Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting me here today to speak to you in support of your study of Bill .
I must admit that this is a new experience for me. I have appeared before this committee before, always as the representative of a government department, and this is the first time I've done so on my own. I have a very brief opening statement, and I look forward to the committee's questions afterwards.
I am aware, of course, that in your deliberations you've already heard from a number of witnesses, including experts from various fields, who have mostly endorsed the creation of a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. Let me add my voice of support by stating that I, too, welcome this significant addition to our national security review architecture.
I believe that , in his testimony, mentioned how this piece of legislation is part of a broader suite of changes required to our national security framework. In fact, the current consultations undertaken by the government are likely to yield a significant public debate around investigative capabilities, privacy, and accountability.
Review is of course a critical element of this complex ecosystem. In many respects, Bill is the beginning of the broader debate, and the committee of parliamentarians, once created, will have a significant role to play in defining the future of national security in Canada.
As many have said, the legislation as currently drafted is not without some imperfections. You've already received useful advice about the scope of the mandate, exceptions and exemptions, coordination, and other critical clauses.
Thus, as I appear before you today, it strikes me as most useful if I approach my comments from the perspective of someone who was the subject of review for 24 years at CSIS. Of course, I also bring with me the perspective of having led the Canada Border Services Agency for a number of years, an organization whose apparent absence of external review has come under some criticism.
As such, there are only two issues I want to bring to this committee's attention this afternoon.
The first is a question about the value proposition for Canadians. How does this committee differentiate itself from the existing mechanisms, and what might success look like a few years from now?
Some would say that the mere creation of this new committee is a major step forward. Perhaps, but from my perspective, it's less about creating a new review body and more about creating a new mechanism for accountability, transparency, and support. In fact, more review will not necessarily mean better review, unless the committee understands and remains laser-focused on its value proposition.
As currently worded, clause 8 of the bill supports the committee's purpose of bringing about a greater level of accountability and public confidence. Craig Forcese, in his earlier testimony, accurately suggested that Canada—unlike the U.K.—doesn't have a solid track record of accounting for events, other than episodic enquiries over the past 10 years. I believe he is right, and the new committee will fill this important gap, particularly as a result of its broad horizontal reach.
It's important to remember, however, that accountability applies equally to departments and ministers, which should guide your consideration of potential modifications to clause 16 of the bill.
Similarly, I would avoid the temptation to list organizations that fall under the committee's purview, and, rather, let the evidence lead the way, as suggested by Minister.
A critical element of the value proposition must also include what I refer to as “support”. A mature, experienced committee of parliamentarians will be invaluable in determining whether our national security agencies are adequately tooled and resourced to keep Canadians safe.
Whereas paragraph 8(a) does reference several administrative elements the new committee could review, there is no reference to performance, effectiveness, or adequacy. This may not require explicit mention, as long as this aspect of the committee's mandate is implicitly understood.
While agencies will not stand in the way of increased scrutiny, they will welcome the opportunity to explain their challenges to a receptive but critical interlocutor whose views can shape national security policy.
The value proposition of the committee is encapsulated in two paragraphs of clause 8, which speak to the what but not really the why. Most stakeholders would benefit from greater clarity, as will the new committee, as it seeks to position itself.
My second issue and my key area of preoccupation is the absence of a well-defined overall review architecture and the simplicity of clause 9 as currently drafted. Frankly, I see this as a considerable risk, and one that should not be left to the review committees that are taking reasonable steps to co-operate. Unquestionably, the brunt of agency review will still be conducted by the existing review bodies.
As stated by a previous witness—I believe it might have been Ron Atkey—the new committee will not be a substitute for a detailed review. The relationship between the review bodies—the complementarity, the hierarchy, if any, and the dependencies—should be clearly articulated.
Poor alignment in terms of access, along with the inability of existing review bodies to follow the thread horizontally, are bound to create friction. Any confusion, particularly duplication, redundancy, and lack of coordination, will unquestionably impact the agencies under review. Although these things may sort themselves out over time, there is a real risk that operational capacity will be impacted while review bodies assert their mandate with no mechanism to arbitrate. The government should likely re-examine everyone's roles and mandates, including those of parliamentary and Senate committees whose mandates cover national security and public safety.
In conclusion, there was a prevailing view at CSIS that the existence of SIRC since its creation in 1984 ultimately made the service better. In today's threat environment, with rapid advances in technology, diminishing investigative capacity, and pressure for more transparency and accountability, this new committee of parliamentarians must quickly find the balance between seemingly competing interests. Ultimately, its value will be measured on its contribution to the betterment of Canada's safety and security.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I'm happy to be here.
In particular, I want to address you from the perspective of a special advocate—which is part of what my practice entails—in relation to this bill, Bill . This piece of legislation is crucial to public trust in our security intelligence apparatus.
Commissioner Paulson said as much on November 1 when he said that it's “vital” to the success of the RCMP and their mission that they have the trust and confidence of Canadians in their ability to do their job. Michel Coulombe said on the same date that it's important that there be “an informed discussion” so that people understand “the threat environment that's out there in terms of classified information”.
What is the threat? What are the gaps in the tools that are available to us? From the CBSA, we hear that trust is absolutely essential. From the CSE, we hear similar comments, and in particular, that this will provide this committee, namely, a nice opportunity for the security and intelligence community to speak with one voice, and the committee will have an opportunity to strategically look at the community as a whole.
People are looking to this committee as possibly funding what I call a trust deficit—possibly. There exists a trust deficit today, and we know this from any number of decisions from our courts about the conduct of the RCMP, the conduct of CSIS, and, most recently, Justice Noël's judgment, where he said this:
...in regard to the CSIS’s duty of candour, I conclude that it had an obligation, beginning in 2006, to fully inform the Court of the existence of its collection and retention of associated data program. The CSIS also had the duty to accurately describe this program to the Court. The fact that it did not do so until 2016...amounted to a breach of the...duty of candour.
In my view, you can't have a situation where an intelligence agency for 10 years does not tell the court what is going on. This committee, potentially, if properly constructed, can go some distance to recovering that trust deficit. How do we do this?
You've heard from my colleague Kent Roach and from Professor Forcese. They had the three components to the overall security review process, with the committee of parliamentarians being one. Another was a consolidated and enhanced expert review body, and you heard their evidence on that point. You also heard their evidence about the need for an independent monitor of national security law, built on the U.K. or Australian model. But today I want to address you on the three fundamental aspects of this bill. There are three components that I think you should consider. One I call the architecture of the bill. The other is who is on the committee. The third is support for the committee.
Let me deal firstly with the architecture of the bill. There are many things you have read in this bill that people have testified before you are problematic. Most strikingly, I would say, from my perspective as a special advocate, is the fact that this top-secret cleared committee can have information withheld from it. We have had this problem in security certificate cases from the beginning, where the service has not provided us with information that we are entitled to. It took us all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in Harkat and in Charkaoui number two to get proper disclosure.
That sort of—how can I put it?—passive-aggressive approach from the service just cannot be acceptable with this committee. This committee, those of you who may be on it, will be top-secret cleared. You can be trusted with the information. It's no different from what the Supreme Court of Canada said in Harkat about special advocates. They said, “The special advocates...have the ability to distinguish between...public and confidential” information. They said, “The judge should take a liberal approach in authorizing communications...”. In other words, special advocates can be trusted. Committee members can be trusted.
What's the difference, frankly, if you're on the government side of the House and you're sitting on this committee, and then a week later the Prime Minister appoints you the Minister of Public Safety? The day before that happens, we can't get inside the kimono, and the day after, it's open kimono. But you're the same person: you're able to maintain a secret.
In my view, this notion that the minister and these agencies can withhold information from this committee ought to be rejected.
One example is the example that Michel Coulombe gave in his evidence. It is interesting, because what was put to him was about “injurious to national security”. The example he gave was highly operational. Just for your reference, it's from November 1, at page 17, and he said:
I could provide an example.
...Take, for example, what happened on August 10. Had that lasted for three or four days and had it been a counterterrorism investigation—fast-paced with a lot of resources involved—and had resources been assigned to send information to the committee, that would have been a distraction from the operation....
I agree. If you're in the middle of an operation, the last thing you want to be doing is dealing with a review committee. The review committee is meant to review things that have happened, so I have no problem with that kind of operational postponement of information, but the test, “injurious to national security”, has a particular meaning in law, and it is far broader than that. Also, it applies when an operation is concluded.
It can be to protect foreign agencies. It can be to protect sources. Part of your job as a committee may be to inquire into the service's handling of sources, and the appropriateness with which they do so, and you ought to be able to. There's a difference between what you learn in closed...and what you put in a public report. In my view, parliamentarians, top-secret cleared, are capable of making that distinction, just as special advocates are.
Who is on the committee is the next point. This is unglamourous work, trust me. I've been involved in a lot of these national security cases, both on CSIS work and on security certifications, and when I was commission counsel on Air India. It is hard work, it is laborious, and it takes a particular aptitude to get into the weeds and then to be able to get out of the weeds. When you staff it with your committee members, you need that kind of person: someone who is rigorous, diligent, and has the aptitude for what I call unglamourous and rather bookish work.
Finally, on support for the committee, this is crucial. This committee of parliamentarians cannot do this job without a properly staffed secretariat, and I mean this. You are all busy people. You have other things. You have constituents. You have all kinds of things going on. You need to be able to rely upon the secretariat to properly brief you and to give you direction on where the bodies are hidden, to use the vernacular.
How are you going to do that? Well, you need a competent, highly skilled director of the secretariat—I think that's what they called it—and then you need to staff it up. How do you staff it up? It can't be government lawyers, obviously, so you staff it up with relatively junior and highly skilled people, who are top-secret cleared, to do what I call the grunt work. Then, I suggest, what you need to have are two or three senior counsel who are top-secret cleared and who can direct the inquiry, provide it with focus and shape, and ensure that your staff does what you want the staff to do.
Then you will be briefed. I don't think it's appropriate for counsel to examine witnesses. I think the committee ought to examine witnesses. You will be briefed and you will make your decisions as a matter of policy on what you want to cover. You may have matters one to ten and you may choose to cover one to four, but you will be expertly briefed and able to execute on the questions.
Most particularly, you will not be co-opted by the agencies. You will not. This is a real concern, because they will come in and they will talk to you about the threat level and all the things they need to do. You need to guard yourself against it. Some of it you may accept, and some of it you may not, but review must be skeptical. You can go back to what Justice Noël said about ten years of a lack of candour. That can't happen. You can stop it. You can deal with the public trust deficit.
Thanks to both of you for being here.
Mr. Portelance, thank you for your work in our public service. It's good to have you here in a personal capacity so that you can speak freely and in an unencumbered fashion.
I want to continue very much along the direction that you've both already taken, to see if you can help the committee assemble a number of different intentions, ideas, and concepts that we've heard about over the course of the testimony we've received here.
I want to start with Minister 's paradigm, which is basically that we're providing both our cherished charter rights and good security to the public, and it's balancing that fundamental tension, if you will, that we're concerned about.
You both spoke about public trust in government. I think that is really the nub of the value added for this committee, but equally, there is the protection of the efficacy of the process and providing good security. For both of those reasons, the public will either support or reject this committee.
We've talked a lot and heard a lot of testimony about the elimination of overlap with existing review bodies. This body would be a latecomer to the process. It would have to find its own way culturally.
Mr. Kapoor, you spoke very well about how to do that and how to prevent regulatory capture. I think that's a very important component, and I'd like to hear a bit more about that.
We also heard testimony about the tension between experts and parliamentarians. The chair himself pointed out that many of these kinds of committees are staffed by former parliamentarians, so maybe we're underestimating the role that a parliamentarian would take when she is appointed to this committee. She may be more expert than we think. I'd like to hear a bit more from both of you on that.
Lastly, there is the question of how much access and how much review? I think there are many of us who think that we should at least have broad and wide-ranging access, but there is also the question of how much review. What about the exemptions that are being created? What about the definition of “injurious to national security”?
I want to put all those tensions back into your laps to see if you can construct for us, through a thought experiment, how this committee might operate tomorrow were it to start tomorrow, and what, for each of you, are the fundamental gaps that really must be closed through this process that we're engaged in here.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Luc Portelance: I'll give it a shot in terms of where you might start on day one.
One of the interesting issues is the comparison with the U.K. and the U.S. and some of the existing review mechanisms in those countries. I think what you'll find, certainly in the U.K. and the U.S., is a long history of that sort of review oversight, a maturity, and a sort of handover from period to period for either parliamentarians or congressmen, whatever the term is.
This particular committee, I would estimate, will spend the early days in just getting educated. I think that will take a while. That will have to be structured and constructed, and I think Anil spoke to this. It's not so much about finding out where the bodies are buried, initially. I would say that it's for the committee to figure out where the value added is, such as what is the game plan of SIRC and some of the other review bodies. I understand that there is no real mechanism to align that, but the early days will be about education, learning, and figuring out where to go next.
Part of the question is whether it is better to articulate today the relationship between review bodies in terms of the value added, or to wait and have it grow organically, which I think has been recommended. I'm sort of on the fence with that. I would like to see words that force co-operation, because my fear would be that it's sort of the shiny thing, right, or in other words, the issue du jour. Maybe, as Michel Coulombe mentioned, it could draw SIRC, could draw other parliamentary committees, and could draw the new parliamentary committee, and suddenly everyone is looking at the same thing.
To me, there needs to be bit of a hierarchy of review. I think it goes to Anil's point. It requires considerable resources and expertise to be able to do effective review, because you have to understand the environment, know where to look for things, and have the proper conversations.
It will take a while for this committee to really reach that level of maturity. In the meantime, what kinds of relationships can exist with organizations like SIRC, that continue to do the brunt of the review, and then how does this new committee position itself perhaps more strategically?
I do believe there's a need to bring greater public confidence in terms of the activities of CBSA. I've made a couple of comments.
Oftentimes, people mix the CBSA in the same conversation with CSIS, the RCMP, and CSEC. The first thing you have to recognize is that CBSA is not what I would call a tier one national security organization. It doesn't collect intelligence. It doesn't generate intelligence. It is a user of intelligence that is developed mostly by CSIS, the RCMP, and so on.
When you look at the CBSA, you find that it has a number of review and oversight bodies and so on. When I moved from CSIS to CBSA in 2008, the most striking difference was the public exposure to activities of CBSA. You can't hold anything back from an ATIP standpoint because, frankly, it doesn't meet the test. Everything you do is quite exposed.
I think the one area that is worthy of consideration is around public complaints. The public complaints that are generated are currently investigated within the CBSA. I've always thought that an organization like the public complaints commission of the RCMP would likely be the right sort of review body, but I think the right way to do this is to look at everything the CBSA does and really focus on the one area.
The last point I'll make is that some of the initiatives I've seen in the past had the CBSA looking far more like a CSEC organization, with that kind of review requirement. It just isn't. It isn't a tier one national security organization.
In general terms, if you consider the creation of this committee, the new committee, it's being bolted on to what we'll call an architecture that is fairly long-standing. Certainly, SIRC has operated in a certain way now for over 30 years.
I think it was discussed when SIRC was here that, at the end of the day, SIRC is led by a part-time chair and part-time members, with a professional staff. It looks like what the new committee of parliamentarians will be: part-time committee members with a professional staff.
If you think about this new committee and what the existing review bodies do, this is done absent understanding what else could occur within the review environment. They follow the thread. For instance, the ability for some of these organizations to take their review beyond the walls of the organization they review has been mentioned as a problem going back years. The Air India commission mentioned this. I think it is a fundamental problem.
As you bolt on this new committee, absent an architecture that says more specifically that there will be coordination and there will be collaboration, the final point I would make is that once upon a time there were two review bodies at CSIS. There was an inspector general, and there was SIRC. The inspector general position was abolished a few years back, but I can tell you that when I was running operations at CSIS it wasn't unusual to have both looking at the same general issues. The coordination seemed to be the responsibility of CSIS, because the two review bodies would say “we have a mandate and we will do what we will”.
I would be worried for the agencies that there would be this sort of redundant and uncoordinated activity. That's what I mean by an architecture.
The Canadian Bar Association is a national association that represents 36,000 lawyers, notaries, law professors and law students across Canada.
The association's main objectives are to improve the law and the administration of justice. The brief provided to the committee was prepared by the sections of immigration law, criminal law, consumption tax law, customs and trade law, military law, as well as the CBA national privacy and access law section.
As you can see, the large number of Canadian Bar Association sections involved in preparing this has to do in large part with the broad scope of the concerns around national security in the legal context. We are generally supportive of the creation of a committee of parliamentarians dealing with national security review and oversight; it is important to understand it in the context of the overall framework and the existing framework.
There are still some major holes or problems, and a lot of those discussions are happening in the context of the green paper. It's a bit difficult, in some ways, to comment on the current composition of the committee without being privy to the overall vision for the framework of the national security oversight mechanisms.
The role of the committee would be twofold, and what's important with respect to both these aspects [Technical difficulty—Editor] the representatives who are on the committee in terms of the parliamentarians themselves. The second aspect is with respect to the institutional framework. Given the fact that parliamentarians are neither long-term experts—or that not all members of the committee would be long-term experts—nor would they be full-time in dealing with review, the creation of the institutional aspects of the parliamentary review committee are obviously important. It will be important that it be properly funded as well in terms of being able to provide the institutional knowledge and ability going forward.
I'll have comments both with respect to the mandate and with respect to the tools that are available to the committee.
With respect to the role of the committee, the role of having the parliamentarians in place would be for the higher-level and broad issues within the national security infrastructure in terms of policy and law. It would be very difficult, in our view, for the committee to get involved in the minutiae of complaints or of specific items with respect to the individual agencies. Thus, it continues to be important that the individual agencies that currently do not have independent oversight.... The Canada Border Services Agency is a good example of that, in which we have a very large law enforcement agency that's very heavily involved in the national security context, with no oversight whatsoever outside of the ministerial chain of command.
Also, with respect to the co-operation amongst those agencies, we've seen a broad expansion of the sharing of information between agencies, in particular with the information sharing act that was brought into law with Bill , which has increased the co-operation in information sharing between the agencies, but we continue to see the restrictions on the ability of those agencies to communicate with each other.
In this piece of legislation, we also see a continuing of that siloing effect, in the sense that the committee is not able to share information with the oversight agencies that they would not otherwise have access to. This again creates a problem, where the committee may be aware of things that might be relevant to SIRC, but if that wouldn't otherwise be available to SIRC, the committee is prohibited from telling them about it.
There are some concerns with respect to how the overall framework is going to work and how this fits into it. We are happy to continue to be involved in providing commentary and assistance in developing that framework, but with the information we currently have and the current framework we're working with, we have some concerns with the bill.
The first is with respect to the mandate. We have a reference to “national security” in the mandate, but it's not clear which definition of national security is being referred to or what the scope is. There are two in particular, the one that we see in the CSIS act, which is used quite broadly in other national security-related issues, and then the one in the information sharing act, which is significantly broader. It's unclear which scope of national security the legislature or the drafters have in mind as to whether or not it's the broader one. Presumably, it is, but some clarity on that aspect would be helpful, although you have our comments on the information sharing act where we had concerns about the overbreadth of that definition of national security and the reasons why that's problematic.
There's a second issue with respect to the mandate. Having a clear mandate in terms of having a committee of parliamentarians is a very important mechanism to provide confidence. When we're dealing with the national security context where a lot of things happen in secret and are not accessible to the public, it is important that the public have confidence that the committee actually can and will do its job. We have comments on the composition and functioning of the committee, but I won't belabour them. I'll refer you to our written materials on that basis.
With respect to the the ability of the committee to undertake studies, clause 8 provides some unnecessary restrictions and gives a great deal of control to the ministers in paragraphs 8(b) and 8(c). In other words, on the broad legislative policy issues that are set out in paragraph 8(a), there doesn't appear to be any restriction, but paragraphs 8(b) and 8(c) would appear to create significant control by the ministers over the topics or issues that the committee could look into. It's unclear to us why those would be necessary. In fact, they should be deleted.
The other aspect of the work of the committee that is of significant concern is the access to information that the committee will have. These problems arise in both clauses 14 and 16 of the act as currently drafted.
I won't go into the individual paragraphs of clause 14, but it's unclear why, on the one hand.... Either there's trust in the committee.... It's clear—there's no question—that there does need to be trust in the committee, both from the public side and from the national security establishment or the people who are involved in doing national security work. If there's no buy-in, for lack of a better term, from those agencies and from the people working for those agencies, obviously the committee will be hampered in its work. But with clarity in terms of its mandate, if there's trust in the committee and the structure itself, it's unclear why these types of limitations on access to information are necessary or even desirable, because either we have a committee that can be trusted or we don't. If it cannot be trusted, it shouldn't be doing this work at all, and if it can be trusted, then the restrictions only serve to undermine the confidence of the public in what the committee can and cannot do, as the ministers have a great deal of control both over the mandate and the topics, but also over the information that the committee might be able to have access to.
With that, I think I've used most of my 10 minutes. I'm more than happy to answer questions. I thank you for your invitation.
Thank you very much for having me here today. I'm particularly happy to be able to talk about a topic that I've thought about over the years.
I think the time has come for an effective role for Parliament in national security matters. Although this new role may not guarantee full public confidence in national security, I suspect that, along with the review bodies, the courts, and the media, Canada will be well on its way.
I would state unequivocally that substantive public confidence in the work of the national security entities is necessary if their work is to be effective. This is not only necessary for the public and for Parliament. If the national security agencies do not have the confidence of the public, then they can't do their work either, and this bill really should help.
Broadly speaking, I think Bill is a good document. To put it in different terms, if I were one of you, I would have quite happily voted “yea” at second reading.
Having said this, I have a couple of comments. Based on my time both as someone who has worked in national security and as someone who has worried about accountability issues and machinery-of-government issues, at the meta level I would argue that what's needed is post facto review, not the ongoing oversight of national security operations. We sometimes forget that oversight is characteristic of the United States' system of governance, and we shouldn't adopt it here lightly. It's not something that we do commonly in Canada, and just because the Americans do it doesn't mean that we should adopt it.
Clearly, now the work of the committee would extend to operations. I would note that it's not the case in Australia. Also, in the case of the United Kingdom, it took them several years before they gave their equivalent committee access to operations. My advice would be, let's take it slowly and see how the committee does.
To put this into context, the only people in Canada who really know a great deal about national security are ministers and officials. It's a very complex and complicated area. It seems to me that to ask a committee to start off by doing everything from legislation to operations is taking a bit of a risk. I would argue that, to the extent that you allow the committee to carry on in operations, it would be helpful to have some sort of declaration, which says that it should not do so in a way that would interfere with the effectiveness of the work of the various committees.
The bill retains the review bodies and also retains the role of the courts. I appreciate that the burden would vary between the three and four core national security agencies and those who are involved in the periphery, but I do want to suggest that it's worthwhile thinking about the burden that is imposed. The national security departments and agencies exist to promote national security, not to provide opportunities for oversight, review, evaluation, and audit. I'm making a bit of a joke of it, but it's not all that funny when you have a multiplicity of bodies all looking at the same thing, sometimes at the same time.
I think it would be worthwhile if the committee were to consider providing additional guidance in the bill to the committee and the review bodies on the nature of their relationship. If I recall correctly, even Mr. , when he spoke to you, suggested that this was a potentially problematic area. The bill could say that the review bodies' annual reports are to be tabled in the committee, that the chairs of those committees are susceptible to being called before the committee, and that there be a requirement that the work programs of everyone are to be shared with everyone else.
I make this point in part because over the years I've had a fair bit to do with statutory officers. They tend to take their statutory duties fairly seriously, and a general injunction to co-operate, even with full good behaviour and good intent, may mean that there will be difficulties in the relationships between the review committee and the bodies.
My last point relates to the protection of “special operational information” as it's defined in the Security of Information Act. The bill says that the minister may refuse to disclose such information. I would argue that special operating information, a large chunk of which comes from our allies, is so sensitive that the protection should be reversed and that it should only be released with the specific authority of the minister. It's not so much information about what is being done; it's often information on how things are done, in terms of technical information. I'm not sure the committee would need this all the time.
In any event, it's important that the committee, as previous witnesses have said, has not only the support of Parliament, the public, and the agencies, but also that of the allies. We need to make sure that organizations in countries with which we share information are absolutely certain that this is a reasonable bill and that their information will be protected.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I think this is generally a good bill. It will benefit not only Canadians but the national security departments and agencies.
I hope my comments are helpful. I'd be glad to try to answer any questions you might have.
That, Mr. Chairman, is quite the question.
I start from the premise that, except for the three or four core national security entities, all of the others that are listed in the annex to the act do national security part time. I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. It means that the committee of parliamentarians will only be nipping in and nipping out of CBSA, because a large chunk of what they do has absolutely nothing to do with national security.
I think I said during my remarks that I believe that one of the shortcomings in the current bill is that it doesn't provide for a full exchange of information between the review bodies and the committee of parliamentarians. I think that if you, the House, and the Senate eventually put in a provision ensuring that, clauses 14 and 16 don't become so important. It means that the committee can utilize the existing review bodies, which have full access across the board. Someone I think made reference to Bill and the sharing of information. As long as information is being shared and originates from one of the core national security agencies, I think the review bodies and the committee of parliamentarians should have access.
That's sort of a roundabout answer, because I don't think there's a perfect answer to your question.
After the Bibeau incident on Parliament Hill a while ago, three or four police bodies did enquiries and investigations. None of them were really made public. A committee of Parliament didn't really look at them. The situation is somewhat analogous. A lot of this stuff can be looked at in camera—I think, anyway—not even in secret. I think there's an important distinction to be drawn. When something happens in public, a lot of what happens and the response by various agencies can be looked at without people being sworn to the level of top secret. I don't think it's as large a problem in the circumstances that you set out as it might be if you were talking about espionage or the proliferation of nuclear weapons, for example.
I'm not here as a lawyer, and it is a bit difficult to contradict a former judge.
All I can say is that, in Canadian legislation, there are a number of cases where the protection of professional secrecy is nearly absolute, but there also others where it is less absolute. In my opinion, it will depend on how people try to apply that provision.
In response to a previous question, I was going to say that it is often possible to answer a question by somewhat changing the level of details in an answer, while providing the basis of the response.
We call that aggregating up.
That is also the case when it comes to professional secrecy. Depending on whether we are in Quebec, in Ontario or in Nova Scotia, and depending on the profession in question, it is always possible to somewhat manipulate answers to enable the review organization to obtain most of the information required without, I hope, spending several months before the superior courts engaged in a constitutional debate.
I know that I am not quite answering your question, but I am somewhat limited.