Treasury Board studying possibility of consolidating mail screening in the National Capital Region, RCMP also looking into Canada Post service.
OTTAWA—Federal departments and agencies, including the national police force, are quietly considering outsourcing mail screening services.
As Ottawa debates new security measures in the wake of a deadly shooting near Parliament Hill, internal documents reveal the federal government is mulling over a move to a consolidated mail screening service run by Canada Post.
The heavily censored documents, prepared for Treasury Board president Tony Clement, note at least one department is currently using the new service. Treasury Board is now exploring the possibility of using Canada Post as a government-wide “shared solution” for mail screening.
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other departments and agencies are presently strongly considering (the service),” reads one memo, obtained under access to information law.
“The support of (Clement) is sought to examine the use of this service as a shared solution for the Government of Canada departments and agencies.”
It’s largely up to individual departments and agencies to perform risk assessments and put adequate security measures in place. It’s not clear how many departments currently have mail screening systems.
Stephanie Rae, a spokeswoman for Clement, said Treasury Board does not keep tabs on how many departments have their own screening service. Rae also noted such a service is not specifically mandated under Treasury Board guidelines.
Canada Post’s service provides “inbound mail screening, threat assessment and (sorting)” for federal offices in the National Capital Region — Ottawa and its neighbouring city of Gatineau, Que., where many federal offices are located.
The Crown corporation refused to be interviewed for this article, and did not respond to questions about the service’s cost, scope and buy-in from government offices.
In a statement, Anick Losier wrote that Canada Post could not respond to questions due to “business and security reasons.”
The RCMP also declined an interview request concerning their mail screening practices.
“The RCMP has not adopted any new service. It is currently reviewing its national mail and parcel screening policy,” Cpl. Greg Cox wrote in an emailed statement.
“The RCMP has established mail screening protocols. . . . Security concerns preclude us from sharing mail screening budget information.”
Questions about the security of the parliamentary precinct have been top of mind for many people in Ottawa since the deadly shooting attack at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22. The government has been considering changes to the physical security of the Hill, which a number of parliamentarians have praised for its openness, in the wake of the attack.
Two days after the attack, seven Canadian consular staff in Turkey were hospitalized after a package containing a suspicious yellow powder was found in the consulate in Istanbul.
The consulates of Germany, France, Belgium and the U.S. received similar packages around the same time. Initial tests showed the packages didn’t contain bioterrorism agents.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said at the time that the seven Canadian staff were hospitalized out of an “abundance of caution,” and the mission was temporarily closed while Ottawa assessed the security of the consulate.
According to Clement’s office, it’s not clear how long the Canada Post mail screening service will be under consideration.