Vol. 149, No. 15 — July 29, 2015
SOR/2015-194 July 16, 2015
WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT
Regulations Amending the Schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (Alberta Witness Security Program)
P.C. 2015-1084 July 16, 2015
Whereas the Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General requested that the Alberta Witness Security Program be designated by adding its name to the schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (see footnote a);
Therefore, His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, pursuant to subsection 10.1(1) (see footnote b) of the Witness Protection Program Act (see footnote c), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (Alberta Witness Security Program).
REGULATIONS AMENDING THE SCHEDULE TO THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT (ALBERTA WITNESS SECURITY PROGRAM)
1. The schedule to the Witness Protection Program Act (see footnote 1) is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order after the heading “DESIGNATED PROGRAMS”:
- Alberta Witness Security Program
2. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Witnesses admitted into Alberta’s witness protection program must also be assessed against federal statutory admission criteria or admitted into the federal program to obtain secure federal identity documents. Provinces with their own (provincial) witness programs have argued that this step creates a burden on their program and witnesses, as it impedes timely protection of their witnesses.
The Safer Witnesses Act introduces legislative changes to the Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA), to enhance the federal Witness Protection Program (WPP) to make it more effective and secure, improve its interaction with provincial, territorial and municipal witness protection programs, and better protect those who both require and those who provide protection. The Act was introduced into the Parliament on December 11, 2012. After passing unanimously through the House and the Senate without amendments, it received royal assent on June 26, 2013. The Safer Witnesses Act came into force on November 1, 2014.
Legislative changes mainly affect jurisdictions with witness protection programs. These jurisdictions have the option of seeking designation, which will facilitate access to new federal identity documents, such as passports and citizenship records, required for secure identity changes for their witnesses without being admitted to the WPP. Currently, witnesses from provincial, territorial or municipal witness protection programs must be admitted into the federal WPP before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) may 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 creates a burden on these programs and witnesses. Once the identity documents are obtained, protection under the WPP for these witnesses is terminated.
Five provinces, including Alberta, have their own witness protection programs. While Alberta’s program can provide a range of services similar to that of the WPP, it cannot independently provide for a secure identity change for their witnesses, as these documents are federally issued.
The designation process is a simple administrative step whereby Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General may make a one-time request to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness providing assurances that its program has a statutory or policy framework in place and a formal admission and termination process.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness may then recommend Alberta’s witness protection program be designated and the Governor in Council may, in turn, designate the program by adding its name to a schedule attached to the Witness Protection Program Act, by regulation.
Once designated, information about Alberta’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 Alberta’s provincial program.
The objective of designating Alberta’s Witness Security Program under the WPPA is to facilitate timely access to federal documents (e.g. passports, social insurance numbers, status cards, etc.) that are required for a secure identity change to better protect witnesses admitted into Alberta’s witness protection program.
An additional objective of the designation framework is to ensure information about Alberta’s program, its witnesses and its administrators is protected by the non-disclosure provisions of the WPPA.
The Regulations add Alberta’s witness protection program as a designated program to the schedule of the federal Witness Protection Program Act, as per the Safer Witnesses Act.
The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to business. This proposal does not apply to businesses.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no costs to small business. This proposal does not apply to businesses.
In December 2014, Alberta requested, by completing and submitting the request for designation form, that its program be designated so that it can be added to the schedule attached to the Witness Protection Program Act.
Once designated, witnesses admitted into Alberta’s witness protection program will be provided faster access to federal documents (e.g. passports, social insurance numbers, status cards, etc.) required for secure identity changes. Designation eliminates the current administrative step that requires each provincial witness to first 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 Alberta’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 for that program by making disclosure of information about a provincial 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.
The Regulations are not expected to create a negative impact on other areas or sectors.
There are no costs associated with this proposal.
Serious and Organized Crime Policy Division
Public Safety Canada