Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate the opportunity to speak in front of this committee.
First, let me say how encouraged I am that Canada, in the space of just a handful of years, has had two bills on national security. Content notwithstanding, the actual debate we're having helps improve...including the choices that we will be deliberately making as a country to either diminish or enhance our security, and I accept that there's a trade-off.
I come at this issue not just from my time in uniform in our special forces community, but also having been the senior uniformed officer responsible for international security in the Department of National Defence as well as being the chief strategic planner. Subsequent to my retirement, I have remained involved in this area, specifically working in the high-tech sector as well as in academia.
As part of the broader issue, I would wish to have my opening comments focused on three specific challenges. First of all is the trade-off between privacy and security, between the charter and the reasonable measures to protect Canadians. This is not, from my perspective obviously, a binary issue, or one that should be looked at as absolutes, but rather a dynamic relationship that should remain constantly under review. We should embrace that tension as opposed to pretending it doesn't exist, with a conversation being seen to have value in and of itself.
Second, there are the unavoidable challenges that are presented with dealing with intelligence and admissible evidence, quality information. This includes the provision of a coherent picture to policy makers. No policy or law will be able to solve this conundrum, however, better processes and deliberate case-by-case choices can be made to better inform our way ahead. I believe those are lacking. I believe this starts with a more coherent, joined up, centrally directed intelligence construct, which is mirrored in other countries, but quite frankly, not fully realized here in Canada. I'll address this a little later. Although this will be debated by many, the gap can be simply defined by the lack of one accountable minister—who is not the Prime Minister—in one department, responsible for the synthesis of a national perspective. The current construct through PCO lacks both authority and reach but most certainly process. The consequences are that we have government officials, both elected and unelected, who are not privy to a complete whole-of-government intelligence assessment, and vulnerabilities ensue as a consequence.
Lastly, we have a cultural blindness as a consequence of the quality of life that we all enjoy. To be sure, that's a double-edged sword, but the willingness to think of others, that they might share our values, our practices, essentially our way of life, is foolhardy. I vacillate, of course, between despair and admiration at this ability to ignore the realities of the world as I've experienced it. I won't be proposing any solution to that issue.
In this first instance, I would want to see a process that is able to flex and contract on a case-by-case basis. I do recognize there are embedded processes within the Government of Canada machinery. I believe them to be inadequate. This space should be defined by a non-political entity, likely expanding on the current judicial processes we have at the moment. In particular, I believe this must be informed by certain rules that trade off the automaticity of an action being appropriate or not with a deliberate set of decisions. Although there are some basic constructs that allow for warrants for certain actions, I don't believe this receives the attention or the expertise that is warranted in a holistic sense. We have a great judiciary, we have a great rule of law, and I believe the solution is in this space.
Lastly, in this area I consider it to be the requirement for whatever process adopted to remain in camera so as to protect that information, which leads me to my second point. By necessity, there's an overlap between various members of the security and intelligence community here in the machinery of government. We need better coordination, not merely information. Too often, even post-Maher, there remain gaps between how information and intelligence are manned in this domain. As an aside, I think it is tremendously important to distinguish between the two—information and intelligence. Although various individuals claim we are addressing this, I would remind this committee, as I'm sure you know, that this claim has been repeated by various officials in various governments for decades now. No good solutions have been reached, in my opinion.
When making this body of knowledge prosecutable, we need to do better. Although recognizing the hue and cry that will result, in some instances, it may mean, or continue to mean, a court process that is not transparent to the general public. These are the types of trade-offs that I believe are necessary. It's not a good solution. In fact, it may be a bad solution, but it's not the worst solution. In fact, it may be the best of a number of bad solutions. We are living in the worst solution, which is that we don't appear to address it at all. Implementation of independent monitors, etc., or any additional process may be considered as part of that solutions space.
With regard to electronic surveillance and security, I admit to an incredulity at either the inability or naïveté of Canadians in general, and quite frankly, the government in particular, accepting that there must be rules and policies surrounding these activities. It has shocked me. Over the last four or five years, I've worked a lot in the cyber domain. It's shocking to me how little effect successive governments have had in addressing the cyber-threats that this country faces on a daily basis. The vulnerability of our energy grid, the financial sector, among others, and the lack of a government-wide set of policies and legislation to enforce compliance leads me to believe that we are living in a country that is now fully compromised by foreign actors at the state and non-state level.
A voluntary system will not work, as a vulnerability by one is a vulnerability to all, in fact. The CSE legal mandate is a good and useful step, but it's only part of the picture. I am a strong believer that mass surveillance metadata, not individual surveillance or collecting individual information, and the power of directed and non-directed machine learning are critical to embrace and to better understand the space in which we are working. Lacking this, we will fall further behind.
Turning briefly to accountability and functionality in the government, I would cite the most recent report by the U.S. director of national intelligence, which is a significantly different role than the proposed commissioner of the intelligence, whose mandate falls well outside of my area of expertise and understanding, although it does appear to me to be a very good step. Although the current intelligent assessment secretariat fulfills some of the functionality of DNI, it falls short. Focused on the provision of intelligence to the Prime Minister and given its position in the Privy Council Office, it lacks the appropriate authorities to direct, as well as the degree of ministerial accountability needed. We have no minister responsible for this and no such equivalent director of intelligence. There is no mandate and therefore, the function is not served.
It seems to me that much of the public debate on the bill in question, C-59, is about legal mandates, compliance, oversight, and governance. I don't wish to imply that this isn't needed, let alone value added, but rather suggest that the necessity of this conversation should not be mistaken for sufficiency. By itself, the debate on those issues is insufficient.
In a rapidly changing world, an equal amount of discussion should be given to the efficacy of the security and intelligence agencies and supporting departments, how well they work together, how rapidly they are able to, not just respond in the moment, but adjust to changing threats, etc.
As a criticism, I could argue that one would say the jealous safeguarding of mandates authorities—or more crudely put, turf battles—will be argued by any number of officials who will come in front of this committee. I would posit that you would be fooling yourself to believe that those turf battles aren't actively fought on a daily basis and therefore, inhibit a fuller, broader understanding of the threats that we face and the actions that we can take in response. However, I was strongly and tremendously encouraged to see Ms. Rennie Marcoux appointed as the executive director of the committee proposed. She is a true intelligence professional, but this is a separate function, and I do not mislead myself into believing that replaces the proposed DNI, which I would support. This is a gap that needs attention.
Furthermore, not being in government at the moment, I do remain uninformed about how the interaction between that commission and PCO, the assistant secretary of security intelligence, and the national security advisor will all work together, reminding ourselves that the PCO answers only to the PMO and there's no accountable minister, let alone mandate, and therefore, no real authority besides that which is practised, but not enforced.
In addressing the oversight committee I believe I noted with concern that in some instances the committee—and I stand to be corrected on this—would not have access to certain intelligence. I think I've read that in some of the critiques. To be very clear, for lack of a better term, I believe that to be admittedly stupid. The committee should have access to any and all documentation seen and used by the intelligence committee regardless of the originator controls. Anything less makes a mockery of oversight. Decisions will be made. Actions will be initiated based on that foreign-based intelligence.
There is a need to continue to force the interaction most especially between the intelligence and security agencies and associated departments. I'm convinced that Bill C-59 is a good step forward, but it needs to be enlarged in processes and interactions, and an accountable minister appointed.
I'd be more than happy to talk about threats and other processes during our Q and A.
Thank you very much.