Access to accurate, timely, and reliable information is essential to the Government’s ability to protect Canada’s national security. As Canada increasingly faces diverse and complex threats requiring coordinated approaches across Government organizations, it is important to ensure that national security agencies continue to have access to the information needed to counter these threats in order to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.
Government of Canada institutions already share information with each other for national security purposes. However, some institutions lack a clear authority to share national security-relevant information and, in some cases, legal barriers prevent or delay the sharing of key information. For example, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is limited in its proactive sharing of passport and immigration and related information with national security agencies.
To facilitate the effective and timely access to government information for national security purposes and address legal gaps, the Government has introduced the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act as part of the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. The proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act will create a clear authority for Government institutions to share national security-relevant information with designated Canadian Government institutions that have national security responsibilities. Information may be shared proactively or in response to a request.
This Act fulfills the Government’s commitment to introduce information sharing legislation as part of the Air India Inquiry Action Plan. The importance of enhancing information sharing for national security purposes has also been raised by the Auditor General and the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism.
The proposed Act does not override existing legal restrictions on information sharing. Therefore, this Bill also includes amendments to address specific legal barriers that prevent or delay the sharing of security information. For example, amendments to the Customs Act will enhance the Canada Border Services Agency’s sharing of traveller information with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to better enforce the Canadian Passport Order and the Citizenship Act.
The authority to share information proposed by this Bill is not without limit. Information can only be shared with designated Canadian Government institutions when it is relevant to their national security responsibilities. Furthermore, only those officials within the institution who require the information to carry out their duties will be delegated to receive this information.
The Privacy Act, and with it the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s authority to investigate potential violations, will continue to apply to information shared under the proposed Act. The review functions of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada will help maintain an appropriate balance between protecting the privacy of citizens and ensuring national security. In addition, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will continue to perform review functions for their respective agencies, including with respect to information practices.