National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG): Terms of Reference

1. Preamble

In 2016, the Government of Canada completed a series of public consultations on a range of national security issues. One of the findings of these consultations showed that Canadians are interested in increased transparency on national security matters. The National Security Transparency Commitment (NSTC) was announced in June 2017, with the aim of enhancing the democratic accountability of Canada's national security departments and agencies.

2. Mandate and Scope

2.1 The National Security Transparency Advisory Group's ("NS-TAG") mandate is to advise the Deputy Minister ("Deputy Minister") of Public Safety Canada and the Government of Canada's federal departments and agencies with national security responsibilities on how to implement the NSTC. They will be assisted in this effort by the Transparency Secretariat ("Secretariat") at Public Safety Canada.

2.2 The NS-TAG will accomplish this mandate by advising on how to:

NS-TAG's Responsibilities

2.3 The NS-TAG's duties are to:

2.4 All NS-TAG members and other participants in NS-TAG meetings or deliberations are expected to adhere to the provisions set out within these terms of reference, and to:

3. Membership

Appointments

3.1 Subject to subsection 3.7.1, the Deputy Minister may appoint up to 11 members of the NS-TAG, one of whom may be a senior Government official.

3.2 Each member will be appointed to a single term of 2 years in duration, starting on the date of the first meeting and following a notification of appointment.

3.3 A member whose tenure is about to expire or has expired may be eligible for a re-appointment of 1 year, subject to the Deputy Minister's discretion.

3.4 Members may resign at any time.

3.5 In the case that these terms are breached, the Deputy Minister reserves the right to appoint and dismiss a member if required.

3.6 Non-respect or violation of the terms of reference and conditions outlined within this document may lead to removal from the NS-TAG.

Government Co-Chair

3.7 If the Deputy Minister has appointed a senior Government official as a member of the NS-TAG, then that member shall serve as the Government Co-Chair of the group.

3.8 The Government Co-Chair will serve as the representative of the Deputy Minister and as a bridge between the NS-TAG, the National Security Community, and other NSTC efforts across government.

3.9 If the member serving as the Government Co-Chair is unable to carry out their function, the Deputy Minister may temporarily appoint another senior Government official to act in their stead; this individual shall perform all the functions of the Government Co-Chair during the duration of their appointment.

Non-Government Co-Chair and Vice-Chair

3.10 NS-TAG members will select a Non-Government Co-Chair for the group from amongst themselves, either by acclamation or by a majority vote.

3.11 In addition to performing the regular functions as a member, the Non-Government Co-Chair will serve as the NS-TAG's public spokesperson and primary liaison with the Secretariat.

3.12 NS-TAG members may choose a Non-Government Vice-Chair from amongst themselves, who shall serve in the Non-Government Co-Chair's capacity, if the latter is unable to carry out their function.

3.13 The Term of the Non-Government Co-Chair or Vice-Chair shall be for one year, starting on the day the member is elected to exercise that role, unless expressly decided otherwise by the NS-TAG members.

3.14 An incumbent Non-Government Co-Chair or Vice-Chair is eligible for re-election, and there are no limits to the amount of terms either can serve as long as they remain members of the NS-TAG.

3.15 On the same day an NS-TAG member’s tenure ends, they will also automatically cease to exercise the function of Non-Government Co-Chair or Vice-Chair.

3.16 The Non-Government Co-Chair or Vice-Chair can resign their function at any time.

Transparency Secretariat

3.17 The Secretariat will provide a supporting function to the NS-TAG.

3.18 The Secretariat will be responsible for:

4. Meetings

Location, Frequency, and Format

4.1 By default, meetings will be held in Ottawa. However, the NS-TAG is encouraged to hold meetings across Canada to better support public engagement and outreach efforts. Prior to holding a meeting outside of Ottawa, the Secretariat shall confirm that it is logistically and financially feasible.

4.2 Up to four meetings will be held per fiscal year (i.e. April 1 – March 31).

4.3 Meetings will be held in-person, with additional virtual meetings conducted as required. Participation via video- or tele-conference for an in-person meeting may be considered.

4.4 Members cannot substitute or delegate other persons to attend a meeting on their behalf.

Decision-Making

4.5 Decisions will be made by a consensus of members present at NS-TAG meetings.

4.6 A quorum of 60% of the NS-TAG members is required to come to a formal decision or to provide a recommendation. While there is no quorum needed to hold a meeting, a meeting may be postponed by the Co-chair(s) if it is determined that a lack of attendance may affect the meeting's efficacy.

4.7 Sub-working groups may be formed as necessary amongst members. Public Safety Canada will provide members with access to teleconferencing services to facilitate the NS-TAG's discussions, to hold working group/sub-working group meetings, and to work on collaborative tasks.

Security

4.8 All members must hold a Government of Canada-granted Reliability Status to participate in the NS-TAG. The Secretariat must ensure that all individuals requiring Reliability Status are screened appropriately, in accordance with the Government's Standard on Security Screening (https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28115).

Agenda, Meeting Reports, and Publications

4.9 Meeting agendas and materials will be prepared and distributed to members at least 10 working days prior to NS-TAG meetings, whenever possible. Draft agendas are to be prepared by the Secretariat with the guidance of the Co-chair(s) and input from members.

4.10 A Record of Discussion for each meeting will be prepared by the Secretariat and distributed to members for comments and review within 15 working days after the meeting, whenever possible.

4.11 Records of Discussion will include: the agenda of the meeting, members present at the meeting, a summary of the discussions and outreach sessions, and any advice or recommendations from the group.

4.12 Approval of the Record of Discussion will be done in-person at the next meeting or through a silence procedure over email.

4.13 Following agreement from NS-TAG members, the Record of Discussion will be distributed to the Deputy Minister, with possible additional distribution to the Minister and other Government officials implicated by the report's subject matter.

4.14 Records of Discussion and the group's Terms of Reference will be made public on the NSTC's website, along with other relevant documentation, whenever possible.

Official Languages

4.15 All documentation prepared by Public Safety Canada will be available in both official languages, and all members are invited to express themselves in the official language of their choice.

4.16 The Secretariat will provide simultaneous translation services at NS-TAG meetings in both official languages, unless exceptional circumstances prevent them from doing so.

5. Conflict of Interest

5.1. When a member becomes aware of a real, apparent, or potential conflict of interest that could negatively impact the work of the NS-TAG, or the public's trust and confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the public service, then that member will promptly advise the Co-Chairs of the conflict of interest in writing.

5.2 On being advised of such a conflict of interest, the Co-Chairs will bring the matter to the attention of other members of the NS-TAG at the earliest opportunity and, in consultation with them, will determine how to address it. That determination will be recorded in writing.

5.3 Where a member who advises the Co-Chairs of a conflict of interest considers it appropriate to do so, that member may voluntarily withdraw from participation in any matter to which the conflict relates.

6. Reimbursement of Travel Expenses

6.1 NS-TAG members are entitled to reimbursement for reasonable travel, hospitality, and accommodations expenses in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat's Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures (https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=27228).

6.2 Specific details, including the amounts that members may be reimbursed for, will be listed in detail in the Letter of Agreement sent to members prior to each meeting.

7. Other Terms

7.1 Members are not remunerated for services rendered.

7.2 The terms of reference and membership of the NS-TAG may be reviewed and adjusted by the Deputy Minister after consultation with the NS-TAG members.

7.3 Should these terms of reference change, members will be required to sign the declaration below declaring that they have read, understood, and agree to the updated terms.

7.4 The input of NS-TAG members may occasionally be sought on topics relating to national security transparency by the Deputy Minister, the Minister of Public Safety Canada, or other Government officials. Should this be the case, member participation is to be completely optional and discretionary.

7.5 Members shall sign a declaration to the effect that they have read, understood and agree to these terms of reference.

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