"Meeting the Challenge: Moving Forward in a Changing Landscape"
OTTAWA, Oct. 23, 2012 /CNW/ - The Annual Report of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) was tabled in Parliament today by the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety. The report presents declassified summaries of SIRC's analyses, findings and recommendations from its reviews and complaint investigations of the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Established in 1984 by the CSIS Act, SIRC is an independent, quasi-judicial body which operates at arm's length from government to reassure Parliament - and through it, Canadians - that CSIS investigates and reports on threats to national security effectively and in a manner that respects the rule of law and the rights of Canadians.
The reviews summarized in the 2011-2012 Annual Report represent a cross-section of CSIS activities in areas ranging from Domestic Radicalization to Counter-Proliferation. SIRC examined CSIS's role in the Passenger Protect Program, as well as CSIS's role in the Security Certificate process. In addition, SIRC reviewed areas of ongoing CSIS expansion, both domestically and overseas. The new Chair of SIRC, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, noted that historically, CSIS has adopted roughly 70 percent of SIRC's recommendations, "a percentage we believe reinforces the effectiveness of SIRC's role and the utility to the Service of our analysis." In 2011-2012, SIRC's eight reviews and its complaint report contained a total of twelve recommendations concerning CSIS policy and practice.
One of the issues discussed in this year's Annual Report is the transfer of some of the responsibilities previously held by the Inspector General (IG) of CSIS. Mr. Strahl noted "SIRC, therefore, has some important shoes to fill", but that SIRC "see[s] this as an opportunity". Building upon SIRC's existing expertise in national security, as well as years of cooperation with the IG CSIS, SIRC will confidently fulfill its new role of evaluating and certifying the annual report provided to the Minister of Public Safety by the Director of CSIS. Nonetheless, stressed Mr. Strahl, SIRC's main challenge "will be to maintain the arm's length independence embodied in our core mandate, while simultaneously meeting the new expectations of government."
The Annual Report also notes recent changes to the legal parameters under which SIRC operates, including two decisions rendered by the Federal Court of Canada. In particular, the Federal Court ruled that SIRC has jurisdiction to hear complaints about CSIS actions when they allegedly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in a separate ruling concluded that SIRC's complaint reports are subject to judicial review. Both rulings confirm SIRC's long-standing interpretation of its role as it was envisioned by the CSIS Act, and strengthen the import of SIRC's complaints process while ensuring proper judicial oversight.
"For nearly 30 years, [SIRC] has served as a fundamental check on the extraordinary powers granted by Parliament to [CSIS]," stated Mr. Strahl, who concluded by underscoring the importance of the Committee's configuration: members of SIRC have all been ministers and parliamentarians, and thus have "years of expertise in weighing the public interest across a broad spectrum of policy and program areas," and yet can do so "without the partisan preoccupations that colour the day-to-day reality of those still in public office." The Committee, summarized Mr. Strahl, "is thus able to draw upon a diverse range of informed perspectives… seated at a single, non-partisan table". As such, SIRC is able to contribute to the ongoing discussion of national security - and of the integral role of review and oversight in it.
SOURCE: Security Intelligence Review Committee
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