Mr. Chair, I think we need to ask ourselves why we are here. I think one of the challenges we've had is that we hear a lot of tactics, but we don't hear a lot about what the strategy is and what the ultimate rationale is behind this. The rationale is that, as Canadians, we've long lived in an environment where we believed we have been safe by virtue of where we are in the world, which is very far away from all the troubles in the world. I would submit that this is no longer the case. The fundamental conditions have changed. The security threats and vectors are much broader and much deeper than they have ever been.
If you think about hypersonic manoeuvrable cruise missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, cyberspace, violent extremism, terrorism ideology, and also matters such as the globalization of organized crime, these are all things that we can't just keep away from our borders. They affect us here now, and they affect us every day. The security environment has fundamentally changed. The premise that we're somehow safe because we're far away from the troubles in the world simply no longer applies.
We've also, of course, seen these threats specifically associated with certain entities. This is often what's referred to as the four-plus-one issue: the four countries—China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran—and the plus one is transnational terrorism. In Canada we don't have a systematic human foreign intelligence service, so we rely disproportionately on our signals intelligence service to provide us the foreign intelligence we need to get domain awareness.
We also have the benefit of being part of the Five Eyes community. This membership should not be taken lightly. There is an international security hierarchy in the world. If you think about this as a pyramid, the United States is at the top and the Five Eyes community is below that. That means we need to be able to continue to be effective contributors to that community if we want to benefit from that community. The benefit from that community has precisely been that we have been able effectively to underinvest relative to most of our allies in defence, in security, and in intelligence because we have this force multiplier capability of domain awareness and overcoming the fallacy of composition that we wouldn't otherwise have. We need to balance here our obligations and the benefits to the community with the constraints that we impose on our own community.
We've also seen a fundamental change in the intelligence business as a result of two events, if you will. One is the advent of the Internet and of large data. The bad guys have been exploiting those systematically, and I would submit that in Canada we have been a little bit too easy on the bad guys who exploit the Internet and data, and too hard and making life a little bit too difficult for the people who are actually trying to disrupt, rein in, detect, and defend us against these nefarious entities. We need to strike a balance between the good guys and the bad guys. Of course, the advent of 9/11 has fundamentally changed the intelligence community and also the expectations the public has of the state in terms of keeping them safe and secure.
More than ever before, in light of the threats I've outlined, we are relying on intelligence to help us anticipate the security and safety challenges for Canada and to be able to mitigate those challenges effectively.
My fourth and final submission on this point is that, as a result of the Snowden revelations, much of the public has some skepticism about how the community operates. We are not here because there's in any way some large-scale violation of the professionalism or the capabilities in which the community does its job. We have the odd issue that comes up. Usually those issues are first identified by the community itself and then brought to the appropriate offices. We have a professional community, but we have the public that is skeptical, so I think the primary purpose of review here is to reassure the public that in a rule-of-law society and in a constitutional society everything is indeed on the up and up.
The other problem is that we have a massive public misunderstanding of what the community does, why it does it, and how it operates. That's as a result of the media, because where we see the community operate is largely on television where there are shows about law enforcement, intelligence, terrorism, and whatnot. If you watch those shows about the systematic violations of the rule of law and of constitutionalism, it makes for great television, but it is simply not how the community operates. However, this is what most Canadians and much of the public think is happening, reinforced by some of the ways the revelations by Edward Snowden have been interpreted and misinterpreted in much of the public discourse.
I would also say we need to be careful, then, in Canada with the security culture that we've created. In the Five Eyes community, we have, by far, the most restrictive privacy regime. This is a choice that we have made as Canadians, that what we are doing here is.... Other countries that have more rigorous parliamentary and other review mechanisms than Canada have also given their community more latitude in terms of how it can act, what it can do, and how it can do it.
In Canada, I'm a little concerned that, on the one hand, we're imposing considerable constraints on the ability of the community to be agile and flexible to continue to reassure the safety and security of Canadians, while at the same time, imposing this very strict review regime which, yes, is necessary to reassure the public, but we need to make sure we strike an effective balance here.
I hear lots of people constantly talk about privacy as if review were only about privacy, which, of course, is nonsense. There is review; there is oversight, yes, and there is compliance review, but review is also about efficacy. Are Canadians getting what they pay for from the community? Currently, nobody is really able to ask that question. We will now, as a result of these mechanisms, have the ability to ask those questions, and effectively, these committees will also be peer review for the community. Are they doing the best job they possibly can with the best methods and the best approaches that are available to them?
This discussion that it is simply about privacy, to me, misconstrues the broader benefits and payoffs of a more robust review regime by parliamentarians and by the now-revised community of review bodies that will have a broader remit overall.
I'll close on six questions that we need to ask ourselves when we try to introduce this type of legislation. What are the methods that should be used to hold the intelligence and security agencies to account? What ISAs, intelligence security agencies, should fall in the remit of those accountability bodies? Who is staffing those accountability bodies? What relationship does the accountability body have with the political executive? To what information does the accountability body have access? If there is more than one accountability body, how do they coordinate, and how do they prevent duplication?
This dovetails now with Ms. McNorton's recommendations that follow directly from some of these issues that we have laid out here that people need to think about when we implement such legislation.