RCMP C/Supt Joe Oliver
A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police since 1986, Chief Superintendent Oliver became Director General Border Integrity in April 2009. He was responsible for overseeing the delivery of five law enforcement programs that contribute to the national security of Canada, and the protection of Canadians from terrorism, organized crime, and other border-related criminality. He is now Director General Operations Prioritization and Protective Services under the re-engineered model of the RCMP Federal Policing.
Q: Many of our readers are indeed aware that the Beyond the Border Agreement, has been heralded as a most effective CANADA/U.S. policy agreement – up there with such others as the Free Trade Agreement and NORAD. Can you give us a perspective on how this evolved?
As a country, we share a border with the U.S. that spans over 8,900 kilometres. This unique environment – the length and geography – requires that, as Canada’s national police, the RCMP deals with a range of challenges that require a concerted approach and a timely exchange of information with our domestic and U.S. partners.
In 2011, our Prime Minister and the U.S. President issued a “Declaration on a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.” The goal was to develop a new, long-term partnership that would accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods between both countries while strengthening perimeter security. Within this declaration, four areas were identified: addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; integrated cross-border law enforcement; and, critical infrastructure and cyber security.
In cooperation with Transport Canada, we co-lead the initiative related to enhancing domain awareness for law enforcement in the air, land and marine environments. The RCMP also works closely with our colleagues at Public Safety Canada to implement bi-lateral law enforcement programs and provide interoperable radio capability for law enforcement. These initiatives are a result of many years of hard work and commitment by all agencies and authorities along land, marine and air borders in both of our Countries.
From a policing perspective, the starting point can be traced to the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) established in the late 90s on the Pacific Coast between the U.S. and Canada. Over the past two decades, cross-border crime fighting has evolved from cooperation to coordination, to models of integration.
We are proud of the accomplishments of IBET operations, and the related evolution of the Shiprider program. Shiprider, formally known as Integrated Cross-border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations, is an integrated operational approach to maritime law enforcement and security in our shared water ways between Canada and the U.S. (both inland and coastal).
One of the key elements to the success of this initiative has been the cross designation of specially trained Canadian and U.S. officers with the necessary legal credentials from each of our countries. This measure was taken to increase effectiveness and reduce effort and costs while respecting the distinctive jurisdictional authorities and laws of each partner. The sovereignty of each country is maintained as visiting officers are under the direction and supervision of host country officers and must respect host country laws.
In addition, we have also been able to adopt common procedures and compatible equipment, as well as common command centres, resulting in increased efficiencies and the reduction of costs on both sides of the border.
To contribute to the success of Shiprider, the RCMP established a Border Integrity Operations Centre (BIOC) in British Columbia which strengthens domain awareness, officer safety and operational command and control. Complementing Shiprider, the RCMP, in close collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard, has developed leading-edge technology to enhance maritime domain awareness. This system has significantly expanded capabilities, performance and strength, and provides approximately 84% of border coverage in the Pacific Area of Responsibility.
Since April 2012, the system has been used to support multiple marine operations from the BIOC, including surge operations, investigations, and response to intelligence. The monitoring capability has also been expanded to the Pacific Marine Security Operations Centre (MSOC) and the Vancouver Island Border Integrity Unit.
The RCMP has helped establish three Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOCs), with the Department of Defence leading the two Coastal MSOCs and the RCMP leading the Great Lakes (GL) MSOC.
The GL MSOC is a component of the Federal Government’s 2005 and 2008 budgets to further enhance the security of Canada’s marine transportation system and maritime borders. It is an RCMP-led program that includes on-site participation from Transport Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Defence, as core partners. The GL MSOC is supported by Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice.
The MSOCs collect and analyze marine information, with partner agencies, to create an overall picture of maritime activity, and provide actionable intelligence in support of marine security.
Increased intelligence, operational and investigative capacity, achieved through national and international partnerships and common goals within the MSOCs, enables the detection and prevention of marine threats and events. The ability to identify threats early allows for an integrated and joint response.
Q: Where are these actions taking you and what challenges are you facing?
The two challenges that come immediately to mind are the issues surrounding information sharing and the costs related to policing.
As an organization, we continuously search for innovative ways to address the threat environment. For instance we look at integration, how to tackle threats at their source and expanded our abilities to share the information we gather. New technologies are a great contributor to reducing costs. This allows us to strategically place resources in areas where vulnerabilities have been identified.
However, developing integrated law enforcement models involving multiple agencies from two different nations is not without its challenges. We must find ways to address differences in training, operational policies and procedures, equipment standards, technology and organizational culture. But with good will and commitment, we have demonstrated, as in the case of Shiprider and IBET, these challenges are surmountable.
I am proud to say that we have taken some concrete steps in these areas and we can build on these successes while maximizing our effectiveness and efficiency. For us and our law enforcement allies, the challenge remains to find more effective ways of delivering on our diverse mandate by building an agile and integrated Federal Policing Program, capable of addressing operational priorities while using our precious resources in the most meaningful way. The traditional way of investigating, laying charges and prosecuting criminals can be costly, so we need to develop means that maximize our investment while reaching the goal of bringing criminals to justice. Only by doing so are we able to deny them of their means and methods, disrupting their operations using all of the tools at our disposal.
Q: The RCMP proactive initiatives against human trafficking are laudable indeed. A big issue in the BTB Agreement and for this Government has been improved screening to prevent the entry of persons who are inadmissible to Canada especially on security, criminality or a fraudulent immigration basis such as previous deportees or failed refugee claimants. The last Auditor General Report on the subject confirmed that there are over 40K persons who have been ordered removed from Canada and who are the subject of arrest warrants. What is happening to improve this situation?
Recognizing that Canada is a very desirable place to live and work, those who do not qualify under our immigration laws will constantly try to find new means to enter this country illegally. Cracking down on illegal migration is not something we can do alone. Securing Canada’s border is a shared responsibility with our colleagues at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). In fact, the CBSA has the primary responsibility for tracking down individuals who have been ordered removed from Canada for immigration purposes.
As an organization we recognize that the prevention of criminal elements in Canada and our ability to stop them from trafficking and smuggling innocent victims is linked to our ability to work in a cohesive and sustained effort. In order to achieve this goal, again, we must develop and share compatible tools and new technologies with our partners here in Canada and abroad. For instance, we have developed the ability to share the information on those individuals in a timely and effective manner using biometrics and other technologies. We must responsibly share more broadly and effectively any intelligence that might indicate what, when and where these criminals and their network will change pathways, tactics or venues.
Other tools include such initiative as the Immigration Task Force (ITF), a joint forces operation comprised of law enforcement personnel from the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency. ITF has 20 members who work together to safely apprehend high-risk migrant fugitives through partnerships, teamwork and the effective use of intelligence.
Allow me to share some concrete examples of the good work we have accomplished recently on this front.
In 2009, we initiated an investigation under the name “Project Conjugal” which aimed at putting the light on hundreds of suspicious marriages. In 2012, a total of 78 charges were laid against 39 individuals. It successfully led to the dismantling of an alleged criminal organization that was bringing to Canada illegal immigrants. These charges were laid against the individuals who allegedly took part in marriages of convenience in exchange for money.
Last July, the RCMP led an investigation into human trafficking for forced labour named Project OPAPA. Throughout the investigation, the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) worked closely with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Hamilton Police Service and other regional police services in the greater Toronto. They were also assisted by several non-governmental organizations who provided support to the victims.
Numerous charges such as participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit human trafficking and fraud were laid against numerous suspects. Vulnerable Hungarian Nationals were brought to Canada after being promised steady good paying jobs and better lives. Once they arrived here, the traffickers controlled who the victims spoke with, where they lived and what they ate. The victims were forced to work long hours without any pay. They were told that their family members back in Hungary would be harmed if they did not comply.
To date, more than sixteen people have been convicted of offences related to this investigation. The sentences have ranged from probation to 9 years in prison. This case is just one example of the work the RCMP is doing to combat human trafficking, in partnership with many stakeholders.
Q: That is indeed a great challenge. Would you like to provide any final ideas or concerns for our readers?
We are always seeking opportunities for improvement and constantly examining new and innovative initiatives to counter the ever-evolving threats. We can never be satisfied or become complacent with respect to border security, therefore we must remain vigilant and continue to work together with domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify solutions to overcome barriers to effective cross-border law enforcement; to explore new ways to bring criminals to justice; to deny them their means and methods, and to disrupt their operations using all of the tools at our disposal.
Clive Addy is FrontLine’s Executive Editor.
© FrontLine Security 2013