An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and sets out its composition and mandate. In addition, it establishes the Committee’s Secretariat, the role of which is to assist the Committee in fulfilling its mandate. It also makes consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 4, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
April 4, 2017 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the purpose of reconsidering Clauses 8, 14, and 16 with a view to assessing whether the investigatory powers and limits defined in these clauses allow for sufficiently robust oversight of ongoing intelligence and national security activities”.
March 20, 2017 Passed That Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 20, 2017 Passed 16 (1) The appropriate Minister for a department may refuse to provide information to which the Committee would, but for this section, otherwise be entitled to have access and that is under the control of that department, but only if he or she is of the opinion that (a) the information constitutes special operational information, as defined in subsection 8(1) of the Security of Information Act; and (b) provision of the information would be injurious to national security. (2) If the appropriate Minister refuses to provide information under subsection (1), he or she must inform the Committee of his or her decision and the reasons for the decision. (3) If the appropriate Minister makes the decision in respect of any of the following information, he or she must provide the decision and reasons to, (a) in the case of information under the control of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; (b) in the case of information under the control of the Communications Security Establishment, the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment; and (c) in the case of information under the control of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
March 20, 2017 Passed 14 The Committee is not entitled to have access to any of the following information: (a) a confidence of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, as defined in subsection 39(2) of the Canada Evidence Act; (b) information the disclosure of which is described in subsection 11(1) of the Witness Protection Program Act; (c) the identity of a person who was, is or is intended to be, has been approached to be, or has offered or agreed to be, a confidential source of information, intelligence or assistance to the Government of Canada, or the government of a province or of any state allied with Canada, or information from which the person’s identity could be inferred; (d) information relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency that may lead to a prosecution.
March 20, 2017 Passed to sections 14 and 16, the Committee is entitled to have access to ed by litigation privilege or by solicitor-client privilege or the professional
March 20, 2017 Failed That Motion No. 3 be amended by deleting paragraph (a).
March 20, 2017 Passed and up to ten other members, each of whom must be a (2) The Committee is to consist of not more than three members who are members of the Senate and not more than eight members who are members of the House of Commons. Not more than five Committee members who
March 20, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
Oct. 4, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

November 15th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

To get back to some of your testimony regarding operational activities, how do you interpret the proposed mandate of the committee of parliamentarians as articulated under clauses 4 and 8?

I took several notes during the course of your evidence, which would seem to suggest that you don't think there are sufficient tools currently within any of the existing civilian oversight—for example, SIRC—to shed some light on the intelligence products, as you've described them.

This is a two-part question. One, do you think the mandate of the committee of parliamentarians under Bill C-22 captures the exercise that you think needs to be there in the review of intelligence products? Two, if not, what do you recommend we do with the bill?

November 15th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ms. Carvin, for your presentation.

I want to pick up on your last recommendation, the fourth one, and turn your attention to subclause 21(1) of Bill C-22, which on the face of it would indicate that

the Committee must submit to the Prime Minister a report of the reviews it conducted during the preceding year.

Do you see that as sufficient assurance that there is a reporting obligation on the committee of parliamentarians to provide information to the Prime Minister, and through the Prime Minister, to the House of Commons, about their activities for the preceding year? Or are you suggesting that there needs to be something else?

November 15th, 2016 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Professor Stephanie Carvin Assistant Professor, The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, As an Individual

I thank the committee for inviting me to speak today.

Before I begin, I would, in the interest of disclosure, state that from 2012 until 2015 I worked as an intelligence analyst with the Government of Canada. My views are shaped by this experience, as well as my academic research on national security issues.

However, with regard to the matter at hand, Bill C-22 and the question of intelligence oversight and review, I would like to speak to issues that have been somewhat less prominent. My presentation will therefore proceed in two parts. First, I will address three issues that I believe the committee should consider as this bill goes forward: efficacy review of intelligence analysis; counter-intelligence and foreign influence; and, communications with the public. Second, I will provide four recommendations.

The first issue is efficacy review and intelligence analysis. I am presenting these remarks almost two weeks after it was discovered that the CSIS operational data analysis centre, or ODAC, had illegally kept metadata and conducted assessments with it. While this issue largely refers to data collection and retention, it also speaks to the role of intelligence analysis within the Government of Canada.

We have frequently heard that CSIS's early 1980s mandate no longer reflects technological realities, but intelligence analysis was never discussed in the first place. Other than noting in subsection 12(1) that the service

shall report to and advise the Government of Canada

on national security threats, the role of intelligence analysis is barely given any consideration in the CSIS Act. There is no guidance as to how this role should be done, how intelligence should support operations, or in what way advice is to be given. There is no formal or consistent intelligence analysis review.

In short, there is little accountability within much of the intelligence community as to the delivery of intelligence products, how these products are produced, or whether those products are delivered in a timely manner. Additionally, there is no way of knowing how intelligence products are used, or if they adequately support internal operations or policy-making. Further, there is also no way of knowing if analysts have the proper equipment, tools, or training they need in order to produce their assessments.

I believe the committee proposed in Bill C-22 can play a role in helping to address these issues by becoming the first body dedicated to intelligence analysis efficacy review in Canada.

Second, thus far the discussion around reform of our intelligence agencies and oversight has largely referred to terrorism and surveillance, not espionage or foreign influence activities. Counter-intelligence work requires a different set of skills and activities than counter-terrorism does. For example, counter-intelligence activities can have an impact on foreign policy, and vice versa.

Therefore, the proposed committee could assess how well our foreign policy and national security agencies coordinate their activities, or whether intelligence services should be more frank regarding the activities of foreign governments on Canadian soil. Without a doubt, it is challenging to air these issues in public; espionage and foreign influence can be a source of diplomatic headaches and embarrassment. Nevertheless, they should not be left out of the conversation and the consideration of Parliament as Bill C-22 goes forward. This is especially the case as investigating these issues may require going outside the intelligence community in Canada as traditionally defined.

Third, the proposed committee has the potential to be one of the most important communication tools the government has with regard to providing Canadians information on national security. Unfortunately, at present, there are very few ways in which security agencies are able or willing to communicate with the broader public. Worse, in recent years, it has been a trend for national security agencies to publish their reports infrequently or erratically. For example, CSIS has not produced an annual—now a biennial—public report since May 2015, which covered the period of 2013-14. Public Safety Canada's public report on the terrorist threat, the sole multi-agency report on threat activity in Canada, appears on a more regular basis, but does not cover non-terrorism-related activity.

It is my hope that the committee's report will help remedy this gap and become a powerful communication tool that can help improve knowledge and generate trust. I see this manifesting in two ways.

First, it could become a central source of information on the current threat environment that Canada faces. That this would come from our elected parliamentarians would in my opinion contribute to an overall improvement in the understanding of national security issues in Canada. Second, an honest assessment of activities of our security agencies will generate confidence that our national security services are operating within the letter and spirit of the law.

For the second part of my presentation, I will now present four recommendations.

First, it is imperative that Parliament consider the wider context in which Bill C-22's committee will exist and the broader roles it can play in generating trust. Oversight and review of national security agencies is and should be the fundamental focus of the proposed committee; however, I would encourage parliamentarians to think broadly about the role it may play in communicating information and building trust.

Second, with regard to analysis, the committee should, as a part of its mandate, ensure the quality and timeliness of intelligence analysis to support the government and policy-making by holding the executives of national security agencies accountable. Additionally, it should also include review of innovative techniques, such as big data analytics. This would of course require a secretariat that is knowledgeable about these issues and that could advise committee members. This will help transform intelligence analysis from a second thought to core activities supporting policy-makers.

Third, while it might have to be done behind closed doors, the issues of counter-intelligence, foreign influence, and cyber-intrusions need to be given greater consideration in terms of how the committee will handle its mandate. This includes ensuring that these operations are well coordinated with other agencies and departments such as Global Affairs Canada, which might shape the scope and mandate of the proposed committee.

Fourth, the committee should be required to publish its findings every 365 days without exception. Everyone sitting here today knows how easy it is for government reports to fall through the cracks and miss deadlines. Nevertheless, as I have already stated, the committee's report will be a crucial tool in communicating to Canadians. The more frank and honest these reports are, the better informed the debate over measures to counter Canada's national security threats will be.

In this sense, I'm very much supportive of MP Murray Rankin's proposals regarding the committee, as stated in his speech to the House on September 27.

Thank you for your time. I'm happy to answer any questions or hear any comments you may have.

November 15th, 2016 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair (Mr. Robert Oliphant (Don Valley West, Lib.)) Liberal Rob Oliphant

Good afternoon, and welcome.

I'm calling to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which is our 42nd meeting of the 42nd Parliament.

We are continuing our study of Bill C-22, an act to establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to other acts that are implicated.

We welcome Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor at The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, and her class, which is with her today, both for learning, hopefully, and for moral support.

Thank you for joining us at our committee meeting today.

Justice John Major was meant to be a witness today as well; however, our time is Eastern Standard Time, and he is on Mountain Time, which puts him two hours out. We may be able to track him down, but if not, we will reschedule him at another meeting.

We will begin with Ms. Carvin. You have 10 minutes, and then the committee will ask you questions.

PrivacyAdjournment Proceedings

November 14th, 2016 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Montarville Québec

Liberal

Michel Picard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question regarding Canada’s privacy laws and the challenges faced by law enforcement in an era where communications technologies are changing rapidly. As the hon. member knows, these are important issues.

On the one hand, our law enforcement and national security agencies need to be able to collect information and evidence to investigate crimes and protect our national security. At the same time, we must ensure that the authorities that we give these agencies are consistent with our values and our rights and freedoms as set out in the charter.

As well, it is vitally important that the government work with the private sector to ensure that organizations take appropriate steps to protect the information that they receive from Canadians.

That is why the government has launched two sets of consultations. The first set of consultations on cybersecurity was launched on August 16. As hon. members know, the cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, and our government is committed to ensuring that Canada is an innovative leader in cybersecurity while also keeping Canadians safe online.

We heard from thousands of Canadians on the cyber security threat and how we can capitalize on the advantages of new technologies and the digital economy. That consultation wrapped up recently, and Public Safety is analyzing the many submissions.

The second set of consultations on national security was launched by both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on September 8. These consultations are an invaluable opportunity to engage Canadians on Canada's national security framework. They are an important step toward fulfilling this government's commitment to review Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.

As part of the consultations on national security, we have invited Canadians to provide feedback on a number of different issues, including how best to ensure that our law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians while simultaneously ensuring that Canadians' rights, including privacy rights, are protected.

We are also inviting Canadians to provide their thoughts on how we can ensure that our national security agencies are accountable to Canadians, and a range of other issues.

We have already begun to make important changes in this regard with the introduction of Bill C-22, the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians act. If passed, Bill C-22 would, for the first time, enable parliamentarians to meaningfully review the activities of our national security agencies.

The Government of Canada has two fundamental duties: to protect the safety and security of Canadians, and to uphold the Constitution to ensure that our laws respect the rights and personal freedoms we enjoy in this country.

I look forward to a diverse and vigorous debate on these issues. I hope that hon. members of this House will join Canadians in participating in these important consultations.

Public SafetyOral Questions

November 4th, 2016 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, in the committee, we have already indicated that we are willing to consider all constructive ideas and amendments.

However, I would point out that the powers presently drafted in Bill C-22 do provide the committee of parliamentarians with the authority to examine current operations.

November 3rd, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

I acknowledge my debt.

Mr. Forcese, The Globe and Mail just reported that a Federal Court ruling says CSIS has illegally retained sensitive data on Canadians over a 10-year period. This is the second time in three years the courts have found that CSIS has breached the duty of candour and hidden information from judges. Some of this stems from the powers in Bill C-51.

Professor Forcese, what does this ruling mean in terms of the need to repeal Bill C-51 and strengthen Bill C-22?

November 3rd, 2016 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I actually want to take you to task on that because one of the things that you're advocating for today is levelling the access playing field.

As I look at SIRC and its mandate in the CSIS Act, and I look at the committee of parliamentarians in Bill C-22, they actually do not share the same mandate. I think we could talk a bit about whether or not the parameters are more focused for SIRC, but the point is that they're not identical and that may offer a plausible explanation as to why access would not be the same. In other words, it may very well be that as the committee of parliamentarians gets its footing, in a scenario like the one I've just described, where it would find that it did not have access, it would rely on existing civilian oversight—and we've heard that from Professor Atkey, for example—as a way of referring a matter to that body for the purposes of investigation.

Let me hear your thoughts on that.

November 3rd, 2016 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Prof. Craig Forcese

Things playing out organically is the Canadian way, otherwise known as muddling through. It's suboptimal because it creates unnecessary conundrums. Ron Atkey, in his prior testimony, raised concerns about the degree of interface that's now possible, given the current drafting of Bill C-22, between the expert review bodies and the committee.

While there are gateways anticipated, those gateways themselves would be subject to the constraints on access to information by the committee. You could imagine the awkward scenarios that might arise.

November 3rd, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Professors Forcese and Roach thank you for your testimony today.

I want to start by thanking you both for your public support of Bill C-22, although I understand from your testimony that it comes with certain qualifications, and that's part of why we're here, to discuss those qualifications and to see how we might improve on this bill.

On any reading of Bill C-22, this new committee of parliamentarians will be bestowed with a rather broad mandate. You would agree with that sentiment, would you not?

November 3rd, 2016 / 5 p.m.
See context

Professor, Faculty of Law, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Prof. Kent Roach

Yes, if there was only one amendment, it would probably be to clause 14, that is, to take out paragraph (g), just to argue that the new parliamentary committee needs the same access as SIRC has, but also needs to work as closely as possible with SIRC, the CSE commissioner, and the RCMP review body. Indeed, I think there is some potential that the secretariat of the new committee, which I think will be critical to its success, could work with those existing review bodies that have the confidence of the agencies. Although the idea of having to win trust from the agencies is not a particularly palatable one for an affected parliamentarian, I think that reforming clause 14, which, as my colleague has said, is a very broadly defined no-go area, will undermine public expectations about what a parliamentary committee could do, say, with respect to something like the Afghan detainees, while working closely with the existing review bodies.

I guess one of my greatest fears about Bill C-22 is that it could lead people to think that this is somehow duplicative of the work of the existing review bodies. The Arar commission found that the review structure was inadequate in 2006, and it could be seen to be much more inadequate today after Bill C-51. There needs to be a very close relationship between the new committee and the existing review bodies. I think this will benefit the executive watchdog review and will help the new parliamentary committee to gain credibility while being educated about where they should be placing their limited resources and time.

November 3rd, 2016 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Prof. Craig Forcese

You avoid this issue if you pursue the course that I've suggested, which is to remove clauses 14 and 16 and go with the SIRC-style language about cabinet confidences. You don't have this issue anymore, because now you've moved beyond the dilemma posed by the U.K. language. If you were to persist with some kind of qualification on access to information, I'm not sure I would be as fully comfortable with the U.K. model as were some of the prior witnesses, in part because, if you look at the description, it's quite open-textured, and so the scope is potentially, in practice, broader than the enumerated list that you find in clauses 14 and 16.

In practice, though, the one distinguishing feature in the U.K., as I understand it, is that there's not an absolute bar, and so there's no equivalent to clause 14. Clause 14 in the current Bill C-22 says that you don't get this information ever, regardless of any exercise of discretion by the minister. In the U.K. context, the exclusion of information is discretionary, and the memorandum of understanding with the government and the ISC says that discretion will rarely be exercised. So, if you're going to retain a limitation on committee access to information, remove the idea of absolute bars; leave it as discretionary, and try to circumscribe the conditions under which that discretion would be exercised.

November 3rd, 2016 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

You mentioned the U.K., so I'd like to turn to access to information with respect to the U.K. committee. My understanding is that information can be excluded from the committee if it's sensitive information and it's information that, in the interests of national security, should not be disclosed to the ISC. Sensitive information is then specifically defined. In Bill C-22, we don't see any dual test; it's just “injurious to national security” and it's completely undefined.

Would you speak to how we might be able to improve it? Should we adopt language from the U.K. if we're to go down that road, or should we just leave it as “injurious to national security”, without any definition whatsoever?

November 3rd, 2016 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Professor, Faculty of Law, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Prof. Kent Roach

Picking up from my colleague who addressed the access to information issues, I want to stress the importance of making the committee as non-partisan as possible and ensure that it has as much expert assistance as it needs.

Starting with subclause 4(2) of Bill C-22, I think there needs to be attention paid to ensure that there is not government domination of the committee. I think subclause 4(2) is a good start, certainly something that we don't see with other parliamentary committees, but of course as members know, the representation in the Senate now is evolving. I think it would be important to make this as nonpartisan as possible.

That brings us to clause 6, which contemplates that the chair of the committee would effectively be a prime ministerial appointment, as opposed to what you heard about in the last testimony, whereby the U.K. allows the members of their committee to elect their own chair. It is a bit concerning that this provision is there, especially when the Prime Minister also plays such a key role with respect to possible redactions from reports. Those features are an area that perhaps should be looked at, in keeping with trying to make the committee as non-partisan as possible.

I would also add that I agree with Mr. Atkey's suggestion that, rather than have the Prime Minister, you would in an ideal world have a neutral third party make a decision about what can go in and what can go out of a committee's report. Like the Federal Court, that provision can balance the competing interests of national security and transparency. Given that such may not and is not likely to be the case, there is a concern about potential government domination of the committee, which could be one factor leading to increased partisanship.

Second, the committee rightly has a very broad mandate, which relates to activities carried out by all departments involving national security or intelligence. This is the sort of whole-of-government mandate that was given to the Arar, the Iacobucci, and the Air India inquiries. I think it is very appropriate, given that we have an all-of-government approach to security. That said, we should not underestimate the steep learning curve that any person would have in exercising an all-of-government mandate.

In this respect, I think it is positive that the proposed committee, unlike most other parliamentary committees, is going to have a dedicated secretariat. I would urge that the secretariat be composed in such a way that there would be the maximum of flexibility in hiring staff, that the secretariat be able to use independent legal advice, be able to use the cadre of security-cleared special advocates, who could pop in on an as-needed basis. Obviously this committee's mandate will evolve over time. At certain times it will need certain expertise, and at other times it will need other expertise. The secretariat, in my view, should be less based on a permanent civil service model than a hire-as-required model.

Those are two of my thoughts about how to create conditions for success for the committee. In addition to full access to information, I think those are critical criteria for success, but it is also critical that the right people be available to assist the committee, and that the committee be as non-partisan as possible.

Thank you very much.

November 3rd, 2016 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Prof. Craig Forcese

Thanks very much.

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you. As noted, Professor Roach and I have coordinated our presentations.

I'm going to start off by focusing on why we support Bill C-22, and then outline a key concern, some of which you've heard in the prior presentations, namely the proposed committee's access to information.

Let me begin by looking across the Atlantic. In November 2014, the United Kingdom Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliamentarians published a 200-page report on the intelligence relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by two terrorists on the streets of south London. That report concluded that seven different security agencies had flagged the two terrorists as persons of interest. Errors were made in these operations, although even without these mistakes, it was unlikely the services would have been able to predict and prevent the murder of Fusilier Rigby.

The report also considered, however, the wider policy implications of its findings. It drew lessons learned and recommendations on how interagency relations could be improved.

Juxtapose this with the situation in Canada. Just over two years ago, Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were killed by terrorists in separate incidents, including the one that terminated in Parliament itself. We have no public accounting of any real sort of what happened. What did our services know? Why did they make the decisions they did? What are the lessons learned? At best, we have a heavily redacted accounting of the security systems on the Hill, as if the questions concerning national security started only when the terrorist entered the parliamentary precinct.

We do not, in other words, do lessons learned exercises well in Canada. Judicial commissions of inquiry such as that concerning the treatment of Maher Arar or the much delayed review of the Air India bombing investigation are episodic, and once they end, their recommendations usually die with them.

Our existing expert review bodies, meanwhile, are stovepiped to individual agencies and incapable of conducting seamless reviews of operational activities that cross agency boundaries. Their focus is usually on compliance with law and policy, what we call propriety review, and they rarely make recommendations on what we call efficacy questions, that is, how well our national security systems work, and especially work together.

That is why we support Bill C-22. It invests parliamentarians with a serious national security accountability function for the first time in Canadian history, and in that respect, aims to catch up to a role legislators now play in essentially all western democracies. Even more critically, it opens the door for the first time to all-of-government review by a standing body able to follow the thread of its inquiry across departments and to conduct efficacy review, as well as the more classic propriety review. This body will endure, and will be capable of follow-up in a manner impossible for ad hoc commissions of inquiry.

But we support Bill C-22 with serious caveats. The success of the proposed committee of parliamentarians will ultimately depend on three criteria.

First, the parliamentarians undertaking this role must be able to perform their functions in a serious-minded manner, in good faith, and without regulatory capture by the agencies. We need, in other words, the right people. Second, parliamentarians will, in practice, be part-time participants on the review committee, and turnover among parliamentarians will occur, especially between parliaments. A stable, well-resourced expert staff is required to ensure continuity and institutional knowledge, and to ensure that the committee can actually function. Third, the committee must have robust access to secret information.

In my remaining moments, I wish to emphasize this third axiomatic point. Unless the committee can access information allowing it to follow trails, it will give the appearance of accountability without the substance. On this point, unfortunately, if enacted in its present form, the proposed Bill C-22 committee will not be as robust a reviewer as are the existing expert bodies, at least on paper.

For one thing, its capacity in paragraph 8(b) to delve into the actual operational details that are a necessary focus of proprietary review is subject to a veto by the executive. Prior witnesses focused on this issue.

Also, the committee will have a much more limited access to information than at least two of the existing expert bodies. There are two principal reasons for this.

First, under clause 14, there are classes of information the government will automatically deny the committee. Take the example of paragraph 14(b) concerning military intelligence. Again, this was raised by the prior witnesses. I would hazard that this exclusion would mean that the parliamentary committee could not delve into the Afghan detainee affair in any full manner, meaning that we would still be left without any independent body able to get fully to the bottom of that matter.

Likewise, take the example in paragraph 14(e) concerning “ongoing” law enforcement investigations. These can endure essentially indefinitely. The RCMP, even now, decades later, still has an active law enforcement investigation into the 1985 Air India bombing. Even now, the new committee could be denied information concerning the disastrous security and intelligence community conduct in relation to Canada's most horrific terrorist incident.

Even the exception in paragraph 14(d) dealing with sources is potentially far-reaching. The reference to inferences opens the door to carving away considerable swaths of information, especially if the government applies its infamous “mosaic theory”; that is, it posits that individual units of information that are themselves innocuous should not be released since they could be stitched together by an omniscient observer to reveal sensitive information—in this case, informer-identifying information.

On top of that, there is an additional limit: clause 16. It gives every minister responsible for an agency whose information may be in play a limited veto power, allowing the minister to deny the committee something called “special operational information”. The items listed in this concept appear at first blush to be modest in scope, but again would have the effect of excluding information on things like Afghan detainees. There is also that open-ended word, infer, in the governing statute and cross-referenced by Bill C-22, that is, the Security of Information Act, which inevitably would have the effect of greatly broadening the universe of information that ministers can deny the committee.

There are three layers of constraint on the new committee of parliamentarians being an effective review body: clause 8 in paragraph (b), clause 14, and clause 16. It is this triple lock on parliamentary reviews that I feel could well make the committee of parliamentarians stumble.

In sum, Bill C-22 opts for a model that treats parliamentarians as less trustworthy than the often former politicians who sit on SIRC, or the judges who hear security cases, or ministers who sit at the apex of the security and intelligence services. It is not at all clear to me why security-cleared parliamentarians sworn to secrecy, subject to the criminal penalties of the Security of Information Act and stripped of their parliamentary privileges in terms of defending against those charges, are less trustworthy than their former colleagues who often staff review bodies.

I would strongly urge, therefore, amendments that would place the committee on the same footing in terms of access to information as these review bodies: full access to information except for cabinet confidences.

Thank you for your interest.