Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
The Minister has a broad array of statutory duties, functions and responsibilities which are set out in a wide range of federal statutes. The Minister has sole responsibility for a series of statutes, and shared responsibility with other ministers for many others. The legislation administered by the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Public Safety Canada) and portfolio agenciesFootnote1 includes over 100 federal statutes and their regulations. Each portfolio agency has its own governing legislation which sets out its statutory authority and to various degrees, the role of the Minister.
In addition, the Governor in Council may, through an Order in Council (OIC), make the Minister responsible for additional duties or provide the authority to take certain actions (e.g. to enter into an agreement with a province, territory, municipality or First Nation community).
The Prime Minister will also assign additional responsibilities to the Minister through a mandate letter and through Cabinet and committee roles. It is important to note that these responsibilities are not statutory in nature, but rather are responsibilities relating to the Minister’s official mandate and role as a member of Cabinet.
Notable Statutory Responsibilities
Notable legislation and statutory responsibilities include:
- The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005 established the Department and sets out the Minister’s general powers, duties and functions. The Minister “presides” over and has “the management and direction” of Public Safety Canada. The “powers, duties and functions” extend to and include all matters relating to “public safety and emergency preparedness” over which Parliament has jurisdiction — and that have not been assigned by law to another department, board or agency of the Government of Canada. The Minister also exercises national leadership in relation to public safety and emergency preparedness.
- The Minister is responsible for most of the federal agencies operating in the areas of national security, policing and law enforcement, border services and corrections and conditional release, namely the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. The Minister’s role is to coordinate their activities and establish strategic priorities relating to public safety and emergency preparedness. The relevant statutes are: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSIS Act), the Canada Border Services Agency Act (CBSA Act) and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA).
- Under the Emergency Management Act, the Minister is responsible for exercising leadership in Canada relating to emergency management by coordinating amongst federal government institutions, in cooperation with the provinces and other entities. This includes coordinating the federal Government’s response to emergencies in Canada; establishing arrangements for the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency; and, in consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, developing joint emergency plans with the United States and coordinating Canada’s response to emergencies that may take place in the United States.
- Statutes for which the Minister has sole responsibility include: the Criminal Records Act, DNA Identification Act, Sex Offender Information Registration Act, Firearms Act, Prisons and Reformatories Act, International Transfer of Offenders Act, Witness Protection Program Act, Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act, Secure Air Travel Act, and the Prevention of Terrorist Travel Act.
- Statutes for which the Minister will play an important role along with other ministers include: the Criminal Code, Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Extradition Act, Charities Registration (Security of Information) Act (CRSIA), Security Offences Act (SOA), Investment Canada Act, Customs Act, Canadian Passport Order, and many others.
- Statutes for which all Cabinet Ministers have responsibilities, notably include: the Access to Information Act, Privacy Act, Financial Administration Act, and the Emergency Management Act.
Authority For Others to Exercise the Minister’s Statutory Responsibilities
Not all the Minister’s responsibilities need be personally exercised by the Minister. Most of the Minister’s statutory duties are exercised by officials on the Minister’s behalf, either because of a specific designation or delegation, or because of authority granted by the Interpretation Act to officials occupying a position appropriate to carrying out the Minister’s responsibility. As a consequence, many authorities and responsibilities assigned by statute to the Minister may be exercised by the Deputy Minister or other departmental officials who occupy positions appropriate to carry out the functions.
Ministerial Authority to Give Direction to Agency Heads
The Minister has an overall direction power not only with respect to Public Safety Canada, but also the RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, and CSC. Under the various statutes establishing the agencies, the Minister has the authority to provide “direction” to the Agency Heads, who are responsible for the “control and management” of the agency, “under the direction of the Minister”. Direction is sometimes provided through formal instruments known as “Ministerial Directives”.
Departmental officials will work with our office to schedule a more details briefing about your legal responsibilities.
The Public Safety portfolio is composed of five agencies: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Correctional Services Canada (CSC), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Parole Board of Canada (PBC); as well as three review bodies: the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC), the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI), and the RCMP External Review Committee (ERC).
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