Summary Report of the Meeting of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) July 10, 2020
Held via Videoconference
- William Baker
- Khadija Cajee
- Mary Francoli
- Thomas Juneau (co-chair)
- Myles Kirvan
- Justin Mohammed
- Bessma Momani
- Dominic Rochon (co-chair)
- Jeffrey Roy
- Harpreet Jhinjar
"National Security and Human Rights: How do Canadians' Individual Rights Factor into Related Transparency Initiatives?".
Invited Guests and Speakers:
Carmen Cheung – Executive Director, Center for Justice and Accountability
Yavar Hameed – Barrister & Solicitor, Hameed Law
National Security Community Members Present (as observers):
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Public Safety Canada (PS), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
- Opening of the Meeting and Roll Call
- Discussion Session with Guests: National Security and Human Rights: How do Canadians' individual Rights Factor Into Related Transparency Initiatives?
- Internal Discussion on Producing the First Report
- Date of the Next Meeting and Closing of the Meeting
The second virtual NS-TAG meeting took place on July 10, 2020 with the theme, "National Security and Human Rights: How do Canadians' individual Rights Factor Into Related Transparency Initiatives?" During the first session of the meeting, members of the NS-TAG and two guest speakers discussed the following topics: the connection between transparency and accountability; interactions between the Canadian public and national security institutions; bias, diversity and inclusion in national security; information sharing; and engaging with the public and communities. During the second session, the NS-TAG discussed the way forward for preparing their first report, with a plan to complete the report by fall 2020. The Group discussed key points and issues to be included and focused on how best to approach a "What We Heard" section, as well as the extent of background information to provide. The non-government co-chair committed to circulating a revised outline prior to the next meeting, within the following weeks.
Key Takeaways of the Discussion Session with Guests:
- Guest speakers indicated that effective accountability mechanisms should be built into the design of national security policies and programs, and count transparency as an essential component. Transparency is most useful when the information released has intention and enables greater accountability.
- According to guests, there is no simple solution to bridging the gap in trust between communities and national security institutions. However, trust can be built through outreach and consultation activities, as well as by explaining the activities undertaken by national security institutions and the reasons behind them. The latter can include being more transparent about the nature and handling of civilian complaints (including by sharing related disaggregated statistics) and how law enforcement agencies process and resolve reports of discrimination and harassment.
- Certain practices, such as the use of legislated lists (ex: the Secure Air Travel Act list), bifurcated legal proceedings, ex-parte processes and special advocates can increase feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement among marginalized groups.
- Guest speakers pointed out that certain investigative methods can compound feelings of distrust that arise from negative interactions with government entities, in Canada or elsewhere. Guests also noted that people are more reluctant to share information with national security institutions when they are unaware of what those institutions will do with that information and when minimal follow-up is performed. By building transparency into investigative processes, the Government can demonstrate fairness and care in their treatment of diverse groups and individuals.
- Canadians require access to basic tools and information to manage their dealings with national security institutions and to understand how their rights factor into national security policies, processes, and practices. Moreover, when developing mechanisms for transparency, Government officials should aim to understand the perspectives of outside advocates who try to hold national security institutions accountable.
- Guests acknowledged that meaningful public engagement requires persistence and a conscious effort to use a variety of mediums and outlets. Government should not stop sharing information because there is no immediate outcome or response from the public.
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