Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I've actually had a little bit of de déjà vu this morning, given that I was at the defence committee and I see most of the same people here. It's nice to see everyone again.
I'd like to start by thanking all of you for the tremendous work that you have done in studying Bill C-59. These discussions and the experts you have talked to have helped inform the development of this important legislation, so thank you for all of your efforts.
I am accompanied today by Greta Bossenmaier, the Chief of the Communications Security Establishment; Shelly Bruce, the Associate Chief of CSE; and senior officials from CSE, National Defence, and the Canadian Armed Forces. It's our pleasure to be here today as you continue your review of the National Security Act, 2017.
This legislation demonstrates our government's recognition that the pursuit of national security involves two inseparable objectives: the protection of Canadians and the defence of our rights and freedoms. This commitment is apparent in part 3 of Bill C-59, which would establish stand-alone legislation for the Communications Security Establishment.
Last November, I had the opportunity in the House to speak to CSE's proud history of serving Canadians. For over 70 years, CSE has been Canada's foreign signals intelligence agency and the lead federal authority for information technology security in the Government of Canada. Over that long history, CSE has successfully adapted to remarkable change, including very rapid technological advancements and evolutions in the global threat landscape. However, what is needed now are modernized authorities to ensure that CSE is able to continue to adapt in this ever-changing environment both today and into the next 70 years.
In my remarks this morning, I'd like to underscore the importance of this legislation to ensuring that our security and intelligence agencies can keep pace with security threats, while at the same time enhancing accountability and transparency.
First, the CSE act would modernize the foreign intelligence aspect of CSE's mandate by allowing CSE to use new techniques to acquire intelligence through the global information infrastructure. CSE's foreign signals intelligence program is essential to keeping the government informed on matters of national security, national defence, and international affairs. These proposed changes will ensure that CSE is able to continue to collect this vital intelligence.
Second, as Canada's centre of excellence for cyber-operations, CSE operates at the forefront of changes in technology. The act would strengthen the cybersecurity and information-assurance aspect of CSE's mandate. Notably, the act would improve CSE's ability to defend important non-Government of Canada networks and to share cyber-threat information and mitigation advice. Taken altogether, the CSE act will strengthen Canada's cyber-defences by better protecting Canadians' most sensitive information and important cyber-networks from compromise.
Third, and of particular interest to National Defence, the technical and operational-assistance aspect of CSE's mandate would clarify that CSE is allowed to provide assistance to the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. This will enable CSE to better support Canada's military missions and the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in theatre.
Of course, CSE already provides important intelligence to the forces under the foreign intelligence aspects of CSE's mandate. This legislation would allow CSE to do more to help them to, among other things, conduct active cyber-operations in support of government-authorized military missions. Bill C-59 will enable CSE and the Canadian Armed Forces to better co-operate to ensure the best use of tools and capabilities to meet mission objectives.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces look forward to the opportunity to work more closely with CSE to leverage its capabilities and expertise, as outlined in Canada's new defence policy “Strong, Secure, Engaged”.
I also want to discuss a crucial element of the proposed CSE act: foreign cyber-operations. I know that in her appearance before committee last month, the associate chief of CSE, Shelly Bruce, spoke to you about the active cyber-operations and exactly what they would look like in practice. Today I want to reiterate why these operations are important and why they are needed to protect the security of Canadians.
CSE's foreign cyber-operations mandate will provide Canada with the cyber-means to respond to serious foreign threats or international crises as part of a broader strategic approach.
For example, CSE would use active cyber-operations to prevent a terrorist's mobile phone from detonating a car bomb, or CSE could impede the ability of terrorists to communicate by obstructing their communications infrastructure.
CSE's active and defensive cyber-operations would be carefully targeted, by law, to the activities of foreign individuals, states, organizations, or terrorist groups that have implications for Canada's international affairs, defence, and security. Foreign cyber-operations would be subject to strict statutory prohibitions against directing these operations at Canadians, any person in Canada, or the global information infrastructure in Canada, and would require a robust approval process.
This brings me to my final point. This bill will considerably enhance oversight and review of Canada's national security and intelligence community, which includes CSE, the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian Armed Forces.
The oversight and review positions in the national security act demonstrate our government's commitment to enhancing lawfulness and transparency. I look forward to working with the proposed new bodies, including the national security and intelligence review agency and the intelligence commissioner.
By updating, clarifying, and clearly outlining in legislation what CSE is permitted to do, this legislation will empower Canadians to better understand what CSE does to protect Canada and Canadian interests. By adding new oversight and accountability measures, the national security act should also give you and all Canadians confidence that the measures are in place to ensure that CSE will continue to abide by the law and protect the privacy of Canadians.
To the members of the committee, I'm very proud of Bill C-59. This is very important legislation that will deliver on our government's promise to protect Canadians and their rights and freedoms.