THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, February 3, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on National
Security and Defence met this day at 4 p.m. to examine and report on
Canada’s national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances
and capabilities (topics: review of Canadian security intelligence related
services; and follow-up to the committee’s report on sovereignty and
security in the Arctic); and for the consideration of a draft budget.
Senator Daniel Lang (Chair) in the
The Chair: I would like to welcome everyone
to the proceedings this evening. I would like to give a warm welcome to our
first witness, Mr. Stephen Rigby, National Security Advisor to the Prime
Minister, and the person accompanying him, Mr. David Vigneault.
I would like to begin by saying to members that
we have a busy agenda ahead of us. From 4:00 to 5:00, we have Mr. Rigby
before us, and from there, for those who are viewing us, we have witnesses
from the two national intelligence agencies. We will have a short break at
seven o'clock, and then we will have representation from the Department of
National Defence in respect to Arctic sovereignty and security. So we have a
busy agenda going forward.
I would also like to point out for the media
here and also for our public viewers that next week we will start a study
simultaneously in two areas of responsibility. We have determined that we
will report on them at the end of June this year, which is basically four
months. One will be a study on ballistic missile defence. The other is
regarding the Canada Border Services Agency in respect of the
inadmissibility of immigrants coming into the country and the responsibility
that agency has, as well as looking at the legislation that is in place and
whether we should report changes. We have a busy spring ahead of us.
I would like to begin by saying to Mr. Rigby
that I appreciate you being here. I would like to begin by introducing
myself. I am Senator Dan Lang from the Yukon. I would like the deputy chair,
Senator Dallaire, to introduce himself, and we will go around the table
Senator Dallaire: Roméo Dallaire, and I
represent the Gulf.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, senator
Senator Day: Joseph Day, Liberal senator
from New Brunswick.
Senator Nolin: Pierre Claude Nolin, from
the province of Quebec — more specifically the Senate riding of Salaberry,
which includes the region of Valleyfield.
Senator Segal: Hugh Segal,
Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.
Senator Wells: David Wells, Newfoundland
Senator Dagenais: Jean Guy Dagenais, a
senator from Quebec — the riding of Île-des-Sœurs and Verdun.
The Chair: I also would like to introduce
our clerk, Josée Thérien, and to my right, Holly Porteous and Wolfgang
Koerner, analysts from the Library of Parliament.
With those opening remarks, I would ask Mr.
Rigby for his opening statement.
Stephen Rigby, National Security Advisor to the
Prime Minister, Privy Council Office: Mr. Chair and senators, thank you
very much for the invitation this afternoon; it is a pleasure to be here. It
is the first time in my capacity before this committee as national security
Today, I am here to discuss the review of
Canadian security and intelligence related services, in the context of
Canada’s national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances
I am accompanied today by David Vigneault,
Assistant Secretary to Cabinet. My colleagues, Michel Coulombe, from CSIS,
and John Forster, from CSEC, will speak later on the role of their
organizations. It is a pleasure to appear with them today.
Allow me to set the stage by first providing a
brief and broad overview of the national security context in Canada and
abroad, my role as national security adviser, and the coordination and
governance of the Canadian security and intelligence community.
Following my introductory remarks, I will be
pleased to answer questions to the extent possible.
Let me begin by emphasizing that "national
security" can no longer be considered in any narrow sense of the term in
association with specific threats within Canada or even at our borders. To
speak of national security today is to address a multitude of issues that
are complex, interconnected and in constant evolution. Increasingly,
Canada's national security interests are manifest in a broad range of
foreign policy and defence imperatives.
Security at home is necessarily connected with
the rest of the world, not only in the positions and actions that Canada
takes beyond its borders, but in those that other states take vis-à-vis
Canada in their bilateral relationships with us and investments in the
Canadian economy. Canada's approach to security issues is therefore
organized around this broader concept of security, and most of our allies
have done likewise.
My colleagues from CSIS and CSEC will
undoubtedly provide you with their views on the current threat environment,
but let me take a moment to share my perspective.
The terrorist threat in particular has
undergone noteworthy changes in recent years. Of note, we have seen a
growing number of Canadians travel abroad to take part in terrorist
activities — the rise of the so-called "foreign fighter" phenomenon.
Likewise, there are real threats to us here in Canada from foreign fighters
who return home to become active in radicalizing others susceptible to
adopting their views, or from individuals who seek to do harm on Canadian
soil. For some, although its leadership has been weakened, al Qaeda
nonetheless remains a source of inspiration.
Changes at the geopolitical level have an
impact on the threat context that Canada faces. Our security interests vary
from region to region and are often multifaceted. The number and the
complexity of crises around the world is challenging for Canada and its
In the Asia-Pacific region, economic and
security interests are increasingly intertwined for all actors. Regional
instability in South Asia creates significant risks. North Korea is a
specific state source of regional tension through its unpredictability and
possession of weapons of mass destruction.
If we look to the Middle East, we see that
regional instability threatens our friends and us. At this time, we are
witnesses to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Syria that is only
getting worse. Terrorists from other locales are moving in to use the
country as a training ground, while refugees spill over into neighbouring
countries that have struggled to absorb them, and the threat of regional
Closer to home, weak governance and crime
threaten Canadian interests in our hemisphere. History shows that any
serious humanitarian event, natural disaster or security incident may see
calls for Canadian support, especially from our military, police,
correctional services and/or for asylum support, given people-to-people
ties, global burden-sharing responsibilities and our strong record of
Canada's participation in these efforts
contributes to bringing about stability and security, and in order to
contribute to such international endeavours, we also need to ensure the
security of Canadians who represent us in these various roles overseas.
This brings me to my role as National Security
Advisor. As principal advisor to the Prime Minister on security, foreign
affairs and defence issues, I am tasked with providing the Prime Minister
with situational awareness and advice on a broad range of issues.
I also perform a coordinating role with my
deputy minister colleagues from a number of departments, including defence,
foreign affairs, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP,
Communications Security Establishment and several others.
These national security issues are both
strategic and tactical in nature. From a strategic standpoint, my advice
would range from issues like the development of legislative changes for the
Prime Minister to consider to the evolution of the situation in the Middle
East. At the tactical level, I would provide advice on issues like the
involvement of Canadians in foreign conflicts or the current situation in
In my role as coordinator, my function is to
manage the coordination of the community response to government direction.
This means ensuring that the activities of individual agencies as well as
the activities between agencies are coherent with the direction we have been
A concrete example of my coordination
responsibilities for the security and intelligence community at the moment
would be current preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games. The prime
responsibility for security of the games rests, of course, with the Russian
government. Notwithstanding that, from a Canadian standpoint, I am
responsible for bringing all pertinent government departments and agencies
together to develop coherent contingency plans and to ensure that the
community is postured to support Russian authorities to the best of our
ability, if required. These activities are undertaken as a complement to
overall security preparations being managed by our Russian hosts.
I would draw your attention to the fact that,
in our government, no single executive authority below the Prime Minister
manages national security issues, and each minister is accountable for the
results of his or her department or agency. It is therefore imperative to
have this underlying coordinating role to see that this system runs
In addition, my role extends to the
international arena where I work closely with counterparts who fulfill the
role of national security advisers to other governments. As I have
emphasized, Canada's security is inextricably linked to global security, and
it is therefore vital to maintain relationships and good communications with
To achieve good results through such
broad-based coordination of quite a large community, there needs to be good
collaboration and trust. In my judgment, Canadians and their government are
well served by the work of the community on security, defence and foreign
One of the biggest developments in recent
months is obviously the unauthorized disclosures by Edward Snowden. That has
put a spotlight on how intelligence agencies work and with whom they
partner. By definition, the activities of these agencies have been conducted
in secret. That is now being challenged.
The disclosures raised a number of challenges
for governments as they grapple with how to respond. We are not alone in
this, senators, since most states have a security apparatus and associated
Like others, we need to take time to consider
an appropriate response that is suited to our particular circumstances here
The disclosures are also challenging for
security and intelligence agencies. These agencies do work that, by its very
nature, must remain secret in order for it to be effective. A certain degree
of secrecy is required to protect their operations, methods, areas of
interest and capabilities if they are to achieve the results expected by
government and Canadians. They are not accustomed to addressing the public
on their operations and are, in some cases, bound by the Security of
At the same time, the government must protect
the information and assets that it holds and uses on behalf of Canadians to
maximize their security and act in Canadians' national interest. As we saw
recently with the case of Jeffrey Delisle, there are individuals who pose an
"insider threat" to Canada. It is therefore necessary to take measures to
safeguard government information and ensure that threats of this nature are
identified as early as possible so they can be contained.
The Snowden disclosures naturally lead to the
questioning of the review of intelligence activities. Your committee has
been exploring approaches to the question of parliamentary oversight of
national security activities. If you compare the review models of our key
allies, you will note that each has a different model. It can be helpful to
compare approaches in these matters and learn from others, while
appreciating the differences in our history and experience.
In December, the committee also discussed how
the Security Intelligence Review Committee's mandate was limited to the
activities of CSIS. It was noted that in a context when information sharing
has become more prevalent there could be a need for broader review
SIRC and the OCSEC are at the centre of this
review model. As the primary collectors mandated to gather intelligence,
CSIS and CSEC's activities are most closely monitored by independent bodies.
Review bodies known for their professionalism and expertise are familiar
with the operations and mandates of the organizations whose activities they
review. These bodies conduct reviews and issue recommendations. There are
mechanisms in place to track ministers' commitments and responses to those
recommendations. Review personnel hold security clearances, allowing for
full access to classified holdings, facility and staff. I am confident that
these review bodies are sufficiently resourced to fulfill their existing
Review allows us to ensure that there are
ongoing efforts to improve operational practices, update policies and
address areas of concern. I can assure you that this continuous improvement
process is functioning very well.
Canadians are well-served by their security and
intelligence agencies, and also by the bodies mandated to review them. I
state this with confidence. We have committed resources to providing
intelligence services to our government, and we are obtaining good value
through these investments.
Of course, we could improve and we will
continue to evolve.
Canadians expect government to provide both
security and protection of rights and freedoms, and there is it no conflict
between these commitments; both speak to strengthening Canada.
Senators, thank you for the opportunity to
appear today. I look forward to answering your questions.
The Chair: Thank you for the concise
overview of your responsibilities, and also for the country. What you do
cannot be understated in respect to the security of Canadians. We appreciate
In your closing remarks, you stated that
"Canadians expect government to provide both security and protection of
rights and freedoms." I would like to refer to that closing statement with
respect to one of the questions I have.
There is a question that most Canadians have on
their mind at the present time in light of the media reports — which I am
sure you have heard — and comments earlier from Justice Mosley. Who would
authorize CSEC to tap into airport Wi-Fi if that did occur? Second, when
you, as national security adviser, get information and data, do you question
where it comes from and the legality of the sources?
Mr. Rigby: To your first question, CSEC
operates under legislative authorities that are given to it by the
Parliament of Canada. Those authorities from time to time are augmented by
ministerial authorizations, which are provided to it by the Minister of
I would say in responding to some of the media
reports that I am not totally persuaded that CSIS has tapped into airport
Wi-Fi. I think the document that has been released clearly indicates that
there has been collection of metadata. That is a well-known fact. The
collection of metadata by CSEC has been reviewed constantly over the years
by the CSEC commissioner and has been deemed to be legal and appropriate. It
does not represent a compromise of private communications by Canadians. It
is data about data, so it is well within the legal parameters of CSIS's
The short answer to your question is that the
sorts of things that CSEC does are authorized by the act under which they
operate and by the authorizations that are given to them by their minister.
With regard to the extent to which I would
question information that comes from these things, first and foremost, in my
role as coordinator for the security and intelligence community, I am not
part of any oversight or review mechanism but, yes, I have an obligation in
coordinating and working with my colleagues in the community to ensure that
their operations, broad brush, are appropriate. In doing that, I work with
my deputy minister colleagues and I would obviously pay close attention to
the reports of the CSEC commissioner. I meet with the commissioner fairly
regularly to discuss his work — and have done so during my entire period in
this job — to ensure there are no significant concerns that he is noting
that I should take note of, and to the extent that there are, those are
brought forward and highlighted in the commissioner's report.
CSEC invariably puts action plans in place to
satisfy the issues put forward by the commissioner, and the requirements for
the minister to take note of and take account of those in Parliament.
The Chair: I want to follow up in one other
area, and that is the question of terrorism. I take the liberty as chair of
I want to refer to the question of financing
for terrorism. I refer to the CSIS annual report that stated no country can
become an unwitting exporter of terrorism without suffering damage to its
international image and relations, and that Canada’s legal obligation to
promote global security needs to be honoured, and that means assuming
responsibility for our own. As you are aware, the United States has
identified a number of groups — including some with affiliation in Canada —
as being unindicted co-conspirators of the funding of terrorism. That must
be a concern of yours.
To refresh the memory of committee members on
the history we are dealing with, we had two Canadians recently convicted in
the United States for supporting terrorism. One is an Ottawa native, Mr.
Tahawwur Rana, who was convicted for 14 years last June in his role in a
plot to attack a Danish newspaper as well as providing material support for
a Pakistan-based terrorist group. Then we also have a Waterloo student,
Suresh Sriskandarajah, who was sentenced to two years for supporting the
I know that is a serious question for all
intelligence services. When it comes to supporting and financing terrorists
and terrorist groups, why are we not seeing more similar arrests, charges
and convictions in Canada as opposed to Canadians being arrested in other
Mr. Rigby: From my perspective, terrorist
financing and the consequences and issues that arise from the exportation of
terrorism abroad is a significant issue in Canada.
I couldn't give you a precise answer on why we
are not seeing more arrests, but I can tell you that the issue of how we
track terrorist financing, how CSIS, the RCMP and FINTRAC, within the
Department of Finance, look at these things is an issue of considerable
concern to us.
Obviously, the gathering of evidence, the
burden of proof and the ability for us to put cases together that would be
pursuable by the Public Prosecution Service is a constant challenge for us.
I think the fact that we maybe have not recently seen a couple like the ones
that you have mentioned does not speak to the issue that it is not an issue
or a priority for us. It is. I think it is just a matter of continuing to
work with our allies, gather the information that we can transnationally and
make sure that we are gathering the information that will allow us to pursue
Senator Dallaire: Mr. Rigby, you are well
aware that this committee has no classified capability to it, so we are
caught up in the scenario of having to talk more of processes than actual
content, which means that oversight by parliamentarians does not exist,
certainly not in the Senate, and I have not seen it in the House of Commons.
With respect to process, we have the cyberwar
reality — certainly our allies are considering it that way, without borders,
now cyberwar — and continuum and security dimensions of all our departments
and structures. In your capacity as a DM adviser, with no statutory strength
but working in cooperation, in coordination and maybe even collaboration
with the different players, particularly the Minister of Public Safety's
gang and also the Minister of National Defence, where is your hammer in
ensuring that, in fact, you are able to bring that about?
I know there is collegiality, and I know people
can be pretty rough with each other in the public service in doing their
duty, but there is another step to it that I believe requires you to be a
much higher level of authority in this arena in order to pull this together.
Do you not think that would be required in this modern era?
Mr. Rigby: This has been a live debate for
a number of years, as you know, and the findings of certain commissions of
inquiry have included this debate, Mr. Justice Major's inquiry, in
If you look around the world at national
security adviser positions, not only amongst the Five Eyes but also among
other allies and friends with whom we work, you will not see a direct line
set of authorities granted to these positions. It is not typical; that is
not to say it is not debated.
What I can say without reservation, as my role
has evolved — and it has evolved in the three and a half years I have been
in it, from pure security and intelligence to broader functions for defence
and foreign affairs — I have never found difficulty in working with my
colleagues. You are absolutely right. It is an extremely collegial,
team-like atmosphere that is pursued. As well, I work in the Privy Council
Office. I am a senior deputy in the Privy Council, and I am the adviser to
the Prime Minister. There is a certain moral suasion that goes with that
positioning that, in my humble opinion, I have found more than adequate to
achieve cooperation and a cooperative effort with my fellow DMs.
Senator Dallaire: That works well, I
suspect, in peacetime. The question is: Are we in peacetime? Under the
conditions of the evolving threats, and you have enumerated a number and
that is the unclassified side, it seems to me that we are into a different
exercise with regard to how we will handle all these capabilities, both
internally and internationally, in ensuring that not only the Prime Minister
but also the cabinet get that information that is not potentially skewed by
one of the ministers or some of the inputs that come there. What is your
wartime footing with regard to meeting the requirements for the Prime
Minister with regard to national security?
Mr. Rigby: I think you can debate the war
on terrorism, that today, whether by dint of terrorism and the cyberwars
that we are engaged in, we are on a wartime footing. I have been in this
position when Canada made its contribution to the Libya conflict, for
example, where I think we were on a wartime footing. My convening
authorities, such as they are, my ability to convey the Prime Minister's
direction and my ability to ensure that people are working within the
confines of cabinet direction, I have never found to be limited.
I have the ability to call deputies together. I
have the ability to ensure that direction is being followed closely.
Sometimes that is tactical; sometimes that is strategic. But I have not
found my ability to convene, gather, discuss and, to a certain extent,
direct, ever to be compromised either on a full wartime footing or on the
extremely important crises across the array of threats that Canada faces
Senator Segal: Thank you, Mr. Rigby, for
your presentation and for your clarity.
Speeches I have heard you give elsewhere would
lead me to be comforted that you would believe that in our country national
security is about protecting democracy from internal and external threats,
from subversion and from those who might deploy violence against our
democracy and the citizens who live within it.
In a democracy, there should be a relationship,
I would argue, and you have underlined it in some respects, between the
efforts of our national security services to keep the country safe and the
democratic principles that govern how we manage ourselves.
You mentioned in your opening statement that
you deal with your colleagues in other countries, and we try to share
information in a constructive, collaborative way. Most of our NATO
colleagues — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany,
Belgium, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands — have a statutory oversight
legislative process where folks in your kind of position are not prevented
by the Security of Information Act from telling the whole truth and all the
detail to legislators who have statutory status to hear it.
Have any of your colleagues in those countries
where they do have that level of statutory oversight indicated to you that
that is problematic for them, that it makes their job harder? Would it be
your view that having in this country the kind of oversight they have in the
U.K., the United States and elsewhere in a Canadian context would make your
job harder in the advice that you give to the government and to the Prime
Mr. Rigby: I have been privileged to be in
this job for three and a half years or so. I am getting to the stage now
where I am on my second and third national security advisers in some
countries; I don't know what that says to job security in these roles. I
have had the opportunity to meet with them to talk about this, and I have
had the opportunity to meet with chairs of legislative oversight committees
from time to time.
The direct answer to your question, Senator
Segal, is no. I don't think any of them have ever said those sorts of
functions have been an impediment to their work at all.
If you look to the United States and, to a
lesser extent, to the United Kingdom, you will see structures that are well
evolved. They are mature, and they work within those countries very well.
Do I think such a process would be an
impediment to my job? It is a theoretical question. I don't believe so.
I do think that the review mechanisms that we
have in Canada are quite strong. I'm not saying they are perfect. I would
say only that if Parliament were to consider changes to this, augmentations
and perhaps a legislative wing to the review or oversight capacities, you
would want to do so in a way that didn't disturb the excellent return that I
think Canadians and the government get from SIRC and from the CSEC
My work with them, to the extent I do, is
always very good. I think that my ability to receive information from them,
to have conversations with both the commissioner and the chair of SIRC —
I can't tell you that it would be an
impediment, but I would say that changes to the system that we have should
be viewed with caution.
Senator Segal: SIRC is an organization
usually of former politicians, some distinguished people from the community,
privy councillors. It's part time.
Mr. Rigby: Yes.
Senator Segal: The chairman is part time,
the members of SIRC are part time and the staff is excellent, without
question, but relatively small. The CSEC commissioner’s office — he is a
distinguished jurist — is also very small.
Your own analysis this afternoon has indicated
how broad the national security sweep has to be to do the job properly.
We've heard that just the notion of metadata indicates that a tremendous
amount of work is being done every day on hundreds of thousands of digital
messages for various reasons, such as understanding the sourcing if not the
Are you comfortable that the oversight groups,
who no doubt relate in good faith and work as intensely as they possibly can
to protect Canadians' rights, have the depth and size, in view of how our
own apparatuses had to change after 9/11 for good and substantial reason, to
actually keep their eyes sufficiently on the work that is being done and
keep you informed as the national security adviser of problems and
difficulties that may be taking place on a systemic basis?
Mr. Rigby: I've spoken with successive
commissioners of CSEC and successive chairs of the Intelligence Review
Committee. They are extremely busy, both organizations. CSEC commissioners
have told me that they believe they are right sized, and I have no reason to
I would say in the case of SIRC, a challenge is
to make sure that members are replaced on a timely basis so quorum is
maintained and the volume of complaints and the work that they do can be
As to whether or not they might be right sized
or a different size, I have to say that I begin to trespass a little into
the advice I might give the Prime Minister, and if you forgive me, perhaps I
would just stop my answer right there.
Senator Mitchell: I'd like to follow up to
some extent on Senator Segal's line of questioning. Clearly, what he's
addressing is the danger that in protecting against threats, we go over some
line of privacy. The Wi-Fi case in airports would at least raise that
spectre. One could argue that the more concentrated the power is, the less
oversight there is, the greater the danger that we cross that line.
Prior to 2011, CSEC reported through your
position to the minister.
Mr. Rigby: Yes.
Senator Mitchell: Now CSEC reports directly
to the minister, raising the spectre of a concentration of power, less
Why is that, and what are the implications of
that, and what does that do to your ability to modify or moderate exactly
what a sole minister could decide to do?
Mr. Rigby: That change occurred on my
watch, so I was quite familiar with it happening.
The model was that CSEC, a couple of years ago,
as you've noted, reported essentially through deputies: one, the Deputy
Minister of National Defence for administrative purposes; and, two, the
national security adviser for policy purposes. So in that respect, if CSEC
was pursuing changes to ministerial authorizations, changes in their
activities, et cetera, they would come to the national security adviser to
talk about them.
I think, generally speaking, the concern with
that model was the national security adviser covering a full range of the
waterfront of national security activities, a reasonably busy job most days.
I did not feel that that position was appropriately discharging the
responsibilities of Deputy Minister of CSEC, and yet it was being asked to
sign off, to approve, to be a step in the approval process, not just the
check process but the approval process for a wide range of very important
I think the notion was that CSEC needed its own
full-standing deputy who would have all of the authorities to put this in
place, was fundamentally accountable in the normal way deputies are to a
minister, and would be challenged by a minister in that way and not have
this bifurcated arrangement whereby policy approvals would be given by
somebody who wasn't otherwise responsible for the organization.
I firmly believe that the current model is
better. I firmly believe that it discharges better authorities, better
clarity, and allows for better accountability at the end of the day.
Senator Mitchell: I certainly respect your
opinion on that, but it raises at least the logical possibility that the
focus is even more concentrated and there's less of an outside or an
objective or a second- or third-party view of what's being done.
More to the point of the power of the minister
now, let's take the case of the Wi-Fi metadata in airports. Would it be that
when CSEC seeks approval, it only goes that way, that they only come to the
minister to seek approval, or could the minister actually initiate CSEC
activities — and maybe it's an extreme example — to look at Wi-Fi in
airports and consider that kind of an approach?
I'm really trying to get at the exercise of the
power. Is it that CSEC only goes to the minister to get approval, or could
the minister actually decide on his or her initiative that he or she would
like to investigate something or have something undertaken, which is quite a
different implication for that sole point of power of the minister?
Mr. Rigby: Senator, I think the situation
you're describing is theoretically possible, but it's not something that has
occurred in my experience, I don't believe. If I am misspeaking, I will come
back to you, but I'm not aware of that happening.
The minister's involvement typically is focused
on intelligence priorities that are established by cabinet. Cabinet meets
and establishes the priorities. Those are given out individually to the
security agencies in government. They are converted into ministerial
directives, so they are disaggregated from a broad-brush direction for
something, and you can probably guess what one or two of them might be. From
there, those directives are then placed into the work plans of the
individual organizations, and that is the link that would occur in terms of
the minister giving direction to CSEC to pursue something.
It's typically done on an annual basis. CSEC
might go to the minister to seek authority clarification for something that
has been directed by these priorities. But I don't think on a case-by-case
basis ministers would go to CSEC and say "I want you to do this versus that"
outside the priority-setting process.
Mr. Forster will have a sharper answer for you
on this, but in my experience, that has not been the case.
Senator Wells: I want to go back to the
structure in process of your position in that it has no statutory basis, but
you appear — well, you have the authority conferred by the fact that you're
the Prime Minister's national security adviser. By circumstance, you
mentioned that you work with four DMs or heads of agencies, also
recognizing, having seen it over the years, that governments love structure
and a chain of command.
Given the fact that you have no statutory
basis, are we losing your — and I don't want to say "success." Your efficacy
in the position is that you have been there for three and a half years and
have built up a good rapport with your colleagues. Are we losing something
because there's no statutory authority to your position?
You mentioned earlier as well there is perhaps
moral suasion on an operational basis because you're next to the Prime
Minister on these issues. Are we losing something because there's not that?
If you weren't there, would it be run just as effectively?
Mr. Rigby: What's the answer to that one?
This question has come up many times, and it's a more than reasonable
question. Does my position require actual line authority to direct deputies?
The problem is this: The government, as you
well know, senator, operates through ministers. Ministers take direction
from cabinet, and then that is given to their deputies to work into
It's difficult to imagine how I could take
authority, get powers of direction over deputies, when they are themselves
taking direction from the government through their ministers. I think that
might lead to some confusion.
Is there a compromise on my position absent
that authority? As I say, I don't believe so. The situation in the
community, the ecosystem that I oversee, is an extremely complex one, but I
haven't seen a situation where I had a concern and had to go back to the
Prime Minister or to ministers to say, "Something is not being followed
through on here." I have never seen that in three and a half years on the
job. I think there's always clarity in terms of the government's wishes in
these areas; there's good planning, good accountability and good governance
within the structure, both from ministers in cabinet and from deputies
within deputy minister committees. My honest answer to you, senator, is that
it works pretty well.
Senator Wells: I just wanted to say that I
am sure there are things that keep you up at night, and I thank you for your
Mr. Rigby: I haven't slept in three years.
Senator Wells: I thank you for your work on
Mr. Rigby: Thank you very much.
Senator Day: I think I'm beginning to get
at least a foggy understanding of how things work. You've answered a number
of points I was concerned about.
Without statutory authority, the executive
control is through cabinet committee and then through the Prime Minister
down to you and this committee that meets. Are priorities established for
security issues through a specific cabinet committee? How do you relate to
that specific group of individuals?
Mr. Rigby: Cabinet establishes the
intelligence priorities for the community, and that is done annually. I
prepare those priorities, present them to cabinet, and they are approved
accordingly. There are committees of cabinet, particularly the Foreign
Affairs and Security Committee, which oversees the legislative agenda and
some of the operational activities of the community. My staff are
secretaries to that committee, and I would work closely with Minister
MacKay, who is the chair, and with Minister Nicholson, who is the
vice-chair. I have met with them, and I would continue to meet with them
I have regular meetings with the Prime Minister
and I have regular conversations with ministers within the national security
community. I have more than regular meetings, as my two friends might attest
to when they testify, with the deputy ministers in this community.
The planning processes that we follow, they
follow the regular routine of government cabinet planning. The medium- and
longer-term planning processes that are followed there, the national
security community and the security intelligence community contribute to
those, and we discharge the directions of government according to those
For my part, I chair a committee on national
security and I work with the deputies in this committee to ensure that what
the government has directed at any given time is being discharged according
to the rhythms that the government expects.
To Senator Dallaire's earlier comment, if we
come to a point where there is an international incident, where Canada is
involved in an international conflict or contribution of that sort, we will
form ad hoc committees to make sure that the operations of the Department of
National Defence or our security agencies are making the kinds of
I will give you a current-day example, the
Sochi Olympics preparation. There are a significant number of departments
and agencies involved there. There is a significant requirement for linking
up both the operational and political sides of that discussion, and a
significant requirement to make sure that Canadians have been advised of the
threat level they are facing as they go into Sochi. The work of a
coordinated group of deputies there has been extremely close and almost
Senator Day: Two or two and a half years
ago, the Communications Security Establishment decided that the structure
was not functioning well, and you have explained that to us. From the point
of view of executive line direction, you're an adviser to the Prime
Mr. Rigby: Yes.
Senator Day: What I'd like to do is give
you the opportunity to tell us about any other aspects of our intelligence
and security structure that perhaps need tweaking. What I'm concerned about
is the security and intelligence side getting confused with the industrial
development side. We read about that from time to time, and that seems to be
part of security and intelligence in some countries.
When you have executive direction from the
Prime Minister, is there a concern that we might be going a little broader
than security and intelligence?
Mr. Rigby: There's not a concern, but
you're touching on a very important emerging issue for the government and I
think for governments around the world, and that is economic partnership
with non-traditional partners, particularly state-owned economies. The
increasing prevalence and interest in these countries and economies
acquiring Canadian assets has brought about a new set of imperatives for the
security agencies to work with the economic agencies, and that, in and of
itself, is a non-traditional partnership.
Increasingly, I find myself at the centre of
discussions looking at how significant financial transactions for the
Canadian economy might be implicated by security concerns and how we respond
to those. How do we mitigate them? What advice does the government take on
those sorts of things?
One of the challenges that we are all facing
together on this is the requirement to step outside our traditional roles.
Sometimes these conversations will be the economic managers promoting the
economic side and the security guys worrying about the security side.
Increasingly, it is my view that our evolution has to be typified by both
sides being concerned about both sides of the equation. I don't see a future
where these sorts of economic engagements are not going to occur, so how we
develop and evolve the sophistication to review them and to look at
sensible, mitigating responses to them is something that we have to do in a
If I had one thing to highlight, that would be
an issue where I think we are working extremely hard to develop new skills
and new attitudes toward this sort of thing.
Senator White: Thank you very much to both
of you for being here today.
Post-9/11 a number of concerns were raised
around sharing of intelligence, in particular in the United States, between
agencies and law enforcement. At the time, of course, many agencies would
say that others were not prepared from a standards perspective and a
security clearance perspective to receive the information.
The Homeland Security Committee in the United
States has looked at the same situation after the Boston Marathon explosion.
In fact, the suggestion there is that information again was not shared with
certain law enforcement officials in relation to FBI work that was being
We in Canada have still not moved to a standard
by which all 180-plus police agencies and law enforcement actually have to
meet to be able to access intelligence that others may have. Some would
suggest, as was suggested just after 9/11, that we are in a similar position
to the United States in relation to the Boston Marathon explosion in that
intelligence may be kept from other agencies primarily because they don't
meet a certain standard, one which we've put in place, but we haven't forced
those agencies to meet.
Is it time that the Canadian government moves
forward on requiring that all police agencies meet certain standards when it
comes to security clearances, in particular, so they can actually access the
intelligence that others have?
Mr. Rigby: It's an important issue. The
Boston bombings, as you say, senator, typified the American problem. They're
a much larger infrastructure than we are, with many more agencies and
complexities, but I think for some of the problems that were highlighted in
the reports coming out of Air India or the Arar matter, there is still work
to be done there. I do think that standardization of approaches across law
enforcement agencies is an important issue that still requires some work.
Senator White: I agree. I think the RCMP,
CSIS and the large agencies in this country have certainly moved the
yardsticks further than Denver did yesterday when it comes to level of
sharing. I am concerned, though, about the other 165 police agencies that
rest out there, and in Correctional Services Canada and others, in ensuring
that they actually meet that same standard.
The Chair: Perhaps I could ask a
supplementary. To be able to bring these other police agencies into the
tent, if you like, so that intelligence can be shared, will that require
legislative action by the federal government or the provinces to ensure that
that could be done? Do you know?
Mr. Rigby: I don't have a definitive answer
on that, senator. I think a lot could be done without legislation; I think a
lot could be done with the simple establishment of standards.
Senator Nolin: Gentlemen, thank you for
joining us and for accepting our invitation. I would like to go back to
Justice Mosley’s decision, and I will have an opportunity to discuss this
further with your colleagues from the two agencies later on.
I want to talk about your role as coordinator,
which you explained well, given the context of national security, the
geopolitical context, and the importance of providing the most appropriate
information to the Prime Minister. Since part of your coordination role
consists in providing the prime minister with information, I assume that
CSIS informs you when it submits to the federal court a request under
section 21 to set the breach in motion — a sort of a warrant to tap
Canadians’ telephone conversations.
Considering the type of relationship we have
with our main allies when it comes to information exchange through the use
of those international communications, were you informed, at the time, that
this request would be submitted to the federal court in case number 3008?
Were you told about that at the time?
Mr. Rigby: At the time that the request was
Senator Nolin: The first mandate. Were you
Mr. Rigby: No, I'm not always informed in
real time regarding these issues. I can't say that always occurs. That's not
the nature of my role. I'm not in a line order of responsibility or
accountability for these things. In any one of these cases, I'm confident
that if the Director of CSIS felt it was significant enough he would bring
it to my attention. I was briefed on the case to which you are referring. I
was brought into the loop on it fairly quickly thereafter.
Senator Nolin: That was probably after
Justice Mosley issued an additional release on his decision.
Mr. Rigby: No, I was aware that Justice
Mosley was examining the issue. But in terms of how the warrants were
pursued and whatnot, I wasn't part of the operational discussions on that.
Senator Nolin: By the way, Justice Mosley
is a former colleague of yours, so he knows how it works. When Justice
Mosley left last fall, he bluntly said, in black and white, "I was misled by
the agency." What was your reaction to that?
Mr. Rigby: Concern, obviously.
Senator Nolin: Concern to what extent?
Mr. Rigby: Concern to gather my colleagues
together, talk with our lawyers in the Department of Justice, to look at the
circumstances, to look at the rationale for why we proceeded in the way we
did, and to satisfy myself that there had been reasonable due diligence in
the actions that had been pursued and why. Mr. Justice Mosley has rendered a
very clear and somewhat candid judgment in this matter.
Senator Nolin: What do you mean by candid?
He's a judge. He made a decision. He's a Federal Court judge.
Mr. Rigby: He made a decision.
Senator Nolin: That's right.
Mr. Rigby: That said, the Attorney General
has seen fit to appeal that ruling.
At the end of the day, the issues that Mr.
Justice Mosley has ruled on will be the subject of further judicial debate,
and obviously at the end of the day we will be governed by the final court
decisions in this matter.
Yes, it was a concerning issue, but I am
persuaded that the basis for our pursuing this matter further is also valid.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, gentlemen. My
question is for Mr. Rigby.
Have you had a chance to review the Privacy
Commissioner's report from last week? Can you elaborate on the areas in
national security where you think we can improve transparency and
Mr. Rigby: I think the Privacy Commissioner
has presented Parliament with some interesting ideas. The controls, checks
and accountabilities that are currently present for both CSIS and CSEC are
reasonably robust. To a certain extent, there's been a lot of public debate
about some of the actions of our security agencies as a result of Mr.
I'm not persuaded at the end of the day that
all of them are 100 per cent accurate. I do think the ability of the Privacy
Commissioner to look at CSIS and CSEC as they do is in itself a check. To
bring forward reports, concerns, et cetera, to Parliament is a reasonable
revelation of privacy concerns that exist.
I think that the annual reports tabled by the
commissioner, by SIRC, and by the Director of CSIS, for example, all
represent opportunities to comment on privacy issues and the checks in place
to assure Canadians that they have reasonable privacy protections in place.
However, as much as anything, I think the public policy debate that has
emerged as a result of some of the disclosures that are going on right now
will provide fertile ground for considering whether or not what's there
today is adequate and reasonable. I do think that the interim Privacy
Commissioner's report contains some interesting ideas that we are aware of
and are studying.
Senator Dallaire: I'm going back, if I may,
to the era in which we've stumbled into. We seem to continuously be caught
off guard by areas going awry and also our own potential vulnerability.
We've been talking about the comprehensive approach of government in
responding to crises. Who is actually building contingency plans for us to
be engaged in things like potential mass atrocities or operations of
imploding nations or, in fact, evolving conflicts like Afghanistan or even
Yugoslavia? Where do you fit in this contingency planning and bringing about
the authority to provide significant advice to the Prime Minister in regard
to conflicts and major catastrophes of that nature?
Mr. Rigby: I would suspect that probably
more than any other national security adviser before me I have continuing
and direct involvement with the Canadian Armed Forces; a continuing
discussion with the Chief of the Defence Staff with his senior service heads
and with the generals who run his horizontal organizations.
My ability to pinpoint, from a Canadian
perspective, hot spots around the world and talk about both current Canadian
military engagement there and the potential for further engagement is quite
good and getting better. I look at it from a foreign policy geopolitical
point of view, and then I think we're able to put a military overlay on that
and talk about what are the what-ifs, where might we get involved, where
might our overseas development or foreign aid apparatuses have to get
involved. I think that debate is richer and more robust than it's been in
quite some time.
When you go further afield into more abstract
issues such as cyber, I participate in increasing discussions that the
government has with the private sector, for example, in terms of how we
might be able to respond to a significant cyberattack, not only against a
financial institution but a public utility. That is increasingly within the
"soft middle" of our threat profiles. Those sorts of discussions are ongoing
at all times.
From counterterrorism and counterespionage
points of view, I have constant conversations with the heads of our security
agencies and the RCMP. We look at how we have responded in the past to
terrorist plots on our home soil, what we have learned about those sorts of
things, how we could improve the reaction, and how we could improve the way
we work with allies, particularly the Americans, because we have very close
relations with them on a number of these things.
I don't think it's perfect, but it is evolving
and a lot better than it was. Our ability to identify threats, possible
scenarios and reactions is likely more involved and robust than it has been
in quite some years.
Senator Dallaire: Do you lead it? Are you
the leader of that? Who is running this?
I ask because whenever I am looking for a
comprehensive approach in government — as an example, after Afghanistan —
everyone has gone back to their jobs. They were worn thin on the ground, and
there is no true body politic or entity doing that contingency work.
Are you the man responsible for putting all
that together and leading it?
Mr. Rigby: I think most days, for my sins,
senator, I am, yes.
Senator Dallaire: Finally, I have my
Mr. Rigby: I suspect I may be back on the
strength of that answer.
The Chair: Colleagues, I would like to
thank our witnesses for appearing. Being accountable to Parliament is part
of the parliamentary process. We appreciate your candour, and we look
forward to another hearing in the future here.
It is important for Canadians to realize the
threats they face, the responsibility you have, and also with respect to
answering the question of privacy for Canadians. It's a very fine line you
walk, and we understand that. We are here to help the best we can.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Rigby: It's been a pleasure to be here.
The Chair: We now have two gentlemen here
to make their first appearance at this Senate committee, though I trust not
their last. Mr. John Forster was appointed Chief of the Communications
Security Establishment Canada effective January 30, 2012. Prior to his
appointment as Chief of CSEC, he served as the Associate Deputy Minister of
Infrastructure from 2009 to 2012, where he oversaw the design and delivery
of many of the government's infrastructure stimulus programs under the
government's Economic Action Plan.
Seated next to him is Michel Coulombe, the new
Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He has served with
the agency since 1986, and for reasons that will be understood by members of
the committee, his publicly available background is limited.
Welcome, Mr. Coulombe. We look forward to
hearing from you.
Gentlemen, I understand that you each have an
opening statement. We are scheduled until seven o'clock.
Michel Coulombe, Director, Canadian Security
Intelligence Service (CSIS): Mr. Chair and honourable senators, good
evening. I am pleased to be here today.
Honourable senators, review and accountability
were key consideration when CSIS was created in 1984. In fact, the Security
Intelligence Review Committee — or SIRC — was created alongside the service,
and has been reviewing our activities ever since. Independent review plays a
crucial role in the national security landscape because it maintains
Canadians’ trust in our activities and gives them confidence that our
activities are conducted legally, effectively and appropriately. Indeed,
Parliament can be assured that the review of CSIS is comprehensive and
As the committee knows, SIRC's latest annual
report was tabled by the minister on October 31. It is a report that touches
on a wide range of important issues, including the service's expanded
activities abroad in response to the increasing global dimensions of
national security threats.
CSIS maintained an effective working
relationship with SIRC over the review period, will continue this
collaboration in the coming year, and will work to address recommendations,
as appropriate, in its commitment to maintaining a culture of organizational
One of the main issues addressed in SIRC's
recent annual report was the collaboration between CSIS and CSEC. As such, I
would like to briefly describe for the committee the relationship between
the two organizations.
CSIS and CSEC have distinct origins and
mandates. We report to different ministers, operate under separate
legislative authorities, and have different review bodies.
However, both organizations perform vital
functions and lawfully collaborate to fulfill their respective mandates. The
National Defense Act and the CSIS Act authorize this collaboration, and
without it, CSIS’s investigations would surely suffer.
Our activities occur strictly within the bounds
of the law, and CSEC will not act on our behalf unless the appropriate
authorities are in place.
I certainly understand that the recent
controversy in the United States has caused concerns here in Canada, but I
can assure you that CSIS warrants authorized by the Federal Court do not
allow the mass surveillance of Canadians and we do not engage in such
activities. Our warrants are directed against specific individuals who pose
a threat to the security of Canada, a threshold that is clearly articulated
in the CSIS Act.
CSIS’s public report was recently tabled. I
thought you might be interested in a brief update on the evolving threat
environment and some specific remarks on Canadians travelling abroad to
engage in terrorist activities — something that has garnered significant
attention of late. While the threats I describe will be familiar to you, the
complexity of the threat landscape combined with the speed with which it
evolves is essential to understanding our work.
More than ever, disparate people and places
quickly intertwine to create threats that require an agile and coordinated
response from the intelligence community. For example, we have long been
concerned with espionage. Our industrial capabilities, rich natural
resources and access to key allies make Canada an attractive target for
hostile actors. What is new, however, is the sheer breadth of today’s
targets and the use of cyber attacks, which are efficient, cost-effective
and most importantly, deniable, providing anonymity for their perpetrators.
Canada's economic and strategic interests and
assets are also susceptible to the threat of espionage, interference and the
transfer of technologies. Corporate acquisitions by foreign entities,
particularly when state-owned, can also pose risks, and CSIS provides advice
to the government in such cases in accordance with the CSIS Act.
Of course, the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction continues to be of concern. We are well versed in the threat
posed by Iran's nuclear program, but events in Syria also serve to remind
that, even in this modern era, chemical weapons can be used with tragic
With respect to terrorism, while the leadership
of al Qaeda may be greatly diminished, its franchises continue to flourish
in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and North Africa. We also suspect threats from the
Afghanistan-Pakistan region to continue for some time.
Honourable senators, you have no doubt heard of
many examples in the media in recent months of Canadians travelling abroad —
often to the places I just mentioned — for terrorist purposes. This
phenomenon is worrisome, and Canada has an obligation to prevent such
activity where and when possible. Equally concerning for the service is when
these individuals decide to return to Canada, potentially posing a more
immediate threat to our national security.
Currently, CSIS is aware of over 130 Canadians
who are abroad in support of extremist activities, including approximately
30 in Syria alone. Such individuals' activities vary widely, ranging from
paramilitary activity, training in weapons and explosives and logistical
support, to terrorist fundraising and studying in extremist madrasas. Some
never achieve their intent and simply return home. Thus, their depth of
experience varies widely, making some individuals much more concerning than
The service actively investigates such
individuals. However, I must be clear in stating that such investigations
are inherently challenging and gaps in our understanding are unavoidable.
The number of individuals overseas is in constant flux. Their motivations
are difficult to ascertain and their movements across sometimes isolated
terrain are difficult to track.
The international operating environment is also
challenging, requiring close cooperation with our foreign partners. Many of
these theatres are active conflict zones, like Syria, creating risks that
must be carefully managed. Such challenges can also make it difficult to
gather enough information that might enable government agencies to look at
enforcement or administration opportunities.
Honourable senators, this problem is not unique
to Canada. Countries around the world and our closest allies are grappling
with the same issues and there is no simple solution.
We have made some progress to address this
phenomenon with new tools — such as Bill S-7, passed last year, which
effectively criminalized travel for terrorist purposes. Similarly, recent
efforts to establish a system to collect border exit information would fill
a current investigative gap to support lawful investigations of travel for
In closing, I might remark that there is one
constant in the threats we face today. They do not recognize borders and
cannot be mitigated or defeated by one organization or nation alone.
Given the complexity and breadth of the threat
environment, security intelligence in the modern world is a co-operative
effort that relies on effective collaboration with our partners — whether
here in Canada or abroad. It is a task that CSIS’s highly-trained and
motivated workforce is dedicated to fulfilling, and I am extremely proud to
have recently been chosen to lead these men and women as their director.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my
remarks and welcome questions from the committee.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr.
Mr. Forster, I understand you have a statement.
John Forster, Chief, Communications Security
Establishment Canada (CSEC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and
honourable senators, for the invitation to appear today. As some of you may
recall, I had the opportunity to appear in front of this committee in the
fall of 2012 to discuss how the Communications Security Establishment
Canada, CSEC, plays a major role in the defence of Canada from
Today, I am pleased to come back to answer any
new questions this committee may have, particularly in regard to our foreign
intelligence mandate, which has been a subject of significant attention
following recent unauthorized disclosures of classified materials and
subsequent media coverage.
I hope to provide you with an accurate sense of
how our work protects Canadians and Canadians' interests, how we protect the
privacy of Canadians as we go about our work, and how we are held to account
by our own policies and by independent parties such as the CSEC
As my colleague mentioned and as was outlined
in the CSIS report tabled last week, the threat environment that we face is
constantly evolving. Now, more than ever, foreign intelligence is
indispensable in discovering threats to our security and prosperity, such as
from terrorism or cyberattacks.
CSEC plays an important role in the
government's efforts to address these threats. Our mandate flows from the
National Defence Act and requires us to provide the government with three
First, we collect foreign signals intelligence
that supports government decision making, providing information on the
capabilities, activities or intentions of foreign entities, such as states
or terrorist groups, as they relate to international affairs, security or
defence. The act specifies that these CSEC activities are bound by and must
be in accordance with intelligence priorities that are set by the
Second, we have a cyberprotection mandate. We
provide information technology advice, guidance and services to help secure
government systems and networks, and the confidential information they
Third, because we do possess unique
capabilities, we provide technical and operational assistance to federal law
enforcement and security agencies under their mandates. Here, we act under
the legal authority of the requesting agency we are assisting, and we are
subject to any limitations of that authority, such as any applicable court
Over the years CSEC, in partnership with our
closest allies, has provided intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians.
For example, we have supported Canadian military operations, such as the
missions in Afghanistan, and protected our forces against threats. We have
uncovered foreign-based extremists' efforts to attract, radicalize and train
individuals to carry out attacks in Canada and abroad. We have identified
and helped to defend the country against the actions of hostile intelligence
agencies. We have contributed to the integrity of Canada's borders and
infrastructure by providing early warning about the illicit transfer of
people, money and goods. Finally, we have furthered Canada's national
interests in the world by providing context about global events and crises
and informing the government's foreign policy.
When I last appeared before this committee, we
discussed the growing challenges of cyberspace and how nation states,
criminals, terrorists and hackers are exploiting the growth of the Internet.
There are now more than 100 nations that possess the capability to conduct
cyber operations on a persistent basis. Our government systems are probed
millions of times a day, and there are thousands of attempts each year to
compromise those systems. CSEC monitors and defends against cyber-threats to
government networks, and, in this role, CSEC plays an important part in
protecting the private information of Canadians.
CSEC also supports the efforts of the
government to protect the Canadian economy from cyber threats. For example,
CSEC shares cyber threat information and mitigation advice with public
safety for further dissemination to the private sector in order to protect
the intellectual property of Canadian businesses and Canada’s critical
Foreign signals intelligence is critical to
identifying foreign cyber threats, but let me be clear that, while CSEC
supports the protection of Canadian businesses from cyber threats, it does
not share foreign intelligence with Canadian companies for their commercial
Canadians count on the government to keep them
safe from threats, but at the same time, they also count on us to respect
their privacy and execute our responsibilities lawfully. We take both those
responsibilities very seriously. Under our foreign intelligence and
cyberprotection activities, CSEC does not target Canadians, either at home
or abroad, nor do we target anyone in Canada. However, in those instances
where we are providing assistance to law enforcement or security agencies
such as CSIS, we may be asked to assist in the collection of communications
of Canadians. Under the National Defence Act, CSEC is specifically required
to protect the privacy of Canadians in the execution of its duties.
Lawfulness and privacy are our most important principles.
CSEC adheres to Canadian law, including the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act and the Criminal
Code of Canada, as well as the direction we receive from the government and
the Minister of National Defence.
However, given the complex nature of cyberspace
and telecommunications, CSEC may risk the incidental interception of private
communications of Canadians when directing our activities at a foreign
target. This risk occurs because we have no way of knowing in advance — let
alone can we control — who our foreign targets may communicate with,
including persons in Canada.
The National Defence Act recognizes this. Under
the law, and solely for the purpose of fulfilling our mandate to obtain
foreign intelligence or protect government networks, CSEC must obtain an
authorization from the minister for those activities that may risk the
incidental interception of a private communication. I do want to underline
that under no circumstance can the Minister of National Defence authorize
CSEC to direct its intelligence activities towards Canadians. These
authorizations are valid for up to one year and are subject to strict
conditions, which include measures to protect the privacy of Canadians.
We also have multiple structures within CSEC to
ensure compliance. These include executive control and oversight, policy
compliance teams in our operational areas, an on-site legal team from the
Department of Justice that provides advice, and active ongoing monitoring of
our internal processes.
I do want to emphasize that everything that we
do is subject to external review by the office of the commissioner, whom you
have already met with. He is a fully independent commissioner, and since
1996 a series of retired or supernumerary judges, including a former Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and other notable Federal Court
judges, has regularly reviewed our activities for compliance with the law
and made helpful recommendations that improve our programs. The commissioner
and his staff of 11, as well as additional expert consultants, are fully
cleared. They have full access to all CSEC personnel, all systems, all data
and all documents.
Successive reports by the commissioner have
included positive findings related to CSEC's measures to protect the privacy
of Canadians. The commissioner's most recent report did note that the
protection of privacy of Canadians is, in the eyes of CSEC and its
employees, a genuine concern and that he found a culture of compliance.
Nonetheless, we continue to look for every possible avenue to improve our
privacy protections. We have implemented every past recommendation of the
commissioner related to privacy and are in the process of implementing those
from very recent reviews.
To conclude, in my brief two years as Chief of
CSEC, I have been impressed by the dedication to public service shown by the
employees of that organization. They are among the best and the brightest
the country has to offer, including computer engineers, scientists,
researchers, mathematicians and linguists skilled in more than 60 different
languages. They chose to work at CSEC because they understand the importance
of our role and they want to make a difference. They are committed day in
and day out to protecting Canada and Canadians from global threats while
complying with the law and protecting the privacy of Canadians.
Again, thank you very much for the opportunity
to meet and speak with you today. I look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen.
I would like to begin with two questions. One
has to do with the question of the privacy of Canadians. You went on at
great length, Mr. Forster, to outline the procedures and the protocols that
you follow to ensure that that is adhered to. Yet, at the same time, we have
had considerable media reports regarding the surveillance of Canadians,
specifically in airports and the Wi-Fi in airports.
Would you tell us what type of data has been
collected when that type of operation is undertaken and why Canadians should
not be concerned about their privacy?
Mr. Forster: With your indulgence, I
thought I might take a couple of minutes to describe the context of that
deck. It is a very technical document, and I thought it might be helpful to
situate this, and then I will be happy to answer your questions.
The Chair: That is why we appreciate your
Mr. Forster: As I said, remember that our
role is to collect information from foreign targets on the global
information infrastructure, or the Internet. To do this, we need to
understand how millions and millions of communication networks function, how
they are constantly changing and how foreign targets are making use of them.
The document released last week refers to a
model that we were trying to build of a typical communication pattern around
a public Internet access point, in this case, an airport.
The work relied on metadata. Metadata is data
about a communication; it is not the contents of a communication. If you
think of yourselves as digital photographers, when you are taking a picture,
the picture is the content, but what comes with that picture is other bits
of data around the date, the time, the focal length, the aperture, the
pixels. It is data about it, but it is not the picture.
We rely on is what is called metadata. It's
used by computers to route or manage communications over global networks. It
doesn't include any content of emails, phone messages, text messages or
photos. This was the data we were using in this exercise.
We collect metadata from the global Internet
for two reasons. One, we need to be able to understand global networks to
know how to find a legitimate foreign target in a sea of billions and
billions of bits of communication. Two, we also use it to ensure our
intelligence collection is directed at a foreign target. So we use metadata
to be able to make sure we're not directing our activities at a Canadian
phone number, a Canadian IP address and to avoid targeting Canadian
This exercise involved a snapshot of historical
metadata collected from the global Internet. There was no data collected
through any monitoring of the operations of any airport. It's part of our
normal global collection. This was not an operational surveillance program.
That was not the result or the purpose of the exercise. We weren't targeting
or trying to find anyone or monitoring individuals' movements in real time.
The purpose of it was to build an analytical
model of typical patterns of network activity around a public-access node
like an airport. That's what you see in the document: patterns, dots and so
The goal, the end result of this work, was to
build a mathematical, analytical model. The end result was formulas,
Why did we do this? How does this help us?
We need to develop models that can help us find
legitimate foreign targets, terrorists, hostage-takers, foreign intelligence
agents. For example, we might have a hostage-taking in a foreign city.
Possibly Canadians are involved or citizens of our closest allies. Our
challenge is how do we help find those foreign targets in a sea of billions
and billions of communications traversing the globe through global
This kind of a model helps us in two ways: One,
it helps us narrow down our search in a foreign, remote region or large
city. It helps us filter out millions and millions of possibilities down to
a smaller few. Second, we know terrorists or hostage-takers will often use
public spaces like an airport or a cafe to access the Internet, because
they're trying to hide in plain sight. So this model, which helped to
identify typical patterns, helps us to identify where that person may be
contacting the Internet and where he may be coming from — a cafe, a hotel,
The model is very helpful. It can save time and
work during an incident where time is critical. It increases our chances of
I'm aware of at least two cases in the past 12
months where this model has been and is being used to help identify
legitimate foreign targets.
The collection of this metadata, data about a
communication, which was used to analyze global networks, was authorized
under the National Defence Act. This work was conducted under conditions set
out in ministerial directives. The first ministerial directive on metadata,
which included this kind of network analysis, was signed in 2005. A new
ministerial directive was submitted by my predecessor and signed by the
minister in 2011, and this work was done under the conditions set out in
I want to stress no Canadians' private
communications were targeted, collected or used. We didn't use this data to
identify any individual Canadian or person in Canada. As with all of our
activities, our measures must be put in place to protect the privacy of
Canadians when we're handling this kind of information.
I also would like to state that our collection
and use of metadata, including for network analysis, has been reviewed by
successive commissioners five times since 2003, the most recent in 2011, and
found to be lawful. The commissioner has approved in 2012 a new review of
metadata. It's the kind of topic that he regularly looks at, so there's a
new review under way. We welcome that and are happy to cooperate with him
that in that review.
I hope that gives you a bit of a picture of
what this deck is trying to describe.
The Chair: It's certainly a lesson, but I
would like to be clear just exactly what this does technically.
You are doing surveillance with computers in
designated airports. I'm assuming it's not in all airports; is that correct?
An airport is designated or is it all airports?
Mr. Forster: I don't do surveillance inside
any airport in Canada. I will collect information off the global Internet. I
will then use that to try and identify and find a foreign target in a
This model shows me what the communication
patterns, typical ones, look like around an airport, a hotel or a cafe. When
I am pursuing a legitimate target in a foreign country, I can use this model
to quickly identify where that person may be connecting to the Internet
from, because I'm interested in finding the location of that person.
The Chair: I'm sure some of my colleagues
will follow up, but I have one other question in one other area. This would
be to Mr. Coulombe.
I want to refer to your report of 2012-2013
that you tabled. I read it very carefully, and I thought it was a very clear
document and a document all Canadians should read, quite frankly, especially
enumerating all the threats we face. I want to say that I found an omission
in that report as opposed to your other reports that have been tabled over
the last number of years. I refer to the radical Islamic threat we face here
in the world. I notice in the reports of 2008, 2009 and even in 2010 the
Islamist threat is referred to numerous times, and also "jihad" and its
What I found interesting in this report is it's
not referred to at all in respect to the writing of the report. Am I to
assume that the militant Islamic jihadist threat is no longer what it was a
few years ago? My question then leads me to if it is still a threat, why are
we not still clearly identifying it?
Mr. Coulombe: It is definitely still a
threat, but we prefer to talk about terrorism inspired by al Qaeda ideology.
That's what we're talking about.
If you look across North Africa, if you look at
what's happening in Yemen, in Libya, in Syria, in Lebanon — the conflict in
Syria is bleeding in Lebanon — Afghanistan, Pakistan, it is all al
Qaeda-inspired ideology that is driving that terrorism, and that's what
we've tried to communicate through our most recent public report.
The Chair: I'm not going to belabour this,
but it is an area that I would like to have a follow-up on if you could. I
would ask if you would table for us the list of individuals and
organizations with whom your organization has been relying on for outreach,
and I would also like to see the summary of the advice given as it relates
to identifying religions or religious ideology.
I will now call on Senator Dallaire.
Senator Dallaire: I would like to welcome
Mr. Coulombe. An organization like yours often has the role of gathering
information, but not necessarily of disseminating it, since you want to
protect your sources, and it may be difficult to share information with
various entities such as police forces, including the RCMP.
I would like to draw your attention to Canadian
diasporas, which are growing in size and number. They are from countries
currently going through a crisis, and their members have not necessarily
broken ties with their past and their family.
More specifically, I am talking about those
diasporas’ young members who are increasingly organizing into groups and
gangs. I am talking about entities that are fostering division locally and
causing problems for the police, but that also enable recruitment. Do you
need to obtain special authorization if you are focusing on a diaspora in a
location where the targets are people under the age of 18? Is that activity
something that deviates from the norm in your operations?
Mr. Coulombe: I will split the question
into two parts. On the one hand, we have the diasporas, and on the other
hand, we have individuals under the age of 18.
We have internal policies for situations where
the target or the subject of investigation is under the age of 18. In such
cases, authorization must be obtained at a higher level. That provision is
part of the service’s operational policies.
However, we do not target diasporas. The
service’s mandate is clear. We investigate and target individuals involved
in activities that constitute a threat. That is how we decide whether to
investigate an individual or not. We do not look at situations in a context
of community diaspora, but rather target activities as such. We could be
talking about organizations or individuals. We have to decide whether the
case meets the threshold established in the CSIS Act and whether those
individuals are involved in activities that constitute a threat to Canadian
security. The threats are well described in section 2 of the CSIS Act.
Senator Dallaire: It can target a diaspora
because the small group is part of it. Thank you for your answer, Mr.
Mr. Forster, you ran this exercise at Pearson.
To me, if I look at it as a soldier, it's a peacetime exercise to see if
your doctrine and tactics are working; you're acquiring information on
improving a weapon that you need to do your job. Why didn't you use
Mr. Forster: Well, it's not an operation;
it’s the construction of a model. We used a historical data set of about two
weeks of metadata, which again is not the content of communications. We used
information where we had reasonably good context and understanding, so that
when we're building a model, we know what that looks like, the ground
conditions, and so on. It helps us build a more robust model. When we're
using that model in a foreign country where we may know very little about
the conditions, at least we have been able to validate the model properly
and it's more robust.
It wasn't an operation at Pearson. It was a
piece of analysis and the development of a model done at CSE in Ottawa using
a data set that we had collected, as authorized under the law, from the
Senator Dallaire: Right. You are improving
your capabilities, and you're using that to do it.
Mr. Forster: Yes, sir.
Senator Dallaire: Again, I'm asking why you
used that one. Because you have a responsibility overseas, why not use one
that might be more complex and more difficult? If not an American one, why
not one from what used to be the Eastern bloc or another foreign country? It
would seem to me that there will be even more complexities in trying to
build a model from that.
Mr. Forster: As I said, we had a good
understanding of the local conditions in order to validate it, so that was
Senator Segal: I want to thank both agency
heads for making the time to be available with us today.
Mr. Forster, whatever it was that was gathered
in that model process relative to Wi-Fi transmission modes, I take it that
it's fair to assume that the actual data in that model has now been
discarded and will not be used or perused or in any way searched. The nature
of the data, while it gives you some modelling and design opportunities of
great value in the future, will also give indication about which digital
identities were present, when, how they might have been on the system, and
with whom they might have been communicating, all of which could be as
serious for a particular individual as the monitoring of a telephone call
with a court order. My assumption is that the appropriate measures will be
taken in that respect.
I'm reminded of the famous negotiations between
President Reagan and Chairman Gorbachev in Reykjavik. When the agreement was
reached, an historic and important agreement, some folks in the United
States were critical of President Reagan for reaching an agreement with
Gorbachev. His response was — and it's a response we heard from the American
president and Secretary of State in the last couple of weeks with respect to
Iran — "Trust but verify."
From the point of view of the Canadian citizen
who doesn't begin with any lack of trust — quite the contrary; I think he or
she has a high regard for the important work that you and your colleagues do
— how do we verify that what you believe to be the case, and what you have
shared with us in a straightforward way — perhaps in some context, you might
be unwittingly misinformed by someone — is actually the case? How do we, in
this democracy, verify that, in your judgment?
Mr. Forster: On your first question, the
ministerial directive we have around metadata includes provisions about how
we store and safeguard it. It has a retention period. After a maximum amount
of time, that data, if it hasn't already been discarded, is discarded.
Senator Segal: That would be a secret
Mr. Forster: Yes. The first one, as I said,
was signed in 2005, and a new one was done and developed and signed in 2011.
In terms of your question about verification, I
think it's fundamentally important. We recognize and understand the
sensitive nature of the kind of work we do. We know that, for good reason,
some of that work needs to be done in a classified, secret way. I think you
can have faith and trust in a number of mechanisms that are in place to
ensure that we are being lawful and following that.
I think the commissioner, as Mr. Rigby noted,
has good oversight. His office has top-secret clearances. They decide what
they want to look at. They have full access to any member of my staff, any
piece of data, any system and any document. They decide what it is they want
to review and study, and they provide a classified report directly to the
Minister of National Defence, usually with recommendations. As chief, I have
to respond to those recommendations, and back through him.
The commissioner also provides an unclassified
version to Parliament, but I think it is a very robust, rigorous review that
is done, and he has full access to everything we have. If he finds that we
have acted unlawfully, he is required, by law, not just to notify the
Minister of National Defence but also to notify the Attorney General to take
Senator Segal: Could I ask Mr. Coulombe
whether, in terms of the dynamic with SIRC, he might want to share his
perspective on the similar issue of "trust plus verify"?
Mr. Coulombe: As my colleague mentioned, it
is extremely important, and I've said it in my opening remarks. We can only
do our job if we have the confidence of Canadians. It is extremely
important, and we know this.
This July, the service will have 30 years, and
SIRC will have 30 years; it was created at the same time. Obviously, the
relationship has evolved. I've been involved directly for over 27 years.
I've always said, and I truly believe, that the service today is a better
service because of SIRC, because of the recommendations that SIRC has made
throughout those 30 years.
As John just explained, SIRC has access to
everything except cabinet confidences. Otherwise, they have access to all
the documents and to all of our people. They have access to our people
overseas. They have access to everything.
Not only are we reviewed by SIRC, but there's
also the Federal Court, which will look at the judicial approval of our
warrants. We're also not exempted from the Privacy Commissioner, official
languages, or the Auditor General. We're no different than any other, except
that we have SIRC in addition.
Senator Segal: During his time, the former
CSEC commissioner, Robert Décary, was quoted as saying he was unable to
reach a definitive conclusion about the agency's compliance or
non-compliance with the law for various foreign signals intelligence
activities because he didn't have sufficient resources, and for all he knows
they may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to the law. To be fair,
he said that after he finished his time of service.
Other democracies have another way of dealing
with this. They don't have these systems. They have statutory oversight,
where you are free to share information, which would otherwise be governed
by a secrecy of information act, with legislators who themselves have been
given the statutory capacity to hear that information.
I understand it's not within your purview to
design legislative oversight; that's for others to decide. Do you think the
work you do, with a view to the various points of accountability you have
already enumerated so helpfully, would be in any serious way diminished,
diluted or otherwise "hypothecated" at the expense of national security if
we were to have a similar structure to the British, the French, the Germans,
the Italians, the Belgians, the Dutch, et cetera?
Mr. Coulombe: I will start by saying I
believe the review mechanism for CSIS is robust and thorough. If you're
talking about a broader mechanism across the community, as you mentioned,
this is really a public policy debate, and it's up to Parliament and
government to debate and consider that.
However, I do agree with Mr. Rigby when he said
he didn't believe it would impede our work. I will repeat the same
cautionary note that Mr. Rigby stated in terms of, for example, duplication
of efforts. We would have to make sure that there would be synchronization
and lack of duplication. But, again, it is a public policy discussion and
it's not really in my purview.
Senator Mitchell: You said it would not
impede your work. Would it not actually enhance your work to the extent that
— and you made the point very powerfully — if you don't have the trust of
Canadians, you can't do your job? In the absence of any mechanism that's
outside of the process now, even the commissioner has some independence, but
still within the bureaucracy to an extent that could be seen to be, and SIRC
similarly. It's interesting there are different processes. Which one works
better? Why don't you have the better of the two?
Having said that, would it not enhance your job
by enhancing trust, but also by giving an outside policy review as well on
policy input? Right now none of those bodies do policy. You do policy, the
minister does policy, the cabinet does policy, but no one else has any
policy insight on other perspectives.
Mr. Forster: We're the agencies being
reviewed. However and whatever Parliament and the government decide they
need to put in place, we will totally work with whatever review bodies and
oversight mechanisms need to be there.
One of our great challenges, particularly in my
organization, is it's been a well-hidden organization for tens and tens of
years. One of the challenges I have as chief of that organization is for us
to be far more transparent and open as far as we can be within the confines
of national security about what we do. We think that's important as another
way of ensuring public trust and confidence in the work we're doing.
As the reviewing agency, it's really a policy
debate for government and Parliament to decide. I know both Michel and I and
our agencies would work fully and cooperatively and openly with whatever
bodies or mechanisms Parliament and the government see fit to put in place.
Mr. Coulombe: The only thing I would add is
the importance of Canadians to understand our mandate, what we do, how we do
it and what is the threat environment out there.
Mr. Chair, you've mentioned our public report
and actually it's the twenty-first edition of that report. You might be
interested in knowing there is no legislative requirement to produce that
report. It was a decision made by the service in order, again, for Canadians
to better understand what we do, how we do it and the threat environment.
We also talk in the report about, for example,
our academic outreach program. Again, that's to engage in a dialogue outside
of CSIS to discuss those important issues. We're quite aware of the
importance of this communication. We are a member of the Cross-Cultural
Roundtable on Security, for example. We are involved at a number of levels
in trying to be as open as we can be in terms of what we do.
Senator Mitchell: I will go back to the
Wi-Fi airport issue. I will say that you certainly have made an effort to be
open and it's clear in your presentation on that.
Again, Mr. Forster, it's your relationship with
the minister, a minister who really has huge power in this process. Would
you have asked for permission from the minister to authorize this particular
project, or is it more generally assumed under the protocols document that
Once authorized, whether this one was or not or
something like it, does the minister follow up? Is there a report and record
of the decision? Is there a report on following up on what was done and how
it was done and what the effect was on the minister? Does the minister have
to justify that decision to anyone in particular, or is the minister
Mr. Forster: I can state that the Minister
of National Defence did not approve this particular project. What the
minister approves, for example, through the ministerial directive on
metadata, are directions to me. He can't confer some new authorities on me
that aren't in my act, but what he can do is confer upon me requirements,
constraints and expectations he has in using, collecting and analyzing
metadata; how I'm to protect privacy, how I'm to store and manage. That's
what the ministerial directive does.
When we're approving a project, which in this
case was the analytical building of a model, it's using data that was
collected under our statute and we have to use it in accordance with that.
In terms of collection, the minister also would
sign what we call ministerial authorization, which is any class of
activities or collection methods we have that run the risk of interception
of a Canadian communication. If I have a target in a foreign country and I'm
targeting that person and monitoring their communications, if they have a
call back to someone in Canada, that's an incidental interception of a
private communication in the Criminal Code and the minister has to authorize
those activities. However, in this case he wasn't authorizing the analytical
model building project that was done. It was done under the frameworks and
the policies that he puts in place.
In terms of follow-up and approvals, many of
those directives or authorities also require me to report back to him on an
annual basis. For example, if I have incidentally collected private
communications, I have to report to him on how many and how they were used,
et cetera. There is a reporting requirement, and I submit that and I meet
with him to go through that.
Senator Wells: Thank you, Mr. Coulombe and
Mr. Forster for your presentations and your answers to the questions thus
I want to jump tracks and go to Mr. Coulombe.
In your presentation, you mentioned corporate acquisitions by foreign
entities. I had a question regarding that. Could you give us any more detail
about the types of threats posed by state-owned enterprises? With respect to
CSEC, do you have a role in responding to the threat and, of course,
advising the government?
Mr. Coulombe: We have to go back to the
CSIS Act. Everything we do is in accordance with the CSIS Act.
One definition you will find in the CSIS Act is
around foreign interference, which is "clandestine or deceptive" activities
detrimental to the interests of Canada. These include foreign acquisition
and meddling in different communities in Canada. If it is "clandestine" or
"deceptive" and it is against the interests of Canada, then it falls within
the definition of threats to the security of Canada. That is when the
service would be involved.
Senator Wells: If a state-owned enterprise
outside of Canada had an interest in a Canadian corporation for acquisition,
CSIS would not have a role there?
Mr. Coulombe: We would have a role —
Senator Wells: Because that would not be
Mr. Coulombe: We would have a role if some
of the activities were clandestine or deceptive. It is not automatic that we
would have a role, but if there is enough ground to suspect that there is a
threat as defined by the act, then we would have a role.
Under the Investment Canada Act, a national
security review could be launched and then the service — again, our role is
to collect and then advise government. In that context of foreign
investment, we would do the same thing: We would collect and then advise
government if, at the start, there are enough grounds to suspect that there
is a threat.
Mr. Forster: In our act, we are bound to
collect intelligence according to the priorities of the Government of
Canada. Mr. Rigby outlined that cabinet process and how that gets passed to
me in a directive from the minister. I do not make up or decide the
priorities for which my agency collects intelligence; those are given to me
by the government, through the minister.
We will collect intelligence in a situation
like that. If it has been identified as a priority for the government, then
we will go and collect information that may assist the government to that
As Michel said in terms of a security review
being launched, we may or may not participate in a security review of an
application under the Investment Canada Act, depending on what it is and
whether we have anything to contribute to that discussion.
Senator Day: I want to join my colleagues
in thanking each of you for being here and for clarifying your roles in this
rather complex area of intelligence and security.
I will start with Michel Coulombe. My
understanding is that SIRC's most recent report has recommended we take a
look at potential and developing threats in the Canadian North. How have you
reacted to that recommendation? Do you have the funds to deal with this new
dimension? What type of threats are we talking about?
Mr. Coulombe: I will go back to the
intelligence priority. If it fits within the intelligence priority as
defined by cabinet, it will be sent to us through our minister and then
translated into an intelligence requirement that is sent to our regional
The Arctic is no different than any other type
of investigation in terrorism. We would devote resources and do what we need
to do when there is enough ground to suspect that there is a threat, though
in this case, specifically regarding the Arctic.
In terms of what kind of threat, it goes back
to foreign interference and possibly espionage in terms of the Arctic
Senator Day: The final piece of that first
question was: Do you have the resources now to do that?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, we do.
Senator Day: Mr. Forster, I just don't know
that you can draw this line — maybe you can. I am thinking in terms of the
relationship between economic and industrial intelligence, and security
intelligence. You make the point that CSEC does not share foreign
intelligence with Canadian companies for their commercial advantage. If you
have determined that it is to their commercial disadvantage that some
foreign entity has acquired certain technology that will hurt them, surely
it's pretty close collateral information that you might be sharing with them
that could become a commercial advantage to them. How do you draw that line?
Mr. Forster: Our interactions with private
business are largely in the context of cyber-threats. You have numerous
foreign state and other cyber-threats out there, seeking to break into the
systems of corporations and others to steal technology, research and
There were reports of us meeting with industry
to give them commercial intelligence; that is not what we do. We, along with
the service and Public Safety, meet with them when we can help them, to tell
them about threats to their information systems, intellectual property,
research and technology.
In terms of foreign intelligence outside of the
cyberworld, we collect that to give to government departments according to
the priorities set by cabinet. We provide that to departments in the form of
reports, and that is where our intelligence goes.
We would not meet with a company, as I said
earlier, to share any intelligence we have about an upcoming bid or an
upcoming tender. We don't collect that information; that is not what we do.
Again, we collect according to the priorities of the government.
Senator Day: You are talking about systems
here. As part of your investigation, you might find that some intellectual
property has been compromised. Surely you would tell —
Mr. Forster: From a cyberattack point of
Senator Day: — an entity what intellectual
property has been compromised, would you not?
Mr. Forster: We will meet with them and
through Public Safety, which has the lead responsibility in dealing with the
private sector, advise them on cyber-threats and attacks. They probably know
better than us what intellectual property may have been compromised in their
system. We can help them understand the threats that are there against their
systems and occasionally help them mitigate the damage from them.
Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr.
Coulombe. We all know that terrorism is a threat that is spreading
internationally. In your report, you say that your warrants target
individuals who pose a threat to the security of Canada. What premises
establish the warrants for monitoring a specific individual?
Mr. Coulombe: The criteria involved in
submitting an application for warrant to the federal court are laid out in
section 21 of the CSIS Act. The first criterion consists in there being
sufficient grounds to suspect that an individual’s activities constitute a
If that criterion is satisfied and an
individual is under investigation, the second question to ask is the
following: are there any other ways to obtain information we need to fulfil
our mandate besides warrants?
So when we appear before a judge, we have to
show that we have tried all other investigative procedures and that they,
for whatever reason, did not allow us to obtain all the information we
needed to be able to notify the government of the threat.
Senator White: I have one supplemental
question from an earlier question and one question I had prepared earlier.
In relation to the metadata, I understand it is
tagged to help you develop a system. If it's not being kept for the
intelligence found within the data itself, why would you keep it any longer
than the development of the system? Why would you worry about the Privacy
Act and the information being maintained for a certain period of time if it
is only to be used for the development of a system in the first place?
Mr. Forster: We collect metadata on the
Internet largely to help us understand global networks. If we are looking
for a foreign target, we need to have a road map to know where best to
target our efforts to collect intelligence against a particular priority.
In terms of the exercise of building this
model, the data wouldn't be retained any longer than we needed it for that
exercise, and the ministerial directive has a firm end-of-retention date. We
use metadata to characterize and understand global networks and also to help
us find the targets we're looking for. We may be looking for a single target
in a sea of billions and billions of communications on the global Internet.
Metadata can help us understand those networks, where communications may be
routed, how we are using it. They help us find what we are looking for
faster and help to avoid targeting Canadians in that process.
Senator White: Many people raised a
question around Snowden, the access to information and his distribution.
Many are concerned about what is in the information. My concern is a little
different. I am concerned about what he accessed and what he released more
from the integrity of the organization than from the public perspective.
I have asked question previously of the
oversight bodies surrounding the integrity testing that must be done on
employees. In the hiring process, I am quite familiar with the manner in
which people are hired. But what kind of comfort can you give us that the
integrity testing, which must be continuous within your organization, would
ensure that those types of individuals or contractors would not be allowed
to flourish as Mr. Snowden has?
Mr. Forster: I will start and then turn it
over to Michel.
You always use these unfortunate incidents to
learn from and look at how you can improve the security inside your
organizations. I am never going to be able to give you a 100 per cent
guarantee that it can't happen in our organization, but we look at
technology. There are a lot of tools and changes we can use with technology
in terms of auditing forensics, et cetera; these are being done.
When we hire people, we put them through a
fairly rigorous process before they come into the organization. Not only do
they need a top secret clearance, but to work in our organization you also
have to undergo a psychological assessment, take a polygraph test, et
It is not enough to bring them in that way. You
need mechanisms and processes in place with your employees throughout to
make sure you have good security measures. Part of that is good management
and managers involved and close to their employees. We have assistance
programs that employees can go to within our organization to seek
counselling or advice. If they feel they have an allegation of wrongdoing,
we have several options for them that don't include me.
We have an ethics officer that they can
approach, and that is one of the roles of the commissioner. They can go to
the commissioner and say, "I believe I have an allegation of wrongdoing."
There are legitimate avenues to express concern or alert people to potential
Technology, people, training and those kinds of
mechanisms are what we put in place.
Mr. Coulombe: There is not much more to
Senator White: I did not hear the words
"integrity testing," so I will ask again: Is that used? Most police agencies
now use integrity testing to ensure that employees, police officers who are
in such positions, are caught before they find themselves in a position of
jeopardizing an organization or investigation. Would the same be in place?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, there is. It is just the
use of a different terminology. We talk about "reliability," but under the
government security policy, to obtain a clearance, be it secret or top
secret, there are two aspects: loyalty and reliability. When you are talking
integrity, you are talking about the reliability of it.
Senator White: But Snowden passed many
tests. I am talking about post-employment, the seven-year itch when the
employee is no longer happy. Is there something to ensure that person does
not become Snowden?
Mr. Coulombe: Yes. In the service, every
five years people have to go through the process again to keep their
security clearance. That includes everybody, even me.
Senator Nolin: Mr. Coulombe, I would first
like to go back to Justice Mosley’s decision. But before I get to the crux
of this decision — although I will not discuss the decision itself, since
you have appealed it — I will rather discuss the elements surrounding it.
You started giving Senator Dagenais the answer.
When you use section 21 before the Federal Court, can you tell us how it
works when you ask your colleague to intercept the communications of a
Canadian and why? How does it all work and why does it work that way?
Mr. Coulombe: Why does it work that way? We
ask CSEC to become our agent, to intercept the communications for us,
because we do not have the technological capacity to do that. We could
develop it, but would it be a judicious use of taxpayers’ money to spend
millions of dollars on technology that our colleagues already have and are
legally authorized to use?
Senator Nolin: They become your designated
agent? So you ask their permission to use them for the interception. Okay,
that is the how. But what about the why? You have tried everything and
nothing has worked to your satisfaction, so you really need to intercept the
communications. And at that point, you need a warrant issued by a judge.
Mr. Coulombe: A warrant from a judge, yes.
Senator Nolin: Okay. And does that happen
Mr. Coulombe: I could not give you any
figures off the top of my head.
Senator Nolin: When I say "often"….
Mr. Coulombe: If I look at the number of
targets, of individuals under investigation in relation to the number of
warrants we have, it is not all that many.
Senator Nolin: You can see what I am
getting at. When Mr. Rigby said they were surprised, I assumed it was more
than that, because, his boss, the Prime Minister, probably asked him what
all the madness was about and why he had not been told what was going on.
First, I want to know what you said when Mr. Rigby called you and asked what
had happened and why he had not been told about it?
The second thing I want to know is what you did
internally to keep it from ever happening again.
Mr. Coulombe: First, you have to understand
that, in 2009, the first time that….
Senator Nolin: You were not there. I know
it was your predecessor.
Mr. Coulombe: I was not going to use that
as an argument.
Senator Nolin: I was not going to accept
that as an argument, just so we understand one another.
Mr. Coulombe: Again, we have to go back to
section 21 and ask what the act requires in order to obtain the warrants.
The NSA has nothing to do with this; it is the Minister of Public Safety —
and once again, this is set out in the act — who has to approve the
application for the warrant, even before the application is made to a judge.
So it really goes through the department, the minister himself. The NSC is
not advised every time an application for a warrant is made to the court.
Senator Nolin: In this case, I assume — I
have no doubt — that he called you, and if not you, your predecessor at
least. But last November, it was you. At any rate, had it been me, I would
have called you. I would have asked what the situation was all about. What
did you do after that?
Mr. Coulombe: As Mr. Rigby said, we
explained the how and why of it all. And we had meetings, Mr. Rigby, myself,
the Minister of Justice and the other stakeholders, to discuss the file. And
this is where I have to tread extremely lightly, because an appeal was filed
and is now before the court of appeal; these are complex issues and I would
really not want to….
Senator Nolin: I do not want to get into
the details of the decision regarding section 30.08, but I do want to know
what happened afterwards. Did you change your internal procedures?
Mr. Coulombe: In response to the Mosley
decision, yes. We changed them because throughout the service’s 30-year
history, we have always complied with the decisions of the court. And we did
the same in this case, pending the outcome of the appeal.
Senator Nolin: Mr. Forster, on the question
of metadata, you explained to us all the steps you are taking to ensure that
Canadians are not being intercepted in your efforts. I must conclude that
other countries could intercept Canadian citizens.
Mr. Forster: Canadians in other countries?
Senator Nolin: Yes, organizations similar
Mr. Forster: Not just countries, but also
criminals, activists, terrorists — all are using the Internet to collect and
Senator Nolin: When you are collecting
metadata in an airport —
Mr. Forster: Not in an airport.
Senator Nolin: — or somewhere, you are
eliminating Canadians. I presume with the IP address you can do that.
Mr. Forster: We will keep the metadata
because as communications go over networks, foreign communications and
Canadian are all mixed up together. If I sent you an email today, it gets
broken up. Part of my email may get routed all over the world before it
arrives, even though we are in the same room together. When you collect
metadata, it is impossible. It is all intermixed together, and good citizens
and terrorists all are using the same networks. So when we collect it, we
have no way of knowing at that point of disaggregating it until we look at
it, and then we use it. If it is Canadian, then we have to make sure we
protect the privacy of that information and how we use it. We have
conditions from the minister about how we do that.
Senator Nolin: So it means that you are
rejecting, after all that process, the Canadian-labelled interception?
Mr. Forster: No. What we use that for, if
we are looking for a target, the metadata can help us tell that a target we
may be going after is a foreign target versus a Canadian IP address or
number, which we don't target under our legislation. Before we collect the
content of a communication, we are using metadata as a way to accurately
target our collection efforts, both on a legitimate target and to make sure
we are not targeting them.
Senator Nolin: So your American targets can
do the reverse and look at Canadians and reject Americans?
Mr. Forster: Well, we have a policy in
terms of collecting communications amongst the Five Eyes that we don't
target each other's citizens, which is the agreement between the Five Eyes.
But as you are collecting metadata on the Internet, remember, the Internet
has no boundaries, so it may very well include metadata from different
countries, different locations. But when we collect it and have Canadian
data, then we have to protect the privacy of it.
The Chair: May I redirect a question, if I
could, colleagues, in respect to Senator White with respect to employees and
the question of the screening of employees to ensure that they are adhering
to all the protocols required by both your organizations?
I refer to contract employees. Do you have a
number of contract employees? If so, are they substantial?
Second, what tests are taken in respect to
their screening prior to coming into work with your organizations, if that
is the case?
Mr. Forster: In terms of contractors, the
number of contractors varies, depending on the operations we are running.
They do have to have a top-secret clearance before they can come to work at
CSEC, and to get that and come into the organization, they need to go
through the same process as a new employee would coming in.
After the disclosures, we certainly launched a
review of our contracting situation, making sure we have only the people we
need, what access they have and making sure their clearances and so on are
up to date and accurate. We are going through that process now.
Senator Dagenais: I would like to pick up
on Senator White’s question on the reliability testing of employees. Some of
Canada’s large police organizations are considering using polygraph testing
in specific circumstances to verify the reliability of employees. Have you
thought about that option, that is, conducting polygraph testing at regular
intervals to verify employee reliability?
Mr. Coulombe: As I mentioned, CSIS has been
administering polygraph tests as part of the hiring and security clearance
process for a number of years now.
Senator Dagenais: Do you administer them
regularly or intermittently? Some police forces are looking into whether
they should use them to test employees every five years.
Mr. Coulombe: Yes, we use them regularly
and also when a specific case warrants their use. Keep in mind, however,
that polygraph testing is not a magic bullet; it is one of many tools used
in decision making.
Senator Dagenais: So it does influence
other police forces. Thank you very much.
Senator Dallaire: Bill S-7 is quite a
significant tool, but one that flows from the school of prevention.
Intelligence-based law enforcement comes under the scope of prevention. You
operate in an awfully complex environment where the act has not been
committed and the information needs to be passed on to the people concerned.
Does this bill give you more teeth when
responding to potentially subversive entities or was it simply an area that
had not been sufficiently explored?
Mr. Coulombe: To be frank, as far as the
impact on CSIS is concerned, Bill S-7 has not really changed what we do or
how we do it, because it is really a tool for police forces. What it changed
for CSIS was put another tool at our disposal in terms of information and
the sharing of that information with police forces like the RCMP, so they
can fulfill their mandate, so they can determine whether to conduct an
investigation, whether it meets the threshold. It gives us an additional
avenue to inform police forces when we believe doing so is warranted.
Senator Dallaire: That puts you in even
closer contact with common tactical activities. Does CSIS want to keep
working that way, or do you still want to maintain a separation between what
they do on the ground on their end and what you do?
Mr. Coulombe: We still want to maintain a
separation. CSIS is not a police force; we are not in the business of
gathering evidence to bring people before the courts. That is not what we
do. So we have to respect the line that separates our investigations from
I have been directly involved with the RCMP for
over 28 years. I began my career with the RCMP and I helped develop
mechanisms to facilitate discussion and information sharing, all while
maintaining that separation between security intelligence investigations and
criminal investigations that will likely lead to criminal court.
Senator Dallaire: Mr. Forster, you say that
you do not investigate or seek information on Canadian citizens. Would those
in uniform, the military, as an example, would they be fair game for your
work with regard to their employment overseas?
Mr. Forster: In terms of targeting them for
collection of intelligence about them, they are Canadian. It doesn't matter
if they are in the military or not. We can't target the communications of a
Canadian anywhere in the world.
We do work very closely with the Canadian Armed
Forces in terms of SIGINT, particularly in support of military missions and
operations. Again, it was before my time as chief, but certainly the
relationship and the joint operations between SIGINT and the military in
Afghanistan was extremely close and extremely invaluable in protecting the
lives of our soldiers.
Senator Dallaire: You were tasked.
Mr. Forster: We were very much part of the
mission to help them gain tactical intelligence in Afghanistan.
Senator Segal: I'd like to come back, Mr.
Coulombe, to the issue of SIRC. You were very forthcoming about how the many
reports of SIRC over the years have strengthened the service and
contributed, in your view, to improvement in a host of constructive areas.
As I understand SIRC's mandate, it is
retrospective. It looks back at what may have happened in the previous year.
It only has a mandate with respect to CSIS. It doesn't have a mandate for
military intelligence or ITAC or any of those other organizations or your
colleague's organization. It has a mandate to pursue any complaints which
may come up where they will ask specific questions. Your frankness about the
open access they have is very constructive and helpful.
Your colleagues who do the same work that you
do in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium,
Italy, the Netherlands and Israel have the ability to go before an oversight
committee and share with them not just things about the past but about the
challenges they're facing now, the issues they have with respect to
resources and some of the technological issues that are coming at them.
They're in a position to seek advice or clarification or test various things
with legislators on a non-partisan basis in camera.
Am I to conclude from your testimony that you
would not find that sort of engagement of any particular value, that it
would not enhance the ability to do your job as well as I know you want to
do it, when your colleagues in other NATO and allied countries do have that
Mr. Coulombe: I'm not saying it would not
enhance. It comes with its own challenges, and if you do talk to our foreign
partners, they will say so.
Again, like John mentioned, being the body that
is being reviewed, I don't really think I'm in a position to comment in
terms of what type of review or oversight mechanism should be put in place.
The one certainty, whatever Parliament decides to do, we will, like we've
done for the last 30 years with SIRC, fully cooperate with whatever
mechanism is put in place.
Senator Segal: I wanted to come back to
make sure I understood what your response was on the metadata question. I
think I had implied in my question that having done the modelling, having
learned what you had to learn from the exercise, the actual data itself
would be destroyed. I think your answer — because it did not contain, in
your view, any private information about individuals — was that it would be
retained because it is a planning instrument to help with the design of
other models as national security requirements may suggest are necessary for
CSEC. I wanted to be sure that I understood that that was, in fact, your
Mr. Forster: I don't want to leave the
impression that there aren't privacy interests related to metadata. There
can be. There can be information in metadata that, while not a private
communication as defined in law, there are privacy interests. So when we
collect metadata, we do have to manage those privacy interests. We have in
our directive a regime that we can only retain it for so long and then it
must be destroyed if it has not already been so. In many cases, it may just
be overwritten because we need the space for it.
Senator Segal: Can I conclude, then, that
as the nature of the exercise was mandated by a directive from a minister of
the Crown, which is itself secret, you are not able to share with us what
will happen with that data because it's a matter lawfully between yourself
and the minister?
Mr. Forster: Right. Just to be clear, the
exercise per se was not approved by the minister. The policies and the
frameworks and how we use metadata are certainly approved, and my
accountability to report to him is done.
The metadata only has limited shelf life which,
for security reasons, I can't talk about. Then you would know how long I
would be keeping things.
Senator Segal: I understand.
Mr. Forster: But I can assure you that in
that ministerial directive there is a definite shelf life, and the data is
destroyed at that time, if not before.
Senator Mitchell: There are at least two
fundamental differences in the way that you are structured. Mr. Forster, you
report directly to the minister, making you de facto of the deputy minister
level, it would seem to me.
Mr. Coulombe, you report to a deputy minister,
making you not at that level.
Mr. Forster, your review is by a commissioner;
and, Mr. Coulombe, your review is by a board.
Why the differences? In particular, which is
better: a board or a commissioner?
Mr. Coulombe: The first thing I'd like to
clarify is that the director of the service — we are separate employers, and
I report to the minister. I do not report through the Deputy Minister of
Public Safety. I report directly to the minister.
Why the differences? I couldn't explain it.
Is it better with SIRC or the office of the
commissioner? I can only talk about our own structure, and like I've said, I
think SIRC has demonstrated through the years that it is a robust review
mechanism for CSIS, but I would be ill-placed to start comparing SIRC versus
the office of the commissioner.
Mr. Forster: Which is better? I'm not
knowledgeable enough about SIRC and how it operates to be able to compare
the two. I think the commissioner model is useful in our organization for a
couple of reasons.
There are complex legal issues, as you've seen
in the discussion today, so having a retired judge is very important. They
have a legal understanding and a legal acumen that they can use, because
legality is an important issue for us. So they do that.
Again, the staff of the commissioner — it's a
very complex world. There is a lot of technology. Our world is very complex.
The commissioner's office provides that continuity. They build up a
competence and an expertise in the matters in which they have to review and
advise the minister.
It's hard for me to compare the two. I probably
don't know enough about SIRC.
Senator Mitchell: I appreciate that.
To further the initiative that has come up
earlier, there is fundamental difference between review and oversight. One
is retroactive; one is proactive, one might argue. In fact, oversight has
some elements of governance, not just evaluating after the fact. Part of
that element of governance would be policy input.
I alluded to it earlier, but I'd like to
clarify the sense that really and truly, policy right now is essentially, in
a structured way, set by cabinet, dispersed, as Mr. Rigby was talking about,
amongst the various departments and packaged to act; but there is no other
official, formal manner in which policy input and advice is given to your
two organizations outside of the government structure. That is the
government as in the Conservative government structure and the cabinet and
the bureaucracy. There isn't any other independent body or parliamentary
oversight body of any kind that would provide that.
Mr. Forster: Outside government?
Senator Mitchell: Or within Parliament,
outside of the government itself.
Mr. Forster: That's correct.
Senator Nolin: Mr. Forster, I want to go
back to this question of metadata.
In July last year, Ms. Cavoukian, the
information and privacy commissioner of Ontario, after listening to the
content of the data collected through this means, including the times of the
communications, the length of the communications, the platform used, the
addresses, the email addresses, the IP addresses and the locations, she
said, and I want you to comment on her affirmation:
Government surveillance programs,
however, gather and analyze our metadata for different purposes.
Armed with this data, the state has the power to instantaneously
create a detailed digital profile of the life of anyone swept up in
such a massive data seizure. Once this data is compiled and
examined, detailed pictures of individuals begin to emerge. The data
can reveal your political or religious affiliations, as well as your
personal and intimate relationships.
The truth is that collecting metadata
can actually be more revealing than assessing the content of our
What's your opinion on such an affirmation by
someone who is responsible for looking after privacy in Ontario?
Mr. Forster: Metadata, in terms of a
foreign signals intelligence agency, is pretty essential. We wouldn't be
able to find or locate our foreign targets without it. It also helps us to
make sure that we are not targeting Canadian private communications.
Even though the law doesn't recognize it as a
private communication, there is a strong privacy interest in metadata. As we
are on the global Internet collecting metadata for finding our foreign
targets, we still have a privacy interest; we still have to protect and
ensure the privacy of that information. We would not be using metadata to
build profiles of Canadians and their religious affinity and their political
Senator Nolin: You could, but you are not
Mr. Forster: We would be in violation of
the law to do it, one. Two, we have no interest in doing that. Our focus is
to find foreign targets overseas. If we started to try to do that, I can
tell you that there would be people all over our organization phoning up the
commissioner and saying, "Whoa, whoa."
Our role with metadata, again, is to understand
networks that help us quickly find what it is we are looking for in the sea
of communications. We don't use it for that purpose at all. It would be in
violation of the law. The commissioner would certainly report that, or our
own employees would report that.
Senator Nolin: Is that the reason why the
commissioner is so adamant and still coming back to the issue of metadata
Mr. Forster: First and foremost, the
commissioner who has the legislative responsibility to come in and look at
our operations to make those assurances to you is the CSEC commissioner. At
the same time, the federal Privacy Commissioner has an interest and a role
here. Actually, we will be having her office in later this month to provide
a briefing and explain to her these programs and how we protect privacy
Senator Nolin: We may invite her to give us
Senator Segal: When Mr. Rigby appeared
before us, he said, I think in jest, that he hasn't slept well for three
years because of some of the issues of which he would be aware in the
performance of his duties.
An Hon. Senator: He didn't say even "well."
Senator Segal: He didn't say "well"; there
was no adjective.
I understand the constraints both of our
witnesses face in terms of how frank they can be with a committee that
doesn't have security clearance, but could I ask both of our witnesses to
sum up those things, or one or two serious matters that keep them awake at
night, about which they worry in the discharge of their primary duty, to
protect the national security of Canadians?
Mr. Coulombe: I'll start by saying that Mr.
Rigby is lucky, because in my case it's 27 years.
In terms of things that keep me awake at night,
I talked in my opening remarks about the phenomenon that we call "foreign
fighters." This is not just in Canada. When I travel and meet with my
colleagues in Europe and elsewhere, it is the number one concern and the
number one priority. That would certainly be at the top of my list:
radicalization of young Canadians; and then either planning to do something
here, planning from here to do something elsewhere, or travelling overseas
to be involved in threat-related activities.
There is one thing I want to make clear. The
label "foreign fighters" is being used to describe this. I mentioned in my
opening remarks that at this time we are aware of about 130 Canadians. It's
misleading to say "foreign fighters" because, again, some of them could be
involved in fundraising or logistical support. It is not 130 Canadians out
there fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan or elsewhere. That's an
important distinction. But that would definitely be at the top of my list at
Mr. Forster: I've only not been sleeping
for two years, since I was appointed.
Two things are at the top of our list that
we're preoccupied with. One is certainly cyber-threats. This is a rapidly
growing area that you are seeing: nation states, activists and criminals, in
terms of how they use the Internet, hide in the Internet and exploit
information from the Internet. It's a challenge that you can't say, "Right,
we've done that, fixed that." The complexity and the evolution of the
capabilities, not just to use it to seek information, but others are using
it for disruption purposes. You saw last year that there were cyber-threats
or attacks from Iran on the U.S. financial sector, for example, on their
The second biggest area of concern for us, as
Michel would say, would be in the field of terrorism. It's a very diffuse
threat, very difficult to find, and has life-and-death consequences.
Senator Segal: When Bill S-7 was passed —
it originated in the Senate — Justice Department officials said to us that
one of the values of criminalizing anybody's activities that might be deemed
criminal here, should they wish to do them elsewhere in support of a
terrorist organization, whether it's fundraising or any of those, was that
the police and criminal intelligence had the capacity to pursue conspiracy;
i.e., people who are planning to go about those sorts of activities.
Without getting into specifics, can you share
with the committee your view as to whether, from the point of view of
foreign signals monitoring and from the point of view of our own
intelligence on the ground in Canada since the passage of that bill, you are
comfortable with the progress in developing the capacity to do that analysis
so as to facilitate lawful disruption, to keep bad things from happening
before they happen? We always would like more progress, faster — I
understand that — but by and large, within the context of the realities we
face, is the progress being made, from your perspective, sufficient and
Mr. Coulombe: I certainly wouldn't want to
speak for the RCMP on this. I think that question would probably be better
addressed by them.
That said, there has certainly been progress —
and I go back to Senator Dallaire's question earlier regarding Bill S-7, in
terms of the dialogue and exchange of information between the service and,
if you like, the operationalization of this bill. In terms of progress,
collecting evidence and bringing somebody to court in regard to Bill S-7,
again, that is better for the police force to address. It's out of my field.
Mr. Forster: I don't have a lot to add. I
would make one point in terms of Canadian individuals who go overseas to
train and fight. Even if they're a person of interest, they're still a
Canadian. They may be in Syria. I'm not going to target them for
intelligence collection. It would still require Michel to go to court, to
get a warrant, and then I may assist him in that effort. But even as a
Canadian in a foreign country, it's not something within my mandate.
Senator White: Thanks again for being here.
I was always told to save the praise until the end. I've travelled to other
countries, and they continuously talk about the success Canada has had in
disrupting, dismantling and combating terrorism in our country, in
particular. I think a lot of that has to do with organizations such as
You did make a comment, Mr. Coulombe, in
relation to radicalization. We know your folks aren't the ones with their
feet on the ground in the communities where radicalization typically occurs,
yet we have been successful in the Toronto 18 and other cases, for example.
What activity does your organization take with those local organizations to
ensure that the radicalization is combatted and that there is a fight on the
ground to try and reverse or disrupt cases like the Toronto 18?
Mr. Coulombe: I mentioned earlier that we
are a member of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security. That is certainly
a venue for the service to be at the table and discuss those issues with
community leaders. Through our regional offices we also maintain a
relationship with a number of those leaders in talking about those issues.
It is also important to understand that the
issue of radicalization is not one that will be solved uniquely by
intelligence services or law enforcement. It is at all levels of the
community and it will need the involvement of everyone on this file. We play
a role, but we are not the overall solution to this. We certainly make many
efforts in terms of understanding the phenomenon. We do a lot of studies
ourselves, with partners and with academia involved, trying to understand
and then trying to counter this, but we do maintain a cross-country liaison
at different levels.
Senator White: That was a great response.
Do you feel there needs to be a standardization
put in force for all police agencies in Canada that will require everyone to
be at a similar or like level of readiness when it comes to receiving
information, unlike there is today with 180 organizations?
Mr. Coulombe: It would definitely be
useful. As you well know, we are part of the Canadian Association of Chiefs
of Police and through that we try, as much as possible, to inform. Like you
have mentioned, we are not necessarily the boots on the ground. We are
limited and we certainly rely on front-line police officers to bring any
threat-related activities to our attention through dialogue with different
When I was responsible for the regional office
in Montreal, the relationship between the RCMP in "C" Division, Sûreté du
Québec and Montreal police was extremely important. It is something we
cultivate and work for, because it is crucial in order for us to fulfill our
The Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much
for appearing here today. This is truly, in part, parliamentary
accountability at its best, I believe. I think you were very forthright and
we look forward to having you again in the future. It's been informative.
I would like to welcome to our committee Ms.
Jill Sinclair, Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy) from the Department of
National Defence. Ms. Sinclair is a seasoned professional in our government.
We are pleased to have you here. I understand
that you have an opening statement. Please proceed.
Jill Sinclair, Assistant Deputy Minister
(Policy), National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Mr. Chair,
honourable senators and committee members, good evening. My name is Jill
Sinclair, and I am happy to appear before you today to discuss defence
policy, specifically as it relates to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty and
I understand that you heard from my colleague
Major-General Chris Coates in December on Canadian Armed Forces operations
and activities in the north. I will be focusing on the strategic orientation
of the department’s objectives in the north and how we are working within a
whole-of-government effort to exercise our sovereignty and to ensure we are
ready for the opportunities and challenges the future holds for Canada’s
As you know, Canada's Arctic region is vast —
40 per cent of our land mass. Unlike some of our Arctic neighbours, only a
small percentage of our population, about 0.3 per cent, reside in the
Arctic. This is important to note in considering the growing interest in
natural resources, tourism, shipping routes and scientific exploration.
As these activities increase, so too will the
challenges, both new and long-standing, to safety and security in the North
— challenges such as natural disasters, environmental pollution, search and
rescue incidents, illegal migration, and smuggling.
National Defence and the Canadian Forces play
and will continue to play an important role to help ensure that Canada is
poised to respond to these challenges and exercise our sovereignty. In this
regard, the department's policy is grounded in a well-established framework.
Canada's Northern Strategy, to which the
government reaffirmed its commitment in the last Speech from the Throne,
lays out the government's vision for the North and is built upon the pillars
of sovereignty, social and economic development, environmental heritage, and
improved northern governance.
While National Defence supports all these four
pillars, it contributes primarily to the sovereignty pillar by ensuring the
ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to operate effectively in this remote
and austere environment, and by supporting the work of other federal,
provincial/territorial and municipal authorities, and working with the
communities that live in the North.
The Canada First Defence Strategy puts forward
clear roles and missions for the Canadian Armed Forces in protecting Canada
and Canadians. In particular, it calls on our military to have the
capability to exercise control over and defend Canada's sovereignty in the
To achieve this mission and, in doing so, to
deliver excellence at home, we are investing in personnel, training,
equipment and infrastructure initiatives such as the Arctic offshore patrol
ships; a berthing and refueling facility in Nanisivik; expansion and
modernization of the Canadian Rangers; operations up in the North —
Operation NANOOK and other northern sovereignty exercises — satellite-based
communications and surveillance systems; and the Canadian Armed Forces
Training Centre in Resolute, to name but a few. I know General Coates
mentioned many of these, too.
The complexity of Arctic challenges
necessitates close bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The Arctic
requires and rewards collaboration, not confrontation. Canada's Arctic
foreign policy guides our international efforts in the region, and working
with the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Defence plays a key role in
implementing this foreign policy through strategic dialogue with allies and
regional partners, and by hosting and participating in international
In 2011, under the auspices of the Arctic
Council, National Defence led Canada's negotiation of the Arctic Search and
Rescue Agreement amongst all eight Arctic nations. This landmark agreement
provides opportunities to exchange information and best practices, to foster
cooperation, and seeks to improve search and rescue in the Arctic overall.
In 2012, Canada initiated the Northern Chiefs
of Defence meeting series to help facilitate communication and build
cooperation and confidence amongst Arctic nations at the highest military
levels. These initiatives help to keep the Arctic a low-risk, low-tension
region and one where there is no military threat for the foreseeable future.
As neighbours with a shared Arctic coastline,
we continue to work closely with the U.S., our closest ally and friend, to
defend North America, including through NORAD, through the Tri-Command
Framework for Arctic Cooperation, which facilitates cooperation between our
military commands in the Arctic, and through the combined surveillance of
our northern air and maritime approaches. Canada and the U.S. have been
working together to protect our common northern airspace and approaches
through NORAD since 1958.
As you can see, Canada’s approach to Arctic
sovereignty and security is built upon a solid foundation of frameworks
underpinned by whole-of-government collaboration, strategic investment and
Thank you for your time and attention. It would
be my pleasure to answer any questions you may have.
I kept my comments brief so we could have more
time for discussion.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms.
Senator Dallaire: In 1980, while on
exchange at the U.S. Marine Corps staff college, I wrote a master's paper
called "Circumpolar Security." I have a number of points and will ask two
questions. Then I hope there will be a second round.
These first questions may sound a bit tactical.
There was supposed to be a large-scale exercise planned in March of about
1,200 troops in the North that has been cancelled. As you articulate the
Canada First Defence Strategy and the desire to put a presence in the North
and improve capacity, we are also seeing projects being moved to the right
and downscaled. We are seeing initiatives of things like the exercises of
more use of those reservists to go up into the North, delays in getting
equipment in there and finishing some of the projects. There is a very
strong feeling that we are going at it half-hearted and that it is not
really a dynamic, up-front desire to take over the North.
Can you give me some sort of a warm or fuzzy
feeling that we actually want to do that, or are we just filling in — I
would even articulate — political ambitions versus really taking our North
Ms. Sinclair: I hope I can give you a warm
and fuzzy feeling.
If you look at the increase in activity,
certainly over the last five, six and seven years, in terms of the exercise
schedules, Op NANOOK — everyone is familiar with that — was in the
summertime. There are three major operations that usually take place up in
the high Arctic. The intent to exercise on a regular basis, the intent to
build infrastructure that enables us to have mobility up in the North — as
you know, senator, it's vast, austere and very hard to resupply. Nanisivik
is extremely important in terms of a high North berthing facility.
The Canadian Forces Training Centre at Resolute
Bay is at 72 degrees north. We do this shared with NRCan, so it is both
scientific but also a place where we can do cold weather and winter warfare
training. The increase in the number of Rangers up to just over 5,000 now,
the numbers of patrols, and then the procurement of the Arctic offshore
patrol ship are all practical, strong demonstrations that there is a
commitment to be more present, more active and more capable in the North.
Senator Dallaire: We can get into nuts and
bolts about more Rangers and about the equipment they have, but they are
still at 17 days a year. We can talk about the projects. Irving is supposed
to be building the ships, but there is no steel being cut yet; they are just
punching paper. We don't have the same number of ships anticipated. The
exercises are in the summertime and not in the wintertime where the true
As you indicated, we are looking at more
comprehensive approaches to our strategy in the North — meaning not National
Defence — and with all the other agencies there. You remember Attawapiskat
and the catastrophic failure there. I know for a fact that we could have had
Hercules aircraft flown in there in 48 hours and we could have rebuilt half
the town in pretty fast order. Why not bring something like a northern corps
of engineers that employs military but also locals to build capacity and
have that entity go across the North and improve the infrastructure of
communities? That will improve their ability to be more participatory in the
development of the North and will give extraordinary skills to the military
to be able to operate in that area. Why not create something like that,
which has that whole-of-government or interagency capability?
Ms. Sinclair: I can't comment specifically
on that idea, Senator Dallaire, as you probably know.
You used the words "comprehensive approach." I
think the whole key when looking at National Defence or the role of the
Canadian Armed Forces is to see us as but one instrument in an inventory of
the government's approaches and capabilities to taking care of our North. We
are a northern country, so that is why you see, in the interdepartmental
community, there are more than a dozen departments that have active roles in
the North. It is the pooling together of all of these capabilities that
enables the development and projection into the North. It's not a military
responsibility above all, although we have unique assets, expertise and
capability to be able to get that far-northern reach. You have to look at it
in the comprehensive way that you started to outline.
The other thing I would say about
infrastructure is in the preparation for major exercises that the Canadian
Forces do, there is extensive engagement with the communities. If you look
at Joint Task Force North that is based in Yellowknife and the work with the
Rangers, the dialogue and relationship between the Canadian Forces and the
communities is extraordinary. In those instances where something can be done
that would be helped by the presence of the Canadian Forces, which would
support the community in a way that is sustainable and does not just build
something and then leave, all of that work is taken into consideration. It
is a factor, but again it is the local governments, communities, territories
and the provinces that really have the responsibility there. We can enable
and support, but we don't lead.
The Chair: To concur with that, coming from
the Yukon, the Government of the Yukon, the Government of the Northwest
Territories and the Government of Nunavut have those direct
responsibilities. The military can help, but it should be in partnership
with those quasi-provincial jurisdictions. Otherwise, you will have a
situation where Big Brother from Ottawa will come to solve your problems
and, quite frankly, I don't want that again.
Senator Nolin: Good evening, Ms. Sinclair.
It is a pleasure to have you with us once again.
As you know, the Vancouver shipyard has
contracted many ships. I would like to understand why the Diefenbaker
icebreaker was postponed. What is the rationale behind the decision of the
Ms. Sinclair: Senator, I am afraid that you
are into an area that I don't have the details on. This is our Materiel,
Public Works and other folks.
Senator Nolin: Let's turn to another policy
question, our relations with the Russians. As you know, they want to build
their own antenna system, their own global positioning system, or GPS. Have
we been asked by the Russians to host some of those relay stations? We know
the Americans have a concern. Have the Russians asked us to do that?
Ms. Sinclair: Not that I am aware of,
Senator Nolin: You are not aware of that?
Ms. Sinclair: No. I'm not aware that we
have been asked.
Senator Nolin: Are you familiar with that
relationship with the Americans, the French and the Russians on those
systems, their position? Do you have any knowledge of that?
Ms. Sinclair: No, just at the highest
Senator Day: One of my two questions was
going to be about the John Diefenbaker icebreaker. My understanding is that
even though it will not be constructed now until after the two joint support
ships, the Vancouver yard is just not big enough to do all of this activity
at once, so we are looking at 10 years and the price has already doubled.
That is one of the ones we were counting on. It is a big polar icebreaker.
The alternative icebreakers are the ones being built by the Irving shipyard.
And the Arctic offshore patrol ships are not icebreakers and will only to be
able to operate with new ice for a short period of time. How will we be able
to express our sovereignty in the North if we don't have any ships that can
operate in the North?
Ms. Sinclair: The government's intent is to
improve that capability, absolutely. The sequencing issue that you have
mentioned is, I understand, one of the factors because there is only a
certain amount of capacity. The Canadian Coast Guard already patrols Arctic
waters, so it’s not as if there isn’t a presence.
In terms of challenges in the Arctic, we have
increased presence and activity much more so in the summertime than the
winter, for obvious reasons. There are a variety of ways of doing this. We
have overflights from the CP-140s, the presence of the Rangers on the
ground, and we do the exercises of sovereignty. We have satellite
capability. There are multiple ways of putting these systems together so
that you are able to exercise and protect sovereignty.
At the end of the day, having the military
presence is only one aspect of that. The communities that live in the North,
that are of the North, are the ultimate expression of sovereignty and the
interest in building the economic and social infrastructure there. It is a
much broader piece than just the military instruments of sovereignty.
Senator Day: My second question is in
relation to sovereignty and security challenges that might be developing. I
don't know if you heard our earlier session with CSIS where we discussed a
recommendation by SIRC, the oversight body for CSIS. They indicated that
there should be increased CSIS activity in the North. Is DND working with
CSIS in relation to activity in the North? Do you see a growing security
problem in the North?
Ms. Sinclair: In terms of the questions
about what CSIS is doing, I hope that you asked those questions of them when
they were at the table earlier.
Senator Day: I did; they told me to ask
Ms. Sinclair: Really? I will take that up
In terms of concerns in the North, to be clear,
we don't see any military threat to the North at the moment. The issues in
the North are much more on the public safety and security side of things. It
is health, infrastructure and environmental spills. It is about those types
of issues and helping the communities up north remain resilient.
In that sense, the instruments of that
resilience are not necessarily military ones and intelligence ones at the
In terms of having awareness of what is going
on in the Arctic, that is where satellites and presence come into play.
There is no substitute for that. But we don't see any particular immediate
military threat in the more traditional sense of security up in the North.
Senator Wells: Thank you, Ms. Sinclair, for
appearing here today.
I want to follow up on that line of thought
because we know the Russians were partnering with them on a number of
initiatives. They are no longer an overt military threat, and perhaps no
longer a military threat. In the 56 years since NORAD was created, things
have changed in the North.
Because Russia has multiple deep-water ports,
they are building an impressive fleet of icebreakers. I look at the current
process of politically delineating the North — not just our North, but all
the North — and all countries that are signatories to the settlement
I go back to the comment you made two or three
minutes ago that one of things you are looking at is the health of the
communities. That surely can't be a Department of National Defence
responsibility. What's our greatest threat in the North from a Department of
National Defence point of view?
Ms. Sinclair: The greatest threat in the
North at the moment, absent that extant military threat — and I would assert
we don't see one at the moment — is making sure that we are positioned to
support other government departments and territorial and provincial
governments in dealing with those more traditional public safety concerns.
So it's environmental spills, and it's coming in to support those other
government departments. It's also that search and rescue piece when it comes
to the air part of search and rescue. As you know, search and rescue is an
area of shared jurisdiction amongst a number of players.
When I talk about threats to the North at the
moment, I usually talk in the terms of helpless and hapless. There are
people who think the ice is melted and it's easy to go through. They'll get
into trouble; they'll need rescuing. They may go up there with the wrong
sorts of ships. The hulls might not be reinforced; there might be
environmental spills and things. That's the real role at the moment, in
addition to doing the sovereignty projection, which we have been doing for
decades, to ensure we have a bit of a sense of what's going on in our North.
Senator Mitchell: Recently, when Canada
made its presentation regarding its claim to the UN for our region in the
North — it seemed to be at the last minute, or perhaps not, but certainly
not well enough researched, at their own admission — the government did push
out its claim to the North Pole. That's significant. Have you factored any
of that into your military activities to establish utilization that far
Ms. Sinclair: No, not at the moment. The
issue of that claim through the UN, the Law of the Sea Convention, is being
managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. In
terms of projecting into the North, we'll wait for the outcome of that
process to see what's Canadian and what isn't.
Of course, we have our Canadian Forces station
at Alert, which is about 700 kilometres or so south of the North Pole, so
it's very, very high north. We already operate there. We have the highest
northern operating military station in the world.
We go out, do our sovereignty patrols and we
exercise that far north. We are prepared for whatever jurisdictional outcome
there is, and whatever the government asks us to do once this has been
settled through diplomatic means.
Senator Mitchell: When this committee made
a report in 2011, Sovereignty & Security in Canadian's Arctic, which
you are undoubtedly aware of, one of our recommendations concerned the
Canadian Rangers and expanding their role in marine surveillance and
activities and the possibility that some of them would be given boats of a
certain sort. Has any thought been given to expanding the role of the
Rangers in that way?
Ms. Sinclair: I think this question came up
with General Coates, who was here, too. The focus at the moment is expanding
the number of Rangers. These are our eyes and ears on the ground. We're
upwards of just over 5,000 now. It's a bit difficult to recruit in the sense
that there are not that many people up there. But they are an extraordinary
asset. They might not do it as formally as you mentioned in your report,
senator, but the Rangers are there, on the ground, and bring all their
assets to bear, whether it's Ski-Doos or small boats or other things. So
they don't do it in quite the systematic fashion you are talking about, but
they do provide for surveillance and a presence, including in the maritime
Senator Dagenais: Thank you very much, Ms.
Sinclair. We know that the Arctic subsoil is highly coveted and that
demarcating areas and protecting them is important.
First, I would like to know what the main
issues are as far as that protection goes. Second, I would like to hear your
thoughts on surveillance and enforcing the act in terms of the increase in
Arctic activities. And lastly, I would also like to hear your thoughts on
what should be done at the Resolute Bay training base.
Ms. Sinclair: Again, I'm sorry that I'm not
going to be able to answer as fully as you would like, only because it's a
little bit out of my area. The law enforcement piece is the RCMP and the
public safety ministry.
In terms of law enforcement and oversight,
maybe from a defence perspective, I can say it's really about surveillance
and having a sense of what's coming in in the Arctic domain and in our
maritime domain in the high North.
There is no substitute for satellite
technology. As you know, we have increased our ability and with RADARSAT-2
and with the RADARSAT Constellation mission, which will come on line in a
few years. It takes a while to get things going in space. It will give us a
pass over the high Arctic several times a day and give us visibility to that
part of the North that simply is not possible now. There is no substitute
for knowing what's going on.
The other part of that, frankly, is working
with our partners internationally, because with those approaches, people
have to come from somewhere. So it is having partnerships, which we have for
non-military reasons with our Arctic Council partners. There is not a
military role to the Arctic Council, but we share information through the
Northern Chiefs of Defence table, which Canada established a few years ago,
and we compare notes. In that setting, that's where militaries talk about
how they can better support their public safety agencies, whether it is
local or territorial police or other people.
You also asked a question about the training
centre. It opened in August 2013. It can provide for up to 140 personnel to
be operating there. It will provide a research station for national
research. In that sense, it will give us an ability, all year round, to do
cold weather, high Arctic training. I think it will significantly increase
our capability and capacity, but, again, you might want to ask the head of
the army for more detail on that.
Senator White: I know from reporting that
DND's recruiting targets were not met last year. In particular, in relation
to visible minorities and Aboriginals, the targets were well below what were
anticipated in 2010. How has the success been in recruiting in the northern
territories and, in particular, from Aboriginal communities?
Ms. Sinclair: There is the northern Ranger
program, and we also have a cadet program up north, which is very
successful. It is tough to recruit. We have made it over 5,000 Rangers,
which is not insignificant, given that the population base is not that
great. Again, I am straying into the territory of those who actually live in
the neighbourhood, but there is tremendous enthusiasm amongst the local
communities to be part of this sovereignty mission to be able to serve
Canada in this way. So I think within the limits of the demographics up
North and in the high Arctic, we are doing very well in terms of the Ranger
Senator White: And for entry within the
regular force full time?
Ms. Sinclair: I am sorry. I don't have
those numbers, but I can revert and get something from the chief of military
personnel to get you those details, because I know we have the statistics.
The Chair: I would like to refer to your
comments in respect to satellites and the dependency of the North on
satellites going forward. Could you update us in respect to where National
Defence is in respect to the progress on the possibility of what is termed
as the Polarsat satellite for the North? Do you have any information on
Ms. Sinclair: In terms of Polarsat, we have
the Polar Epsilon program, which is looking at maritime approaches and
operations. That's been in effect since February 2012, I believe. The
RADARSAT Constellation mission is being launched in 2018. We also have the
Northern Watch program, which is a technology demonstration project that has
been highly effective, so these together are going to give us a new
capability that simply doesn't exist now. Actually, if we talk to some of
our other northern partners, it will be a capability that no other northern
countries have at the moment.
The Chair: I want to go into one other
area, the question of the possible use of unmanned aerial vehicles — drones
— to patrol the Arctic and for search and rescue. Are you giving that
consideration because technology has changed dramatically there in the last
number of years?
Ms. Sinclair: I think we give everything
consideration to see whether it will be able to operate in that austere and
demanding environment. There is no question that the use of unmanned aerial
vehicles is increasing for all sorts of purposes. As we look at how you get
— I mentioned the terminology "a system of systems" whereby you are not just
dependent on one, because, if one system fails, then you have nothing else.
How do you put those together? What's actually going to work? What's most
cost effective? What can work in the vastness of our Arctic? Again, with the
exception of Russia, the other Arctic countries are a little bit smaller in
terms of territory, but things like UAVs are being looked at.
Senator Dallaire: The desire to make the
Arctic very much part of Canada, being a Nordic country, requires a lot of
coordination with the territories, but I'm quite concerned about
coordination of all of the different federal government departments,
Certainly, north of 60, there's sort of every Tom, Dick and Harry up there,
and they seem to all have the same or similar authorities. I'm not sure
whether we would want Indian Affairs to be the lead, or whoever, in that
This, to me, is a disjointed entity. I haven't
seen us trying to really structure a body politic of the federal government
to take on the North and to marry it up with us. That is reinforced by our
inability to put equipment up there to help.
As an example, why don't we buy a Russian
icebreaker? We buy jet aircraft from the Americans for humongous amounts.
Why not buy an icebreaker? We know we can't build it.
We know we don't have the time to build it; it will take another 20 years.
So why not buy one of them and get some equipment up there and get some
serious assets to move into that area, knowing full well that, as you
mentioned, the Coast Guard is there? The Coast Guard is rusting out, and
it's going to have a hard time sustaining any operations up there in the
years to come. It's that sense that it's not convincing, and I'm wondering
how you, as one of the primary ministries, see that.
Ms. Sinclair: Quickly, because I know that
there's not a lot of time, there are two questions that you asked, Senator
Dallaire. The first one was on coordination and whether there is more of a
focal point or whether we are working in an ad hoc way.
There is no question that there are many
government departments, both at the federal and other levels of government,
engaged in the North. As I said, there are about 12 to 13 federal government
departments. I can assure you that the coordination is actually very good.
There are a number of places where people come together on a regular basis
to make sure that everybody is acting within their mandate. You were a
little bit concerned about whether there was confusion or everybody tripping
over one another. I don't think so. I've never seen a place or a region
where the coordination is better and where people respect each other's
mandates and that complementarity, where we can actually converge in meeting
and working together to deal with common problems. I will not tell you that
an interdepartmental committee solves every problem because that would be
awfully bureaucratic, but I have to say that it is actually quite functional
in this area.
At the macro level, whether it is environmental
programs, social programs, health programs, public safety and security
programs, food programs or whatever, that coordination is very good. Things
can always be done to improve it, obviously.
At the level of dealing with emergency
management, there is something called the Arctic Security Working Group,
which DND, the Canadian Forces, and Public Safety, up in the North, chair.
They have meetings on a monthly basis, and that's where they reach out to
the local communities and also deal with the local governments. Recognizing
the vastness, the challenges and the need to not waste resources and leave
people in peril in any way, there is an assiduous effort to make sure that
this coordination actually works.
With regard to buying a Russian icebreaker off
the shelf, I really can't go into that one. In terms of your question, I
think the real point is that the government is making, and has articulated
over the last number of years, a consistent commitment to investing in and
purchasing additional equipment in order to have the presence and the
capability needed up North.
Senator Wells: My question is regarding —
you mentioned in response to my earlier question — search and rescue
One of the recommendations in our March
2011interim report was that the government, in order to reduce SAR response
times in the Arctic, position Canadian Forces SAR assets at a central
location in the North so that there is always an aircraft on standby. I
recognize that a central location might not necessarily be where a search
and rescue team would be needed, but what is being done to reduce response
times? What is the wheels-up time now, and what is being done to either
reduce that or to meet that if it's not being met now?
Ms. Sinclair: I can't answer in detail
about wheels-up times and things like that. I would want to have somebody
from our Canada Command to come and answer those questions.
What I can tell you is that our response times
are very good. Finding a single place in the massive space of the Arctic
where you could actually have that reach is not really practical. The
Canadian Forces have optimized their presence in order to be able to meet
the requests for SAR. My understanding and our experience is that, in terms
of the response times, we meet them or are actually lower.
As you know, there are many search and rescue
incidents a year, but in terms of the number that occur in the high Arctic,
they are more or less constant. The response times of the Canadian Forces
have met the needs as required.
Senator Day: You mentioned Alert and
Canadian communications monitoring. There are other communities in the
North, and do they complement one another or is each doing its own thing?
The other one is U.S. Air Force Base Thule, and
the other is the Danish base called Station Nord. Is there a cooperative
effort going on here?
Ms. Sinclair: Senator, there's a great deal
of cooperation between and amongst those, especially our allies. You have
mentioned three NATO allies who are looking out for the same issues — domain
awareness, tracking ships, things like that.
I don't know specifically, senator, what
Canadian Forces Station Alert shares with its partners, but I can tell you
that through the Arctic Security Forces Round Table, which brings together
about a dozen of the militaries interested in the high North, through the
northern chiefs of defence setting, but also just through the ongoing
contact — as you know Thule and Alert are not far away from each other —
there is constant cooperation and communication. But I can't tell you
specifically whether those three actually communicate and cooperate with one
Senator Day: Could you find out for us and
let us know?
Ms. Sinclair: Yes, let me take that as
The Chair: I would like to thank our
witnesses for being here this evening. It's been a long day for the
committee. We appreciate your answers and are looking forward to having you
return to our committee at a future date as we explore other issues.
You may be aware that we are going to be
commencing a study of ballistic missile defence in North America. We will
look for representations from the Department of National Defence at that
time. I would like to thank you very much, and you are excused.
Ms. Sinclair: Thank you.
The Chair: Colleagues, we have a number of
issues that the steering committee would like to discuss with the committee,
and we would like to discuss that in camera. We will then, in all
likelihood, have to come back into a public committee because there are some
decisions that we will have to take.
Could I ask everyone to clear the room except
for the senators and staff? Thank you.
(The committee continued in camera.)
(The committee resumed in public.)
The Chair: Before us we have a proposed
budget to take to Internal Economy for the purpose of approval in respect of
a visit to Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A., to view all the aspects of
ballistic missile defence. Obviously, it will play a very important part for
us from the point of the view of the study that we are going to undertake.
If there is agreement around the table, could I
entertain a motion to approve the budget?
Senator Nolin: So moved.
Senator Dallaire: The second dimension of
that is the policy framework, which calls for a visit to Washington, D.C.,
but that is in the next fiscal year, so we don't have to worry about it at
this time. I second the motion to approve this budget.
The Chair: It is moved by Senator Nolin,
seconded by Senator Dallaire.