National Security and Intelligence

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians' 2019 Special Report (CANCIT)

  • National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment support the important work of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
  • We continue to carefully consider the Committee's special report
  • As part of our ongoing efforts to keep Canada and Canadians safe, National Defence has enhanced its robust oversight framework for defence intelligence activities.
  • For example, in March 2020, National Defence issued an updated Functional Directive on the protection and handling of Canadian citizens' information.
  • We will review this directive annually to ensure that it remains effective.
  • We recognize the importance of external review in maintaining the trust of Canadians and look forward to continued collaboration with the Committee.

If pressed on the report's findings:

  • All defence intelligence activities are authorized by Canadian law and subject to applicable Canadian and international law.
  • Further, all defence intelligence activities are governed by an extensive body of directives, orders, and policies, and are subject to a robust oversight framework.
  • National Defence regularly reviews and updates its policies and practices to ensure alignment with the law, with government policy, and with the demands of changing security environment.

Key Facts

  • During the review, National Defence provided over 950 pages of documentation, including responses to follow-up questions.
  • National Defence provided one Committee briefing, and held seven meetings with the Committee's Secretariat.
  • COVID-19: Due to the altered Parliamentary sitting schedule and prorogation, no Committee has yet studied the report.


  • On March 12, 2020, NSICOP tabled redacted versions of its 2019 Special Reports in Parliament.
  • The Canadian Citizen Information (CANCIT) report examines the collection, use, retention and dissemination of Canadian citizens' information in the context of defence intelligence activities.
  • The report now stands referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence and the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Neither Committee has studied the report.
  • NSICOP is currently conducting a review of the Government of Canada's cyber defence activities and on Global Affairs Canada's national security and intelligence activities. Both studies implicate National Defence.

CANCIT Special Report: Key Findings and Recommendations

  • Finding: the policy framework that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) follow for the collection, use, retention and dissemination of information on Canadians needs clarification.
    • Recommendation: DND/CAF rescind the Functional Directive on the Collection of Canadian Citizen Information, and review all of its related functional directives and other policy instruments in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner.
  • Finding: DND/CAF is not fully compliant with the Privacy Act in relation to intelligence activities taking place outside Canada, activities to which the Committee believes the Privacy Act applies.
    • Recommendation: The Minister of National Defence should ensure DND/CAF complies with the letter and spirit of the Privacy Act in all of its defence intelligence activities, whether in Canada or abroad.
  • Finding: The Crown prerogative may not prove to be an adequate source of authority for DND/CAF to conduct its defence intelligence activities, particularly where they involve information about Canadians.
    • Recommendation: MND introduce legislation governing defence intelligence activities, including the extent to which DND/CAF should be authorized to collect, use, retain and disseminate information about Canadians in the execution of authorized missions.

Defence Intelligence and Canadian Citizen Information  

  • National Defence does not direct its defence intelligence activities at Canadian citizens, except when authorized as part of a mandated defence activity or in support of another government agency.
    • In the event that Canadian citizens' information is incidentally collected, it is deleted from National Defence databases once it is confirmed that the information cannot be held for defence intelligence purposes to support authorized defence operations and activities or lawfully passed to another Canadian department or agency.
    • When supporting another Canadian department or agency, the activities occur under the mandate and authorities of the supported department or agency.
  • At this time, counter-intelligence is the only defence activity where the CAF is authorized to intentionally direct its activities at Canadians other than activities done in support of other departments under their mandate. 
    • During international operations the CAF could be involved in the incidental or inadvertent collection of information on Canadians abroad.  In those cases, the applicable provisions of the Chief of Defence Intelligence Functional Directive: Guidance on the Protection and Handling of Canadian Citizen Information would apply.   
  • To address the Committee's recommendation, in March 2020, National Defence issued a new Chief of Defence Intelligence Functional Directive: Guidance on the Protection and Handling of Canadian Citizen Information. It will be reviewed every year.
  • All National Defence activities are authorized by Canadian law. The Committee has not identified any specific instance where a defence intelligence activity did not comply with the law.
  • As the Committee found, National Defence applies the Privacy Act to all defence intelligence activities that take place in Canada. Whether the Privacy Act applies to defence intelligence activities outside of Canada is unsettled by law.
    • As the Committee recognizes, there is no jurisprudence on this question. However, DND/CAF has consistently applied the principles of the Privacy Act to its defence intelligence activities outside of Canada.
  • National Defence relies upon the Crown prerogative as an important source of legal authority for its operations and activities. The defence prerogative has been recognized by Canadian courts as a valid source of executive power for the conduct of DND/CAF operations and activities.

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National Defence and 5G

  • 5G networks will be a key driver of innovation and enable new technologies, such as cleaner energy, smart cities, and faster, more reliable communications technologies.
  • For National Defence, 5G technology will assist in providing increased connectivity between our digital platforms, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and civilian personnel.
  • While I cannot comment on specific companies, the Government of Canada is currently reviewing its approach to emerging 5G technology.
  • Since December 2018, Public Safety has been leading this important review, in collaboration with its partners, including the Communications Security Establishment and National Defence.
  • The Government of Canada remains committed to the security of Canadian networks and will take the appropriate decision in due course.

Key Facts

  • There are several 5G test beds within Canada, including ENCQOR 5G which is a Canada-Quebec-Ontario partnership focused on research and innovation in the field of 5G.


Review of 5G Technology

  • In December 2018, Public Safety Canada initiated a security examination to assess the risks associated with the shift to fifth generation telecommunications (5G), and to identify potential mitigation measures.
  • The examination is primarily focused on the technical and national security considerations of 5G, including the extent to which 5G would further enable hostile activity by both state and non-state actors.


  • As part of its cyber security mandate, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) works with telecommunications service providers representing over 99% of Canadian mobile subscribers. CSE provides advice and guidance to mitigate supply chain risks in telecommunications infrastructures upon which Canadians rely, including a program that has been in place since 2013 to test and evaluate designated equipment and services considered for use on Canadian 3G and 4G/LTE networks, including Huawei.
  • On March 12, 2020, the Canadian Press published an article with excerpts of an interview with the Chief of the Defence Staff where he expressed concern about anything that could give China access to Canada's military networks. He expressed confidence, however, in the Government's ability to mitigate the threats associated with Huawei.
  • On July 14, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) announced that it was banning the purchase of new Huawei 5G equipment after December 31, and requiring the removal of all Huawei 5G equipment in the UK's networks by 2027.
  • The UK's decision has left Canada as the only FVEYs partner without a ban of some level on Huawei equipment being used for its 5G network.

Recent Parliamentary Interest

  • On May 25, 2020, Mr. Scott Jones, Head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security at CSE, appeared alongside Joyce Murray, Minister for Digital Government, before the House Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) to discuss cybersecurity in the context of the Government's response to COVID-19. Conservative Members of Parliament Kelly Block and Kelly McCauley questioned Mr. Jones on the threat and risks of Huawei in Canada's 5G network. Mr. Jones assured the Committee that CSE is leveraging its full mandate to promote public awareness to thwart external cyber threats and protect Canadians.
  • Huawei, 5G and Canada's relationship with China has been a topic of interest to newly elected CPC leader, Erin O'Toole and newly appointed Foreign Affairs critic Michael Chong. CPC members frequently pose questions on Huawei and 5G during Question Period and have put forward motions to study Canada's critical infrastructure, and 5G networks during committees. 

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