What kind of complaints?
The CSE Commissioner is responsible for determining whether CSE's activities are lawful, and he will take action on complaints that concern the lawfulness of CSE's mandated activities.
Should a complaint be outside his jurisdiction, the Commissioner may refer the complainant to the appropriate government agency or review body.
The Commissioner does not take action on a complaint he believes to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith, nor does he investigate matters that occurred before the position of CSE Commissioner was established in June 1996. In addition, the Commissioner may decide not to investigate a complaint if the situation that gave rise to the complaint occurred, with the complainant's knowledge, more than 12 months before the complaint was filed. In all cases the Commissioner informs the complainant, the Chief of CSE and the Minister of National Defence and explains the reasons for his decision.
How is a complaint handled?
Once the Commissioner's office receives a complaint, a letter of acknowledgment is sent to the complainant within two business days. The Commissioner's Complaints Review Committee reviews the complaint and makes recommendations to the Commissioner, who determines the course of action to be taken.
The complainant is advised of the outcome of this review. The Commissioner makes every effort to resolve a complaint through accepted dispute or conflict resolution methods before launching a formal investigation.
If the Commissioner decides to launch a formal investigation into a complaint, he informs the complainant, the Chief of CSE and the Minister of National Defence and assigns an investigator.
During an investigation, the Commissioner has the authority to summon any party to a complaint to appear at a hearing and to give written or oral evidence under oath. All hearings are held in private, parties to a complaint appear separately, and transcripts are classified. Note that not all investigations require or include a hearing.
Reporting on complaints
When an investigation is concluded, the Commissioner prepares an interim report with findings and recommendations. The Chief of CSE may then be asked to provide details of any action taken or planned as a result of the interim report.
Once CSE has responded, the Commissioner prepares his final report and sends it to the Chief of CSE and the Minister of National Defence.
The Commissioner advises the complainant in writing of the final results of his investigation into the complaint, within the limits imposed by national security and the Privacy Act.
The Commissioner's public annual report to the Minister of National Defence indicates the number of complaints received, investigated, resolved and outstanding during the reporting period.
For more information:
Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner
P.O. Box 1474, Station B
Ottawa, ON K1P 5P6
Telephone: (613) 992-3044
Because a complaint may contain sensitive information, or may affect the privacy of Canadians, complaints are accepted only by mail, addressed to the Commissioner.
There is no fee or charge for lodging a complaint.
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