Summary of the Meeting of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) October 27, 2021
Held via Videoconference
- Harpreet Jhinjar
- Jillian Stirk
- Khadija Cajee
- Mary Francoli
- Thomas Juneau (co-chair)
- Daniel Jean
- Justin Mohammed
- Bessma Momani
- Dominic Rochon (co-chair)
- Jeffrey Roy
- Michèle Audette
- “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success” – Part Four
Invited Guests and Speakers:
- Amy Go – President of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ)
- Meghan McDermott – Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
- Balpreet Singh Boparai – Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO)
- Navaid Aziz – Director of Public Relations, AlMaghrib Canada
National Security Community Members Present (as observers):
Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Department of National Defence (DND), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Public Safety Canada (PS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Transport Canada (TC), Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS).
- Opening of the Meeting and Roll Call
- Preliminary Discussion on Report
- Discussion Session with Guest Speakers: “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success” – Part Four
- Closing Remarks
The fourteenth virtual NS-TAG meeting took place on October 27, 2021, on the theme “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success – Part Four”. Under agenda item 2 of the meeting, members agreed to allocate some time for a private discussion among themselves on their third report. During the other sessions, guest speakers discussed their work and experience in engaging with various communities, their perspectives on how national security organizations should build trust with diverse communities, as well as ways to combat anti-racism.
Key Takeaways of Guests’ Remarks and of the Discussion Session
- In order to build trust with diverse communities, it is important for departments and agencies to:
- recognize that systemic racism exists within their respective organizations;
- understand the impact of racism on all racialized communities including Chinese Canadians (differential access to power, information, support and services);
- recognize that immigrants bring to Canada their own perceptions of security sector agencies, based and their experiences in their country of origin;
- uphold human rights (e.g., broad and unclear definition of terrorism in Bill C-51 can be applied against groups/organizations advocating for human rights domestically and internationally, potential suppression of freedom of expression when threats are not well defined); and,
- separate and distinguish intelligence gathering activities and community outreach activities. Intelligence done through outreach erodes trust.
- It is critical for national security agencies to stress the importance of teaching Canadian values in the public education system. For example, these can include how national security threats undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as values such as human rights, inclusion, diversity and equity.
- The proliferation of online anti-Asian hate/racism is a serious issue, which threatens the life and security of Asian Canadians and other racialized communities. When hate is allowed to fester without controls/restraints, racialized communities become more cynical and critical of perceived government inaction and lack of leadership.
- Speakers stressed that there is an uneven playing field when trying to hold law enforcement accountable, and delays in replying to complaints and reports are far too long.
- The BCCLA has filed a number of lawsuits against the Government of Canada. One lawsuit was launched against the RCMP for the long delays in responding to misconduct complaints. The BCCLA also filed complaints against CSIS and the RCMP over what the BCCLA claimed was illegal spying on environmentalists.
- The BCCLA has been calling for better oversight of the CBSA for years. Currently, the CBSA handles investigations internally, which is not very effective in building public trust.
- The BCCLA issued a letter with other anti-racism groups regarding the proposed online anti-hate legislation. They are extremely concerned about the lack of in-depth consultations with racialized groups, especially considering that the legislation would address terrorist content. The BCCLA and the groups that took part in issuing the letter are concerned that tech companies are regulating terrorist speech; they fear that this will disproportionally affect black and other racialized groups. BLM, for example, has been disproportionally censored online, and this is without any kind of government regulation to that effect.
- On the question of what can be done to improve accountability mechanisms, guests said that it is difficult to achieve cultural change within organisations and it is doubtful if training alone is helpful in correcting biases and in building diversity awareness.
- According to the World Sikh Organization, the relationship between the national security departments and agencies and the Sikh community is challenging. The WSO is concerned that the Government of Canada, Canadian intelligence services and the Canadian media accept false narratives about Sikhs based on what they hear from the Government of India and other sources.
- There is a perceived lack of transparency about what the Government of Canada is doing with the information reported by the Government of India.
- In the post-9/11 world, CSIS conducted interviews that were perceived as invasive with members of certain communities.
- Guests indicated that after the Christchurch mosque shootings, the New Zealand government released a report on the Government of New Zealand’s shortcomings, failures and lessons learned. To date, we have not seen such a report from the Government of Canada following the Quebec City mosque shooting or the London attack. Even a general report on the 20 years following 9/11 would be beneficial. What has Canada’s national security and intelligence community learned? A report would be useful to see how we are progressing.
- Language matters. Using the name of a group and attaching “extremism” to it tarnishes an entire group. Language, such as that presented in Public Safety’s 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada, marginalizes and puts Sikhs and Muslims in Canada under scrutiny. The language the national security community uses needs to be re-evaluated, and religion should not be the focus. Instead, terminology should focus on criminality and ideology. Some language used more recently is an improvement, but more work is needed. It might be helpful to consult with a group of academics from various marginalized communities on terminology.
- Members of under-represented communities in security sector organizations too often perceive complaining or advocating for change in their organization as limiting their advancement, resulting in them joining stereotypes.
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