Expectations are high for Canada’s new federal government.
Not only is the Justin Trudeau regime expected to adjust Canadian policy on a number of fronts, it’s expected to reform the manner in which Ottawa goes about its business.
The Prime Minister might want to start with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
As reported last week, not only did Canada’s spy agency obtain information about taxpayers without a warrant, it failed to properly protect private information before passing it on to other agencies. And it gave misleading information to a federal court.
In its recent report, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which oversees CSIS, slammed “substandard” managerial and communication practices in a regional CSIS office.
The icing on the cake is the fact the former Conservative government — in keeping with its governing philosophy — kept that information secret.
In short, this is a mess that must be corrected with safeguards installed so it does not happen again.
So far, the government is saying all the right things.
Responding to the SIRC report, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale acknowledged the shortcomings in Canada’s security system.
“We believe more can be done to strengthen scrutiny, and the government is currently developing legislation that will strengthen our system of accountability for national security,” he said.
And Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a bid to quash fears our security structure has fallen to pieces, said he is confident the information contained in the metadata shared with other agencies was not harmful (Canada’s partners are the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).
One of Trudeau’s promises in last year’s federal election campaign was to provide more oversight for Canada’s security apparatus.
The timing will never be better than now for him to act on that promise and develop policies that alter the culture at CSIS.
We need strict parliamentary oversight to ensure the people charged with preserving the security of Canadians are not breaking the law in performing that function.