Commissioner's Message

Honourable Jean-Pierre Plouffe, CDThis past year, I accepted a reappointment, starting in October, for 18 months. This extension provides continuity at a critical time, and allows me to lead the Office of the CSE Commissioner through the transition to a new role expected when Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, receives Royal Assent and its provisions come into force.

This may, therefore, be the final report of the CSE Commissioner, though we continue business as usual, reviewing CSE activities, until the bill passes. I am honoured to have been in this important role, examining CSE activities through a lens of lawfulness, ever mindful to ensure that Canadians' privacy is protected. This office can be pleased with the part it has played since it came into existence in 1996, in contributing to the overall accountability of CSE to Parliament and the public, and to improvements in CSE practices and policies. Chiefs of CSE have acknowledged that CSE is a better organization because of independent, external review.

Bill C-59 promises to reshape Canada's security and intelligence accountability framework – including my role.

Under the changes proposed by the bill, the Office of the CSE Commissioner would cease to exist. The important responsibility of after-the-fact reviews of CSE activities would be handed over to the proposed National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, including any ongoing review projects. Employees of the CSE Commissioner's office, instead of following their former mandate, would be transferred to the Office of the Intelligence Commissioner being created by the legislation.

As Intelligence Commissioner, I will have a quasi-judicial role of reviewing ministers' decisions authorizing certain activities of both the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to determine whether the respective ministers' conclusions to authorize these activities were reasonable and, if so, to approve them. In this new regime, I will become part of the decision-making process for those activities, that is, before they can be conducted.

I have examined the proposed legislation based on my experience as CSE Commissioner and as a former long-serving judge of a Superior Court. This has informed my proposals to clarify the wording of the bill and to facilitate the process involving the Intelligence Commissioner with respect to reviewing certain ministerial decisions. I proposed several amendments to the bill when I appeared last year before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. At the beginning of May 2019, I appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence examining Bill C-59 and responded to the members' questions regarding the role of the Intelligence Commissioner as set out in the bill.

With these significant changes looming ahead, I am fortunate to have informative and useful exchanges with my counterparts not only in the Five Eyes countries, where there are strong partnerships among the intelligence agencies, but also in other countries. Several of these countries have also undergone, or are undergoing, changes to their legal, policy and operational contexts. The international environment presents us with many challenges, including terrorism and cyber threats, as well as concerns around protecting privacy. Our international contacts are valuable and contribute to informing our respective situations in a constructive way.

Similar to my observations in last year's annual report, this past year continued to be intense – in fact, increasingly so, with the progress of Bill C-59 through Parliament and the concomitant task of preparing for the transition to the new role of the Office of the Intelligence Commissioner, while continuing to conduct reviews of CSE activities. In this context, I am most fortunate to be aided by a very capable, professional and dedicated staff and I am immeasurably thankful to them for their sustained efforts in pursuing the objectives of both my current and proposed mandate.

Finally, there were changes in the office. Last summer, the Executive Director, Bill Galbraith, earned his retirement from public service, after guiding us with his dedication, knowledge and sound judgment for almost 10 years. We are very pleased to welcome his replacement, Guylaine A. Dansereau, who brings an impressive list of accomplishments from her time with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

We look forward to the responsibilities of the new role expected with the passage of Bill C-59, and to contributing to strengthening Canada's security through enhanced accountability and greater transparency.

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