OTTAWA – A super-watchdog to oversee the full array of federal intelligence services would be created under legislation introduced today.
The measure is part of a package of national security changes tabled by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the new expert body – the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency – would keep an eye on intelligence services across government.
The idea is to ensure a more seamless and comprehensive approach to reviewing Canadian security agencies.
Many have complained the current system doesn’t work as well as it should because separate watchdogs review the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the cyberspies of the Communications Security Establishment.
The existing watchdogs cannot always freely exchange information about complaints or collaborate on reviews – a problem the new body is intended to solve.
The 150-page bill also follows through on Liberal campaign promises to repeal some elements of omnibus security legislation brought in by the Conservatives after a gunman stormed Parliament Hill in 2014.
The Conservatives gave CSIS explicit authority to derail terrorist threats, not just gather information about them. However, many Canadians have expressed concerns that such disruption activities could violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The legislation introduced today would require CSIS to seek a warrant for any threat reduction measure that would “limit” a right or freedom protected by the charter and it clarifies that a warrant can only be issued if a judge is satisfied the measure complies with the charter.
In addition, the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency would have a role in reviewing the spy service’s threat reduction measures.
The Liberal bill comes as MPs prepare to head to their ridings for the summer, which means the legislation is unlikely to face serious debate until the fall.
The government says it aims to strike a balance between keeping Canadians safe and respecting their rights and freedoms.
“We all have a stake in it, so all Canadians can have confidence that our security and our freedoms are being protected,” Goodale said. “That is the goal of this legislation.”