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Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs
The Senate of Canada
Canada, K1A 0A4
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About the Committee
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs has the mandate to examine legislation and study issues related to national security, defence and veterans affairs generally.
The Senate created the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence during the 1st Session of the 37th Parliament, on March 15, 2001, with the first organization meeting taking place on May 10, 2001. While the committee has been in existence for over twenty years, the idea of studying military and defence issues in the Senate began even earlier. Starting in the early 1980s, a variety of special committees and subcommittees were established for limited periods of time to study particular issues and prepare reports related to this area of study.
In 1982, the Senate Subcommittee on National Defence tabled a report that called for troops stationed in Europe to carry out major exercises at home and abroad with NATO allies. The following year, the subcommittee focused on maritime defence issues. From 1985 to 1989, the Special Committee on National Defence tabled three reports, dealing with territorial air defence, military air transport and land forces.
After some terrorist incidents in Canada, two special committees were created in 1987 and 1989. Some fifteen years later, the Senate Special Committee on Security and Intelligence was set up to examine the progress made in combating terrorism.
In 1993, a joint Senate-House of Commons committee was established to review Canada’s defence policy. This committee’s first order of reference after it was created in 2001 “[a]uthorized [the committee] to conduct an introductory survey of the major security and defence issues facing Canada with a view to preparing a detailed work plan for future comprehensive studies” (May 31, 2001). Through its work related to its first mandate, the committee concluded that there was an urgent need for a national security policy, which became the basis for its next order of reference: to “[e]xamine and report on the need for a national security policy for Canada” (April 16, 2002).
Over time, the committee recognized four broad areas of study: the capabilities of the departments of National Defence and Public Safety Canada, the working relationships between various agencies involved in intelligence-gathering and analysis, the mechanisms to review the agencies involved in intelligence-gathering, and the security of borders and critical infrastructure. These areas of study have formed the basis of subsequent orders of reference that have been reintroduced from session to session, since 2002.
Since its inception, the committee has studied many important issues and recommended measures to improve Canadians’ security and allow Canada to contribute to global security. Routinely, the committee forms a Subcommittee on Veterans affairs to study related matters in depth.
In July 2022, the name of the committee was changed from National Security and Defence to National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs, following the adoption of the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament on May 12, 2022.
During the 43rd Parliament, the committee held meetings on matters within its mandate. These meetings included a briefing by the Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, as well as a meeting on the topic of veterans affairs with senior officials from Veterans Affairs Canada and the Office of the Veterans’ Ombudsman.
During the 42nd Parliament, the committee produced a number of substantive reports including:
Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Canadian Armed Forces
The committee spent six months studying harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian military and the impact of changes made since Operation HONOUR was launched in 2015.
UN Deployment: Prioritizing Commitments at Home and Abroad
In the context of a study into the federal government’s Defence Policy Review, the committee undertook an investigation into Canada’s planned re-engagement with United Nations (UN) peace support operations.
Reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces: A Plan for the Future
On April 21, 2016, the Senate authorized the committee to examine and report on issues related to the Defence Policy Review undertaken at that time by the government.
Selected legislative work
In the 43rd Parliament, the committee was assigned one bill: Bill C-228, An Act to establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism. During the committee’s study of the bill, senators heard from departmental officials and other witnesses.
The 42nd Parliament brought five subject matter studies and 10 bills before the committee. At the end of the session, the committee spent a large portion of time studying legislation, including Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, and Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms. On Bill C-71, the committee heard from 80 witnesses over 28 hours of meetings and reported the bill back with amendments and observations. On Bill C-59, the committee heard from 44 witnesses over 18 hours and reported the bill back with amendments and observations.
The committee was also tasked with studying the subject matter of several budget implementation acts over the course of the 42nd Parliament on matters pertaining to national security and defence.
For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/secd/.