Summary of the Meeting of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) December 1-2, 2019

Ottawa, Ontario

Agenda Items:

The second National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) meeting took place December 1-2, 2019 in Ottawa. In addition to NS-TAG members, meeting attendees included Public Safety’s Transparency Secretariat and several members of the interdepartmental National Security Transparency Commitment (NSTC) working group. Representatives from the following departments and agencies attended as observers:

NS-TAG member William Baker was unable to attend. Prior to the meeting, Michel Fortmann resigned as NS-TAG member due to scheduling conflicts. 

Following the adoption of the meeting agenda, Dominic Rochon introduced himself as the new NS-TAG government co-chair and spoke to the group about his experience in national security and transparency.

In the briefing session that followed, a representative from Public Safety Canada discussed GBA+ and its use within Canada’s national security and intelligence landscape. The NS-TAG considered biases within the national security and intelligence landscape and the importance of recognizing identity factors beyond gender, as encompassed by the “plus” in GBA+. The NS-TAG highlighted the role that GBA+ can play in assessing the potential bias of logic employed in artificial intelligence and algorithms, as well as the importance of recruiting and retaining diverse talent in the national security and intelligence community.

The NS-TAG heard from three guest speakers from GAC, DND and the Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE), who briefed the NS-TAG on their respective experience and expertise in community outreach and GBA+. Specific topics of discussion included: gender, terrorism and counter-terrorism;  the intersection of GBA+ with DND’s defence policy ‘Strong, Secure and Engaged’ (SSE); and the on-the-ground impacts of using a GBA+ lens, using accommodations for women in a military setting (ex: correct helmet sizes) as one example. The NS-TAG continued this conversation in the following session on Integrating GBA+, Diversity, and Inclusion in the National Security Transparency Commitment. Members discussed the ways in which they may go about engaging with the public, community groups and other advisory committees on GBA+. The NS-TAG raised the idea of providing recommendations to the government on engagement strategy in this area.

Led by Thomas Juneau, the non-government co-chair, the NS-TAG had an hour to discuss in camera outstanding questions or concerns without government participants in the room. This included providing guidance on the recruitment of a new member following the recent resignation. They also considered the creation of sub-groups for tasks moving forward, and the possibility of doing work in between meetings using a collaborative digital space.

To open the second day of the meeting, Public Safety’s Acting Deputy Minister Monik Beauregard attended and expressed her continuing support of the NS-TAG. The meeting continued with a presentation by the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Security and Intelligence, who discussed the role of the National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) within the national security and intelligence community. During this session, the NS-TAG discussed the intended audiences of past reports produced by review bodies and how the NS-TAG may choose to aim at a particular audience for its own reports moving forward.

NS-TAG members then engaged in a dialogue on how to set priorities for the group, and what shape any future annual reports could take. Representatives from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) Secretariat suggested that the NS-TAG base their priorities around what Canadians would want to know more about and what has not already been covered by other committees or reports. NS-TAG members and members of the NSICOP Secretariat also discussed how to make their annual reports more accessible to Canadians.

The NS-TAG also heard from representatives of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), who spoke about valuable lessons learned from meetings with civil society groups and the challenges that over-classifying information can pose to national security transparency. 

Toward the conclusion of the meeting, the NS-TAG discussed how and when to produce a report summarizing their findings to date. They agreed to produce a report following the fourth meeting in March 2020. Two topics that could be included in this report are an overview of transparency in the national security and intelligence landscape and a draft work plan. Members expressed their desire to be briefed by non-government representatives, primarily experts from civil society, during their next meeting. They also considered key takeaways from the meeting, particularly ways of making national security and intelligence information more easily accessible for all Canadians.

The NS-TAG confirmed that the third meeting will be held in Ottawa in February to enable continued access to national security departments and agencies, while the fourth meeting will take place in Toronto in March.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: