Review and Accountability

Like other parts of government, the members of the security and intelligence community are accountable through their ministers to Parliament, and their representatives occasionally appear before parliamentary committees. The security and intelligence community is also subject to audits by the Auditor General, reviews of information holdings by the Privacy Commissioner, requests for access to documents through the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and examination by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Human Rights Commission.

Some agencies of the security and intelligence community have legal authority to collect information using special covert or technical means in support of Canada's interests. The courts have a significant control function by authorising and imposing conditions on any use of special investigative techniques. As part of the appeals process, the Federal Court can play a role in reviewing immigration cases where security or criminal information may come to bear.

To further ensure full respect for the law and provide an avenue for public complaints, the Government has put in place additional accountability arrangements for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Communications Security Establishment.


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The thin line of oversight
What was illegal in the 1960s and 1970s might be legal today. Under a law passed not long after Sept. 11, 2001, designated officers have the right to break the law in limited circumstances, for law-enforcement purposes.
HTML | Published: 2009-12-14 | Added: 2010-01-09

Proposed army spy unit raises worry
Critics are raising concerns about a new unit of the Canadian Forces that is charged with collecting intelligence for overseas missions.
HTML | Published: 2008-05-27 | Added: 2008-07-01

Cabinet minister says Canada terrorist target
Day also spoke of changes to CSIS and the legislation on creating a separate agency for foreign intelligence gathering, as well creation of an RCMP Reform Implementation Council.
HTML | Published: 2008-03-27 | Added: 2008-04-06

RCMP's secret files questioned
The so-called "exempt" data banks allow federal institutions, such as the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to keep information off-limits from public scrutiny and from access-to-information requests.
HTML | Published: 2008-02-14 | Added: 2008-02-23

Feds push for greater access to private info
A consultation document reveals the government is planning to hold talks to "address the challenges faced by police, CSIS and the Competition Bureau when seeking timely access to basic Customer Name Address (CNA) information."
HTML | Published: 2007-09-12 | Added: 2007-10-03

CIA's revelations find echo north of the border
The outgoing SIRC chairperson offered this parting advice: "We're going to have to play in the big leagues. It won't always be nice, it won't always be easy, and it won't always be pretty, but that's the real world we live in."
HTML | Published: 2007-07-11 | Added: 2007-07-18

State agents say inquests causing 'judicial terrorism'
CSIS is struggling to comply with the judicial inquiries atop of processes already laden with overseers. While hindsight may always be 20/20, those who investigate cases in real time find it difficult to connect the dots when the whole page is  [...]
HTML | Published: 2006-06-09 | Added: 2007-06-11

Arar inquiry urges more scrutiny of Canada's intelligence activities
The Maher Arar inquiry has unfurled blueprints for a stronger, more co-ordinated family of watchdogs to keep an eye on the RCMP and other federal security organizations. Justice Dennis O'Connor suggests better scrutiny of the intelligence community.
HTML | Published: 2006-12-12 | Added: 2007-01-03

Can we trust MPs to oversee the overseers?
Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor's second report on the Arar affair proposes the creation of one powerful new agency and the expansion of another with broad mandates and real powers to watch over the national security apparatus.
HTML | Published: 2006-12-13 | Added: 2007-01-03

O'Connor recommends more oversight of RCMP, CSIS
The report stopped short of recommending a review super agency, as some experts expected, instead opting for a pair of bodies that will monitor the RCMP, CSIS and five other agencies involved with national security.
HTML | Published: 2006-12-13 | Added: 2007-01-03

Mending the Mounties
Thirty years after the McDonald Commission, the RCMP finds itself at another crossroads. O'Connor points to a need for a more coherent connection between Canadian agencies when dealing with terrorism investigations.
HTML | Published: 2006-12-08 | Added: 2006-12-10

Super-watchdog over Mounties could emerge from bungled Arar case
A super-watchdog to help keep tabs on the RCMP and other players in the intelligence world could emerge from the bungling that marked the Maher Arar affair.
HTML | Published: 2006-12-08 | Added: 2006-12-10

Mounties brace for bark from a new watchdog
Two months after his first report ripped the RCMP for putting an innocent Canadian in harm's way, O'Connor is adding finishing touches on recommendations to make the famous — sometimes infamous — force publicly accountable.
HTML | Published: 2006-11-09 | Added: 2006-11-12

Day sees role for MPs in holding RCMP, CSIS to account on security issues
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day suggested an all-party committee of Parliament could keep tabs on both the RCMP and CSIS, and said that a watchdog group of MPs could help ensure the Mounties and CSIS don't go off the rails.
HTML | Published: 2006-10-02 | Added: 2006-10-05

Minister Day favours role for Parliament in overseeing security operations
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he thinks MPs have a role to play in monitoring both the RCMP and CSIS. But he says the members of any oversight committee would have to be sworn to secrecy on the operational details of security matters.
HTML | Published: 2006-10-01 | Added: 2006-10-02

Security, intelligence community held accountable
Canada's national security and intelligence community is indeed accountable under law and serves to protect all of our civil liberties against the avowed adversaries.
HTML | Published: 2006-04-04 | Added: 2006-04-18

We need answers on domestic spying
While the CSE used to be restricted to spying on communications outside of Canada, the new act allows it to spy on domestic communication, as long as it involves someone outside of Canada.
HTML | Published: 2006-03-31 | Added: 2006-04-18

Canada also allows spying on citizens
There was pathetically little attention paid when the federal government moved unilaterally four years ago to lift the ban on the CSE to intercept the e-mail and cellphone traffic of persons living in Canada.
HTML | Published: 2005-12-20 | Added: 2005-12-22

RCMP open to idea of police watchdog
RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told the Maher Arar inquiry he is now
HTML | Published: 2005-11-18 | Added: 2005-11-22

Security oversight too diffuse, SIRC chief says
Many complaints about the conduct of national security investigations cannot be fully and properly investigated because of divisions of authority even within the federal government, said Gary Filmon, chairman of the Security Intelligence Review  [...]
HTML | Published: 2005-11-18 | Added: 2005-11-22

Security and intelligence activities pose a new challenge for Parliament
The Auditor General suggests that Parliament needs to find a way to receive reports containing classified information from security and intelligence agencies and from organizations like SIRC and the Office of the Auditor General.
HTML | Published: 2005-04-05 | Added: 2005-04-06

RCMP: Scrutiny could put them at risk
In a submission to the Maher Arar inquiry, the RCMP expresses serious reservations about the federal government's plan to more closely monitor security and intelligence activities of the force.
HTML | Published: 2005-03-02 | Added: 2005-03-04

Mountie secrets hinder rights monitor
Canada needs a brand-new watchdog powerful enough to make the Mounties and spy agencies answerable to the public. In the wake of the Maher Arar affair, action must be taken to compel co-operation from investigators in national security cases.
HTML | Published: 2005-03-02 | Added: 2005-03-03

Overarching intelligence committee urged in report
The federal government should establish a permanent, U.S.-style investigative committee to oversee all Canadian intelligence gathering, and that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in particular, a soon-to-be-released parliamentary report  [...]
HTML | Published: 2005-01-13 | Added: 2005-01-19

Parliament may become spy watchdog
An unprecedented unofficial committee of senators and MPs is travelling the globe in an inquiry that could dramatically increase Parliament's ability to act as a watchdog over spying and domestic operations by Canada's security intelligence  [...]
HTML | Published: 2004-08-18 | Added: 2004-08-19

Securing An Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy
Further investments to enhance Canada's intelligence collection capacity, with a focus on Security Intelligence.
LINK | Published: 2004-04-27 | Added: 2004-05-01

Securing An Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy
Further investments will be made to enhance Canada's intelligence collection capacity, with a focus on Security Intelligence.
PDF | Published: 2004-04-27 | Added: 2004-04-27

Backgrounder - Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
The Portfolio consists of the Department and six agencies. There are also three independent review bodies that ensure accountability and respect for the rule of law, and two statutory review bodies of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service  [...]
LINK | Published: 2004-02-13 | Added: 2004-04-14

Ottawa laying ground work for special Joint Parliamentary National Security Committee: Minister McLellan
In a wide-ranging interview, Ms. McLellan, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, spoke at length about the challenges she faces in her new portfolio.
PDF | Published: 2004-03-08 | Added: 2004-03-18

Spy hunters will take secrets to grave
Thousands of Canadians involved in the hunt for terrorists and spies will be forbidden from ever discussing sensitive aspects of their work under a new federal secrecy law. The government expects between 5,000 and 6,000 current and former security and  [...]
HTML | Published: 2004-03-08 | Added: 2004-03-11

External, independent review of security and intelligence agencies is inconsistent
There are inconsistencies in the level of external reviews of organizations collecting security intelligence and the extent to which the findings of external reviewers are reported to Parliament.
LINK | Published: 2004-02-10 | Added: 2004-02-15

Independent reviews of security and intelligence agencies
This audit observation is a result of a larger project announced in the 2001 Budget. Our objective was to determine if there are gaps in the extent and nature of the external review of Canada's security and intelligence agencies.
LINK | Published: 2004-02-10 | Added: 2004-02-15

Who oversees our spies? In most cases, nobody
So who watches all of these watchers? Who makes sure they don't overstep their bounds? Fraser's report is particularly sobering here, for her answer is - in most cases - nobody.
HTML | Published: 2004-02-14 | Added: 2004-02-15

Spies need more scrutiny, auditor says
The government must fill gaps in the patchwork of watchdog agencies keeping an eye on Canada's spies, the auditor general says. There should be more consistency in the extent of independent review of the intrusive powers of federal intelligence  [...]
HTML | Published: 2004-02-10 | Added: 2004-02-12

RCMP still playing I spy
New powers vested in the RCMP, as well as the renewed emphasis on information-gathering by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other government spy agencies, doesn't affect just villains. Anyone can get caught in the net.
HTML | Published: 2004-02-07 | Added: 2004-02-07

Deputy Prime Minister Issues Terms of Reference for the Public Inquiry into the Maher Arar Matter
The Honourable Anne McLellan today announced that the Government of Canada has issued Terms of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.
LINK | Published: 2004-02-05 | Added: 2004-02-06

Public Safety ministry combines several agencies
Taking a cue from the United States, the federal government has created an overarching public security ministry to help Canada deal with everything from terrorist threats to natural disasters.
HTML | Published: 2003-12-12 | Added: 2004-02-06

RCMP to face scrutiny at Arar probe
Justice Dennis O'Connor has been given a clear mandate to design a new independent watchdog agency for RCMP spying activities as part of his inquiry into the Maher Arar affair.
HTML | Published: 2004-02-06 | Added: 2004-02-06

O'Connor given wide discretion in Arar inquiry
The federal government is giving Justice Dennis O'Connor wide discretion in his public inquiry into the Maher Arar affair under terms of reference released today.
HTML | Published: 2004-02-05 | Added: 2004-02-05

Ottawa to Probe Agencies' Role in Arar Deportation
The government has ordered a public inquiry into the role of Canadian intelligence agents in the arrest and deportation of a man who was seized by U.S. authorities while he changed planes in New York City and sent to a Syrian prison.
HTML | Published: 2004-01-28 | Added: 2004-01-30

Deputy Prime Minister Announces Public Inquiry in the Maher Arar Matter
Anne McLellan announced that Mr. Justice Dennis R. O'Connor will undertake a public inquiry into the Maher Arar matter. Mr. Justice O'Connor will assess the actions of Canadian officials in dealing with the deportation and detention of Mr. Arar.
LINK | Published: 2004-01-28 | Added: 2004-01-28

RCMP watchdog wants expanded role of monitoring Mountie security operations
The watchdog that probes complaints about the RCMP says it - not a new agency - should be given the job of keeping an eye on the Mounties' security and intelligence activities.
HTML | Published: 2004-01-27 | Added: 2004-01-28

Road to RCMP raid began in Guantanamo
The genesis of the RCMP raid on Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill lies in 9/11, of course, but more precisely in the panicked response of the American and Canadian governments.
HTML | Published: 2004-01-25 | Added: 2004-01-26

New watchdog to oversee RCMP intelligence
The federal government is creating a new watchdog to oversee the RCMP's intelligence activities, a move that comes amid growing concern about the behind-the-scenes role the Mounties play in the fight against terrorism.
HTML | Published: 2003-12-12 | Added: 2003-12-13

Changes to Government
The Government of Canada must play a fundamental role in securing the public health and safety of Canadians, while ensuring that all Canadians continue to enjoy the benefits of an open society. The government will achieve these goals by making the  [...]
LINK | Published: 2003-12-12 | Added: 2003-12-12

The Canadian Intelligence Community: Control and Accountability (Follow-up of Recommendations)
December 1998 report on the follow-up of recommendations made in the November 1996 report on the control and accountability of the Canadian intelligence community.
LINK | Published: 1998-12-01 | Added: 2003-09-09

The Canadian Security and Intelligence Community: Helping Keep Canada and Canadians Safe and Secure
The Canadian security and intelligence community is a key asset in the government’s efforts to protect the interests of Canada and Canadians and to assure public safety. It also helps Canada contribute to global security. This brochure describes the  [...]
LINK | Published: 2001-05-01 | Added: 2003-07-08

Terrorism, Law & Democracy How is Canada Changing Following September 11?
This paper provides a brief over of the main issues raised by panellists and presenters during the conference entitled Terrorism, Law & Democracy: How is Canada Changing Following September 11? The conference was attended by representatives from the  [...]
PDF | Published: 2002-03-26 | Added: 2003-05-07

National Press Club Newsmaker Breakfast
My Report focuses on the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency’s new "Big Brother" passenger database; the provisions of Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act; the "Lawful Access" proposals to enhance state powers to monitor our communications; the proposal for a  [...]
LINK | Published: 2003-01-30 | Added: 2003-01-30

Canadian Security and Military Preparedness: The Government's Response
Through increased resources to equip and deploy more intelligence officers and investigative personnel, as well as improved coordination among law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies, we have taken the necessary steps to make our system even  [...]
PDF | Published: 2002-10-16 | Added: 2002-10-16

Report of the Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence
Report on the current international threat environment with particular reference to terrorism as it relates to Canada, on the extent to which the recommendations of the Report of the Special Committee on Terrorism and Public Safety (June 1987) and the  [...]
LINK | Published: 1999-01-01 | Added: 2002-06-23

The Canadian Intelligence Community: Control and Accountability
Audit undertaken to provide an overview of Canada's intelligence community and of the role of foreign and security intelligence in government; and to determine, and inform Parliament about, the nature, extent and functioning of the control and  [...]
LINK | Published: 1996-11-01 | Added: 2002-04-29