Bringing openness, transparency, and clarity to new Ministerial Directions

Backgrounder

On Sept 25, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale issued new Ministerial Directions (MDs) on Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).These MDs replace the 2011 Ministerial Directions on Information-Sharing with Foreign Entities.  In line with the Government’s commitment to transparency on national security, the full content of the MDs is accessible on Public Safety Canada’s website.

Why has the Minister chosen to issue the Ministerial Directions at this time?

As part of the Government’s broader commitment to ensuring the national security practices of departments and agencies fully respect the rights and freedoms of Canadians, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness committed to reviewing the 2011 Ministerial Directions on Information-Sharing with Foreign Entities.

In reviewing the 2011 MDs and the responses from the Government’s broad public consultation on national security, it became apparent that new Ministerial Directions would help the Government meet its commitments and address Canadians’ concerns.

Respondents to the national security consultation expressed a desire for clarity in the Ministerial Directions in order to address ambiguous language in the previous MDs. In the spirit of openness and transparency, these concerns have been addressed.

How do the new Ministerial Directions on information-sharing with foreign entities differ from the ones issued in 2011?

The new MDs provide three significant changes that strengthen Canada’s commitment to human rights, promote respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and fulfill Canada’s obligations under international law:

1)    A clear statement of values and principles against mistreatment:

The new MDs more clearly state the Government of Canada’s condemnation of torture and other mistreatment. In addition, language has been clarified with regards to how agencies will respect the law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

2)    Clear Prohibitions:

The new MDs set out specific prohibitions for the disclosure, requesting and use of information.

The MDs clearly prohibit disclosing or requesting information where doing so would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment.

Further, the new MDs prohibit certain uses of information likely obtained through mistreatment. This information may never be used where doing so would create a substantial risk of further mistreatment, or may never be used as evidence. Such information can only be used to deprive a person of their rights or freedoms in exceptional circumstances – to prevent loss of life of serious personal injury – with the approval of the Deputy Head.

The Minister, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, and any applicable review body will be informed of all cases that have been referred to the Deputy Head.

3)    Enhanced transparency and accountability:

The MDs embed transparency and accountability as guiding principles, including through requiring reporting to review bodies, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the Minister, and Canadians.

How often does the Government of Canada share or use information that may have been obtained through torture or other mistreatment?

The Government of Canada condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the use of torture or other mistreatment of any individual by anyone for any purpose.

Canadians rightly expect that their Government will take care in ensuring it does not become complicit in any mistreatment.

In protecting and promoting Canada’s national security interests, officials are sometimes required to interact with foreign entities that may engage in practices that are contrary to our values and principles.

The Ministerial Directions provide clear decision-making processes where there is substantial risk of mistreatment.  The new MDs clearly articulate that if a substantial risk cannot be mitigated, information will not be shared or requested.  The MDs also prevent certain uses of information obtained by mistreatment, except where necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury.

The MDs reflect the Government’s commitment to keep Canadians safe and uphold Canada’s commitments to human rights and the rule of law.

How does Canada define torture?

Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which provides a definition of torture (Part I, Article 1).

The Criminal Code offence of torture (section 269.1) prohibits this conduct.

The Government of Canada condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the use of torture or other mistreatment of any individual by anyone for any purpose.


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