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- Should existing review bodies – CRCC, OCSEC and SIRC – have greater capacity to review and investigate complaints against their respective agencies?
The existing review and complaint regime is inadequate and obsolete. Only certain agencies have a review body. CBSA, for instance, has no watchdog body; other agencies, such as CSEC, have very limited, weak and inadequate oversight. It is time to completely reform and renovate Canada’s oversight and accountability regime.
Existing national security review bodies should be replaced by a single integrated and independent review and complaint mechanism with full authority, powers and resources to conduct detailed reviews and investigate complaints over all law enforcement and intelligence agencies and government departments involved in national security operations. Canada’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach to national security must be matched by a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to review and accountability. However, this should not be to the exclusion of creating oversight bodies for non-national security related issues. For example, immigration experts have long called for an oversight and review body for CBSA in the entirety of their activities. We would argue, therefore, for the creation of both a single, integrated national security review body, as well as for a separate review body for CBSA-specific complaints and concerns.
- Should the existing review bodies be permitted to collaborate on reviews?
A single integrated independent review and complaint body on national security would address this issue.
- Should the Government introduce independent review mechanisms of other departments and agencies that have national security responsibilities, such as the CBSA?
A new integrated independent review mechanism would have jurisdiction over all agencies (including CBSA) and government departments that have national security responsibilities.
- The proposed committee of parliamentarians will have a broad mandate to examine the national security and intelligence activities of all departments and agencies. In light of this, is there a need for an independent review body to look at national security activities across government, as Commissioner O’Connor recommended?
While the creation of a Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security to ensure the democratic oversight of national security agencies and operations is welcomed, it must be seen as a complimentary mechanism, not a substitute for an independent expert review and complaint body. A committee of parliamentarians will focus on broad oversight of the national security regime and operations, and related policy matters. It will not have the resources or capacity to carry out after-the-fact thorough reviews or investigate complaints. Parliamentarians are busy with their parliamentary obligations and cannot develop the expertise, nor allocate the time and energy, to carry out detailed in-depth reviews and investigations that only an independent and well-resourced expert body can carry out.
- The Government has made a commitment to require a statutory review of the ATA, 2015 after three years. Are other measures needed to increase parliamentary accountability for this legislation?
The creation of a Committee of Parliamentarians responsible for political oversight and of an integrated independent review and complaint body should be complemented by the appointment of an independent National Security Legislation Monitor, like in the UK and Australia. The mandate of this third expert mechanism would be to issue reports on government performance under anti-terror law and to examine the necessity and usefulness of existing laws and the need for law reform.