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Liberal House Leader Dominic Leblanc said the government wants to bring forward their plan for a new parliamentary committee overseeing Canada’s intelligence agencies before the House of Commons adjourns for the summer.
“One of the challenges for the national security agencies is to build public confidence. Necessarily a lot of their work isn’t done publicly. So we think, if there’s a respected group of parliamentarians from all political parties, that are given privileged access and information, and can reassure Canadians and parliament that theses agencies are operating within the law and respecting the Charter, but fulfilling often a very difficult mandate.”
Instead, two review bodies can look into intelligence agencies’ actions after the fact. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) reviews CSIS, while the Communications Security Establishment commissioner keeps tabs on Canada’s electronic spies.
Leblanc said that the new parliamentary committee is not meant to replace the work of the review bodies, but augment it.
“Our intention wouldn’t be to weaken any of the existing review mechanisms,” Leblanc said. “It would be to supplement them, as our other Five Eyes allies have, with a parliamentary element of oversight and review.”
With a maximum of four weeks left before Parliament breaks for the barbecue circuit, Leblanc said that the government won’t try to pass the legislation in a rush. Instead, it will go through the normal process of committee hearings and Senate study.
A parliamentary committee was promised by the Liberals in the last federal election campaign. In addition, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has pledged to undo some of the most controversial parts of Bill C-51, the previous Conservative government’s much criticized terrorism legislation.