier point that most Canadians are not aware of the important work the government does in these areas. It was emphasized how this reinforces the importance of using community members and trusted messengers to educate Canadians and build trust.  

Public Safety Canada Deputy Minister Shawn Tupper wrapped up the discussion. He acknowledged that member input was spot on and that current consultations are focused on legislative gaps and amendments but there will be further phases of work, including in the areas of program, policy and outreach. This work will continue to evolve over time and that the policy conversation will remain evergreen to continually evolve the government’s toolkit for keeping Canadians safe.

The chair closed the meeting by thanking members for their time and valuable input and reminding everyone of the next CCRS meeting that will occur in March 2023.

Date modified: