Chairman, members of the committee, it's a great pleasure to have the chance to give testimony on Bill .
I'd like to begin by making some brief contextual remarks about the legislation. Genuine parliamentary capacity to scrutinize intelligence and security has been a long-time coming in Canada. Having such a body was first proposed by the McDonald commission over 30 years ago, but was rejected by a special Senate committee established to review the commission's report and recommendations. Instead, we got a different accountability mechanism back then, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, established with the CSIS Act in 1984.
Despite various efforts to bring forward legislation in subsequent years, including several attempts in recent years, Bill marks the first time that a legislative proposal supported by the government has come to a standing committee for hearings.
Much wasted time has passed and much has changed in the intervening years. The necessity for a committee of parliamentarians of the kind envisaged by Bill is irrefutable, in my view. We have been left behind by the efforts of our allies in legislative branch scrutiny. The Canadian security and intelligence community, which will be the subject of the reviews conducted by the proposed committee, has undergone tremendous change, in particular since the 9/11 attacks, and now benefits from much greater resources, capacity, and power than it has ever experienced in Canadian history.
With that increase in power comes a corresponding increase in the need for strategic level scrutiny of the activities of the security and intelligence community as a whole and a crying need for real parliamentary capacity. In addition, the Canadian public is much more attuned to security and intelligence issues than in the past and there is a much higher expectation in the public domain for the delivery of accountability, transparency, and adequate public knowledge.
I fully support Bill . I think it represents a necessary and timely experiment in parliamentary democracy and activism. I give full credit to the Liberal government for seeing the importance of parliamentary scrutiny of security and intelligence and for making this a centrepiece of its response to the previous government's anti-terrorism legislation, Bill , and for making it a promise in their election platform.
I don't think Bill is perfect, but Parliament will have to decide how significant the gaps might be between a perfect scheme and something good enough for a start-up. If we are honest, this is what Bill C-22 represents, a start-up. It's the beginning of a delayed experiment in parliamentary scrutiny, which requires, of course, robust legislation, but which will also be dependent on many other factors and will require a period of maturation before it can become fully effective.
This has been the experience of the U.K.'s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, on which the Canadian legislation is clearly based. The U.K. committee was created in 1994, has over 20 years of experience, and was granted revised powers and procedures in legislation in 2013.
The success of the proposed national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians will depend, beyond robust legislation, on many factors, including strong membership, reflecting the stature of the committee, which makes it a highly desirable place for MPs and senators to aspire to a seat around the table; a steep learning curve about the complex domestic and international dimensions of intelligence activities; the trust of key agencies in the security and intelligence community; earned legitimacy in Parliament; and last but not least, and perhaps most important of all, public legitimacy, twinned with an understanding that one of the key roles of the a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians is to build and sustain public understanding of the role and challenges of intelligence and security endeavours in a democracy.
It seems to me that these are the challenges ahead for the committee, but to meet them the committee will need the right legislative tools.
In terms of having the right legislative tools, Bill has to find what I would call a “sweet spot” between committee access to secrets and the protection of secrets. Finding this sweet spot is the challenge before you in your study of this legislation. That sweet spot can be examined under five headings, all of which are core elements of Bill C-22: membership, mandate, powers, resources, and protection against leaks.
In the time remaining, I propose to make some short remarks about the strengths and weaknesses of Bill , as it currently stands, under those five headings.
First of all, I will discuss membership. My plea to the committee would be not to too hung up on membership, though I imagine you might well do that. The key thing is having good members and instilling a culture of non-partisanship. How you arrive at those members is something that you'll have to determine. It's certainly the case that the Canadian proposal in Bill falls a little behind the revised procedures currently being used by the U.K. Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, but I hope this doesn't become the overweening focus of the committee's deliberations.
Mandate is the second issue.
The mandate proposed for Bill is very broad, and that's good, but it comes with challenges. There are core agencies of the security and intelligence community that will preoccupy the committee and take up almost all of its time. I would prefer to see these core agencies named, as is the case with the legislation for the U.K. intelligence and security committee.
You can of course maintain the broad mandate while still naming the key agencies that are going to be the subject of your work, by adding an additional clause indicating that other government departments and agencies would be under the purview of the committee as required and as it pursues its mandate. I think, however, that it's critical to name those core agencies, in part to assist the committee in coming up with a useful work plan and in part to help the public understand what its expectations around the reporting of this committee will be.
I would also add under mandate that it would be important to include something that does not currently fall under the mandate, which is a direct reference to operations. By operations I mean past operations. This area should be listed as part of the mandate of the committee, as is the current U.K. practice.
I'm going to skip over powers for a minute and turn to resources. The Bill provisions for a secretariat are, I believe, excellent. I had the opportunity to talk to the visiting intelligence and security committee delegation that travelled to Ottawa recently, and this was one of the things they commented on. They clearly felt some degree of jealousy about the explicit provisions for resources for a secretariat and for the leadership of that secretariat. This is one of the strongest pieces of the Bill C-22 legislation. I hope it will be supported and sustained.
Protection against leaks is a question of finding the sweet spot between access to secrets and protection against the inadvertent or deliberate revealing of secrets. The measures that are provided in Bill C-22 to protect against leaks are clearly overwrought; they go beyond the kinds of measures that were proposed in previous versions of draft legislation.
They're overwrought in imposing a security clearance requirement on members. I say “overwrought” in that regard because it is very likely that members of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians would not be cleared to the highest levels, in part because I can't quite imagine MPs and senators wishing to undergo polygraph examination.
I also think it's completely unnecessary. All it really needs is what was proposed in many versions of previous legislation, which is reliance on an oath of secrecy as the principal protection required, with an assumption of trust with regard to the behaviour of MPs and senators sitting on the committee. A properly administered oath of secrecy, surrounded by the kinds of protections you'll need with regard to documents and document handling that would be enforced by the secretariat is in my view sufficient. From my perspective, I think the government overplayed its hand here.
That leads me to the final point, which is about powers. I suspect this will be one of the most contentious issues you'll have to address in this committee. Again, I would urge you to think about these powers in the context of that sweet spot between access to secrets on the part of the committee and protecting legitimate secrets held by the government and provided to the government, possibly by many of our allied partners.
There are many complicated provisions contained in Bill with respect to access to records and in respect to reporting. I'm not going to run through these in detail. The point I would simply like to make is that in comparison with the U.K. legislation, which I think could usefully be our guide here, the legislation in Bill C-22 goes a little further than necessary. It's too complex and can be usefully simplified around the protection of intelligence sources and methods and around any kind of divulgence that might impact upon the proper working of intelligence and security agencies.
A lot of the other kinds of clauses and exemptions in terms of access to reports or the nature of reporting that could be done I think are frankly unnecessary. I think it could be very helpful in terms of the committee's work, Parliament's understanding of its work, the public's understanding of its work, and removing any suspicions about excessive executive control over this committee if all of those efforts to corral access and reporting could be vastly simplified.
One thing, in particular, that I want to draw the committee's attention to is to be careful about including in an exemption to access and reporting that refers directly to operational information. That is a reference to the Security of Information Act, and the definition of operational information in the Security of Information Act, which was passed as part of the Anti-terrorism Act in 2001, is extremely broad and, if it were read literally, could really bring the work of the committee to a halt. My main message is that this part of C-22 could be usefully and practically simplified.
Just by way of quick conclusion, there are two things I would encourage the committee to do as it scrutinizes . First, seek genuine parliamentary consensus on an acceptable form of legislation, and practice bipartisanship as you do so. It seems there is a good amount of bipartisanship already, in terms of the sharing of ice cream going on, so this is a good sign.
I say this because consensus and bipartisanship are going to be the working ethic of the committee that is established. It would be a good place to start, to think about these things in this committee.
Second, keep in mind that the proposed national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians is a start-up and will be reviewed after five years, and accept that there is no perfect formula for balancing secrecy requirements and access requirements. Pease don't spin your wheels too much on that.
I'll end with a quote. As General William “Wild Bill” Donovan was fond of saying during his leadership of the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I thank all of you for the invitation to appear to assist your study of Bill .
Like my friend Wesley Wark, I believe this represents a major and welcome change within our Canadian parliamentary system. I say this having been both a parliamentarian for two short terms under Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments, as well as the first chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee in 1984-89.
It's a major change because it accepts the recommendation, as Wesley pointed out, of not only the Macdonald commission in the seventies, but also the of the Mackenzie commission in the sixties. It goes back to there, where they recommended some form of parliamentary oversight committee.
I recall that at the time Canadian governments and their security agencies were a bit hesitant at allowing elected MPs into the national security tent, because there was no assurance that they could keep security information a secret in the red-hot political environment in Ottawa. There was some concern among our allies at the time that elected members of Parliament should have access to the most secretive of all secrets, let alone have the time and inclination to monitor closely the vast array of departments and agencies with various security issues.
I must admit that when I was the first chair of SIRC, in 1984, our committee of privy councillors, and we were from different political parties, all went along with the notion that expert review of security intelligence was something that should be done only by independent persons of experience who could talk to MPs to get their views without necessarily giving them the secret information they might otherwise be interested in.
Bill represents a welcome change to that way of thinking—welcome in the sense that we saw Canada in the last three decades fall behind our parliamentary cousins in the United Kingdom and Australia in terms of accountability to Parliament, and we have now the chance to get caught up. It's welcome also in the sense that the important parliamentary debates in this century, particularly after 9/11 on Bill C-36, and after the 2014 attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on Bill , were overly partisan, in my opinion, and not as well informed in the absence of a committee of parliamentarians such as the one being proposed.
I have some amendments. You asked me a couple of weeks ago what I would propose, and let me suggest just a couple. Let me say at the outset I emphasize that this is a good bill and it should be passed in this session of Parliament. It will help to ensure Canadians that their elected representatives will play a key overview role in accountability for the important but dangerous powers granted to some 17 departments and agencies that relate to national security.
Is it a perfect bill? No. Are there areas where amendments can be considered to improve the bill? Yes. Will this bill fix all the problems of Bill and companion legislation that have concerned many Canadians over the last 18 months? Not at all. This bill is a first good step, but it should not be an excuse for government in action on fixing Bill C-51 during the remainder of this Parliament.
First of all, I suggest amendment on ministerial veto. Have a close look at this. The possibility of the proposed committee's work being frustrated by any minister determining that the review of his or her department would be injurious to national security is overly protected and should be removed or modified.
No such veto existed when I chaired SIRC between 1984 and 1989. And yes, there were tensions from time to time with CSIS, the body we were reviewing, but matters were worked out as they are in a reasonable context of being within the security tent. To my knowledge, no security operations were compromised at the time.
The language of Bill in paragraph 8(b) reflects a reluctance to have the committee of parliamentarians act as a true watchdog.
Access to information is the second of my amendments. In order to do its work, the committee is rightly given access in clause 13 to any information that is under control of the department. This is a key for any watchdog to be effective, yet there are important exceptions in clause 14, which are well understood and accepted in the security intelligence community. I accept those for the most part.
However, then comes the discretionary refusal of information in clause 16, where the minister has decided that the provision of the information would be injurious to national security or would constitute special operational information. That's the nub. This is open-ended and dangerous in my opinion. Yes, the minister must tell the committee the reasons for the open-ended refusal, and this should be considered by way of amendment. But I think other investigative work of the committee may be frustrated if this is retained in its current form.
The third area of amendments relates to prime ministerial redactions.
A broad power is given in Bill C-22, in subclause 21(5), allowing the PM to direct the committee to submit a revised report to Parliament, one that has been censored for reasons of national security, national defence, or international relations.
This is a matter that was litigated between the Arar commission and the Harper government in 2007. Here I make full disclosure that I was participating in that case, as counsel on behalf of the Arar commission. The court had to consider, in that case, some 2,000 words in dispute in the commission's final report. Justice Noel found that a half of them should be disclosed in the public interest and a half of them should remain confidential.
The directed wording of Bill C-22 would preclude this court adjudication and would give full power to the PM and his officials to censor committee reports he doesn't like, with no explanation. At the very least, I think when he directs redactions, he should have to give the committee a detailed reason for his decision in camera, as in the case with ministerial refusals of information under subclause 16(2).
Finally, I recommend some form of dispute settlement system for some of these contentious matters, whether it's paragraph 8(b), or subclauses 16(1) or 21(5), the ones that I've just mentioned. They should be subject to in camera dispute settlement in the courts.
In my experience, the nine designated judges of the Federal Court have the proper structure and experience to adjudicate balancing the need for government secrecy against the public interest in disclosure in accordance with law.
In my concluding comments with respect to general structures and powers, let me offer three observations.
I do appreciate that Bill C-22, as it stands, is an initial step for Canada in letting parliamentarians into the national security tent, and that's good. But these observations of mine are not meant to deter Parliament from proceeding promptly in this parliamentary session.
First of all is the appointment of the chair. This was raised in the debate on second reading in the House. To ensure that the committee is truly a creature of Parliament, couldn't the chair be elected by Parliament, rather than appointed by the PM?
In a majority government situation, the PM's preference would likely proceed but, remember, this is permanent legislation and there may come a day when a minority Parliament might want to elect a member of the official opposition as chair. I think you might consider the long-term implications of that.
Second is the selection of members of the committee. Consultation on selections by the Prime Minister with leaders of the opposition parties, which is provided in Bill C-22, has worked in the past when there has been genuine consultation and not simply notification. But to ensure that the system is not abused for partisan purposes, there should be ratification of all members of the committee by Parliament itself. I think that would just be a good check that you might want to build into the system.
Finally, and I hesitate to sound like a lawyer on this, while you're not going to be establishing a committee that's a court of law or an administrative tribunal acting accordingly in the judicial context, the committee of parliamentarians, in carrying out its statutory review under clause 8 of Bill C-22, may require, and should require, subpoena power to summon witnesses, compel testimony on oath or affirmation, and require the production of all necessary documents.
This may be necessary where public servants are reluctant to respond to reasonable requests by the committee, or in situations where private sector individuals have particular knowledge about a security activity being carried out by a particular department. I think you might empower your committee of parliamentarians to have these particular powers.
In conclusion, Bill C-22, in its current or amended form, represents an historic opportunity for Canada to bring accountability for security intelligence into the 21st century.
My hope is that whatever form of bill emerges from these committee proceedings, it ultimately enjoys the complete support of Parliament as a whole, both here and in the other place.
Building trust, in my experience, is a two-way street. Parliamentarians have to be prepared to put in place a review system that has the respect and support of all members working co-operatively within the security tent to ensure there is a proper balance in the system that protects Canadians, yet respects rights and freedoms.
Similarly, government departments and agencies must recognize and respect that parliamentary security review operating within appropriate boundaries is not a nuisance, and that it means, ultimately, a stronger and more accountable form of government for the benefit of all Canadians.
I look forward to answering your questions. Thank you.
Based on experience, sometimes you can over-legislate, and you're looking for too many exceptions. In my experience in dealing with CSIS over five years and subsequently with the Arar commission and as a special advocate, CSIS wants to protect two things at all costs. I think this is true of other security agencies within the government as well. One is their human sources, which they call the holy grail, what we want to protect. The other is methods of operation. They don't like to disclose the particular methods of operation to anyone they don't have to do so.
We would have long meetings with CSIS and we'd ask where they got this information. They would reply, “From a source in Vancouver”. We'd ask who was the source. They would reply that they'd prefer not to tell us. They would acknowledge that we had the right to that source if it were fundamental to our investigation, but there would be discussion among top secret security cleared people back and forth as to what was appropriate. In many cases, CSIS would persuade us that we did not need to know the particular name or address of that source or the methods of operation, because some of them were quite sophisticated. Some of them were related to simpler surveillance under wiretap legislation. We did get to know that. Now most of that is in the public domain.
A healthy tension existed between the review body and the agency, and it worked. From time to time there might have been disputes. In our CSIS act, we had the power to get anything within the body of CSIS, except cabinet confidences. We honestly never felt that we were frustrated, except in one situation that I can explain to you. In 1989 we wanted to have an inquiry into Air India, because CSIS wasn't being totally forthcoming with us on what was going on with Air India. We had many meetings back and forth. CSIS had to remind us—and it was there in the legislation, as our lawyers told us—that our jurisdiction only related to CSIS and the trail related to security accountability, which led into the RCMP and other agencies like Transport Canada. It was a more complicated type of situation, which ultimately was not resolved until the appointment of John Major and the Major commission in the next century. That was the only time we came to a fundamental disagreement.
We were right in our hearts but wrong in law, because the CSIS act said we shouldn't go into that. Sometimes, as in Bill , there is a tendency to over-legislate, because this is new and it's a fresh step. But to be bold, a committee of parliamentarians, if they're supposed to do their work, should all be top secret security cleared. Having gone through a top secret security clearance with fear and trepidation on three occasions, it's not that bad. That should be fundamental for a committee of parliamentarians, and they should have access to everything, except confidences of the Privy Council.
If my memory serves me correctly, we also conducted a round table on Ms. Murray's bill, which you took part in.
Putting it in context, we were aware, at the time, those of us who assisted Ms. Murray in drawing up the private member's bill, that the private member's bill had no chance of passage, so we were trying to design an ideal scheme. Part of my advice to the committee today is that you may not need an ideal scheme in the current circumstances, because you're going to get, finally, a committee of parliamentarians. but there is some fine tuning that can be done.
Don't get hung up on membership. The key issue here for the committee, whatever you emerge with in terms of rules on the election of a chair and how members are appointed, is that as long as you're satisfied that this works for you as Parliament, in terms of the House and Senate, then I think you're probably good, as long as you get good people.
I would agree, in many respects, with my colleague, Ron, that there are ways the legislation could be fine-tuned in terms of both restriction to material and the refusal to allow the committee to publish. Without having to redesign the wheel on all that, my suggestion to the committee is to have a comparative look at the British legislation, which is a product of experience that we haven't had. The U.K. intelligence and security committee legislation, particularly the changes made in 2013, provide a good model for us. We don't have to follow it slavishly, but it is a simpler, clearer model of both restrictions on reporting and restrictions on access, which I think we could usefully borrow from.
If I could take a minute and beg to differ slightly with Ron Atkey on clause 14 of Bill , I'm not sure that we should just let clause 14 entirely fly. In particular, it would remove from the purview of the committee, among some technical areas of information, such as FINTRAC and the Investment Canada Act, and this is under paragraph 14(b), “information respecting ongoing defence intelligence activities”, etc. I think you have to be careful about letting that stand as written, because the ability to review defence intelligence activities in a retrospective sense is going to be very important to the committee, because, in fact, the Department of National Defence's intelligence agency is the largest single agency in the Canadian government.
I'm going on and stealing Mr. Rankin's time, so I'll just end on that.
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 , 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 . 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 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 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 , 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 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.
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 , 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.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you both for being here.
I want to take advantage of the remaining few minutes to take you a little bit away from the mechanics of effective review, which is most of what we heard this afternoon both in this panel and in its predecessor, to look at the social and political environment in which this committee is going to operate, with a specific focus on and interest in the creation of a public value of trust in government.
I sit on the defence committee as well. That committee has received evidence that I will put to you. The single biggest threat against Canadian society is domestic terrorism. In fact, it is domestic terrorism that really has brought some very specific concerns by particular communities in Canada with respect to the former Bill . When we talk about the creation of trust in governments specifically through that lens of domestic terrorism, I think it's a very salient topic. Public Safety's “2016 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada” outlines that in some detail.
Assuming, then, that a good chunk of the committee's work is taken up by a review of action, intelligence gathering, and other activities with respect to domestic terrorism, what will that mean for this committee, both with respect to the mechanics of effective review, as we've discussed it, and equally important, with respect to its role, as has been described by Professor Wark, as an educator and as an outreach mechanism to the Canadian public?
My hunch is that the Canadian public isn't at par even with the parliamentarians who will be appointed to this committee with respect to an understanding of national security, and this committee will face some constraints in terms of bridging that gap.
I wanted to hear from you what levers are reflected in the bill and what levers are at our disposal administratively or in terms of resourcing this committee to make sure it can play that role well and enhance public trust in government.