NSI Committee ramping up

Nov 15, 2017

The new government department-style entity being created to oversee the country’s national security and intelligence operations includes 11 members from all recognized parties in the House and Senate.

The establishment of the Secretariat of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians received Royal Assent in June, and David McGuinty (Liberal MP for Ottawa South) was selected to chair the Secretariat of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

According to an article in The Hill Times:

Having that role of the secretariat enshrined in legislation makes the Canadian committee structure the envy of its British counterpart, said Wesley Wark, a visiting research professor at the University of Ottawa and national security and intelligence expert. “From my perspective, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is going to have a difficult birth. It’s going to face challenges. It needs a very strong support in terms of research and advisory support from an independent secretariat. And that secretariat will also have to help it build the bridges it will need between itself and the various elements of the Canadian security and intelligence community. It’s all a work in progress, but from my perspective the secretariat is a big piece of the equation, and in many respects the success or failure of the National Sec and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians will depend on the success or failure of the secretariat.”

An executive director and CEO (with the status of a deputy minister) will be appointed by Cabinet to serve a term of up to five years. The organization has yet to choose a facility from which to operate.

Despite the lack of office space, McGuinty has said he hopes the committee will start meeting before the end of November.

FrontLine's Editorial Advisor, Scott Newark, a former Alberta Crown prosecutor and former security adviser for the government of Ontario, says the secretariat will play an important role, and describes it as a "very positive" development.

"This Committee has the potential to be a significant positive development in the complex areas of national security operations and policy," says Newark. "By selecting the issues and cases of real relevance for review, the Committee can help ensure that the effective balance between national security and civil rights is maintained. At the same time, by asking the right questions of the right people in  a 'lessons learned' rather than 'finger pointing' approach, the Committee can also help determine defects in our current national security operations and the necessary changes to improve the situation. To achieve these important objectives the Committee will need to be supported by a substantively informed and properly resourced Secretariat of officials and a Prime Minister's Office that is prepared to provide the Committee with the independence it needs to achieve its important mandate. While only time will tell for sure, based on the actions to date, we appear to be headed in the right direction."

Chris MacLean