Presentations and Speeches

Opening Remarks by Nada Semaan, Director and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada at the House of Commons Finance Committee

Ottawa, Ontario
May 24, 2018

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chair, I’m very pleased to be here today to answer questions in relation to my appointment as Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

Honoured to Serve

I’d like to begin by saying how truly honoured I am to have been appointed to lead FINTRAC, an organization that plays such an important role in protecting Canadians and the integrity of Canada’s financial system.

When I served as the Executive Vice-President of the Canada Border Services Agency, I saw first-hand the value of FINTRAC’s financial intelligence and the results the Centre achieves for Canadians.

The clearest example of these results can be found with Project Protect, where the Centre’s financial intelligence has been critical to helping police rescue dozens of young Canadian women from the most horrifying conditions imaginable.

Mr. Chair, these types of results would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of thousands of businesses across the country that work with us to protect Canada’s financial system, and that provide us with the information we need to produce financial intelligence for Canada’s police, law enforcement and national security agencies.

Working Together to Strengthen the Regime

I’m committed to working with these businesses to ensure they understand, and are able to comply with, their obligations under the Act. I sincerely believe that they want to comply – they want to help protect Canada and Canadians. So it’s our job to ensure that they have the knowledge and tools to establish effective compliance programs. With this type of support, I’m convinced that compliance rates will continue to improve and we’ll find ways to make the regime even more effective.

As I follow your review of the Act, there seems to be a solid understanding of the importance of Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Regime and the results that it achieves for Canadians. Going forward, we are committed to looking more closely at the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ and to engaging businesses transparently, and with an open mind, to find even better ways of running our program. This includes reviewing the burden facing businesses, which is a priority for us.

In my time as the Associate Deputy Minister at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and at Canadian Heritage, I worked collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders to address issues and enhance programs and program delivery. I know the real benefit that comes from listening to all perspectives and being open to change.

Public Service Experience

Mr. Chair, FINTRAC is at a critical moment in its evolution, with this committee’s review of the Act, the implementation of our new analytics system and the tremendous innovation that’s taking place, including in the financial sector. Collectively, we are setting the course for the Centre for many years to come.

I believe that my 27 years of experience in Canada’s professional public service has prepared me very well to help navigate FINTRAC through the changes that lay ahead.

As the Assistant Secretary of the Economic Sector at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, I worked closely with Treasury Board Ministers to find more efficient and effective ways of running government programs. I learned in this role that there’s always a way to make a program better. FINTRAC is a strong organization and, with our knowledgeable and dedicated staff, I know we can make it even better.

Early in my career as an analyst at Cognos, I gained valuable experience in the field of information technology and business intelligence tools. I’ve put this to good use throughout my career and specifically as the Chief Information Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of Systems at Service Canada, where I was delighted to play a key role in setting the vision, design and implementation of the Service Canada initiative. It has certainly had a significant impact on the quality of service that Canadians receive from their federal government. This experience will be helpful as we work with businesses to enhance our program.

One of my proudest moments as a public servant came when I was responsible for running the Old Age Security programs and the Canada Pension Plan as the Senior Director General at Social Development Canada. Specifically, when we looked at the process for seniors to access the Guaranteed Income Supplement, we saw that it involved several different lengthy and complex forms. Because of this, most seniors didn’t even know they were eligible for the benefit or how to apply. With the help of our public service experts, we built a new process that was tailored to the needs of our seniors. With that work, one letter was sent to seniors based on their income tax assessments to proactively inform them that they were eligible for the supplement. With this, we were able to provide benefits to an additional 200,000 low-income seniors, in a simple and efficient manner.

Conclusion

Mr. Chair, I’m pleased to provide more detail on my experience but I would like to conclude by saying that, as a Canadian who immigrated to Canada at the age of five, I’m humbled – truly humbled – to have the opportunity to serve Canadians in what is recognized, internationally, as the best public service in the world. In fact, I chose to make the public service my career so that I may serve my country that welcomed and that has given so much to me and my family.

As you can tell, I’m a very proud public servant and a very proud Canadian. In every department and agency in which I’ve worked, my colleagues have demonstrated a commitment to excellence. They listen. They learn. They always look to improve. And, they rise to the challenge to protect and ensure the prosperity of Canada and Canadians. This is exactly what I’ve seen at FINTRAC over the past two months and I feel blessed to join the team, as I’ve felt blessed to serve Canadians in every public service job that I have had.

With that, Mr. Chair, I’m happy to answer questions from the committee.

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