Departments and agencies will release information that explains the main elements of their national security activities and the scale of those efforts.
Government departments and agencies are already required to examine what data and information they have that can be released to the public. Departments and agencies with national security responsibilities are complying with this requirement, just like other Government institutions. However, given the need to protect national security operations, their ability to release information directly from their holdings is limited. Personal information, information about Canada’s tactics and capabilities, and details on operations are embedded in much of the information held by institutions with a security mandate. A different approach is therefore required for national security-related information.
This principle calls on Government institutions to examine their holdings and release summary information that demonstrates what they do and the scale of those efforts. It will entail releasing information, for example, on the number of investigations conducted or the authorities used. While summarized information will not disclose the details of national security work, it will enable Canadians to form a general understanding of how the Government works to keep them safe.
Departments and agencies will enable and support Canadians in accessing national security-related information to the maximum extent possible without compromising the national interest, the effectiveness of operations, or the safety or security of an individual.
This principle calls on officials to plan for the potential release of information. For example, information should be managed in such a way that it is clear which information is sensitive, and why it is sensitive. Information should only be treated as sensitive when Canada’s interests are at stake—where disclosure could harm national security or our relations—or personal information is included. Information is not to be protected to prevent embarrassment or to conceal inefficiency, errors, or problems.
The Government is also fulfilling its commitment to transparency through action in two other areas:
- Executive transparency, to explain the legal structure for protecting national security, and how choices are made within that structure
- Policy transparency, to engage Canadians in a dialogue about the strategic issues impacting national security
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