Summary of the Meeting of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) - June 9, 2021
Held via Videoconference
- Michèle Audette
- William Baker
- Khadija Cajee
- Mary Francoli
- Thomas Juneau (co-chair)
- Myles Kirvan
- Justin Mohammed
- Bessma Momani
- Dominic Rochon (co-chair)
- Jeffrey Roy
- Harpreet Jhinjar
- “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success” – Part Two
Invited Guests and Speakers:
- Alain Babineau – Expert in Racial and Social Profiling at the City of Montreal, former RCMP Officer
- Dr. Anver Emon – Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Toronto
National Security Community Members Present (as observers):
Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Department of National Defence (DND), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Public Safety Canada (PS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
- Opening of the Meeting and Roll Call
- Discussion with Deputy Minister of PS on NS-TAG Year Two Report
- Discussion Session with Guest Speakers: “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success” – Part Two
- Closing Remarks
The twelfth virtual NS-TAG meeting took place on June 9, 2021, on the theme “Connecting with Diverse Communities: Enhancing How National Security Organizations Engage, Build Trust, and Evaluate Success – Part Two”.
The Deputy Minister of Public Safety began the first session by expressing his sorrow at the recent attack in London, Ontario, that claimed the lives of several members of a Muslim family and injured a young boy, as well as denouncing anti-Muslim hate in the strongest terms.
He then discussed the NS-TAG’s second report, scheduled to be published in early fall 2021. He shared his comments and initial thoughts on the report and its recommendations, and asked for the Group's views on the level of engagement of the various national security and intelligence departments and agencies on transparency. The Group said that the level of commitment to transparency varied from one national security institution to another and that there are many barriers to transparency, including the current national security culture. The Deputy Minister noted the upcoming departure of two members, Bill Baker and Myles Kirvan, and thanked them for their service to the NS-TAG.
To conclude the first session, the Secretariat provided a brief update on the publication process of the NS-TAG’s second report.
During the second session, the first guest speaker discussed racial profiling, systemic discrimination, and racism within the national security community, as well as ways in which they can gain public trust. The second guest speaker presented the report from the University of Toronto’s Institute for Islamic Studies and the National Council of Canadian Muslims titled Under Layered Suspicion.
Key Takeaways of the Discussion with Guests’
- Systemic discrimination is different from racism. Fundamentally, racism was described as an ideology that asserts that some races are superior to others, while discrimination is making an exclusion or preference based on grounds that are prohibited by the Charter and that infringe on an individual’s rights and freedoms.
- The definition of racial profiling has two parts: individual racial profiling and systemic racial profiling. Individual racial profiling refers to a person in a position of authority who, for reasons of safety, security, or public order, bases their decision on the actual or presumed membership of a person as part of a group and exposes that person or group to different treatment or scrutiny. Systemic racial profiling, on the other hand, deals with the action by a person in a situation of authority. An example would be a policymaker who can influence the action of those in positions of authority, develop policies that everyone in the organization will follow, such as discriminatory questionnaires for immigrants, religious-based questioning by a person at the border for returning Canadians or selection of Muslim-led charities for audit.
- Racial profiling causes ‘visible minorities’ to be wary of security institutions, making them less likely to cooperate with departments and agencies that they do not trust. This lack of trust creates challenges for the national security community in fulfilling their transparency commitments.
- To gain public trust, the guest speakers indicated that national security departments and agencies must first recognize that racism and discrimination still exist in their organizations and have a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination internally. The public needs to see that serious measures and actions are being taken to address systemic racism in the national security community. It is also important to increase diversity at all levels of government, as the national security community cannot be inclusive if it is not diverse. Finally, departments and agencies must carry out a comprehensive review of all policies and practices within their respective organizations with the aim of eliminating these discriminatory and systemic practices.
- The aim of the report from the University of Toronto’s Institute for Islamic Studies and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, titled Under Layered Suspicion, was to identify whole-of government policies and patterns of audit practices that together created potential biases in CRA audits of Muslim-led charities. The report argues that there are explicit policies in play that target Muslims overtly. According to the report, there is a bias in the way Muslims are understood, studied, and characterized.
- The Under Layered Suspicion report found that there are several levels of bias, and each level operates differently. For example, it describes a structural bias around Muslims as “foreign”, as well as a structural bias around what exactly constitutes religion. There is also policy bias related to anti-terrorism financing, counter-radicalization, and the mechanism of tax audits.
- The University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies and the National Council of Canadian Muslims looked at three different cases: the Ottawa Islamic Centre and Assalam Mosque, the Islamic Shi'a Assembly of Canada, and the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy Canada. The report’s authors obtained their consent to review their audit files and made Access to Information requests to the CRA to ensure they had complete files, but have yet to receive a response.
- The report also looked into anti-terrorism financing policy, which is led by the Ministry of Finance. Terrorist financing risk was found to be 100% associated with racialized religious communities, with 80% being Muslim organizations.
- To gain public trust and create cultural change, national security organizations should allow an independent organization to conduct a third-party audit of their culture. This requires openness and transparency at the institutional level. Third-party assessments of cultural sensitivity programs created by security organizations is also recommended.
- The way new recruits are integrated has a big impact on organizational culture. Having a frank internal conversation around staffing and human resources is essential in trying to solve the issue of trust and integration. Fostering a culture of acceptance and normalizing diversity should lead to greater public trust.
- The University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies, in collaboration with the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, created the National Security Student Support Helpline to provide university students with legal advice when approached by CSIS or RCMP officials. The helpline has been extended to three universities: Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto. The creators of the hotline noted that although the number of calls from students has decreased following the launch of this service, the number of calls they are receiving from community members who do not have university status has increased. They are looking to expand the service to other members of the community with the support of volunteer lawyers.
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