Tag Archives: David McGuinty

MP McGuinty to chair parliamentary committee to monitor spying, security - Ottawa Citizen 20160108

MP McGuinty to chair parliamentary committee to monitor spying, security - Ottawa Citizen 20160108

The Liberals are planning to table legislation by June creating the first all-party committee of parliamentarians to monitor the top-secret operations of Canada’s expanding national security establishment.

Veteran Ottawa Liberal MP David McGuinty will chair the committee, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Friday.

The news comes as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, responsible for Canada’s spy agencies and national security policing, is heading to London Monday to learn about the workings of Britain’s long-standing intelligence and security committee of Parliament and its enviable track record of never leaking classified information. McGuinty will accompany the minister.

Goodale will travel to Paris Wednesday to discuss counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization issues with French officials.

Scott Bardsley, Goodale’s spokesman, said Friday it is Goodale’s hope to “introduce (the) legislation in the first half the year,” and before the House recesses for the summer on June 23.

In opposition, the Liberals called for increased oversight of Canada’s national security apparatus after the former Conservative government unveiled its sweeping Bill C-51 national security legislation. The Grits supported the controversial bill, but promised to reform some of its more contentious provisions if elected.

A review committee of parliamentarians to monitor the effectiveness and lawfulness of Canada’s intelligence operations was a key element of that pledge. Canadian parliamentarians currently have no access to confidential and high-level information about national security institutions and policies — unlike politicians in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and some other NATO nations.

As well, public opinion polling shows many Canadians want a tighter watch over spy agencies and other federal intelligence gatherers, commensurate with their extended powers under C-51.

Currently, only the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), are reviewed by government-appointed watchdog agencies.

There is no independent oversight or review of the Canada Border Services Agency, which has a dual intelligence and law-enforcement role. Nor is there dedicated, independent monitoring of the intelligence arms of the RCMP, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Privy Council Office, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

A crucial concern over the establishment of a parliamentary committee of rival politicians has always been ensuring air-tight secrecy of the highly-classified operational security intelligence of Canadian and foreign allied agencies before the committee.

“The United Kingdom committee is regarded as one of the best,” said Bardsley. “In particular, it has never leaked. As we go about setting up our committee of parliamentarians, we want to make sure we do everything we can to put the right structure in place from the get-go. So, the U.K. committee, in particular, is a very important role model.”

Previous Liberal private members’ bills calling for such a committee suggested the panel be composed of three members of the Senate and six members of the House, all sworn to secrecy for life. No more than four members could be from the same political party.

It would have access to any information under federal control that relates to the performance of its duties and functions, including compelling federal employees to divulge information, reports and explanations it deemed necessary to do its job.

The proposals called for the committee to report annually to the prime minister, who would table a copy, likely redacted, in Parliament.

In announcing the appointment, a statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “McGuinty brings a wealth of national and global experience to this position.”

Since 2004, the lawyer by profession has won five consecutive elections as the member of Parliament for Ottawa South.

Liberals to model new national security committee after leak-free U.K. version: Ralph Goodale - National Post 20160108

Liberals to model new national security committee after leak-free U.K. version: Ralph Goodale - National Post 20160108

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale: “There needs to be adequate review and scrutiny … to make sure that (federal agencies with intelligence powers) are conducting themselves in a way that’s consistent with Canadian values.”

OTTAWA — The Liberal government plans to model its national security committee of parliamentarians after the one in Britain because it has successfully kept secret information under wraps over the years, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

It is very important that sensitive intelligence secrets be kept in the strictest confidence, Goodale said Friday in an interview with The Canadian Press.

He will be in the United Kingdom next week to learn more about its parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which oversees Britain’s spy agencies as well as the broader intelligence functions of the government.

Goodale said he is particularly interested to know how its members maintain the self-discipline to avoid spilling secrets. “One obvious merit of the U.K. system is that it has not leaked.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that veteran MP David McGuinty, a lawyer and former mediator, would take a leadership role in Canada’s proposed committee, with details to emerge in coming months.

Goodale said he is working with House leader Dominic LeBlanc to introduce legislation before the Commons rises for summer to create the committee of security-cleared parliamentarians. He envisions the body keeping an eye on a range of federal agencies with intelligence powers, not just the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other key organizations.

“This will be a whole-of-government approach,” the minister said.

“Wherever those extraordinary authorities are vested, there needs to be adequate review and scrutiny to make sure they’re being effective, and also to make sure that they’re conducting themselves in a way that’s consistent with Canadian values.”

Critics have long pointed out that some federal agencies with intelligence powers, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, have no dedicated watchdog. In addition, the few watchdogs that do exist cannot easily share information to get to the bottom of a complaint or problem that involves several security services.

The previous Conservative government resisted calls for a full-fledged parliamentary security committee, suggesting arm’s-length review agencies — not partisan politicians — should oversee spy services. Still, Britain and Canada’s other chief allies, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, have embraced the concept.

“Canada is the odd man out for not having this kind of review mechanism,” Goodale said.

He has already spoken to officials in New Zealand about their approach, and expects to consult the Americans in the weeks ahead.

“We want to go to school on this and make sure that we get it right. This is not a committee just for the sake of having a committee, this is in order to provide a very vital function in the whole national-security apparatus of Canada,” Goodale said.

“Why the previous government did not pick it up and run with it is a bit mystifying. Because I think they could have enhanced their own credibility and avoided a lot of doubt and suspicion on the part of Canadians if they had embraced this concept, rather than pooh-poohing it.”

The Canadian Press, with files from Ottawa Citizen