Evidence of meeting #43 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was scisa.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Hugues La Rue
Donald Roussel  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security Group, Department of Transport
Dominic Rochon  Deputy Chief, Policy and Communications, Communications Security Establishment
Stephen Burt  Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence
Marie-France Paquet  Director General, Intermodal Surface, Security and Emergency Preparedness, Safety and Security Group, Department of Transport
Chloé Forget  Committee Researcher

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Okay. Thank you.

Thank you, Chair.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Long.

I'll just take a moment of the committee's time here to advise members, as we have some new members here. As your chair, I don't like to tell members of Parliament what they can or can't do, but I will read something out of O'Brien and Bosc. We have some department officials here, and I asked the clerk to find the paragraphs with regard to the line of questioning that was happening.

I'm passing no judgment on this. I just want members to be aware of what it says:

There are no specific rules governing the nature of questions which may be put to witnesses appearing before committees

—which is fine—

beyond the general requirement of relevance to the issue before the committee.

So it should be relevant and so on. It goes on to state that “Witnesses must answer all questions”, and the paragraph goes on to talk about compelling a witness to answer a question. However, it also moves on to talk about department officials:

Particular attention is paid to the questioning of public servants. The obligation of a witness to answer all questions put by the committee must be balanced against the role that public servants play in providing confidential advice to their Ministers. The role of the public servant has traditionally been viewed in relation to the implementation and administration of government policy, rather than the determination of what that policy should be. Consequently, public servants have been excused from commenting on the policy decisions made by the government.

Some of the questions that I'm hearing from some members at the table today might be at that point. I'm just urging members to stick to more technical questions in regard to the implementation of the policy to find the facts and tease out the information. We'll have ministers who can come and talk more broadly about whether or not the policy is actually fair. I don't think we should be putting our public servants in that kind of a quandary, if we can help it, but I will be fair. If the public servants wish to answer those questions, they are more than able to. I will not intervene.

I'm just leaving that there for the edification of the committee members.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

I thought, Chair, they did answer the questions, and I appreciated their answers. Thank you.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Okay. I just wanted to bring that up for information. I wasn't passing a ruling or making a judgment in any way, shape, or form.

We'll have Monsieur Dusseault for three minutes, please.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I still want to stay on the subject of public confidence, while taking into account what you said.

Are you currently disclosing information regarding successful operations?

For example, I'm talking about cases where you received information that contained enough clues to prevent a dangerous act targeting Canada from being committed. In these cases, do you disclose the information?

4:55 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

What do you mean?

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Without using Mr. Rochon's example of acts that could be committed on Parliament Hill, I want to know whether you ever, at this time, disclose information on successful operations.

4:55 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

Normally, the intelligence sector doesn't decide whether to disclose something. Political or departmental officials decide, for the public good, whether something should be disclosed or whether the information and process should be kept secure.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Can't it still happen?

4:55 p.m.

Deputy Chief, Policy and Communications, Communications Security Establishment

Dominic Rochon

There may also be legal action. Therefore, we have limitations.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Okay.

I understand that disclosing the way you managed to acquire information may jeopardize your ability to continue preventing dangerous acts from being committed. That said, it would be possible to see with the committee how public confidence could be improved. People sometimes wonder what your services are used for. You may be able to show that the information is useful and can help make certain operations successful.

With regard to the oversight of agencies, the Privacy Commissioner noted that, under the new legislation, 14 of the 17 agencies were not subject to oversight.

What are your thoughts on the recommendation of the Commissioner who, if the committee were to proceed, could arrange that the 14 agencies be subject to oversight to ensure compliance with the legislation?

4:55 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

We're subject to the oversight of the Commissioner himself, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Auditor General. We also have an ombudsman in the Department of National Defence. In terms of counter-intelligence, we have a judge advocate general committee consisting of lawyers who work internally and of external organizations that specifically monitor our counter-intelligence capacity.

I'm fairly confident about the mechanisms that govern us to ensure compliance with the legislation and policies under which we operate.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Is the Communications Security Establishment subject to oversight?

4:55 p.m.

Deputy Chief, Policy and Communications, Communications Security Establishment

Dominic Rochon

Yes, we have a commissioner. We're one of the three—

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

—of the 17 agencies.

How is Transport Canada upholding the commissioner's recommendation that an oversight agency ensure compliance with the legislation?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Mr. Dusseault, we're about a minute past. Do you have a quick—

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Roussel, I want to hear your comments.

4:55 p.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security Group, Department of Transport

Donald Roussel

We leave it up to the commissioner to act based on the recommendations he makes. We don't have a particular opinion on the matter. We're already subject to a complete set of extremely strict verifications by both the Auditor General and the Privacy Commissioner.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Dusseault.

Thank you to our witnesses.

We do have about 12 minutes before we are going to go quickly to committee business. We're going to use that time for members of Parliament who haven't had an opportunity.

Mr. Dubourg, you have a couple of minutes, and Mr. Erskine-Smith, there's a couple of minutes for you. Then I'll have a couple of questions, if you don't mind.

Mr. Dubourg, the floor is yours.

February 2nd, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to welcome the witnesses who are here to help us with our work.

My first question is for you, Mr. Burt.

You said in your remarks that one of the main contributions of the SCISA is to allow a department to exchange information with another department, even if the recipient's use of the information will be different, provided it concerns Canada's security.

There are 17 institutions. Do you think there are too many? Not all of these institutions are mandated to consider Canada's security. Should there be some mechanism to ensure that these new information exchanges are appropriate?

5 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

I can't say if the number of institutions is appropriate. The institutions listed in the schedule of the SCISA are there either to provide information to others or to educate government agencies that have a national security mandate, as Mr. Rochon said. This is important for us. If the Department of National Defence is included in that schedule, it isn't because it doesn't have the means to share information, but rather because we want to clarify its mandate with all the other departments. It allows the departments that have national security information to share it with us.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Okay.

When you find information about Health Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, for example, do you have a memorandum of understanding to share this information with these institutions?

5 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

We don't have a formal agreement with the various departments. We have more traditional ties with the CSE, for instance. The SCISA is the framework for this.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

And not the current legislation.

5 p.m.

Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Department of National Defence

Stephen Burt

The SCISA provides this framework. Otherwise there isn't one.