Activities of the Office

This past year, the Commissioner and his officials continued to devote significant efforts to examining Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, as part of the government's work to strengthen the accountability of national security activities of federal government departments and agencies. With respect to the CSE Commissioner's office, this bill will dissolve the office and create the new role of Intelligence Commissioner. The CSE Commissioner, his staff and the budget, will transition to the new Intelligence Commissioner's office.

The Intelligence Commissioner's mandate will be to review ministers' conclusions to authorize certain activities of CSE and of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), to determine whether these conclusions were reasonable and, if so, to approve them. As of the writing of this report, the bill was adopted, as amended, at third reading in the Senate and was expected to be passed before Parliament adjourns for the summer and the federal election takes place in the fall. The Commissioner appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence to respond to members' questions to clarify aspects of the Commissioner's proposed new role and seek his opinion on various points in the bill. One amendment proposed by the Commissioner, to make explicit that the Intelligence Commissioner would issue an annual report, was accepted by the House of Commons committee examining the bill and has been incorporated in the bill.

As part of his examination of the bill, the Commissioner met with the ministers of National Defence and Public Safety, the National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister, the Chief of CSE and the Director of CSIS. The Commissioner's staff held numerous meetings with officials from CSE, CSIS, Public Safety Canada, the Privy Council Office, the staff of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and the secretariat of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. All these exchanges aimed to ensure that the processes set out in the bill for the Intelligence Commissioner's role will create as smooth a transition as possible.

Outreach, Networking and Learning

Because CSE must operate largely in secret, the Commissioner and the office strive to contribute to a better understanding of the role of accountability for intelligence and security activities in Canada. Providing transparency to the extent possible is accomplished in part through this public annual report, as well as through appearances before parliamentary committees, speeches and participation at conferences and symposia, and presentations to various groups.

Throughout the year, office staff attended conferences dealing with international affairs, information technology security, artificial intelligence, national security, privacy, cyber security and the law. In the context of the anticipated new role for the office, staff members received briefings from CSE, CSIS and SIRC, and in turn gave briefings to SIRC on review methodology and a primer on CSE's mandate and activities. Staff members also took courses related to access to information and privacy, and specialized technical subjects. Conferences and seminars were organized by such organizations as the Smart Cybersecurity Network, the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies, the Canadian Military Intelligence Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the Carleton Centre for Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies, and various academic institutions.

In November, the Special Legal Advisor accompanied by the Executive Director made a presentation to a civil law class at the University of Ottawa on Bill C-59 and its implications.

In February 2019, the Executive Director attended the 20th Annual Privacy and Security Conference in Victoria, British Columbia, with the opportunity to learn about the most recent developments in technology that affect both privacy and security. With the theme Looking Back and Leading Forward in a Digital World, this event once more brought together government, industry and academia to hear about and discuss the latest developments in Canada and internationally in technology, security and privacy. It was encouraging to see that the head of the recently created Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, which comes under the authority of CSE, was a keynote speaker and participated in a four-member panel – Is Canada a Global Leader in Cybersecurity? – which was moderated by the office's former Executive Director.

It is through training and learning opportunities that the office improves its ability to deliver on the Commissioner's mandate. Through training, office staff maintained and enhanced professional standards in various fields, including the law, access to information and privacy, highly technical computer vulnerabilities and testing, and communications security.

The office also continued to deliver presentations about its work to new CSE employees as part of CSE's foundational learning curriculum. Several office employees attended courses at CSE, grounding them in the same information CSE employees receive.

The office also continued to provide support to the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, which has representatives from a number of universities in Canada.

Meetings with Other Review Bodies

The Executive Director has been meeting regularly with her counterparts at SIRC and at the secretariat of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, discussing issues of mutual interest and concern, in particular the pending legislative changes and new roles. The objective is to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to the new intelligence and national security accountability framework.

This past year, Australia hosted the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council meeting, which was held in Canberra in October. The two-day meeting was attended by the Commissioner, Acting Executive Director and Legal Counsel. Such meetings are essential at a time when the Five Eyes countries are seeing significant legislative changes that affect accountability structures and create new authorities for security and intelligence agencies. These latest meetings allowed for frank exchanges of views and sharing experiences. Discussions were held on a range of issues of mutual interest and concern to all participants, including: recent developments within respective jurisdictions and legislative changes affecting their work and current main challenges; independence of non-political intelligence review and oversight; keeping up with technology used by the intelligence services and the role of review in the privacy debate concerning the collection of bulk data; and best practices with respect to providing whistleblowers with authorized methods for disclosure of national security information. The keynote address came from the Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency with the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Council members also discussed areas where they could cooperate on reviews and exchanges of employees. The executive secretariat of the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council, the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community of the United States, prepared an executive summary that can be found on its website.

The Commissioner, accompanied by the Special Legal Advisor, travelled to London, England, in June to meet with his United Kingdom counterpart, Investigatory Powers Commissioner Sir Adrian Fulford. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner was established by legislation in 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and compare the Canadian and United Kingdom oversight regimes and judicial processes, and share best practices. This included information about the roles of the Judicial Commissioners and the inspectors within the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office. The two commissioners compared notes on the progress in implementing the Investigatory Powers Act and the prospect of the passage of Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, and the new role of Intelligence Commissioner.

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