Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do
The Office of the Intelligence Commissioner is an independent oversight body. Under the Intelligence Commissioner Act, the Commissioner is responsible for performing quasi-judicial reviews of the conclusions on the basis of which certain authorizations are issued or amended, and certain determinations are made, under the Communications Security Establishment Act and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. If the Commissioner is satisfied that the conclusions underpinning the decisions are reasonable, he will approve the decisions.
The Commissioner reviews and may approve, or not, the following:
- the conclusions on the basis of which the Minister of National Defence issued or amended a Foreign Intelligence Authorization or a Cybersecurity Authorization for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE);
- the conclusions on the basis of which the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness determined classes of Canadian datasets or categories of acts and omissions that would otherwise constitute offences for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS); and
- the conclusions on the basis of which the Director of CSIS authorized the querying of a dataset in exigent circumstances, or the retention of foreign datasets for CSIS (the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness designated the Director of CSIS as the person responsible for authorizing this retention).
In order for an authorization or determination to be legally valid, it must be approved by the Commissioner following his quasi-judicial review. Unless approved by the Commissioner, the activities described in the authorizations or determinations cannot be carried out by the intelligence agencies. The Commissioner must receive all information that was before the decision-maker, that is, either of the ministers mentioned above or the Director of CSIS, when issuing the authorization or determination.
The Commissioner’s decisions must be rendered no later than 30 days after the Commissioner has received notice that an authorization or determination has been issued, or as soon as feasible in relation to authorizations rendered in exigent circumstances.
Further to his quasi-judicial review, whether the Commissioner is satisfied that the conclusions underpinning a decision are reasonable or not, he must issue written reasons explaining his decision. The Commissioner then provides his decision to the relevant decision-maker. In addition, a copy of all of the Commissioner’s decisions are provided to the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.
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