Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 18
SOR/2021-203 August 12, 2021
WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT
P.C. 2021-873 August 11, 2021
Whereas, the British Columbia Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General requested that the British Columbia Witness Security Program be designated by adding it to the schedule footnote a to the Witness Protection Program Act footnote b;
Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, pursuant to subsection 10.1(1) footnote c of the Witness Protection Program Act footnote b, makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (British Columbia Witness Security Program).
1 The schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act footnote b is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
2 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Witnesses admitted into British Columbia's witness protection program must also be assessed against federal statutory admission criteria or admitted into the federal program to obtain secure federally issued identity documents. Provinces, including British Columbia, that have their own (provincial or municipal) witness programs have indicated that this step creates a burden on their program and on witnesses, thus impeding timely protection of witnesses.
The Safer Witnesses Act introduced legislative changes to the Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA) to enhance the federal Witness Protection Program (WPP) by making it more effective and secure, improving its interaction with provincial, territorial and municipal witness protection programs, and by better protecting those who both require and those who provide protection. The Safer Witnesses Act came into force on November 1, 2014.
These legislative changes mainly affect jurisdictions with witness protection programs. These jurisdictions have the option of seeking a designation under the WPPA, which will facilitate access to new federal identity documents, such as passports and citizenship records, required for secure identity changes for witnesses without being admitted to the WPP. Currently, witnesses from provincial or municipal witness protection programs must be admitted into the federal WPP before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can assist them in obtaining secure federal identity documents. This means witnesses must meet federal admission criteria, as described in section 7 of the WPPA. Several factors are considered prior to determining whether a witness should be permitted into the program, including, but not limited to, the nature of the inquiry and the importance of the witness; the value of the information/evidence to be given by the witness; and the likelihood the witness can adjust to the program. Meeting section 7 criteria, in addition to having already met provincial WPP criteria, creates a burden on these programs and witnesses and is duplicative.
Six provinces, including British Columbia, have their own witness protection programs. While British Columbia's program can provide a range of services similar to that of the WPP, it cannot independently provide for a secure identity change for its witnesses, as some of these documents are federally issued.
The designation process is a simple administrative step whereby a provincial minister who is responsible for a provincial or municipal witness protection program may make a one-time request to the federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness providing assurances that the provincial witness protection program has a statutory or policy framework in place and a formal admission and termination process for witnesses. The federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness may then recommend that the provincial or municipal witness protection program be designated and the Governor in Council may, in turn, designate the program by adding its name to the schedule to the WPPA, by regulation.
Once designated, information about British Columbia's program, its witnesses and its administrators will be protected by the WPPA when they request secure federal identity documents. In addition, federal partners involved in secure identity changes would be assured that their information would have some measure of protection within British Columbia's provincial program.
The objective of designating British Columbia's Witness Security Program under the WPPA is to facilitate timely access to federal documents (e.g. passports, social insurance numbers, status cards) that are required for a secure identity change to better protect witnesses admitted into British Columbia's witness protection program.
An additional objective of the designation framework is to ensure information about British Columbia's program, its witnesses and its administrators is protected by the non-disclosure provisions of the WPPA.
The Regulations Amending the Schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (British Columbia Witness Security Program) [the Regulations] will add British Columbia's Witness Security Program to the schedule to the WPPA as a designated program.
The Government of British Columbia has been consulted and has requested this amendment to the schedule to the WPPA. Other than engagement with provincial officials in British Columbia, no other consultations were undertaken.
Given that there is no impact on other provinces, that this change is administrative in nature, that the affected province requested it, and that it would only impact internal government operations, a draft version of the Regulations was not prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for comment.
Given the administrative nature of the Regulations, they are not expected to have an impact on modern treaty obligations. Once designated, all clients, including Indigenous peoples, would receive timely access to federal documents (e.g. passports, social insurance numbers, status cards) that are required for a secure identity change.
The schedule to the WPPA is being amended by regulation at the request of the Government of British Columbia, pursuant to section 10.1 of the WPPA. No other instrument is available to implement this request.
Once designated, witnesses admitted into British Columbia's witness protection program would benefit from faster access to the federal documents (e.g. passports, social insurance numbers, status cards) required for secure identity changes. Designation eliminates the administrative step that requires each provincial witness to also meet the federal criteria and be admitted into the federal program before secure federal identity documents are obtained for the witness.
Once designated, information about British Columbia's program, its witnesses and its administrators will also be protected by the disclosure prohibitions of the WPPA. Where they currently exist, provincial prohibitions against disclosure of information apply only to disclosures that occur within that jurisdiction. Once designated, there will be increased protections by making disclosure of information about a provincial or municipal program's witnesses or administrators a federal offence that may be prosecuted under the WPPA, regardless of the jurisdiction in which the disclosure occurred. The attorney general, or equivalent, of the designated province has jurisdiction to prosecute offences under the WPPA. There are exceptions to these prohibitions that strike a balance between the need to protect individuals and to uphold their reasonable expectation of privacy with the need to administer justice.
There are no new costs associated with these Regulations because services to designated provinces are already administered by the RCMP and funded from within the RCMP's existing budget.
The small business lens does not apply, as there are no associated impacts on businesses.
The one-for-one rule does not apply, as there is no impact on business.
The Government of British Columbia requested that their provincial witness protection program be added to the schedule to the WPPA. The Regulations will ensure greater cooperation between the provincial program and federal partners.
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a preliminary scan concluded that a strategic environmental assessment is not required.
No gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) impacts have been identified for these Regulations.
Services to designated provinces are already administered by the RCMP given that the RCMP is the federal operational authority under the WPPA. As a result, the RCMP has been consulted and is prepared to implement the amendment leveraging existing processes and personnel.
The Regulations will take effect on the date on which they are registered.
Serious and Organized Crime Division
Public Safety Canada