National Security and Intelligence

Framework for Defence Intelligence

  • During the last Parliament, this Government passed legislation to modernize federal intelligence activities and improve intelligence review frameworks.
  • As part of this new framework, we established:
  • The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians; and
  • The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.
  • National Defence will continue to work with these review bodies in the interest of all Canadians.
  • We will also continue to strengthen the internal administrative system of governance and oversight surrounding the defence intelligence enterprise.

If pressed on the issue of legislating defence intelligence:

  • We continue to look at all options to further strengthen the framework around defence intelligence.

Key Facts

  • National Defence is strengthening governance and oversight of defence intelligence. For example, National Defence has:
    • Established the Defence Intelligence Oversight Board to coordinate the strategic management of defence intelligence; and
    • Begun developing a new internal compliance program to ensure defence intelligence activities are conducted in accordance with all applicable policies and legislation.  


National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians 2018 Annual Report

  • The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ 2018 Annual Report found that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ internal administrative governance system for defence intelligence was lacking in a number of areas. For example, the Committee found that:
    • National Defence does not have a standardized process to determine a nexus between an authorized mission and an intelligence activity;
    • the principal internal governance body for defence intelligence, the Defence Intelligence Management Committee, did not fulfill its mandate;
    • National Defence made limited effort to measure and document compliance with the obligations of the Ministerial Directive on Defence Intelligence;
    • the annual reports to the Minister of National Defence on defence intelligence activities do not report on challenges or gaps in the oversight of defence intelligence and are silent on compliance on key aspects of the Ministerial Directive on Defence Intelligence; and
    • National Defence does not have a standardized process for interdepartmental consultation.
  • The Annual Report noted that there is no dedicated external review of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces defence intelligence activities.
  • The Annual Report also highlighted that National Defence does not conduct defence intelligence activities under an explicit legislative framework because the majority of these activities are authorized by the Crown prerogative. This differs from other Canadian national security and intelligence organizations who operate under statutory authorities.
  • Through the Annual Report, the Committee recommended that:
    • National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces review and strengthen its administrative framework governing defence intelligence activities, particularly with respect to enhancing the Ministerial Directive on Defence Intelligence;
    • The Government amend An Act Respecting National Security Matters, formerly known as Bill C-59, to provide the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency an explicit annual requirement to review National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces activities related to national security or intelligence; and
    • The Government give serious consideration to providing explicit legislative authority for the conduct of defence intelligence activities.
  • The 2018 Annual Report was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence and the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Each committee held one meeting to assess the Report, but did not launch their own studies or make their own recommendations.
  • National Defence is strengthening defence intelligence governance and oversight by addressing a number of findings within the 2018 Annual Report. For example, National Defence is:
    • Working through the newly-established Defence Intelligence Oversight Board to consolidate the strategic management of defence intelligence;
    • Developing a new internal compliance program to ensure defence intelligence activities are being conducted in accordance with all applicable policies and legislation;
    • Collaborating with Global Affairs Canada to institute a standardized consultation process for the deployment of sensitive defence intelligence activities abroad; and
    • Clarifying how the nexus is determined between defence intelligence activities and the wider authorized operations they support.
  • With the support of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are working to introduce a new framework governing how Canada gathers, manages and uses defence intelligence, as recommended by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Crown Prerogative and Defence Intelligence

  • Crown prerogative is the principal source of domestic legal authority for international Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations, and also provides authorities for certain domestic operations. It provides the government with the ability to recognize and respond to crises around the world quickly and with flexibility.
  • All defence intelligence activities are authorized by law and are conducted in accordance with applicable Canadian and international law.
  • The authority to conduct defence intelligence is implicit when the CAF is legally authorized, pursuant to legislation or an exercise of the Crown prerogative, to conduct military operations and other defence activities, and where a clear nexus has been established between the nature and scope of the defence intelligence activity and the authorized mission.
  • Defence intelligence activities serve an essential and integral role that support CAF operations and national defence activities.

Version 5; 2020-02-24 – Source: CoW Note on Framework for Defence Intelligence

Top of page

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ Annual and Special Reports

  • National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment support the important work of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
  • We recognize the Committee’s role in furthering transparency and accountability, and the importance of external review in maintaining the trust of Canadians.
  • We look forward to the Committee’s forthcoming recommendations in their Annual and Special Reports.

If pressed on the 2019 Annual Report:

  • Embracing diversity enhances military operational effectiveness by drawing on all the strengths of Canada’s population.
  • That is why the Canadian Armed Forces’ Diversity Strategy and Action Plan promotes an institution-wide culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, including in defence intelligence.

If pressed on the Special Report on the Collection, Use, Retention, and Dissemination of Canadian citizen information:

  • We are committed to protecting the privacy of Canadians and to strengthening the transparency and accountability of defence intelligence.
  • All defence intelligence activities support legally-authorized operations and activities, are authorized by law, and are 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.

Key Facts

  • On August 30, 2019, NSICOP submitted classified versions of its 2019 Annual and Special Reports to the Prime Minister.
    • The Annual Report includes a review of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.
    • The Special Report examines the collection, use, retention and dissemination of Canadian citizens’ information in the context of defence intelligence activities.
  • The Prime Minister must table unclassified versions of the Annual and Special Reports in Parliament by March 12, 2020.


  • The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act states that the Prime Minister must table annual and special reports before in Parliament 30 sitting days after receiving them from the Committee.
    • In accordance with the Act, the reports are then referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence and the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • In Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government committed to a new comprehensive Diversity Strategy and Action Plan, which promotes a National Defence-wide culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. On-going work to achieve this is done through:
    • the appointment of a Diversity Champion who will oversee all aspects of the implementation of the Diversity Strategy and Action Plan;
    • mandatory diversity training as part of professional development;
    • integration of Gender-Based Analysis Plus in all defence activities;
    • focused recruitment on under-represented populations.
    • developing human resources and retention strategies to address attrition and to increase retention.
  • In 2016, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) appointed a Diversity Champion to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Since then, CSE has also:
    • created an internal Advisory Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Employment Equity;
    • led a Diversity Tiger Team comprised of representatives from the security and intelligence community; and
    • organized annual events to highlight organizational diversity, including for International Women’s Day, Pride Week, and International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

Defence Intelligence and Canadian Citizen Information

  • The Canadian Armed Forces does not deliberately collect information on Canadian citizens for intelligence purposes, 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 it cannot be retained to support authorized defence activities or lawfully passed to another Canadian department or agency.
    • When supporting another Canadian department, those activities occur under the mandate and authorities of the supported department.
  • At this time, counter-intelligence is the only defence activity where the Canadian Armed Forces is authorized to direct its activities at Canadians.
    • As part of its mandate to identify, investigate, and counter threats to the security of National Defence, the Canadian Forces National Counter Intelligence Unit may, where there is a national defence nexus, investigate Canadian citizens and collect or receive information to provide threat assessments and inform decision-making.

Version 5; 2020-02-26 – Source: QP Note on CANCIT Report; CoW Note on Diversity in the CAF

Top of page

Facial Recognition

  • The Canadian Armed Forces constantly monitors and tests new and emerging technologies and processes.
  • As part of these efforts, in January 2020, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command used a free trial version of Clearview AI facial recognition software.
  • This allowed our Forces to gain a better understanding of how adversaries could use this technology and take steps to mitigate potential threats.
  • National Defence has not engaged with or entered in any contractual agreement with Clearview AI since obtaining this free trial, nor have we acquired the facial recognition software.


Media Attention

  • On January 18, 2020, a New York Times investigation reported that Clearview AI’s facial recognition software had extracted more than three billion photos from public websites and used them to create a database employed by more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada.
  • Shortly after, Canadian news outlets began reporting on law enforcement entities using the software.
  • Most notably, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed it had paid for, and used the software for the last four months, in “15 child exploitation investigations over the past four months, resulting in the identification and rescue of two children.”
  • Canadian Special Operations Forces Command was also reported by various media outlets as having used the free trial version of the facial recognition software.

National Defence Public Response

  • In response to a media request, National Defence has publicly stated that:
    • CANSOFCOM neither has a contract with this company nor has it acquired this software.
    • CANSOFCOM continues to modernize its contemporary business practices by integrating new processes and cutting-edge technology into its day-to-day work, by constantly monitoring emerging technologies and processes.
    • This included researching the free demonstration software’s function and the company’s user application screening process. Publically available imagery of inanimate objects, animals and people was used to compare the software’s search results with those of other reverse imagery search engines.
    • In a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, CANSOFCOM is constantly working to protect its ability to respond to adversaries who are increasingly skilled in their capacity to integrate digital technologies.
    • We must always be positioned to be a meaningful strategic military option for the Government of Canada in both responding to and helping shape the complex global environment.

House Standing Ethics Committee Study

  • On February 26, the Standing House Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has voted on a motion to conduct a study on facial recognition. The motion states that:
    • The committee study the use or possible use of facial recognition technology by various levels of government in Canada, law enforcement agencies, private corporations and individuals;
    • that the committee investigate how this technology will impact the privacy, security and safety of children, seniors and vulnerable populations;
    • that the committee examine the impact of facial recognition technology on racialized communities;
    • and that the study include how this technology may be used nefariously, such as a tool for criminal harassment or for other unlawful surveillance purposes; that the committee investigate any possible link, formal or informal, between Canadian law-enforcement agencies and private technology corporations or start-ups including, but not limited to Clearview AI and Palantir;
    • that the committee examine the impacts of facial recognition technology and the growing power of artificial intelligence.
  • The Committee will hear from Canada’s Privacy Commissioner on March 25, 2020 to discuss the issue.

Version 2; 2020-03-06

Top of page

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: