Parliamentary Committee Notes: Speaking Notes for The Honourable Bill Blair Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to begin by stating I appreciate the work this Committee is undertaking on Canada’s security posture as it relates to the threats posed by Russia.

I’m pleased to say a few words to outline the Government’s role, with respect to emergency preparedness.

Honourable members, our country is fortunate to have a reputation for the values of compassion, pluralism, equality and justice, with a commitment to democracy and the rules-based international order.

We are here today because we all stand in shock and horror at the atrocities committed by Russia, which tear at the very fabric of those values.

On February 24, Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and attacked the Ukrainian people.

Today, we join like-minded nations and allies in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine, which truly affect us all.

Canadians stand with the people of Ukraine, as they fight for their lives, for their sovereignty, and for global democracy.

We stand in support of the over 1.4 million Ukrainians living in Canada, who continue to face harassment and intimidation against them or their relatives abroad.

And we continue to be on the lookout for potential Russian threat activity within Canada, including cyber attacks, and foreign interference.

We’ve seen, for example, how the threats posed by state actors like Russia go beyond traditional hostile attacks, and now extend to various hybrid activities, such as the use of dis-information, which can spread quickly, to exploit and amplify social cleavages.

Disinformation can come from state officials, state media, and also via proxies, fake social media accounts, websites posing as legitimate alternative news outlets, and other sources.

We’ve seen Russian narratives trying to justify the invasion, undermine the Ukrainian government and delegitimize Western responses.

Canada condemns these actions and threats to our collective safety, and is committed to strengthening our cooperation, on all fronts, with like-minded partners.

Within our own borders, I want to reassure all Canadians that all levels of government continue to work closely together.

Our steadfast commitment is that our emergency management system remains robust and agile, as we plan for and respond to the various risks we might face.

Public Safety Canada works within this complex field by maintaining a network of partnerships with other government institutions, first responders, and volunteer organizations, supporting a whole-of-society approach to emergency management.

As you know, emergency management responsibilities are shared by federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as our partners, including Indigenous Peoples and municipalities.

If a province or territory requires resources beyond their capacity, the federal government responds rapidly to any request for federal assistance, or RFA.

There is a well-established process in place for managing RFAs through the Government Operations Centre.

This involves interdepartmental consultation and coordination, as well as daily interaction with provincial and territorial emergency operations centres.

In international crises, the Government Operations Centre may support Global Affairs Canada with coordination of international assistance.

I’m also in regular communication with my provincial and territorial counterparts in emergency management, through the Committee of FPT Ministers Responsible for Emergency Management.

This Committee helps us exchange knowledge and foster cooperation and collaboration to strengthen our country’s resilience.

The overarching federal plan for responding to an emergency event is the Federal Emergency Response Plan, which provides an all hazards approach to emergency management.

This is used when an emergency impacts multiple jurisdictions or government departments, and when national interests are at stake.

This plan harmonizes federal response efforts with those of provinces, territories, NGOs, and the private sector, allowing for horizontal and vertical integration for maximum efficiency.

Responding to disasters and crises, domestically or internationally, requires tremendous coordination.

And it takes planning, before these events occur.

Canadians can rest assured that that is exactly what has been done.

We remain committed to collaborating closely with all of our partners to ensure that Canadians are protected from disaster events of all kinds, and have access to assistance when they do occur.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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