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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 1 - Evidence - Meeting of November 7, 2013


OTTAWA, Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 11:02 a.m., pursuant to rule 12- 13 of the Rules of the Senate, to organize the activities of the committee.

[English]

Josée Thérien, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as clerk of your committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of the chair. I am ready to receive a motion to that effect.

Senator Dallaire: Pursuant to rule 12-13, the clerk has called for a motion, and I move that the Honourable Senator Lang, from the Yukon, do take the chair of this committee. I am sure he will humbly accept.

Senator Mitchell: And I second it.

Ms. Thérien: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Dallaire that the Honourable Senator Lang do take the chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Thérien: I declare the motion carried.

Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: Thank you very much, colleagues.

At the outset, I want to say that I very much appreciate your support. I want to say also for the record that in the last six months, this committee that I had the opportunity of chairing, I felt that we did some very constructive work and brought forward some very serious legislation. It was debated in a way that it should have been debated and we brought out issues that perhaps hadn't been noticed before in the House of Commons.

Second, the question of the report on the harassment within the RCMP I thought was a very good report — the recommendations — and we worked very hard in a non-partisan way to bring that forward. I want to commend all members who were a part of the committee at that time for the work they did, and I look forward to working in that type of spirit as a committee as we move forward in respect to our responsibilities of the Senate.

For the record, so everyone is aware, we are not on camera for the purposes of this meeting, primarily because we didn't have authorization. This is a meeting to reorganize ourselves for the balance of the session before us. Subsequently, you should note that what is being said is recorded but you are not on camera.

I would like to move to the agenda and the election of the deputy chair. It would be my pleasure to move that the Honourable Senator Dallaire be deputy chair of this committee. Is everyone in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

Senator Dallaire: I have an acceptance speech.

The Chair: I'm sure you do. Senator, I'm looking forward to working with you over the course of the session.

The next motion that we would like to have brought forward is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: I move:

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of the chair, the deputy chair, and one other member of the committee, to be designated after the usual consultation; and

That the subcommittee be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda, to invite witnesses, and to schedule hearings.

[English]

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Anybody opposed?

The Chair: It is agreed.

I would like to move to the next motion — to publish the committee's proceedings.

Senator White: I move that the committee publish its proceedings.

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I would like to move on to the next motion, authorization to hold meetings and to receive evidence when quorum is not present.

Senator Mitchell: I move:

That, pursuant rule 12-17, the chair be authorized to hold meetings, to receive and authorize the publication of the evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that a member of the committee from both the government and the opposition be present.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I would like a motion for the financial report.

Senator Dallaire: I move:

That the committee adopt the draft first report, prepared in accordance with rule 12-26(2).

That is essentially the history of what we have done.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

I would like to move on to the next motion, research staff.

Senator Wells: I move:

That the committee ask the Library of Parliament to assign analysts to the committee;

That the chair be authorized to seek authority from the Senate to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical, and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of the committee's examination and consideration of such bills, subject-matters of bills, and estimates as are referred to it;

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to retain the services of such experts as may be required by the work of the committee; and

That the chair, on behalf of the committee, direct the research staff in the preparation of studies, analyses, summaries, and draft reports.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: At this time, I would like to invite Holly Porteous to the front, as well as Wolfgang Koerner.

Welcome. We are looking forward to working with you as we move ahead. You are definitely part of our support staff and we appreciate the work you do.

I would like to move on to the authority to commit funds and certify accounts.

Senator White: I move:

That pursuant to section 7, chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, authority to commit funds be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair, and the clerk of the committee;

That, pursuant to section 8, chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, authority for certifying accounts payable by the committee be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair, and the clerk of the committee; and

That notwithstanding the foregoing, in cases related to consultants and personnel services, the authority to commit funds and certify accounts be conferred jointly on the chair and deputy chair.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: The next issue we try to deal with for motion is travel, and I move:

That the committee empower the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure to designate, as required, one or more members of the committee and/or such staff as may be necessary to travel on assignment on behalf of the committee.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I would like to move on to the next issue, which is the designation of members travelling on committee business.

Senator Dallaire: I move:

[Translation]

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be authorized to:

(1) determine whether any member of the committee is on ``official business'' for the purposes of paragraph 8(3)(a) of the Senators Attendance Policy, published in the Journals of the Senate on Wednesday, June 3, 1998; and

(2) consider any member of the committee to be on ``official business'' if that member is: (a) attending an event or meeting related to the work of the committee; or (b) making a presentation related to the work of the committee; and

That the subcommittee report at the earliest opportunity any decisions taken with respect to the designation of members of the committee travelling on committee business.

[English]

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

I would like to move on to the travelling and living expenses of witnesses.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: I move:

That, pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness from any one organization and payment will take place upon application, but that the chair be authorized to approve expenses for a second witness should there be exceptional circumstances.

[English]

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

I would like to move on to the next motion, which has to do with communications.

Senator Mitchell: I move:

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be empowered to direct communications officer(s) assigned to the committee in the development of communications plans where appropriate and to request the services of the Senate Communications Directorate for the purposes of their development and implementation; and

That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be empowered to allow coverage by electronic media of the committee's public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearings at its discretion.

Senator Nolin: I have a question and a comment.

I think it's the time to raise a question of communication. If we wait for the publication of a report, it's going to be too late, and I think we, as a committee — and other committees — may face the same situation. I think it would be appropriate to mandate both the chair and the deputy chair to go in front of Internal to seek in advance, consult with your colleagues of other committees to see if they have the same concern. I think we should definitely shake up the quality of the communication effort that the Senate and, more specifically, committees are undertaking.

[Translation]

I am not questioning the good faith and efforts of the people who are already doing the work.

[English]

I think we should ask for more, and if we need to seek approval from Internal to hire specific people on occasion, like we're doing for research staff, we should do it. We should be able to do it.

I think, for example, of the job we did on harassment. I think it would have been appropriate to have with us, all along the process, someone who could help us communicate the efforts of the committee and also the report of the committee. We will have other challenges in front of us in the future, and I think it would be appropriate.

I think the first step should be to empower you two to seek the advice of and to check with your colleagues from every committee and then knock on the door of Internal and say there's the situation and we need to address it right now — not waiting for a report, but let's do it now.

Senator Dallaire: I think that is an extraordinarily significant point being raised here. The outreach of the Senate has been absolutely horrific in informing the Canadian people, beyond CPAC at three o'clock in the morning, of the work and product we have. Gaining people with more expertise and capabilities, and possibly funding, could go a long way in helping the Senate. I would be available anytime to assist you in this.

Senator Nolin: I think the committee can understand my intent.

Senator Mitchell: I would like to echo Senator Dallaire's support for Senator Nolin's motion. I think it's excellent and we need to be thinking in that way, so thank you very much.

Senator White: To follow up, I agree. In particular, the timeliness issue on the release of information is challenging for many of us, and probably for Canadians as well. Rather than a new motion, I would leave it to the chair, the deputy chair and the steering committee to determine how that takes place, because I'm not exactly sure how it should. But I think it's a great point, and I think other committees would have the same concerns.

Senator Wells: In doing what is proposed by Senator Nolin, that your leeway and the deputy chair's leeway be given the broadest possible coverage and ability to act rapidly based on the needs of the day, it would include a strategy for communications and not just reactive communications.

The Chair: Before coming to a conclusion on the issue, I couldn't agree more with everything that's been said. I appreciate the mandate that you have given to me and Senator Dallaire. Senator Dallaire and I will get together shortly to pursue this and talk to the various authorities and other chairs of other committees, because I think it's an issue for the Senate as a whole, not just this committee. I think that we do need changes, no question about it.

With that, can we conclude and can we vote on the motion?

Senator Nolin: That's why I'm qualifying my vote on that motion. It's a yes with —

The Chair: Can we have a vote on the motion? All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

We're moving on to the motion regarding our time slot for regular meetings.

Senator Mitchell: I move that this committee meet on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Senator Dallaire: A comment if I may, chair. I think using the time we have to the maximum will certainly be deemed to be appropriate with the volume of work that I suspect we will have. I appreciate the informal conversations that we have had in that regard, and so I look forward to a full day's work for the committee on those occasions.

The Chair: Any other comments? All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

We're going to go on to other business and the committee's general order of reference.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: I move that the chair be authorized to seek authority of the Senate for the following order of reference:

That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be authorized to examine and report on Canada's national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities; and

That the papers and evidence received and taken and the work accomplished by the committee on this subject during the Fortieth Parliament and the First Session of the Forty-first Parliament be referred to the Committee; and

That the Committee report to the Senate no later than December 19, 2014, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.

[English]

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We'll move on to the order of reference for Veterans Affairs.

Senator Wells: I move that the chair be authorized to seek authority of the Senate for the following order of reference:

That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be authorized to study;

(a) services and benefits provided to members the Canadian Forces; to veterans who have served honourably in Her Majesty's Canadian Armed Forces in the past; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and its antecedents; and all of their families;

(b) commemorative activities undertaken by the Department of Veterans' Affairs Canada, to keep alive for all Canadians the memory of Canadian veterans' achievements and sacrifices; and

(c) continuing implementation of the New Veterans Charter;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and the work accomplished by the Committee on this subject during the Fortieth Parliament and the First Session of the Forty-first Parliament be referred to the Committee; and

That the Committee report to the Senate no later than December 19, 2014, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We will move on to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

Senator White: I move:

That a subcommittee on Veterans Affairs be established to study matters which may be referred to it by the committee.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator White: Second, I move:

(a) That the membership of the subcommittee be as follows: The Honourable Senators Dallaire, Lang, Nolin, Day and Wells, three of whom shall constitute a quorum.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We will move onto motions to send for persons and papers and to publish proceedings.

[Translation]

Senator Dallaire: I move:

(b) That, pursuant to rule 12-9(2), the committee's authority to send for persons, papers and records, whenever required, and to publish from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, be conferred on the subcommittee;

Authorization to hold meetings and to receive evidence when quorum is not present

(c) That, pursuant to rule 12-17, the committee's authority to hold meetings, to receive and authorize the publication of the evidence when a quorum is not present, be conferred on the subcommittee;

Power to hire

(d) That, once ordered by the Senate, the committee's authority to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical, and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of the committee's examination and consideration of such bills, subject-matters of bills and estimates as are referred to it, be conferred on the subcommittee;

[English]

The Chair: All in favour?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Senator Wells, under ``Power to commit funds.''

Senator Wells: I move, under ``Power to commit funds'':

(e) That, pursuant to section 7, Chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, the committee's authority to commit funds be conferred on the subcommittee;

Power to certify accounts

(f) That, pursuant to section 8, Chapter 3:06 of the Senate Administrative Rules, the committee's authority for certifying accounts payable be conferred on to the subcommittee;

Attendance Policy

(g) That the committee's authority, pursuant to paragraph 8(3)(a) of the Senators Attendance Policy, be conferred on the subcommittee;

Electronic media coverage

(h) That, the committee's power to permit coverage by electronic media of its public meetings be conferred on the subcommittee; and

Witness expenses

(i) That, pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the authority of the committee to reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for witnesses, be conferred on the subcommittee.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We will move on the ``Other business - Request Government response to Committee's report on Harassment within the RCMP that was adopted in the previous session.''

[Translation]

Senator Mitchell: I move:

That the chair be authorized to request a Government response to the Committee's report on harassment in the RCMP, adopted by the Senate in the previous session, entitled: Conduct Becoming: Why the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Must Transform its Culture.

[English]

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I would like a motion on ``Request Government response to the Committee's report on the New Veterans Charter that was adopted in the previous session.''

Senator Nolin: I move:

That the chair be authorized to request a Government response to the Committee's report on the New Veterans Charter, adopted by the Senate in the previous session, entitled: A Study of the New Veterans Charter.

The Chair: All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We now move on to other business. Looking at next week, we would like to see if we can have an in camera meeting in respect to looking ahead at organizing the committee's objectives for the forthcoming session. In looking forward to a very informal type of meeting, the idea is to talk about what the committee is going to do and what we want to accomplish at the end of the day. If everyone is agreeable to that we will have an in camera meeting on November 18.

Senator Dallaire: I agree on having an in-house working session, as you've proposed, when we come back on November 18, where we walk through agenda points of what we want to do, but also how we want to work and how we see our modus vivendi, including when we have supper if we're going to work for hours at a time. All those matters to be done and in such an informal form would be just superb in order to set the SOPs for how we want to operate. I fully endorse the suggestion that we do it in camera.

Senator Nolin: I have a question. I'm all for having that meeting, but in anticipation of it, would it be possible to ask our analyst to look into a specific question? We're all aware of the report from the Veterans Ombudsman, which was released during the summer and concerned a little group of veterans who are in a black hole. I believe it's in the purview of our committee to look into that kind of situation. Therefore, is it possible to have notes prepared for us so we at least do not lose another week if we want to move fast on that subject? Christmas is coming and I think it's important that we take care of those people. I cannot accept that they are nowhere in the system.

The Chair: I will take it, Senator Nolin, that that work will be done and be made available to us when we get together.

Senator Nolin: We can then have a fruitful discussion on the eighteenth.

The Chair: Are there any other issues that anybody else wants to raise at this point?

Senator Dallaire: When do we set up the subcommittee? I'm looking to the clerk on that.

The Chair: The steering committee or the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs? You're talking about Veterans?

Senator Dallaire: Yes.

The Chair: I would think that after we get back we'll start working on a schedule on that as well.

Senator Dallaire: On the eighteenth, could we set up the subcommittee at that time?

The Chair: We've actually mandated and named the committee, and now from that point —

Ms. Thérien: The subcommittee needs to organize.

Senator Dallaire: We have to do our organizing thing, so if we could walk through that on the eighteenth, if that's possible, then we can get on with our work.

The Chair: We'll see what we can do with all members from a time point of view, in respect to being available, but we could look at a time frame to sit down and at least discuss that. Is that agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I would like to thank everyone.

I do want to give a special warm welcome to Senator White and Senator Wells. We're looking forward to you being on the committee. I know we have a lot of work to do and with the expertise — oh, we have one more issue that we have to deal with.

Senator Nolin: No, it's done.

The Chair: I just want to say that we appreciate you making yourself available to be on the committee. You bring some expertise that obviously will be of assistance to us.

Senator Dallaire?

Senator Dallaire: We're very happy to see them join us.

Senator Day, an old hand who could not be here because of another committee meeting, is on our side of the house. We do hope that you both volunteered to do the job, as we did.

Senator Wells: In fact, I requested to be on the committee.

(The committee adjourned.)