National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians

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The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is the committee appointed to oversee Canada's national security and intelligence activities. The multi-partisan committee includes representatives from both houses of the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons and the Senate, and has a broad government-wide mandate and special access to highly classified information.[1] The Committee also perform strategic and systemic reviews of the legislative, regulatory, policy, expenditure and administrative frameworks under which national security activities are conducted.[2]

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians[edit]

Mandate

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians has a broad government-wide mandate to scrutinize any national security matter. The Committee is empowered to perform reviews of national security and intelligence activities including ongoing operations, and strategic and systemic reviews of the legislative, regulatory, policy, expenditure and administrative frameworks under which these activities are conducted. It also conducts reviews of matters referred by a minister.[3] The Committee provides oversight to at least 17 federal agencies involved in security issues, including: Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Finance Canada, Justice Canada, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), and Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).[4]

Composition

The Committee is a statutory committee made up of parliamentarians, but it is an independent agency whose members are appointed by and administratively housed within the executive branch rather than within the structures of Parliament. This structure is designed to give the committee a high-degree of independence and access to classified government information, while providing for necessary controls on the use and disclosure of this information.[3]

The committee consists of a Chair and ten other members, three from the Senate and seven from the House of Commons (with a maximum of five members from the House of Commons from the governing party). Members are appointed by the Governor-in-Council on the recommendation of the prime minister.[3]

Committee members are required to obtain a security clearance and swear an oath of secrecy before assuming their position on the committee, and need to maintain the confidentiality of information they receive for the rest of their lives.[3] Any breach will open the door to criminal prosecution and Members would not be able to claim parliamentary immunity if they disclosed classified information.[3]

Members[edit]

House of Commons
Member Affiliation Date Appointed
  David McGuinty, Chair Liberal November 6, 2017
  Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal November 6, 2017
  Hedy Fry Liberal November 6, 2017
  Gudie Hutchings Liberal November 6, 2017
  Brenda Shanahan Liberal November 6, 2017
  Vacant Conservative
  Vacant Conservative
  Murray Rankin New Democratic November 6, 2017
Senate
Member Affiliation Date Appointed
  Percy Downe Senate Liberal November 6, 2017
  Frances Lankin Independent Senators Group November 6, 2017
  Vernon White Conservative November 6, 2017

Former Members[edit]

Member Affiliation Date Appointed Date Left Position
Gord Brown Conservative Party of Canada November 6, 2017 May 2, 2018 [5]
Tony Clement Conservative Party of Canada November 6, 2017 November 7, 2018 [6] [7]

Secretariat[edit]

The Committee is supported by a dedicated secretariat with an executive director, who has the rank of a departmental deputy minister.[3]

History[edit]

Until 2017, Canada was the only member of “Five Eyes” without a permanent mechanism for parliamentarians to review national security activities.[3] Parliamentary scrutiny of intelligence functions has been raised as an issue with every evolution of the intelligence community since the MacDonald Commission in 1979 "Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police".[8] Since that time, the landscape has shifted considerably both domestically and internationally.[9] Since the events of September 11, 2001, there has been a substantial expansion in the breadth and intensity of Canada’s counter-terrorism efforts.[10] The Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism concluded, “Canada now lags significantly behind its allies on the issue of parliamentary oversight as the only country that lacks a parliamentary committee with substantial powers of review over matters of national security.”

In 2004, the Interim Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security was established to recommend a national security oversight mechanism. The committee’s report, which was unanimously supported by the all-party membership, outlined the structure for a committee of parliamentarians. The committee found that "closer parliamentary scrutiny will better assure Canadians that a proper balance is being maintained between respect for their rights and freedoms, and the protection of national security."[10] The committee recommended that "to allow more effective parliamentary scrutiny of the intelligence community, Parliament will require that some of its number have complete access to such classified information as they consider appropriate."[10] The committee report recognized that "confidence between the intelligence community and the committee will be essential to the success of parliamentary scrutiny of intelligence functions"[10]

Bill C-22, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act was tabled by the Government on June 16, 2016 and received Royal Assent on June 22, 2017.[11] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians on November 6, 2017.[12]

Criticism[edit]

Chair appointed by the prime minister

Under the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act, the Committee chair is appointed directly by the Prime Minister.[13] Previous National Security Committee recommendations, such as the 2004 Interim Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security insisted that, "committee leadership positions should be elected by a secret ballot of its members to enhance the reality, and perception, of committee independence."[10] In 2013, after public criticism, the British government significantly overhauled UK's Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, strengthening its powers and its independence.[2] The committee emerged with an independently elected chair, operational oversight powers and a shift in appointment power from the prime minister to Parliament.[2]

Access to information

The 2004 Interim Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security recommended granting the Parliamentary National Security Committee complete access to information. However, under the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act, government ministers are able to refuse to provide information to the Committee they decide “would be injurious to national security”.[2] Opposition parties have argued that this undefined clause is "disturbingly wide"[14] and allows the Government abuse to cover up sloppy management, or a scandal within a department.[2]

Vetting of reports

The committee’s annual and special reports are vetted by the government before they are released, which some argue constrains the Committee’s ability to raise red flags with the public.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Commons, Government of Canada,Leader of the Government in the House of (16 June 2016). "Canada News Centre - Government of Canada Introduces Legislation to Establish National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians". news.gc.ca.
  2. ^ a b c d e "'Deep concerns' over proposed security panel". lawyersweekly.ca.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Commons, Government of Canada,Leader of the Government in the House of (16 June 2016). "Canada News Centre - National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians". news.gc.ca.
  4. ^ https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/liberals-to-create-new-committee-to-oversee-canadian-security-agencies/article30486146/
  5. ^ Died in Office
  6. ^ Resigned due to scandal
  7. ^ Daniel Leblanc;Laura Stone (November 7, 2018). "Clement forced out of caucus after complaints from women about social-media interactions". The Globe and Mail.
  8. ^ Office, Government of Canada, Privy Council. "Report of the Interim Committee of Parliamentarians..." pco-bcp.gc.ca.
  9. ^ "Canadian Parliamentary Review - Article". revparl.ca.
  10. ^ a b c d e http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/docs/information/publications/aarchives/cpns-cpsn/cpns-cpsn-eng.pdf
  11. ^ "LEGISinfo - House Government Bill C-22 (42-1)". parl.gc.ca.
  12. ^ "Trudeau names parliamentary committee to oversee security, intelligence agencies". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  13. ^ "Opposition parties decry Liberals' approach to parliamentary security committee". nationalpost.com.
  14. ^ "Proposed security review panel called 'positive' but with caveats". lawyersweekly.ca.
  15. ^ "New parliamentary committee to oversee Canadian security agencies". theglobeandmail.com.

External Links[edit]