Who is watching the watchers? Here in Canada, revelations about potential violations by our own spy agencies haven’t come from government oversight, they’ve come from Edward Snowden—and the Conservative government doesn’t see that as a problem.
Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, recently leaked documents suggesting that the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) initiated industrial espionage against Brazil’s ministry of mines and energy, and helped allies monitor leaders at a G20 summit hosted by Canada.
This activity is embarrassing, unethical and harmful to our international relations. And it underlines how the current structure for oversight of our national security and intelligence agencies is woefully inadequate, and does not provide Canadians with a meaningful understanding of what the government is doing.
That’s why I have reintroduced legislation to create a parliamentary committee to review the framework and activities of all the Canadian national security agencies, including CSEC, CSIS and the RCMP. Going as far back as 2004, an all-party committee – including the current Conservative Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay – unanimously called for this reform.
Indeed, all other countries in the Five Eyes network – the alliance between Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand – established similar committees years ago.
Yet when I sought the consent of the House of Commons to advance this important bill to committee, it was blocked by the Conservative Party. Questioned about the issue in the House, the Tories even deny there is a problem.
That’s not good enough. Everyone else recognizes that proper, pro-active oversight of our intelligence agencies is long overdue – even the Conservatives of 10 years ago agreed.
MP Wayne Easter
Liberal Party of Canada Public Safety Critic