OTTAWA, ON (Feb. 28, 2018): The federal government is in the midst of a major overhaul in how it deals with accountability of Canada’s security organizations. What is needed is a plan for the newly created accountability bodies to coordinate with each other and existing bodies, Munk Senior Fellow Christian Leuprecht and co-author Hayley McNorton said today.
Last year the government established the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) to fill an important gap in the intelligence infrastructure. But it was not done there. If it passes, Bill C-59 will provide a significant change – the creation of a new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA). MLI’s latest study, Bringing Security and Intelligence Into Focus: How to Clarify the Roles of Newly Created Accountability Bodies, provides recommendations on the best way to improve accountability for these new bodies.
“It is crucial for these two bodies to coordinate with each other. Most parliamentarians are not security experts. The people who make up the NSIRA will be, and if it is done right can play an important advisory role,” Leuprecht said. “But there could be confusion and inefficiency if C-59 is not amended to more precisely lay out the roles of the two new bodies.”
NSICOP and NSIRA should play to their strengths. NSICOP will offer “a parliamentary perspective” involving “a broad range of perspectives on intelligence and security issues.” NSIRA will be composed of “former members and staff” of an existing review body that NSIRA will replace, therefore providing expertise on accountability of security and intelligence agencies in particular.
The authors put forward the following recommendations:
- NSICOP should have the ability to request support from NSIRA;
- CRCC (Civilian Review and Complaints Commission) for the RCMP should retain its ability to review issues and investigate complaints related to national security;
- NSIRA should coordinate with CRCC when reviewing issues that pertain to the RCMP;
- NSIRA should have the ability to coordinate and conduct joint investigations with provincial police complaint bodies;
- NSIRA should build on established standards for intelligence accountability to promote consistency in review;
- NSIRA should take reasonable steps to cooperate with NSICOP to avoid duplication of work in fulfilling their respective mandates.
“With these reforms, we will better ensure that Canadian intelligence accountability is aligned with the expectations of Canadians,” McNorton said. “We will ensure these organizations are well-positioned to confront the rapidly changing environment of threats that Canada faces.”
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