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Departmental Plan: 2024-2025

Plans at a glance

A departmental plan describes a department’s priorities, plans and associated costs for the upcoming three fiscal years.

  • Vision, mission, raison d’etre and operating context
  • Minister’s mandate letter

Key priorities

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat’s top priorities are to

  • support NSIRA Members in undertaking professional, independent reviews of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities;
  • support NSIRA Members in conducting independent investigations of national security and intelligence public complaints;
  • provide transparency about our work; and
  • continue to strengthen our domestic and international partnerships.

Refocusing Government Spending

In Budget 2023, the government committed to reducing spending by $14.1 billion over the next five years, starting in 2023–24, and by $4.1 billion annually after that.

While not officially part of the government spending reduction exercise, the NSIRA Secretariat will respect the spirit of this exercise by

  • critically considering the need for contractors, and
  • identifying work that can be done in-house or deferred, if required.

NSIRA remains committed to managing spending with prudence and probity and that resources are used effectively, and efficiently to achieve organizational objectives. 

Highlights

A Departmental Results Framework consists of an organization’s core responsibilities, the results it plans to achieve, and the performance indicators that measure progress toward these results.

National security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations

Departmental results:

NSIRA reviews Government of Canada national security and intelligence activities to assess whether they are lawful, reasonable, and necessary. The Agency also investigates complaints from members of the public on the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), as well as certain other national security-related complaints, independently and in a timely manner.

The NSIRA Secretariat supports the Agency in the delivery of its mandate. Independent scrutiny contributes to strengthening the accountability framework for national security and intelligence activities and to enhancing public confidence. Ministers and Canadians are informed whether national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions are lawful, reasonable, and necessary.

See GC InfoBase for the full framework and program inventory.

Planned spending: $10,852,987

Planned human resources: 69

Support to national security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations: The NSIRA Secretariat will support the Agency as it ensures institutions’ accountability and enhances public confidence. This will involve conducting transparent and timely investigations into complaints related to national security or intelligence activities and the denial of security clearances.

Throughout 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will support and conduct the Agency’s current reviews and initiate new reviews as per its Forward Review Plan. It will also conduct the Agency’s mandated annual reviews under the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act and annual reviews of CSIS and CSE activities.

For more information on the NSIRA Secretariat’s plans, see the “Plans to deliver” section of this plan.

More information about National security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations can be found in the full departmental plan.

Date of Publishing:

From the Executive Director

This Departmental Plan describes the priorities and goals for the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) Secretariat in 2024–25. Our work is fundamentally anchored by our role in supporting the Agency’s mandate to undertake independent, expert review and investigation of the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities.

Since the Agency’s inception in 2019, the NSIRA Secretariat has worked to establish a professional workforce and the supporting infrastructure, processes, and policies needed to carry out its mandate. Our approaches have matured as we have taken time for deep internal reflection and to consult with our domestic and international partners. Combined with the growing willingness of the national security community to genuinely accept and adjust to our mandate, we are now well positioned to leverage what we have learned and confidently advance our work as a world-recognized review body. In so doing, we will continue to work towards NSIRA’s vision of an accountable, transparent, and effective national security and intelligence community that upholds the rule of law.

In 2024–25, the Secretariat will continue to improve the quality of our working environment to attract and retain an exceptional workforce. We recognize that prioritizing the physical and mental well-being of our employees, and continuing to advance diversity and inclusion, are important aspects of becoming an employer of choice. We have taken steps to implement meaningful action in the coming year. NSIRA is well positioned to take on new and exciting challenges in the year ahead. I would like to thank both Secretariat staff and NSIRA Members, whose ongoing professionalism and dedication to our important work continues to be the force behind our past and future success.

John Davies
Executive Director
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Secretariat

Plans to deliver on core responsibilities and internal services

Core responsibilities and internal services:

  • National security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations
  • Internal services

National security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations

Description

NSIRA reviews Government of Canada national security and intelligence activities to assess whether they are lawful, reasonable, and necessary. The Agency investigates complaints from members of the public regarding activities of CSIS, CSE, and the national security activities of the RCMP, as well as certain other national security-related complaints.

The NSIRA Secretariat supports the Agency in the delivery of this mandate. The resulting independent scrutiny contributes to the strengthening of the framework of accountability for national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions and enhancing public confidence.

Quality of life impacts

NSIRA’s core responsibility relates most closely to the indicator ‘confidence in institutions’, within the ‘democracy and institutions’ sub domain and under the overarching domain of ‘good governance’.

Results and targets

The following tables show, for each departmental result related to national security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations, the indicators, the results from the three most recently reported fiscal years, the targets and target dates approved in 2024–25.

Table 1: Indicators, results and targets for departmental result “Ministers and Canadians are informed whether national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions are lawful, reasonable, and necessary”

Indicator 2020–21 result 2021–22 result 2022–23 result Target Date to achieve
All mandatory reviews are completed on an annual basis N/A 100% 100% 100% completion of mandatory reviews  December 2022
Reviews of national security or intelligence activities of at least five departments or agencies are conducted each year N/A 100% 100% At least one national security or intelligence activity is reviewed in at least five departments or agencies annually December 2022
All Member-approved high priority national security or intelligence activities are reviewed over a three- year period N/A 33% 33% 100% completion over three years; at least 33% completed each year December 2022

Table 2: Indicators, results, and targets for departmental result “National security-related complaints are independently investigated in a timely manner”

Indicator 2020–21 result 2021–22 result 2022–23 result Target Date to achieve
Note: NSIRA was created on July 12, 2019. Actual results for 2020–21 are not available because the new Departmental Results Framework was being developed during the transition of the Security Intelligence Review Committee into the establishment of NSIRA. The new framework is for measuring and reporting on results achieved starting in 2021–22; in 2022–23, NSIRA finalized service standards on the time required to complete its investigations (effective April 1, 2023). The results will be included in the next Departmental Results Report.
Percentage of investigations completed within NSIRA service standards N/A N/A N/A 90% – 100% March 2024

The financial, human resources and performance information for NSIRA’s program inventory is available on GC InfoBase.

Plans to achieve results

Support to NSIRA reviews

The NSIRA Secretariat will continue to support the Agency’s current, ongoing reviews and new reviews from the Forward Review Plan throughout 2024–25. This will include supporting the annual reviews of CSIS and CSE activities, to provide responsible Ministers and the Canadian public with an assessment of these institutions’ activities, including their lawfulness, reasonableness, and necessity.

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will continue to be informed and guided by the knowledge acquired through reviews of departments and agencies (reviewees) to date. As it becomes increasingly familiar with reviewees’ organizational structures, networks, policies, and activities, and able to apply such information to subsequent reviews, it will leverage this knowledge to ensure these institutions’ national security and intelligence activities are reviewed from a strongly informed position of independence. The NSIRA Secretariat will also continue to support reviews focused on crosscutting, horizontal issues that span multiple reviewees, with a goal of fully leveraging NSIRA’s authority in this regard.

In addition to conducting its mandated annual reviews in 2024-25, the NSIRA Secretariat will lead the development of a new review plan that is timely, topical, and responsive. The Forward Review Plan involves evaluating proposals for new reviews against an established matrix of criteria. The criteria represent the considerations or aspects that NSIRA deems to be the most important and relevant to the issues and topics it addresses through its discretionary reviews. The outcome will be a prioritized list of new reviews that will be undertaken once the existing reviews are completed. In this way, the NSIRA Secretariat will continue to support NSIRA Members in executing their responsibilities and exercising their authority under the NSIRA Act.

Support to NSIRA complaints investigations

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will support the Agency in ensuring institutions’ accountability and enhancing public confidence by conducting transparent and timely investigations into complaints related to national security and the denial of security clearances. NSIRA’s independent investigation of complaints plays a critical role in maintaining public access to justice.

In the coming year, the NSIRA Secretariat will apply its rules of procedure, which were first implemented in 2021, to promote accessibility, timeliness, and efficiency in the Agency’s investigation of complaints. This includes an informal resolution process that has proven successful in resolving complaints that do not need to proceed e to formal investigation process.

The NSIRA Secretariat will further implement the Agency’s new service standards for the investigation of complaints, which were created in 2022–23 and effective as of April 1, 2023.

Transparency

The NSIRA Secretariat will continue to proactively publish unclassified versions of all Agency review reports. It will engage reviewees in a timelier manner on release approvals and aim to publish redacted reports on the NSIRA website shortly after these reports are provided to reviewees and their respective Ministers, leveraging processes developed during the previous year.

Partnerships

Participation

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will build on its ongoing partnership efforts from the previous year. It will continue its participation in the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council, which brings together review agency representatives from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Engagement

The NSIRA Secretariat will also continue to support multilateral and bilateral engagement with other like-minded European and international partners. Such participation and engagement will include ongoing working-level visits and exchanges. This work will support NSIRA’s interest in benefiting from, and contributing to, the sharing of best practices with the broader review and oversight community. The NSIRA Secretariat will also continue to build on recent efforts to foster collaborative relationships with other domestic review bodies and civil society groups.

Key risks

The NSIRA Secretariat has made progress on accessing the information required to conduct reviews; however, there continues to be risks associated with reviewees’ ability to respond to, and prioritize, information requests, hindering NSIRA’s ability to deliver its review plan in a timely way. The NSIRA Secretariat will continue to mitigate this risk by providing clear communication related to information requests, tracking their timely completion within communicated timelines, and escalating issues when appropriate.

Snapshot of planned resources in 2024–25
  • Planned spending: $18,575,110
  • Planned full-time resources: 100

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will continue to implement its three-year action plan on human rights, accessibility, employment equity, diversity, and inclusion. It first put this plan into effect during fiscal year 2022–23, following a maturity assessment of its policies, programs, and practices, and the Call to Action from the Clerk of the Privy Council. It includes, among many components, incorporating a gender-based analysis plus lens into the design and implementation of the NSIRA Secretariat’s policies and programs.

Employee self-identification data, which was first collected by the NSIRA Secretariat in 2023–2024 (further to the establishment of a special program under the Canadian Human Rights Act), will continue to inform the NSIRA Secretariat’s activities in the year ahead and better position it to:

  • prevent, eliminate, or reduce disadvantages and barriers that are experienced by any group of individuals based on, or related to, prohibited grounds of discrimination;
  • identify gaps in representation, to implement recruitment and retention measures aimed at not only achieving but retaining a diverse workforce and maintaining an inclusive work environment;
  • leverage the value of diverse peoples and perspectives in its work; and
  • identify meaningful opportunities for employee engagement in keeping with its overall commitment to human rights, accessibility, employment equity, diversity, and inclusion.

NSIRA’s Forward Looking Review Plan continues to be informed by considerations related to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. These considerations apply to the process of selecting reviews to be undertaken, as well as to the analysis that takes place during individual reviews. NSIRA reviews routinely take into account the potential for national security or intelligence activities to result in disparate outcomes for various communities, and will continue to do so in the year ahead.

In 2024–25, in the context of complaint investigations, the NSIRA Secretariat will continue to support the Agency as it works with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) to develop strategies for the collection, analysis, and use of identity-based data. Following the completion of a joint study, it will focus on assessing how some recommendations can be implemented for the collection, analysis, and use of identity-based data in relation to the NSIRA and CRCC mandates.

The NSIRA Secretariat will also continue to implement its Accessibility Plan, which outlines the steps that will be taken to increase accessibility within the organization and for all Canadians over the next two years. In addition, its Diversity, Inclusion, and Employment Equity Advisory Committee will continue to work with management and staff to build a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace and workforce. This will include organizing discussions and learning events with all staff and providing advice on policy and program design.

In the year ahead, the NSIRA Secretariat will also develop and implement a pay equity plan, as required by the Pay Equity Act. Closing any identified gender pay gap is essential to advancing gender equality and fostering a workplace driven by inclusivity and fairness.

Program inventory

National security and intelligence reviews and complaints investigations are supported by the following program in the program inventory:

  • National security and intelligence activity reviews and complaints investigations.

Supporting information on planned expenditures, human resources, and results related to NSIRA’s program inventory is available on GC Infobase.

Internal services

Description

Internal services are the services that are provided within a department so that it can meet its corporate obligations and deliver its programs. There are 10 categories of internal services:

  • management and oversight services
  • communications services
  • human resources management services
  • financial management services
  • information management services
  • information technology services
  • real property management services
  • materiel management services
  • acquisition management services

Plans to achieve results

In 2024–25, the NSIRA Secretariat will continue to take steps to ensure resources are deployed in the most effective and efficient manner possible, and its operations and administrative structures, tools, and processes continue to focus on supporting the delivery of its priorities.

The NSIRA Secretariat recognizes the need to be an inclusive, healthy, and flexible employer. Over the coming year, it will continue to encourage flexible working arrangements, such as teleworking, to achieve work–life balance and meet performance expectations.

In the coming year, the NSIRA Secretariat’s office footprint, with modern and flexible workstations in the classified and non-classified realm, is expected to be completed. The project has been pushed back to a summer 2024 delivery date due to its complexity, supply chain challenges, and compliance requirements.

The NSIRA Secretariat also continues to implement security controls and keeps its Security Plan and Business Impact Analysis evergreen, to ensure resiliency over time. In addition, based on the NSIRA Secretariat’s Information Management plans and strategies developed last fiscal year, it has identified the tools and resources required to execute the plans and strategies over the coming years.

Snapshot of planned resources in 2024-25
  • Planned spending: $7,722,123
  • Planned full-time resources: 31
Planning for contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses

The NSIRA Secretariat is among the final wave of departments and agencies that are to achieve the mandatory minimum target of contract awards to Indigenous businesses by 2024–25. Efforts are already well underway in support of the Government of Canada’s commitment which requires that an annual, mandatory minimum target of five percent of the total value of contracts be awarded to Indigenous businesses.

In 2021-22, the NSIRA Secretariat exceeded its plan to reach two percent of total contract values awarded to Indigenous business, and achieved three percent, as shown in Table 3. Measures undertaken by the NSIRA Secretariat to facilitate the achievement of the mandatory minimum target by 2024–25 include a commitment to process an increasing minimum number of contracts in each of the following three fiscal years, as set-asides under the Procurement Strategy for Indigenous Business.

Table 3: Progress toward target for contracts with Indigenous businesses

5% reporting field description 2021–22 actual % achieved 2022–23 actual % achieved 2023–24 planned % target 2024–25 planned % target
Total percentage of contracts with Indigenous businesses 3% 3% 3% 5%

Planned spending and human resources

This section provides an overview of NSIRA’s planned spending and human resources for the next three fiscal years and compares planned spending for 2024–25 with actual spending from previous years.

Spending

Table 4: Actual spending summary for core responsibilities and internal services ($ dollars)

The following table shows information on spending for each of NSIRA’s core responsibilities and for its internal services for the previous three fiscal years. Amounts for the current fiscal year are forecasted based on spending to date.

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2020–21 actual expenditures 2021–22 actual expenditures 2022–23 forecast spending
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 7,394,642 7,756,271 9,516,920
Subtotal 7,394,642 7,756,271 9,516,920
Internal Services 9,895,112 10,532,876 10,799,513
Total 17,289,754 18,289,147 20,316,433

Table 5: Budgetary planning summary for core responsibilities and internal services (dollars)

The following table shows information on spending for each of NSIRA’s core responsibilities and for its internal services for the upcoming three fiscal years.

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2024–25 budgetary spending (as indicated in Main Estimates) 2024–25 planned spending 2025–26 planned spending 2026–27 planned spending
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 10,852,987 10,852,987 10,852,051 10,852,051
Subtotal 10,852,987 10,852,987 10,852,051 10,852,051
Internal Services 7,722,123 7,722,123 7,758,034 7,758,034
Total 18,575,110 18,575,110 18,610,085 18,610,085

Funding

Figure 1: Departmental spending 2021–22 to 2026–27

The following graph presents planned spending (voted and statutory expenditures) over time.

Departmental spending trend graph
  2021–22 2022–23 2023–24 2024–25 2025–26 2026–27
Statutory 1,176,321 1,300,166 1,513,580 1,764,845 1,766,593 1,766,593
Voted 16,113,433 16,988,981 18,802,853 16,810,265 16,843,492 16,843,492
Total 17,289,754 18,289,147 20,316,433 18,575,110 18,610,085 18,610,085

Peak spending was reached in 2023–24 with the inclusion of the majority of construction project expenditures. The NSIRA Secretariat will move to steadier state of spending in 2024–25.

Estimates by vote

Information on NSIRA’s organizational appropriations is available in the 2024–25 Main Estimates.

Future-oriented condensed statement of operations

The future-oriented condensed statement of operations provides an overview of NSIRA’s operations for 2023–24 to 2024–25.

The forecast and planned amounts in this statement of operations were prepared on an accrual basis. The forecast and planned amounts presented in other sections of the Departmental Plan were prepared on an expenditure basis. Amounts may therefore differ.

A more detailed future-oriented statement of operations and associated notes, including a reconciliation of the net cost of operations with the requested authorities, are available at NSIRA’s website.

Table 6: Future-oriented condensed statement of operations for the year ending March 31, 2025 (dollars)

Financial information 2023–24 Forecast results 2024–25 Planned results Difference (2024–25 planned results minus 2023–24 Forecast results)
Total expenses 18,786,869 20,400,691 1,613,823
Total revenues 0 0 0
Net cost of operations before government funding and transfers 18,786,869 20,400,691 1,613,823

Human resources

Table 7: Actual human resources for core responsibilities and internal services

The following table shows a summary of human resources, in full-time equivalents (FTEs), for NSIRA’s core responsibilities and for its internal services for the previous three fiscal years. Human resources for the current fiscal year are forecasted based on year to date. 

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2021–22 actual full time equivalents 2022–23 actual full time equivalents 2023–24 forecast full time equivalents
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 52 53 69
Subtotal 52 53 69
Internal Services 22 25 31
Total 74 78 100

Given the NSIRA secretariat continues to be a growing organization, the increase of 4 FTEs is reasonable year over year. The organization plans to continue to grow towards 100 FTEs through various recruitment and retention programs.

Table 8: Human resources planning summary for core responsibilities and internal services

The following table shows information on human resources, in full-time equivalents (FTEs), for each of NSIRA’s core responsibilities and for its internal services planned for 2024–25 and future years.

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2024–25 planned full time equivalents 2025–26 planned full time equivalents 2026–27 planned full time equivalents
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 69 69 69
Subtotal 69 69 69
Internal Services 31 31 31
Total 100 100 100

With a tight labour market and the requirement for a significant portion of employees to work primarily from secure office space, recruitment continues to prove challenging. New recruitment and retention programs will help the NSIRA secretariat in its ongoing efforts to be fully staffed.

Corporate Information

Organizational profile

Appropriate minister: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Institutional head: John Davies, Executive Director
Ministerial portfolio: Privy Council Office
Enabling instrument: National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act
Year of incorporation / commencement: 2019

Organizational contact information

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430, Station “D” Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W5

Telephone: The phone number is temporarily disabled
Fax: The fax number is temporarily disabled.
Emailinfo@nsira-ossnr.gc.ca
Websitewww.nsira-ossnr.gc.ca

Supplementary information tables

Information on NSIRA’s departmental sustainable development strategy can be found on NSIRA’s website

Federal tax expenditures

NSIRA’s Departmental Plan does not include information on tax expenditures.

Tax expenditures are the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. The Department of Finance Canada publishes cost estimates and projections for government wide tax expenditures each year in the Report on Federal Tax Expenditures.

This report provides detailed information on tax expenditures, including objectives, historical background and references to related federal spending programs, as well as evaluations, research papers and gender-based analysis plus.

Appendix: definitions

appropriation (crédit)

Any authority of Parliament to pay money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

budgetary expenditures (dépenses budgétaires)

Operating and capital expenditures; transfer payments to other levels of government, organizations or individuals; and payments to Crown corporations.

core responsibility (responsabilité essentielle)

An enduring function or role performed by a department. The intentions of the department with respect to a core responsibility are reflected in one or more related departmental results that the department seeks to contribute to or influence.

Departmental Plan (plan ministériel)

A report on the plans and expected performance of an appropriated department over a 3‑year period. Departmental Plans are usually tabled in Parliament each spring.

departmental priority (priorité)

A plan or project that a department has chosen to focus and report on during the planning period. Priorities represent the things that are most important or what must be done first to support the achievement of the desired departmental results.

departmental result (résultat ministériel)

A consequence or outcome that a department seeks to achieve. A departmental result is often outside departments’ immediate control, but it should be influenced by program-level outcomes.

departmental result indicator (indicateur de résultat ministériel)

A quantitative measure of progress on a departmental result.

departmental results framework (cadre ministériel des résultats)

A framework that connects the department’s core responsibilities to its departmental results and departmental result indicators.

Departmental Results Report (rapport sur les résultats ministériels)

A report on a department’s actual accomplishments against the plans, priorities and expected results set out in the corresponding Departmental Plan.

experimentation (expérimentation)

The conducting of activities that seek to first explore, then test and compare the effects and impacts of policies and interventions in order to inform evidence-based decision-making, and improve outcomes for Canadians, by learning what works, for whom and in what circumstances. Experimentation is related to, but distinct from innovation (the trying of new things), because it involves a rigorous comparison of results. For example, using a new website to communicate with Canadians can be an innovation; systematically testing the new website against existing outreach tools or an old website to see which one leads to more engagement, is experimentation.

full‑time equivalent (équivalent temps plein)

A measure of the extent to which an employee represents a full person‑year charge against a departmental budget. For a particular position, the full‑time equivalent figure is the ratio of number of hours the person actually works divided by the standard number of hours set out in the person’s collective agreement.

gender-based analysis plus (GBA Plus) (analyse comparative entre les sexes plus [ACS Plus])

An analytical process used to assess how diverse groups of women, men and gender-diverse people experience policies, programs and services based on multiple factors including race ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability.

government-wide priorities (priorités pangouvernementales)

For the purpose of the 2020–21 Departmental Results Report, those high-level themes outlining the government’s agenda in the 2019 Speech from the Throne, namely: Fighting climate change; Strengthening the Middle Class; Walking the road of reconciliation; Keeping Canadians safe and healthy; and Positioning Canada for success in an uncertain world.

horizontal initiative (initiative horizontale)

An initiative where two or more federal organizations are given funding to pursue a shared outcome, often linked to a government priority.

non‑budgetary expenditures (dépenses non budgétaires)

Net outlays and receipts related to loans, investments and advances, which change the composition of the financial assets of the Government of Canada.

performance (rendement)

What an organization did with its resources to achieve its results, how well those results compare to what the organization intended to achieve, and how well lessons learned have been identified.

performance indicator (indicateur de rendement)

A qualitative or quantitative means of measuring an output or outcome, with the intention of gauging the performance of an organization, program, policy or initiative respecting expected results.

performance reporting (production de rapports sur le rendement)

The process of communicating evidence‑based performance information. Performance reporting supports decision making, accountability and transparency.

plan (plan)

The articulation of strategic choices, which provides information on how an organization intends to achieve its priorities and associated results. Generally, a plan will explain the logic behind the strategies chosen and tend to focus on actions that lead to the expected result.

planned spending (dépenses prévues)

For Departmental Plans and Departmental Results Reports, planned spending refers to those amounts presented in Main Estimates.

A department is expected to be aware of the authorities that it has sought and received. The determination of planned spending is a departmental responsibility, and departments must be able to defend the expenditure and accrual numbers presented in their Departmental Plans and Departmental Results Reports.

program (programme)

Individual or groups of services, activities or combinations thereof that are managed together within the department and focus on a specific set of outputs, outcomes or service levels.

program inventory (répertoire des programmes)

Identifies all the department’s programs and describes how resources are organized to contribute to the department’s core responsibilities and results.

result (résultat)

A consequence attributed, in part, to an organization, policy, program or initiative. Results are not within the control of a single organization, policy, program or initiative; instead they are within the area of the organization’s influence.

statutory expenditures (dépenses législatives)

Expenditures that Parliament has approved through legislation other than appropriation acts. The legislation sets out the purpose of the expenditures and the terms and conditions under which they may be made.

target (cible)

A measurable performance or success level that an organization, program or initiative plans to achieve within a specified time period. Targets can be either quantitative or qualitative.

voted expenditures (dépenses votées)

Expenditures that Parliament approves annually through an appropriation act. The vote wording becomes the governing conditions under which these expenditures may be made.

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Date Modified:

Quarterly Report: For the quarter ended December 31, 2023

Date of Publishing:

Introduction

This quarterly report has been prepared by management as required by section 65.1 of the Financial Administration Act and in the form and manner prescribed by the Directive on Accounting Standards, GC 4400 Departmental Quarterly Financial Report. This quarterly financial report should be read in conjunction with the 2023–24 Main Estimates.

This quarterly report has not been subject to an external audit or review.

Mandate

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is an independent external review body that reports to Parliament. Established in July 2019, NSIRA is responsible for conducting reviews of the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities to ensure that they are lawful, reasonable and necessary. NSIRA also hears public complaints regarding key national security agencies and their activities.

A summary description NSIRA’s program activities can be found in Part II of the Main Estimates.  Information on NSIRA’s mandate can be found on its website.

Basis of presentation

This quarterly report has been prepared by management using an expenditure basis of accounting. The accompanying Statement of Authorities includes the agency’s spending authorities granted by Parliament and those used by the agency, consistent with the 2023–24 Main Estimates. This quarterly report has been prepared using a special-purpose financial reporting framework (cash basis) designed to meet financial information needs with respect to the use of spending authorities.

The authority of Parliament is required before money can be spent by the government. Approvals are given in the form of annually approved limits through appropriation acts or through legislation in the form of statutory spending authorities for specific purposes.

Highlights of the fiscal quarter and fiscal year-to-date results

This section highlights the significant items that contributed to the net increase or decrease in authorities available for the year and actual expenditures for the quarter ended September 30, 2023.

NSIRA Secretariat spent approximately 52% of its authorities by the end of the third quarter, compared with 39% in the same quarter of 2022–23 (see graph 1).

Graph 1: Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q3 2023–2024 and Q3 2022–2023

Graph: Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures - Text version follows
Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q3 2023–24 and Q3 2022–23
  2023-24 2022-23
Total Authorities $24.4 $29.8
Q2 Expenditures $4.8 $4.7
Year-to-Date Expenditures $12.8 $11.6

Significant changes to authorities

As at December 31, 2023, Parliament had approved $24.4 million in total authorities for use by NSIRA Secretariat for 2023–24 compared with $29.8 million as of December 31, 2022, for a net decrease of $5.3 million or 18% (see graph 2).

Graph 2: Variance in authorities as at December 31, 2023

Graph: Variance in authorities as at December 31, 2023 - Text version follows
Variance in authorities as at June 30, 2023 (in millions)
  Fiscal year 2022-23 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2023 Fiscal year 2023-24 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2024
Vote 1 – Operating 28.1 22.6
Statutory 1.6 1.8
Total budgetary authorities 29.7 24.4

The decrease of $5.3 million in authorities is mostly explained by a gradual reduction in NSIRA Secretariat’s ongoing operating funding due to an ongoing construction project nearing completion.

Significant changes to quarter expenditures

The third quarter expenditures totalled $4.8 million for an increase of $0.1 million when compared with $4.7 million spent during the same period in 2022–2023. Table 1 presents budgetary expenditures by standard object.

Table 1

Variances in expenditures by standard object(in thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2023–24: expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2023 Fiscal year 2022–23: expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2022 Variance $ Variance %
Personnel 2,866 2,503 363 15%
Transportation and communications 110 82 28 34%
Information 1 4 (3) (75%)
Professional and special services 486 1,271 (785) (62%)
Rentals 78 83 (5) (6%)
Repair and maintenance 1,161 685 476 69%
Utilities, materials and supplies (1) 21 (22) (105%)
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 83 2 81 4050%
Other subsidies and payment (33) 17 (50) (294%)
Total gross budgetary expenditures 4,751 4,668 83 2%

*Details may not sum to totals due to rounding*

Professional and special services

The decrease of $785,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for our Internal Support Services agreement.

Repair and maintenance

The increase of $476,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for an ongoing capital project.

Utilities, materials and supplies

The decrease of $22,000 is due to a temporarily unreconciled acquisition card suspense account.

Acquisition of machinery and equipment

The increase of $81,000 is due to the purchase of software licenses and the corresponding support and maintenance.

Other subsidies and payments

The decrease of $50,000 is explained by a prior year refund that was deposited to NSIRA’s account in error.

Significant changes to year-to-date expenditures

The year-to-date expenditures totalled $12.8 million for an increase of $1.2 million (11%) when compared with $11.6 million spent during the same period in 2022–23. Table 2 presents budgetary expenditures by standard object.

Table 2

Variances in expenditures by standard object(in thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2023–24: year-to-date expenditures as of December 31, 2023 Fiscal year 2022–23: year-to-date expenditures as of December 31, 2022 Variance $ Variance %
Personnel 8,766 7,751 1,015 13%
Transportation and communications 302 196 106 54%
Information 5 9 (4) (44%)
Professional and special services 2,155 2,695 (540) (20%)
Rentals 151 132 19 14%
Repair and maintenance 1,188 749 439 (59%)
Utilities, materials and supplies 56 49 7 14%
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 135 15 120 800%
Other subsidies and payment 89 18 71 394%
Total gross budgetary expenditures 12,847 11,614 1,233 11%

*Details may not sum to totals due to rounding*

Personnel

The increase of $1,015,000 relates to an increase in average salary, an increase in full time equivalent (FTE) positions, and back-pay from the new collective agreement for the EC and AS occupational groups.

Transportation and communications

The increase in $106,000 is due to the timing of the invoicing for our internet connections.

Professional and special services

The decrease of $540,000 is mainly explained by the conclusion of guard services contracts associated to a capital construction project and the timing of invoicing for internal support services.

Repair and maintenance

The increase of $439,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for an ongoing capital project.

Acquisition of machinery and equipment

The increase of $120,000 is mainly explained by the one-time purchase of a specialized laptop and licenses.

Other subsidies and payments

The increase of $71,000 is due to an increase in salary overpayments.

Risks and uncertainties

The NSIRA Secretariat has made progress on accessing the information required to conduct reviews; however, there continues to be risks associated with reviewees’ ability to respond to, and prioritize, information requests, hindering NSIRA’s ability to deliver its review plan in a timely way. The NSIRA Secretariat will continue to mitigate this risk by providing clear communication related to information requests, tracking their timely completion within communicated timelines, and escalating issues when appropriate.

There is a risk that the funding received to offset pay increases anticipated over the coming year will be insufficient to cover the costs of such increases and the year-over-year cost of services provided by other government departments/agencies is increasing significantly.

Mitigation measures for the risks outlined above have been identified and are factored into NSIRA Secretariat’s approach and timelines for the execution of its mandated activities

Significant changes in relation to operations, personnel and programs

There have been no changes to the NSIRA Secretariat Program.

Approved by senior officials:

John Davies
Executive Director

Martyn Turcotte
Director General, Corporate Services, Chief Financial Officer

Appendix

Statement of authorities (Unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended December 31, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2023 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended December 31, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Vote 1 – Net operating expenditures 22,633 4,313 11,531 28.063 4,236 10,318
Budgetary statutory authorities
Contributions to employee benefit plans 1,755 438 1,316 1,728 432 1,296
Total budgetary authorities (note 2) 24,388 4,751 12,847 29,791 4,668 11,614

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

Departmental budgetary expenditures by standard object (unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2023 Expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Expenditures
Personnel 13,372 2,866 8,766 13,389 2,503 7,751
Transportation and communications 650 110 302 597 82 196
Information 371 1 5 372 4 9
Professional and special services 4,906 486 2,155 4,902 1,271 2,695
Rentals 271 78 151 271 83 132
Repair and maintenance 4,580 1,161 1,188 9,722 685 749
Utilities, materials and supplies 73 (1) 56 173 21 49
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 132 83 135 232 2 15
Other subsidies and payments 33 (33) 89 133 17 18
Total gross budgetary expenditures
(note 2)
24,388 4,751 12,847 29,791 4,668 11,614

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

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Date Modified:

Review of Information Sharing Across Aspects of CSE’s Mandate – CSE Responses

Recommendation CSE Response

NSIRA Recommendation 1: CSE should obtain additional legal advice on its internal sharing of information between the foreign intelligence and cybersecurity aspects of the mandate, explicitly in relation to compliance with the Privacy Act. which thoroughly addresses the following two issues:

  • Whether the internal sharing of information between the foreign intelligence and cybersecurity aspects of the mandate is a use or a disclosure of information for the purposes of the Privacy Act: and
  • Whether uses and disclosures a re done in accordance with sections 7 and 8 of the Privacy Act.
CSE Response: Disagree. CSE does not accept recommendation 1. CSE has already received comprehensive and clear legal advice on this matter from the Department of Justice and has relied on that advice in the conductof its activities (which NSIRA has found lawful).
NSIRA Recommendation 2: All foreign intelligence and cyber security applications from the Chief of CSE should appropriately inform the Minister of National Defence that retained information might be used to support a different aspect. CSE Response:CSE has already implemented the recommended action. CSE notes that it had and continues to inform the Minister a bout the use of information for other aspects of its mandate. Applications for all foreign intelligence and cybersecurity Ministerial Authorizations in 2021-2022 included wording to clearly reflect that information collected under one aspect of CSE’s mandate could be used to support a different aspect.

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Accessibility Plan – First Progress Report

Meta data information

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, Accessibility Plan – First Progress Report, December 2023
Title in French: Office de surveillance des activités en matière de sécurité nationale et de renseignement, Plan sur l’accessibilité – Premier rapport d’étape, Décembre 2023
Also available online: https://nsira-ossnr.gc.ca/publications/secretariat-operations/accessibility-plan-first-progress-report/
ISSN: 2817-1160
Key title: Accessibility Plan – First Progress Report (National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (Canada))
© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, 2023

Date of Publishing:

From the Executive Director

In accordance with the Accessible Canada Act, I am pleased to table the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency’s (NSIRA) first progress report to its Accessibility Plan 2022 – 2025. This progress report describes the work that has been done to implement activities over the course of 2023.

As noted in our inaugural plan, accessibility is a work in progress. The Review Agency and the NSIRA Secretariat have made advances on several fronts, however there is more work to be done. Despite the best of intentions, it is apparent that some of the timelines were optimistic given the organization’s small size and the need to wait for work to be completed by other departments or agencies.

Most of the activities identified for completion in the first year were focused on increasing awareness and improving accessibility for the workforce and in the workplace. Consequently, for this first progress report consultations were limited to engaging with members of the NSIRA Secretariat’s workforce who offered their insights as persons with disabilities. The information provided by employees reinforced the importance of seeking input from persons with disabilities to identify and resolve barriers.

Through the combined efforts of growing internal capacity and new service level agreements with other public service organizations, NSIRA hopes to be better positioned to address areas that fell behind in 2023. We are optimistic that the coming year will provide an opportunity to double down on efforts to ensure that accessibility is integrated in an effective and sustainable manner in all aspects of the Review Agency’s and the NSIRA Secretariat’s work.

John Davies

Executive Director, NSIRA Secretariat

General

The Executive Director of the NSIRA Secretariat, who is the deputy head and employer, leads the Secretariat that supports the Review Agency in the fulfillment of its mandate under the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act. The Secretariat is responsible for monitoring feedback to evaluate progress and to determine its future accessibility plans.

In compliance with the requirements of the Accessible Canada Act (“ACA”) and the Accessible Canada Regulations, this progress report is available on NSIRA’s website, which is used to communicate with the public.

To request a copy of this report, the accessibility plan, or a description of the feedback process in an alternate format or to provide feedback about NSIRA’s progress report, the accessibility plan and any barriers encountered in dealing with NSIRA, please contact the undersigned by mail, telephone, or email.

Chief of Staff, Executive Director’s Office
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Secretariat
P.O. Box 2430, Station “B”
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5W5


Telephone: 1-833-890-0293
Email: info@nsira-ossnr.gc.ca

Introduction

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency published its Accessibility Plan 2022 – 2025 in December 2022. This first progress report describes the work that has been done to implement activities between January 1 and December 31, 2023.

The Accessibility Plan 2022 – 2025 set out three priority areas to improve accessibility:

  1. Increasing staff awareness about accessibility and the barriers that limit access for Canadians with disabilities.
  2. Ensuring Canadians have access to NSIRA’s publications and services.
  3. Continuing to advance a culture of respect and inclusion by integrating accessibility in all aspects of the organization’s work.

Through the efforts of the Senior Advisor, Wellness Initiatives, the NSIRA Secretariat can monitor progress, identify areas for improvement, and ensure overall coherence across the activities outlined in the accessibility plan.

Progress with respect to the priority areas and the accessibility plan is set out on the following pages. It is organized according to the seven key areas outlined in the Accessible Canada Act namely: employment; built environment; information and communication technologies (ICT); communication other than ICT; procurement of goods, services, and facilities; design and delivery of programs and services; and transportation.

The Review Agency and the NSIRA Secretariat were able to make advances on several fronts, however delays in staffing, stringent security requirements, and the organization’s small size meant activities did not progress as quickly as initially anticipated. The NSIRA Secretariat does not have ultimate control over certain fundamental aspects related to the built environment, technology, or security and must, therefore, adjust its pace to align with the direction given by the responsible policy centres.

Progress vis-à-vis accessibility plan

Employment

While developing the accessibility plan, the NSIRA Secretariat identified gaps with respect to employment. There was no written accommodation process for persons with disabilities employed in the NSIRA Secretariat. Furthermore, there was limited information available about accessibility requirements, resources, and information.

Status: On track

The NSIRA Secretariat was able to make advances in relation to many of the priorities with respect to employment. The Manager, Human Resources Services was joined by the Senior Advisor, Wellness Initiatives, midway through the year. Together they worked on 14 specific cases in 2023 to ensure that employees received the accommodations they requested to enable them to participate fully in all aspects of their work experience. Additionally, the following progress was made:

  • Duty to accommodate training was developed and delivered to all human resources staff and managers in February 2023.
  • Work is underway to make available a series of “how to” guides and a calendar of events for HR advisors, managers, and employees early in 2024.
  • The NSIRA Secretariat launched a new SelfID questionnaire in 2023, which was completed by all term and indeterminate employees. The data shows that the representation of persons with disabilities currently stands at 19.5%.
  • Performance measures and indicators relative to employment are under development, which will enable the NSIRA Secretariat to review selection practices to identify and prevent or mitigate barriers.
  • All recruitment and staffing material and communications with candidates at all stages of hiring processes include information about accommodations and accessibility. For example, invitations to interviews or to written exams clearly indicate that accommodations are available upon request.
  • A new feedback questionnaire was developed and launched in November 2023, to systematically seek feedback from candidates about the effectiveness of accommodation measures in selection processes.
  • A second feedback questionnaire was developed and launched in October 2023 to seek feedback from NSIRA Secretariat employees about barriers, gaps, appropriateness, and timeliness of workplace accommodations. (See the section entitled “Feedback” for more information.)
  • Employees and managers received training on the Government of Canada Workplace Accessibility Passport (GCWAP) in February and May 2023. Managers and employees are routinely encouraged to use GCWAP.
  • The Senior Advisor, Wellness Initiatives, introduced a standard operating practice to consult with other organizations to increase awareness of accessibility and to develop accommodation strategies for NSIRA Secretariat employees. Additionally, the Senior Advisor coordinates with the Communication Security Establishment (CSE), Privy Council Office (PCO), RCMP, and ergonomic firms as needed to develop individualized approaches.
  • Electronics must undergo specialized screening before they can be brought into the workplace. This type of security screening falls outside the control of the NSIRA Secretariat, which has requested expedited screening of electronics intended as an accommodation measure. The NSIRA Secretariat has set up a small inventory of screened equipment to further accelerate the process.
  • A new workshop entitled Accommodations at NSIRA was developed and delivered in May 2023. It will continue to be offered at least annually during National Accessibility Week. Accessibility awareness is routinely discussed at various occupational health and safety committee meetings.
  • Accessibility awareness and accommodation measures are now featured in training offered to HR staff and managers, as well as new employee orientation and on-boarding. Every letter of offer includes a point of contact with whom employees may confidentially discuss their accommodation needs.

Built Environment

The accessibility plan reported barriers in the built environment including heavy doors without automatic door openers; airlocks between doors; tripping hazards; narrow corridors; lack of accessible signage; restrictions with respect to assistive devices and job aids; an emergency alert system that flashes lights but does not emit an audible alarm; lack of control over lighting or temperature within the office space; and an outdated building emergency evacuation plan. Some of the barriers were tied to requirements of the Treasury Board Policy on Government Security and other policies that apply to the NSIRA Secretariat, but for which it is not the author.

Status: Ongoing

The NSIRA Secretariat made some inroads incorporating accessibility requirements into the built environment, but progress was slow. Delays can be attributed to two main reasons. First, NSIRA’s built environment is subject to standards established by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the CSE. Second, there was a lot of staff movement, which was compounded by delays in staffing. The following provides additional detail about progress in respect of the built environment:

  • The NSIRA Secretariat identified the need for updated standards to PSPC and CSE and will continue to emphasize the importance of accessibility assessments in the built environment in its ongoing discussions with PSPC and CSE.
  • Efforts to develop an action plan to remove and/or mitigate barriers, such as text to voice platforms, audible and visual alerts, signage, etc., have advanced slowly because of delays staffing.
  • In partnership with CSE and PCO, work is underway to develop and document a process to procure and enable the use of medical/assistive devices and adaptive technology in the workplace. This work is being done in consultation with the Senior Advisor, Wellness Initiatives.
  • Alternate arrangements were established on a case-by-case basis to address accessibility issues prior to individuals attending a site or office. This involved working in partnership with managers and corporate services. Delays in staffing may affect the extent to which alternative arrangements are delivered on a consistent and timely basis.
  • The NSIRA Secretariat created a process to identify employees who need assistance in a building emergency and evacuation, which was deployed for a drill in the fall 2023. The NSIRA Secretariat is continuing to work with the building senior managers of the Courts Administration Service and the Department of Natural Resources Canada, who are responsible for establishing the Building Emergency Procedures at NSIRA’s two worksites.
  • The security component of new employee on-boarding has been reviewed to identify barriers or gaps for persons with disabilities. Revisions are underway and the updated content will be launched early in 2024.

Information and Communication Technologies

The accessibility plan identified barriers with respect to information and communication technologies (ICT), notably that neither the intranet website, nor the internet website were fully accessible. Documents on both websites were not designed with accessibility in mind. Individuals bringing a complaint did not have the option to bring a complaint through any means other than by completing a templated form and persons with a hearing impairment had limited options for engaging with the Registrar.

Status: Ongoing

The NSIRA Secretariat’s Information Management (IM) and Information Technology (IT) team had several important priorities to tackle in 2023, one of which was a well-functioning internet website that adheres to accessibility standards and is compliant to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This was accomplished in November 2023. The IM and IT team is understaffed and therefore has not been able to undertake all the activities identified in the accessibility plan. The team has still made some small progress in the following areas:

  • Work planning to review and modify accessibility of previously published documents, including fillable forms to ensure they are WCAG 2.0 compliant has been initiated and will continue.
  • Preliminary and informal discussions have been initiated drawing on the experiences of NSIRA’s existing workforce to better understand the types of barriers encountered as persons with disabilities and the challenges associated with accommodating their needs.
  • The NSIRA IT providers are the PCO and the CSE and both deliver their IT services with their own service model. There is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CSE and the NSIRA as well as a MOU between the PCO and the NSIRA for the respective IT services. The NSIRA relies on these two different IT providers, which own their respective IT network and which the NSIRA Secretariat uses to communicate and collaborate; these IT providers control, monitor, manage and maintain the IT equipment on their respective networks. The NSIRA has no control over the hardware or the software that can be used on any of the networks to which it has access. Both service models are perceived not to be designed to be flexible and adaptable to meet the specific accessibility requirements of the NSIRA. In this context, the NSIRA Secretariat has already informally engaged these two partners to address accessibility in the interim. The NSIRA Secretariat will formally engage both partners to discuss tangible and sustainable solutions or means regarding accessibility in IT service delivery going forward.
  • Training for all staff about creating accessible documents and using other accessibility features available through ICT has been delayed due to a lack of resources. The Corporate Services team will inform NSIRA Secretariat employees early in the new year about training, information sessions, and online tools offered by other Government of Canada departments.
  • The NSIRA Secretariat’s Webmaster completed some training in which some concepts of WCAG 2.1 were taught. Training for other employees who draft reports, publications, and other publicly available material will begin in the second year of the Accessibility Plan 2022–2025. In the interim, the Webmaster will continue to ensure that material posted online is WCAG 2.0 compliant.
  • The work to incorporate digital tools to enhance accessibility with respect to the complaints process is delayed. As opposed to simply adapting existing forms, the NSIRA Secretariat has determined that a new complaints portal must be developed. Accessibility will be incorporated into the design and development of the new portal.

Communication other than ICT

The accessibility plan aimed to address several barriers with respect to communication for staff and members of the public including the absence of a process to provide alternate formats and communication support upon request. Other barriers included technical or sector-specific language in public facing documents and reports, as well as lack of guidance or established procedures for use of closed captioning, sign language interpretation, or TTY for persons with a hearing disability.

Status: Ongoing

In 2023 the NSIRA Secretariat engaged the services of a communications expert, a partner of the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council (FIORC), to develop a new communication strategy, which reviewed internal and external communications, as well as stakeholder engagement practices. The strategy identified key priorities for improving NSIRA’s output, engagement, and reputation, including recommendations for a new public-facing website. The NSIRA Secretariat is in the process of recruiting a Communications Manager, whose responsibilities will include implementing the communication strategy and leading on the communications activities identified in the Accessibility Plan 2022 – 2025. Progress was achieved on the following in 2023:

  • The NSIRA Secretariat’s Review Report Style Guide ensures that all review reports are written in accordance with accessibility guidelines published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
  • The Review Report Style Guide is an evergreen document. Additional changes are underway, which will be more explicit about what to include/consider from an accessibility perspective.
  • The NSIRA reports published in 2023 were available in HTML and PDF and included alt text for all graphics and images. Alt text was also included for posts on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Procurement of Goods, Services and Facilities

Although no barriers were identified with respect to the procurement of goods, services and facilities, the accessibility plan nevertheless noted that improvements could be made to ensure “accessibility by design” in procurement practices.

Status: Delayed

Due to a lack of staff, the NSIRA Secretariat was unable to carry out its planned activities for incorporating accessibility by design in its procurement practices. The NSIRA Secretariat recently negotiated a service level agreement with another public service organization and will explore integrating accessibility into the services offered in the new year.

Design and Delivery of Programs and Services

An important part of NSIRA’s mandate is to investigate complaints related to activities carried out by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the CSE, as well as complaints related to the denial or revocation of security clearances, and other matters under its purview. Ensuring that Canadians with disabilities can participate in these processes is integral to the investigations, however the Rules of Procedure do not provide accessibility options to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, while also complying with the necessary security requirements.

Status: Ongoing

As the work began to address the barriers identified with respect to NSIRA’s investigative function, it became clear that accessibility is contingent primarily on the built environment. The accessibility plan reported barriers such as heavy doors without automatic door openers. This includes the hearing room where investigative proceedings are held. Tripping hazards and restrictions with respect to assistive devices were also noted, among other concerns.

Similarly, progress around programs and services is inextricably linked to the barriers with respect to information and communication technologies. For the complaint investigation process, this included the internet website, which was not fully accessible, and limited options for persons with a hearing impairment to engage with the Registrar.

The new internet website includes a more user-friendly interface that meets WCAG standards. Complainants can more easily navigate to the information and forms they need to bring a complaint. The complaint forms themselves have been redesigned to be more accessible. Additionally, the following activities are underway:

  • A new section of the Rules of Procedure is being drafted to reflect the Review Agency’s commitment to ensuring accessibility. Progress is significantly dependent on the NSIRA Secretariat’s progress in incorporating accessibility requirements into the built environment.
  • In addition, the amendments to the Rules of Procedure will reflect an investigation participant’s ability to access alternate arrangements on a case-by-case basis to address their accessibility needs prior to their attendance on the premises for investigative proceedings.
  • The Rules of Procedure will also provide that the Registrar is to be notified of barriers and/or accessibility requirements for the Review Agency to accommodate those needs.
  • Finally, the Rules will provide that an individual wishing to bring a complaint must be provided procedural assistance by the Registrar in the event assistance is needed to address any barriers. This will enable access to persons with a variety of disabilities, including an individual with a cognitive disability who may require assistance articulating their complaint or allegations.

Transportation

The NSIRA Secretariat did not identify any barriers or develop an action plan with respect to this element.

Status: On track

Although specific actions were not identified, it is worth noting that NSIRA’s offices are in Ottawa, where employees and members of the public may use various modes of transportation to reach the work sites. Accessible transportation services are provided by OC Transpo in Ottawa and by the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais in Gatineau. Individuals who use their personal vehicles may park in designated spots available at nearby lots. Information is provided to new hires about designated parking spaces.

Consultations

The Accessible Canada Act requires consultations with persons with disabilities in preparing progress reports. The activities outlined in the accessibility plan for completion or launch in the first year aimed to improve accessibility for the workforce and in the workplace. This, combined with NSIRA’s specific mandate, greatly influenced the focus of consultations for this first progress report.

Thanks to the introduction of a self-identification (SelfID) questionnaire, employees who identified as a person with a disability were specifically invited to provide insight into barriers in the workplace and how to resolve, remove or mitigate them. Additionally, all staff were offered an opportunity to participate in the consultation process whether they had self-identified as a person with a disability or not. In this manner the NSIRA Secretariat benefited from a range of perspectives and first-hand experiences about barriers and the actions needed to become a more inclusive and accessible organization.

Feedback

Feedback from the NSIRA Secretariat’s employees included suggestions to improve security scanning of assistive devices and other required technology. Suggestions were also made with respect to knowledge transfer among staff responsible for facilities (i.e., the built environment) to ensure a smooth transition and avoid potential delays for employees who await assistive or adaptive devices or equipment.

Other employees identified barriers with respect to wheelchair accessibility at one location, which had not been previously noted. Concerns also included the height of some equipment, which was out of reach for a person using a wheelchair.

Since the pandemic, meetings often include employees working on-site and from home. The feedback from employees revealed that the sound system does not pick up voices consistently from all areas of the boardrooms. Consequently, parts of presentations or discussions in the boardroom are not being captured and employees participating from home cannot hear what is being said. It was therefore recommended that this be addressed in the context of the built environment.

No feedback was received from members of the public about the accessibility plan during the year under review. The NSIRA Secretariat will continue to welcome feedback in the coming year.

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Date Modified:

Quarterly Report: For the quarter ended September 30, 2023

Date of Publishing:

Introduction

This quarterly report has been prepared by management as required by section 65.1 of the Financial Administration Act and in the form and manner prescribed by the Directive on Accounting Standards, GC 4400 Departmental Quarterly Financial Report. This quarterly financial report should be read in conjunction with the 2023–24 Main Estimates.

This quarterly report has not been subject to an external audit or review.

Mandate

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is an independent external review body that reports to Parliament. Established in July 2019, NSIRA is responsible for conducting reviews of the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities to ensure that they are lawful, reasonable and necessary. NSIRA also hears public complaints regarding key national security agencies and their activities.

A summary description NSIRA’s program activities can be found in Part II of the Main Estimates.  Information on NSIRA’s mandate can be found on its website.

Basis of presentation

This quarterly report has been prepared by management using an expenditure basis of accounting. The accompanying Statement of Authorities includes the agency’s spending authorities granted by Parliament and those used by the agency, consistent with the 2023–24 Main Estimates. This quarterly report has been prepared using a special-purpose financial reporting framework (cash basis) designed to meet financial information needs with respect to the use of spending authorities.

The authority of Parliament is required before money can be spent by the government. Approvals are given in the form of annually approved limits through appropriation acts or through legislation in the form of statutory spending authorities for specific purposes.

Highlights of the fiscal quarter and fiscal year-to-date results

This section highlights the significant items that contributed to the net increase or decrease in authorities available for the year and actual expenditures for the quarter ended September 30, 2023.

NSIRA Secretariat spent approximately 33% of its authorities by the end of the second quarter, compared with 23% in the same quarter of 2022–23 (see graph 1).

Graph 1: Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q2 2023–24 and Q2 2022–23

Graph: Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures - Text version follows
Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q2 2023–24 and Q2 2022–23
  2023-24 2022-23
Total Authorities $24.3 $29.7
Q2 Expenditures $3.8 $3.6
Year-to-Date Expenditures $8.1 $6.9

Significant changes to authorities

As at September 30, 2023, Parliament had approved $24.3 million in total authorities for use by NSIRA Secretariat for 2023–24 compared with $29.7 million as of September 30th, 2022, for a net decrease of $5.4 million or 18.2% (see graph 2).

Graph 2: Variance in authorities as at September 30, 2023

Graph: Variance in authorities as at September 30, 2023 - Text version follows
Variance in authorities as at June 30, 2023 (in millions)
  Fiscal year 2022-23 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2023 Fiscal year 2023-24 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2024
Vote 1 – Operating 28.0 22.6
Statutory 1.7 1.7
Total budgetary authorities 29.7 24.3

*Details may not sum to totals due to rounding*

The decrease of $5.4 million in authorities is mostly explained by a gradual reduction in NSIRA Secretariat’s ongoing operating funding due to an ongoing construction project nearing completion.

Significant changes to quarter expenditures

The second quarter expenditures totalled $3.8 million for an increase of $0.2 million when compared with $3.6 million spent during the same period in 2022–2023.  Table 1 presents budgetary expenditures by standard object.

Table 1

Variances in expenditures by standard object(in thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2023–24: expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2023 Fiscal year 2022–23: expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2022 Variance $ Variance %
Personnel 3,014 2,903 111 4%
Transportation and communications 62 70 (8) (11%)
Information 4 0 4 100%
Professional and special services 504 578 (74) (13%)
Rentals 25 39 (14) (36%)
Repair and maintenance 3 33 (30) (91%)
Utilities, materials and supplies 50 12 38 317%
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 4 4 0 0%
Other subsidies and payment 118 3 115 3833%
Total gross budgetary expenditures 3,784 3,642 142 4%

Repair and maintenance

The decrease of $30,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for an ongoing capital project.

Utilities, materials and supplies

The increase of $38,000 is due to a temporarily unreconciled suspense account.

Other subsidies and payments

The increase of $115,000 is explained by an increase in payroll system overpayments which were subsequently resolved.

Significant changes to year-to-date expenditures

The year-to-date expenditures totalled $8.1 million for an increase of $1.1 million (17%) when compared with $6.9 million spent during the same period in 2022–23. Table 2 presents budgetary expenditures by standard object.

Table 2

Variances in expenditures by standard object(in thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2023–24: year-to-date expenditures as of September 30, 2023 Fiscal year 2022–23: year-to-date expenditures as of September 30, 2022 Variance $ Variance %
Personnel 5,900 5,248 652 12%
Transportation and communications 192 114 78 68%
Information 4 5 (1) (20%)
Professional and special services 1,669 1,424 245 17%
Rentals 73 49 24 49%
Repair and maintenance 27 64 (37) (58%)
Utilities, materials and supplies 57 28 29 104%
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 52 13 39 300%
Other subsidies and payment 122 1 121 12100%
Total gross budgetary expenditures 8,096 6,946 1,150 17%

Personnel

The increase of $652,000 relates to an increase in average salary and an increase in full time equivalent (FTE) positions.

Transportation and communications

The increase of $78,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for the organization’s internet connections.

Professional and special services

The increase of $245,000 is explained by an increase in IT support costs and guard services associated to a capital construction project.

Repair and maintenance

The decrease of $37,000 is due to the timing of invoicing for an ongoing capital project.

Utilities, materials and supplies

The increase of $29,000 is due to a temporarily unreconciled suspense account.

Acquisition of machinery and equipment

The increase of $39,000 is mainly explained by the one-time purchase of a specialized laptop.

Other subsidies and payments

The increase of $121,000 is explained by an increase in payroll system overpayments which were subsequently resolved.

Risks and uncertainties

The Secretariat assisted NSIRA in its work with the departments and agencies subjected to reviews to ensure a timely and unfettered access to all the information necessary for the conduct of reviews. While work remains to be done on this front, we acknowledge the improvements in cooperation and support to the independent review process demonstrated by some reviewees.

There is a risk that the funding received to offset pay increases anticipated over the coming year will be insufficient to cover the costs of such increases and the year-over-year cost of services provided by other government departments/agencies is increasing significantly.

NSIRA Secretariat is closely monitoring pay transactions to identify and address over and under payments in a timely manner and continues to apply ongoing mitigating controls.

Mitigation measures for the risks outlined above have been identified and are factored into NSIRA Secretariat’s approach and timelines for the execution of its mandated activities.

Significant changes in relation to operations, personnel and programs

There have been two new Governor-in-Council appointments during the Second quarter, Ms. Colleen Swords and Mr. Jim Chu. 

There have been no changes to the NSIRA Secretariat Program.

Approved by senior officials:

John Davies
Deputy Head

Marc-André Cloutier
Director General, Corporate Services, Chief Financial Officer

Appendix

Statement of authorities (Unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended September 30, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2023 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended September 30, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Vote 1 – Net operating expenditures 22,564 3,345 7,218 27,931 3,210 6,082
Budgetary statutory authorities
Contributions to employee benefit plans 1,755 439 878 1,728 432 864
Total budgetary authorities (note 2) 24,319 3,784 8,096 29,659 3,642 6,946

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

Departmental budgetary expenditures by standard object (unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2023 Expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Expenditures
Personnel 13,303 3,014 5,900 13,245 2,903 5,248
Transportation and communications 650 62 192 597 70 114
Information 371 4 4 372 0 5
Professional and special services 4,906 504 1,669 4,914 578 1,424
Rentals 271 25 73 271 39 49
Repair and maintenance 4,580 24 27 9,722 33 64
Utilities, materials and supplies 73 50 57 173 12 28
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 132 4 52 232 4 13
Other subsidies and payments 33 118 122 133 3 1
Total gross budgetary expenditures
(note 2)
24,319 3,784 8,096 29,659 3,642 6,946

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

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Departmental Results Report: 2022-23

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Cat. Number: PS106-8E-PDF
ISSN: 2563-5174

© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, 2023

Date of Publishing:

From the Executive Director

I am pleased to present the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) Secretariat’s Departmental Results Report for 2022-23. Throughout the reporting period, the Secretariat has continued to execute its mission to support NSIRA in its focus on conducting highquality, impactful reviews and fair and efficient complaint investigations. We also worked to expand our capacity and expertise across all business lines, building on the work of previous years.

In 2022-23, NSIRA’s review work continued to expand to new areas within Canada’s national security and intelligence community and NSIRA continued to collaborate and de-conflict with like-minded accountability bodies in Canada with similar mandates. NSIRA’s work on complaint investigations was extensive and included the completion of a significant volume of referrals from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The NSIRA Secretariat was an integral part of all of these developments which required us to remain agile, diverse and to explore all avenues of our productivity in the support of NSIRA.

Internally, we undertook a number of ambitious initiatives related to training and development, with a focus on attracting and retaining highly professional staff and offering career progression options. We continued to refine our business processes to enhance the quality of our output and strengthened our relationship with our various domestic and international counterparts to exchange on best practices in the field of national security and intelligence accountability.

I would like to thank all NSIRA Secretariat staff for their continued dedication to fulfilling our important mandate, and for ensuring that our work is held to the highest standards.

John Davies
Executive Director
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency

Results at a glance

In 2022-23, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) Secretariat continued to execute its mandate of assisting NSIRA in its Reviews and Investigations with the goal of improving national security and intelligence accountability and transparency in Canada. This related not only to the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), but also other federal departments and agencies engaged in such activities, including:

  • the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF);
  • the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); and,
  • all departments and agencies engaging in national security and intelligence activities in the context of NSIRA’s yearly reviews of the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act and the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act.

The NSIRA Secretariat’s total spending in 2022-23 amounted to $18,289,147 and its total actual full-time equivalents were 78.

Review

NSIRA’s review of national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions ensures that ministers and Canadians are informed about whether these activities were lawful, reasonable and necessary.

During 2022–23, the Secretariat assisted NSIRA in completing 7 reviews, including reviews of activities that were never previously subject to independent scrutiny. We also refined our methodology, emphasizing a stronger role for NSIRA Members in working with staff to shape reviews throughout their lifecycle.

Complaint investigations

In 2022-23 the Secretariat assisted NSIRA in the continuation of maturation and modernization of the processes underpinning the fulfillment of its investigation mandate. The jurisdiction assessment phase was regularized, incorporating a verification protocol for the three agencies for which NSIRA has complaints jurisdiction. The administration and conduct of the investigative process has increased emphasis on investigative interviews in order to enhance the relevance of the process for complainants.

COVID-19 remained a lingering feature of the investigative landscape in the first half of the year which caused continued constraints with respect to the progress of investigations, requiring inperson meetings in compliance with security protocols. The new processes reduced delays in the conduct of investigations. It is anticipated that this will continue on a forward basis as we emerge from the pandemic.

The level of investigation activities last year remained high and included the completion of a significant referral from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). A number of initiatives were commenced relating to data management and service standards which are expected to enhance file management in the coming year.

For more information, see the “Results: what we achieved” section of this report.

Results: what we achieved

Core responsibility

Assisting NSIRA in National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations

Description:

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency reviews Government of Canada national security and intelligence activities to assess whether they are lawful, reasonable and necessary. It investigates complaints from members of the public regarding activities of CSIS, CSE or the national security activities of the RCMP, as well as certain other national security-related complaints. This independent scrutiny contributes to the strengthening of the framework of accountability for national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions and supports public confidence in this regard. The NSIRA Secretariat’s function is to assist NSIRA in the conduct of this important work.

Results:

The NSIRA Secretariat assisted NSIRA in the completion of 7 national security and intelligence reviews over the course of 2022–23. Five reviews focused mainly on an individual department or agency, while two reviews were interdepartmental by design. Organizations whose activities were the subject of specific reviews included:

  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service — one review
  • Communications Security Establishment — two reviews
  • Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces — one review
  • Canada Border Services Agency – one review

The two interdepartmental reviews by design were:

  • The annual review of disclosures under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act (SCIDA)
  • The annual review of the implementation of directions issued under the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act (ACA)

During the reporting period, the Secretariat continued to refine its processes and methodology to assist the NSIRA review mandate, with the goal of promoting high-quality, impactful reviews.

NSIRA Members worked closely with Secretariat staff in designing and executing individual reviews. The Secretariat supported NSIRA in the development and implementation of a “Considerations Matrix” which uses objective criteria to identify review topics in accordance with NSIRA’s core mandate and mission. In addition, the Secretariat implemented an updated process at the staff level for its Quality Assurance of review work, incorporating peer review at key stages.

NSIRA continued to place emphasis on the review of the use of technology by reviewed entities. The Secretariat’s Technology Directorate supported NSIRA’s ongoing first technology-focused review of the lifecycle of CSIS information collected by technical capabilities pursuant to a Federal Court warrant.

Investigation of national security and intelligence–related complaints

During the past year, the Secretariat continued to assist NSIRA efforts in reforming the investigative process for complaints and developing procedures and practices to ensure that the conduct of investigations is fair, timely and transparent. This included work on a streamlined jurisdictional assessment phase and increased use of investigative interviews as the principal means of fact finding. These developments enabled the Secretariat to successfully assist NSIRA in dealing with a significant volume of complaints over this reporting period.

During 2022-23, under instructions from NSIRA leadership, the Secretariat began developing service standards related to the investigation of complaints. The service standards will set internal time limits for certain investigative steps for each type of complaint, under normal circumstances. The service standards will specify the circumstances under which those time limits do not apply. The Secretariat will finalize and publish its service standards in 2023.

The Secretariat assisted NSIRA in completing sixty-seven complaint investigations during the 2022-23 reporting period, which included 58 referrals from the CHRC and 9 other complaints. Additionally, the Secretariat began the last phase of a study on race-based data and the collection of demographic information jointly commissioned with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC). The study will assess the viability of the collection of identity-based and demographic data as part of the CRCC’s ongoing anti-racism initiatives. Improved, more precise and more consistent tracking, collection and measurement of data is necessary to support anti-racism efforts in government.

Gender-based analysis plus

In 2022–23, the NSIRA Secretariat’s Diversity, Inclusion and Employment Equity Advisory Committee examined and provided recommendations to senior management on ways it can improve its internal policies, programs and procedures, as well as its external service delivery model to increase inclusion, diversity and equity.

We continue to work closely with partners to develop strategies for the collection, analysis and use of race-based and demographic data in the context of the complaints process. Improving awareness and understanding of NSIRA’s investigation process remains a core objective to ensure justice is accessible to all.

The potential for national security and intelligence activities to result in disparate outcomes for minority groups is taken into account when the Secretariat assists NSIRA to plan and conduct its reviews. Diversity is one of the elements on NSIRA’s Review Considerations Matrix, which uses objective criteria to identify review topics in accordance with NSIRA’s core mandate and mission. While NSIRA’s reviews are focused on the compliance, reasonableness, necessity and efficacy of activities, particular consideration is given to the impacts of these activities on diverse communities.

In 2022-23, the NSIRA Secretariat worked to establish a framework for the collection of employee self-identification data, in order to understand the makeup of its workforce and how it compares with the broader Canadian population. Understanding where there are gaps in representation of equity-deserving groups will help to determine where changes are needed to correct historical disadvantages and achieve equality in the workplace. This initiative will be implemented in 2023-24.

The NSIRA Secretariat also published its first accessibility plan in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act: National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Accessibility Plan 2022 – 2025. The plan was developed further to both internal and external consultations which included individuals whose lived experience as persons with a disability provided invaluable insight into barriers, potential gaps, and important considerations with respect to mitigation strategies. This inaugural plan outlines the steps that will be taken to increase accessibility within the organization and for Canadians more generally over the next three years.

Innovation

Given the Secretariat’s mandate to assist NSIRA’s functions and responsibilities, the Secretariat did not engage in any program-related innovation activities.

Key risks

During the reporting period, the Secretariat assisted NSIRA in its work with the departments and agencies subject to review, to ensure timely and unfettered access to all the information necessary for the conduct of reviews. While work remains to be done on this front, we acknowledge the improvements in cooperation and support to the independent review process demonstrated by some reviewees. Secretariat staff generally increased its level of occupancy within the departments’ offices and its access to information systems.

Physical distancing precautions established by the COVID-19 pandemic were, for the most part, lifted in 2022–23. However, the Secretariat remains ready to implement such measures if they are deemed necessary in the future. We see investments made in virtual meeting technology as beneficial for the organization as they have allowed us to gain flexibility.

Results achieved

The following table shows, for the assistance in completing National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations, the results achieved, the performance indicators, the targets and the target dates for 2022–23, and the actual results for the three most recent fiscal years for which actual results are available.

Departmental results Performance indicators Target Date to achieve target 2020-21 actual results 2021-22 actual results 2022-23 actual results
Ministers and Canadians are informed whether national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions are lawful, reasonable and necessary All mandatory reviews are completed on an annual basis 100% completion of mandatory reviews 2021-22 Not applicable (N/A) 100% 100%
Reviews of national security or intelligence activities of at least five departments or agencies are conducted each year At least one national security or intelligence activity is reviewed in at least five departments or agencies annually 2021-22 N/A 100% 100%
All Member-approved high priority national security or intelligence activities are reviewed over a three- year period 100% completion over three years; at least 33% completed each year 2021-22 N/A 33% 33%
National security-related complaints are independently investigated in a timely manner Percentage of investigations completed within NSIRA service standards 90% 2022-23 N/A N/A

Note: The NSIRA Secretariat was created on July 12, 2019. Actual results for 2020–21 are not available because the new Departmental Results Framework in the changeover from the Security Intelligence Review Committee to the NSIRA Secretariat was being developed. This new framework is for measuring and reporting on results achieved starting in 2021–22. In 2022–23, the Secretariat will finalize the development of service standards for how long it takes to complete its investigations; the results will be included in the next Departmental Results Report.

Financial, human resources and performance information for NSIRA’s Program Inventory is available in GC InfoBase.

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)

The following table shows, for internal services, budgetary spending for 2022–23, as well as actual spending for that year.

2022–23 Main Estimates 2022–23 Planned spending 2022–23 Total authorities available for use 2022–23 Actual spending (authorities used) 2022–23 Difference (Actual spending minus Planned spending)
$10,756,818 $10,756,818 $11,541,004 $7,756,271 $(3,000,547)

Financial, human resources and performance information for NSIRA Secretariat’s Program Inventory is available in GC InfoBase.

Human resources (full-time equivalents)

The following table shows, in full-time equivalents, the human resources the NSIRA Secretariat’s needed to fulfill this core responsibility for 2022–23.

2022–23 Planned full-time equivalents 2022–23 Actual full-time equivalents 2022–23 Difference (Actual full-time equivalents minus Planned full-time equivalents)
69 53 (16)

Financial, human resources and performance information for NSIRA Secretariat’s Program Inventory is available in GC InfoBase.

Internal Services

Description

Internal services are those groups of related activities and resources that the federal government considers to be services in support of programs and/or required to meet corporate obligations of an organization. Internal services refers to the activities and resources of the 10 distinct service categories that support program delivery in the organization, regardless of the internal services delivery model in a department. The 10 service categories are:

  • Acquisition Management Services
  • Communication Services
  • Financial Management Services
  • Human Resources Management Services
  • Information Management Services
  • Information Technology Services
  • Legal Services
  • Material Management Services
  • Management and Oversight Services
  • Real Property Management Services

Results

During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat continued to take steps to ensure resources were deployed in the most effective and efficient manner possible and its operations and administrative structures, tools and processes continued to focus on supporting the delivery of its priorities.

The Secretariat recognizes the need to be an inclusive, healthy, and flexible employer. Over the past year, we have encouraged flexible working arrangements, such as teleworking, to achieve work–life balance and meet performance expectations.

The Secretariat initiated a project associated with the accreditation of its current space for use of classified material. Various testing, inspections and supported documents were issued to the Lead Security Agency issuing the authority to operate within the required timelines.

Work on increasing the Secretariat’s footprint with modern and flexible workstations within the classified and non-classified realm commenced in the summer of 2022. The project has, due to its complexity, supply chain challenges, and compliancy requirements, seen the delivery date pushed back to summer of 2024.

The Secretariat also completed work on refreshing two of its multifunctional meeting rooms. The Secretariat continues to implement security controls and keeps its Security Plan and the Business Impact Analysis evergreen, in order to ensure resiliency.

The Secretariat has successfully implemented an ergonomic and accessibility program. This program is a joint venture between the human resources and property management teams. In addition to this, based on the Information Management plans and strategies developed last fiscal year, the Secretariat identified the tools and resources required to execute the plans/strategies over the coming years.

Contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and to improving socio-economic outcomes by increasing opportunities for First Nations, Inuit and Métis businesses through the federal procurement process.

Under the Directive on the Management of Procurement, which came into effect on May 13, 2021, departments must ensure that a minimum of 5% of the total value of the contracts they award are held by Indigenous businesses. This requirement is being phased in over three years, and full implementation is expected by 2024.

Indigenous Services Canada has set the implementation schedule:

  • Phase 1 departments: April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023
  • Phase 2 departments: April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024
  • Phase 3 departments: April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2025

The NSIRA Secretariat is a Phase 3 organization and is aiming to achieve the minimum 5% target by the end of 2025.

In order to achieve this target, the Secretariat plans to implement a strategy to create more opportunities for Indigenous businesses. Tools will be added to ensure Indigenous considerations for every contract and consideration will be given to amending internal policies.

In addition, all staff will be required to complete the mandatory course Indigenous Considerations in Procurement (COR409) from the Canada School of Public Service as well as Procurement in the Nunavut Settlement Area (COR410) from the Canada School of Public Service.

Budgetary financial resources (dollars)

The following table shows, for internal services, budgetary spending for 2021–22, as well as spending for that year.

2022–23 Main Estimates 2022–23 Planned spending 2022–23 Total authorities available for use 2022–23 Actual spending (authorities used) 2022–23 Difference (Actual spending minus Planned spending)
$17,493,858 $17,493,858 $17,822,513 $10,532,876 ($6,960,982)

The difference of $6.9 million between planned and actual spending is mostly due to the lingering impacts of the pandemic on the Secretariat’s ability to progress with its facilities fit-up and expansion plans, as well as on its planned spending on internal services infrastructure and systems.

Human resources (full-time equivalents)

The following table shows, in full-time equivalents, the human resources the department needed to carry out its internal services for 2022–23.

2022–23 Planned full-time equivalents 2022–23 Actual full-time equivalents 2022–23 Difference (Actual full-time equivalents minus Planned full-time equivalents)
31 25 (6)

Spending

Spending 2020–21 to 2025–26

The following graph presents planned (voted and statutory spending) over time.

Graph: Departmental spending trend - Text version follows
Departmental spending trend graph
2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2025-26
Statutory 962,186 1,176,321 1,300,166 1,755,229 1,755,229 1,756,977
Voted 11,289,189 16,113,433 16,988,980 21,253,996 16,753,702 16,786,929
Total 12,251,375 17,289,754 18,289,147 23,009,225 18,508,931 18,543,906

The graph illustrates the Secretariat’s spending trends over a six-year period from 2020-21 to 2025–26. Fiscal years 2020–21 to 2022–23 reflect actual expenditures as reported in the Public Accounts. Fiscal years 2023–24 to 2025–26 represent planned spending.

The increased spending in 2023-24 is due to the expectation that the facilities fit-up and expansion is planned to be completed in this fiscal year.

The levelling of authorities in 2024–25 and 2025-26 is due to the sunsetting of funding earmarked for the completion of facilities fit-up and expansion.

Budgetary performance summary for core responsibilities and internal services (dollars)

The “Budgetary performance summary for core responsibilities and internal services” table presents the budgetary financial resources allocated for the NSIRA Secretariat’s core responsibilities and for internal services.

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2022-23 Main Estimates 2022-23 Planned spending 2023-24 Planned spending 2024-25 Planned spending 2022-23 Total authorities available for use 2020-21 Actual spending (authorities used) 2021-22 Actual spending (authorities used) 2022-23 Actual spending (authorities used)
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 10,756,818 10,756,818 10,757,687 10,757,687 11,541,004 3,009,066 7,394,642 7,756,271
Subtotal 10,756,818 10,756,818 10,757,687 10,757,687 11,541,004 3,009,066 7,394,642 7,756,271
Internal Services 17,493,858 17,493,858 7,701,336 7,701,042 17,822,513 6,643,579 9,895,112 10,532,876
Total 28,250,676 28,250,676 18,459,023 18,458,729 29,363,517 9,652,645 17,289,754 18,289,147

Human resources

The “Human resources summary for core responsibilities and internal services” table presents the full-time equivalents (FTEs) allocated to each of the Secretariat’s core responsibilities and to internal services.

Human resources summary for core responsibilities and internal services

Core responsibilities and Internal Services 2020-21 Actual full-time equivalents 2021-22 Actual full-time equivalents 2022-23 Planned full-time equivalents 2022-23 Actual full-time equivalents 2023-24 Planned full-time equivalents 2024-25 Planned full-time equivalents
National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations 38 52 69 53 69 69
Subtotal 38 52 69 53 69 69
Internal Services 22 22 31 25 31 31
Total 29 60 100 78 100 100

Expenditures by vote

For information on the Secretariat’s organizational voted and statutory expenditures, consult the Public Accounts of Canada.

Government of Canada spending and activities

Information on the alignment of the Secretariat’s spending with Government of Canada’s spending and activities is available in GC InfoBase.

Financial statements and financial statements highlights

Financial statements

NSIRA’s financial statements (unaudited) for the year ended March 31, 2023, are available on the departmental website.

Financial statement highlights

Condensed Statement of Operations (unaudited) for the year ended March 31, 2023 (dollars)
Financial information 2022-23 Planned results 2022-23 Actual results 2021-22 Actual results Difference (2022-23 Actual results minus 2022-23 Planned results) Difference (2022-23 Actual results minus 2021-22 Actual results)
Total expenses $28,250,676 $19,585,699 $16,164,825 ($8,664,977) $3,420,874
Total revenues 0 0 0 0 0
Net cost of operations before government funding and transfers $28,250,676 $19,585,699 $16,164,825 ($8,664,977) $3,420,874

The 2022–23 planned results information is provided in the Secretariat’s Future-Oriented Statement of Operations and Notes 2022–23. Future-Oriented Statement of Operations and Notes 2022–23

Condensed Statement of Financial Position (unaudited) as of March 31, 2023 (dollars)
Financial information 2022-23 2021-22 Difference (2022-23 minus 2021-22)
Total net liabilities $2,293,538 $2,050,302 $243,236
Total net financial assets $1,518,277 $1,577,964 ($59,687)
Departmental net debt $775,261 $$472,338 $302,923
Total non-financial assets $4,829,722 $2,240,138 $2,589,584
Departmental net financial position $4,054,461 $1,767,800 $2,286,661

The 2022–23 planned results information is provided in the Secretariat’s Future-Oriented Statement of Operations and Notes 2022–23.

Corporate Information

Organizational profile

Appropriate minister: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Institutional head: John Davies, Executive Director
Ministerial portfolio: Privy Council Office
Enabling instrument: National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act
Year of incorporation / commencement: 2019

Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

“Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do” is available on NSIRA‘s website.

Operating context

Information on the operating context is available on NSIRA’s website.

Reporting framework

NSIRA’s Departmental Results Framework, with accompanying results and indicators, were under development in 2020–21. Additional information on key performance measures are included in the 2021–22 Departmental Plan.

Core Responsibility: National Security and Intelligence Reviews and Complaints Investigations
Departmental Results Framework Ministers and Canadians are informed whether national security and intelligence activities undertaken by Government of Canada institutions are lawful, reasonable and necessary Indicator: All mandatory reviews are completed on an annual basis Internal Services
Indicator: Reviews of national security or intelligence activities of at least five departments or agencies are conducted each year
Indicator: All Member-approved high priority national security or intelligence activities are reviewed over a three-year period
National security-related complaints are independently investigated in a timely manner Indicator: Percentage of investigations completed within NSIRA service standards
Program Inventory Program: National security and intelligence activity reviews and complaints investigations

Supporting information on the program inventory

Financial, human resources and performance information for NSIRA’s Program Inventory is available in GC InfoBase.

Supplementary information tables

The following supplementary information table is available on NSIRA’s website:

  • Gender-based analysis plus

Federal tax expenditures

The tax system can be used to achieve public policy objectives through the application of special measures such as low tax rates, exemptions, deductions, deferrals and credits. The Department of Finance Canada publishes cost estimates and projections for these measures each year in the Report on Federal Tax Expenditures. This report also provides detailed background information on tax expenditures, including descriptions, objectives, historical information and references to related federal spending programs. The tax measures presented in this report are the responsibility of the Minister of Finance.

Organizational contact information

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430, Station “D”
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W5

Appendix: definitions

appropriation (crédit)

Any authority of Parliament to pay money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

budgetary expenditures (dépenses budgétaires)

Operating and capital expenditures; transfer payments to other levels of government, organizations or individuals; and payments to Crown corporations.

core responsibility (responsabilité essentielle)

An enduring function or role performed by a department. The intentions of the department with respect to a core responsibility are reflected in one or more related departmental results that the department seeks to contribute to or influence.

Departmental Plan (plan ministériel)

A report on the plans and expected performance of an appropriated department over a 3‑year period. Departmental Plans are usually tabled in Parliament each spring.

departmental priority (priorité)

A plan or project that a department has chosen to focus and report on during the planning period. Priorities represent the things that are most important or what must be done first to support the achievement of the desired departmental results.

departmental result (résultat ministériel)

A consequence or outcome that a department seeks to achieve. A departmental result is often outside departments’ immediate control, but it should be influenced by program-level outcomes.

departmental result indicator (indicateur de résultat ministériel)

A quantitative measure of progress on a departmental result.

departmental results framework (cadre ministériel des résultats)

A framework that connects the department’s core responsibilities to its departmental results and departmental result indicators.

Departmental Results Report (rapport sur les résultats ministériels)

A report on a department’s actual accomplishments against the plans, priorities and expected results set out in the corresponding Departmental Plan.

experimentation (expérimentation)

The conducting of activities that seek to first explore, then test and compare the effects and impacts of policies and interventions in order to inform evidence-based decision-making, and improve outcomes for Canadians, by learning what works, for whom and in what circumstances. Experimentation is related to, but distinct from innovation (the trying of new things), because it involves a rigorous comparison of results. For example, using a new website to communicate with Canadians can be an innovation; systematically testing the new website against existing outreach tools or an old website to see which one leads to more engagement, is experimentation.

full‑time equivalent (équivalent temps plein)

A measure of the extent to which an employee represents a full person‑year charge against a departmental budget. For a particular position, the full‑time equivalent figure is the ratio of number of hours the person actually works divided by the standard number of hours set out in the person’s collective agreement.

gender-based analysis plus (GBA Plus) (analyse comparative entre les sexes plus [ACS Plus])

An analytical process used to assess how diverse groups of women, men and gender-diverse people experience policies, programs and services based on multiple factors including race ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability.

government-wide priorities (priorités pangouvernementales)

For the purpose of the 2022–23 Departmental Results Report, government-wide priorities are the high-level themes outlining the government’s agenda in the November 23, 2021, Speech from the Throne: building a healthier today and tomorrow; growing a more resilient economy; bolder climate action; fighter harder for safer communities; standing up for diversity and inclusion; moving faster on the path to reconciliation; and fighting for a secure, just and equitable world.

horizontal initiative (initiative horizontale)

An initiative where two or more federal organizations are given funding to pursue a shared outcome, often linked to a government priority.

non‑budgetary expenditures (dépenses non budgétaires)

Net outlays and receipts related to loans, investments and advances, which change the composition of the financial assets of the Government of Canada.

performance (rendement)

What an organization did with its resources to achieve its results, how well those results compare to what the organization intended to achieve, and how well lessons learned have been identified.

performance indicator (indicateur de rendement)

A qualitative or quantitative means of measuring an output or outcome, with the intention of gauging the performance of an organization, program, policy or initiative respecting expected results.

performance reporting (production de rapports sur le rendement)

The process of communicating evidence‑based performance information. Performance reporting supports decision making, accountability and transparency.

plan (plan)

The articulation of strategic choices, which provides information on how an organization intends to achieve its priorities and associated results. Generally, a plan will explain the logic behind the strategies chosen and tend to focus on actions that lead to the expected result.

planned spending (dépenses prévues)

For Departmental Plans and Departmental Results Reports, planned spending refers to those amounts presented in Main Estimates.

A department is expected to be aware of the authorities that it has sought and received. The determination of planned spending is a departmental responsibility, and departments must be able to defend the expenditure and accrual numbers presented in their Departmental Plans and Departmental Results Reports.

program (programme)

Individual or groups of services, activities or combinations thereof that are managed together within the department and focus on a specific set of outputs, outcomes or service levels.

program inventory (répertoire des programmes)

Identifies all the department’s programs and describes how resources are organized to contribute to the department’s core responsibilities and results.

result (résultat)

A consequence attributed, in part, to an organization, policy, program or initiative. Results are not within the control of a single organization, policy, program or initiative; instead they are within the area of the organization’s influence.

statutory expenditures (dépenses législatives)

Expenditures that Parliament has approved through legislation other than appropriation acts. The legislation sets out the purpose of the expenditures and the terms and conditions under which they may be made.

target (cible)

A measurable performance or success level that an organization, program or initiative plans to achieve within a specified time period. Targets can be either quantitative or qualitative.

voted expenditures (dépenses votées)

Expenditures that Parliament approves annually through an appropriation act. The vote wording becomes the governing conditions under which these expenditures may be made.

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National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Annual Report 2022

Backgrounder

Ottawa, Ontario, October 30, 2023 – The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency’s (NSIRA) fourth annual report was tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2023. 

This report provides an overview and discussion of NSIRA’s activities throughout 2022, including our findings and recommendations. Our growth and evolution as an agency, including our continued efforts to refine our approaches and processes, both in our reviews and investigations, allowed us to take on new and challenging work. The report also assesses our review work to date, highlighting important themes and trends that have emerged.  

Our report summarizes review and investigations work during the 2022 period and highlights our continued effort to enhance transparency by evaluating important aspects of our engagement with reviewed departments and agencies. Review highlights in the report include the following: 

  • The annual review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) threat reduction measures (TRMs), and the annual review of CSIS’s activities to inform our report to the Minister of Public Safety; 
  • Reviews of the Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) active and defensive cyber operations, a foreign intelligence collection program, as well as the annual review of CSE activities to inform our report to the Minister of National Defence;  
  • A review submitted to the Minister of National Defence under s. 35 of the NSIRA Act on particular human source handling activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces that may not have been in compliance with the law; 
  • A review of the Canada Border Services Agency’s Air Passenger Targeting program; and 
  • Our mandated multi-departmental reviews with respect to the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act and sharing of information within the federal government under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act. 

During 2022, NSIRA continued modernizing its complaints investigations process, which helped us improve the consistency and efficiency of our work. While the pandemic continued to impact the investigative landscape, processes introduced will reduce delays moving forward. In addition to its other investigations work, NSIRA completed its investigation in relation to a group of 58 complaints referred by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  

This annual report also highlights how the organization pursued greater engagement with partners, seeking and sharing best practices with like-minded review and oversight bodies. In addition, it discusses our organization’s corporate initiatives, including efforts to increase our capacity across our business lines, including technology and information management. 

NSIRA’s Members continue to be proud of the work of NSIRA’s Secretariat and the dedication and professionalism of its staff. 

Date of Publishing:

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, it is my pleasure to present you with our third annual report. Consistent with subsection 38(1) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act, the report includes information about our activities in 2021, as well as our findings and recommendations.

In accordance with paragraph 52(1)(b) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act, our report was prepared after consultation with relevant deputy heads, in an effort to ensure that it does not contain information the disclosure of which would be injurious to national security, national defence or international relations, or is information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, the professional secrecy of advocates and notaries, or to litigation privilege.

Yours sincerely,

The Honourable Marie Deschamps, C.C.

Chair // National Security and Intelligence Review Agency

Message from the members

As we reflect on this past year’s work, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is proud of what it has accomplished. We pushed past the challenges of the pandemic and pursued our mission with renewed energy and innovation, understanding that we can adapt and even thrive in this new environment. In 2022, our agency focused on building out and refining its processes as we empowered our review and complaints professionals in their work. These efforts enhanced our ability to meet the challenges of our review and investigations mandates, and thereby improve the transparency and accountability of the national security and intelligence activities across the federal government.

In addition to completing a wide array of reviews and investigations, we have stepped back to reflect on our work and activities over the first few years of our mandate. Despite being a relatively new agency, we are now in the position to make broader observations on the themes and trends in our work, and on the community we review. Indeed, as our experience grows, our approaches in our reviews and investigations mature and evolve. We meet our goals of increased efficiency and expertise through a commitment to address the challenges we face, and by seeking out best practices through expanded partnerships with like-minded domestic and international institutions.

During NSIRA’s brief history, ministers of the Crown have referred certain matters to us for review, as provided for in the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act. At the time of writing, we are in the process of such a referral. As this important review progresses, we will ensure that our commitment to independent and professional review is reflected in all our activities.

This report continues themes from previous annual reports by presenting an overview of our work, a discussion on our engagement with reviewees, and an account of the initiatives we undertook to ensure that our products are complete, thorough and professional. It is our belief that as we grow, we bring confidence to the Canadian public with each review and investigation we conduct.

We would like to thank our previous members, Ian Holloway and Faisal Mirza, for their commitment and contribution to advancing the important work of NSIRA during their tenure, and we wish them well in their future endeavours. Finally, we thank the staff of NSIRA’s Secretariat for their professionalism and dedication to fulfilling the agency’s mandate, and we have no doubt that the year ahead will bring further success for NSIRA

Marie Deschamps
Craig Forcese
Ian Holloway
Faisal Mirza
Marie-Lucie Morin

Executive Summary

In 2022, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) continued to execute its review and investigations mandates with the goal of improving national security and intelligence accountability and transparency in Canada. This related not only to the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), but also to other federal departments and agencies engaged in such activities, including:

  • the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF);
  • the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); and
  • all departments and agencies engaging in national security or intelligence activities in the context of NSIRA’s yearly reviews of the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act and the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act.

NSIRA has reflected on its work to date and found that a horizontal view of all its findings and recommendations over the past three years reveals the emergence of three major themes: governance; propriety; and information management and sharing. NSIRA observes that there is an interconnected and overlapping aspect to these issues, and as a result believes that improvements to governance could result in broader improvements across all themes.

Reviews

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

The following are highlights of the reviews completed in 2022 along with key outcomes. The number of reviews defined as completed does not include any ongoing reviews, or reviews completed in previous years but that went through or are in the process of going through consultations for their release to the public. Annex C lists all the findings and recommendations associated with reviews completed in 2022, along with the corresponding responses from reviewees, if provided.

In addition to the reviews discussed below, NSIRA determined that a number of ongoing reviews would be closed or terminated. These decisions, based on a variety of considerations, allow NSIRA to redirect its efforts and resources towards other important issues.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

In 2022, NSIRA completed the following reviews on CSIS activities:

  • the third annual review of CSIS’s threat reduction measures, which provided an overview of all such measures conducted in 2021, and also focused on a subset of these measures to consider the implementation of each measure, how what happened aligned with what was originally proposed, and, relatedly, the role of legal risk; and
  • an annual review of CSIS’s activities, which informed, in part, NSIRA’s 2022 annual report to the Minister of Public Safety.

Communications Security Establishment

In 2022, NSIRA completed two dedicated reviews of CSE, and commenced an annual review of CSE activities:

  • a review of CSE’s active and defensive cyber operations (ACO/DCO), which is a continuation of NSIRA’s 2021 review of the governance of ACO/DCO by CSE and Global Affairs Canada;
  • a review of a sensitive CSE foreign intelligence collection program, which assistedNSIRA in better informing the Minister of National Defence about CSE’s activities; and
  • an annual review of CSE activities similar to that for CSIS, begun for the first time in 2022 and that informed, in part, NSIRA’s 2022 annual report to the Minister of National Defence.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

In the course of a review of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) human source handling activities, NSIRA issued to the Minister of National Defence a report on December 9, 2022, under section 35 of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act in relation to a specific operation. Section 35 requires that NSIRA submit to the appropriate Minister a report with respect to any activity that is related to national security or intelligence that, in NSIRA’s opinion, may not be in compliance with the law. NSIRA will complete the broader review of DND/CAF’s human source handling activities in 2023.

Canada Border Services Agency

NSIRA completed its first in-depth review of national security or intelligence activities of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in 2022: a review of air passenger targeting. This review examined the CBSA’s pre-arrival risk assessment of passengers based on data collected by commercial air carriers. It evaluated whether the CBSA’s activities complied with legislative requirements and Canada’s non-discrimination obligations.

Multi-departmental reviews

NSIRA conducted two mandated multi-departmental reviews in 2022:

  • a review of directions issued with respect to the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act; and
  • a review of disclosures of information under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act.

Review work not resulting in a final report

During the past year NSIRA determined that certain ongoing review work would be closed or not result in a final report to a Minister. These decisions allow NSIRA to remain nimble and to pivot its work plan. Multiple considerations can lead to the decision to close a review, and doing so allows NSIRA to redirect efforts and resources.

Technology in review

In 2022, NSIRA expanded its Technology Directorate to keep pace with the national security and intelligence community’s evolving use of digital technologies. The team comprises technical experts and review professionals, who are supported by academic researchers. This expanded team launched NSIRA’s first technology-led review, focusing on the lifecycle of warranted CSIS information. In addition to directly supporting NSIRA’s reviews, the Technology Directorate also began hosting learning sessions and discussion forums designed to enhance NSIRA employees’ knowledge of broader technical issues.

Engagement with reviewees

NSIRA continues to address and improve on aspects of its interaction with reviewees during the review process. It saw both improvements and ongoing challenges, and seeks to provide full and transparent assessments in this regard. Updated criteria will be used to evaluate engagement. These criteria are critical for supporting NSIRA’s efforts during a review. This approach builds on the agency’s previous confidence statements and provides a more consistent and complete assessment on engagement.

NSIRA continues to optimize its methods for accessing, receiving and tracking the information required to complete reviews. This involves ongoing discussions and support from reviewees. Limitations and challenges to this process are addressed directly and are communicated publicly where possible.

Complaints investigations

As NSIRA marked its third year of existence in 2022 it continued maturing and modernizing the processes for fulfilling its investigations mandate. The jurisdiction assessment phase was standardized, incorporating a verification protocol for the three agencies for which NSIRA has complaints jurisdiction. To speed up the investigative process, investigative interviews are being used more often, taking over from the formal hearings NSIRA previously relied on.

The pandemic continued to impact the investigative landscape in the first half of 2022. COVID protocols conflicted with security protocols for investigations, which require in-person meetings. Processes introduced in 2022 are expected to reduce delays in the conduct of investigations on a forward basis.

The number of investigation activities last year remained high and included the completion of a referral of a group of 58 complaints by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Data management and service standards initiatives that were launched are expected to enhance complaint file management in the coming year.

Partnerships

During the past year, NSIRA expanded its engagement with valuable partners, both domestically and internationally, and has already reaped the benefits through the exchange of best practices. As a relatively new agency, NSIRA sees such relationships as a priority for its institutional development. NSIRA had the privilege of visiting many international partners as an active participant in the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council, and also engaged other European partners through various forums that bring together like-minded oversight, review and data protection agencies from all over the world.

Introduction

1.1 Who we are

Established in July 2019, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is an independent agency that reports to Parliament. Canadian review bodies before NSIRA did not have the ability to collaborate or share their classified information but were each limited to conducting reviews on a specified department or agency. By contrast, NSIRA has the authority to conduct an integrated review of Government of Canada national security and intelligence activities, and Canada now has one of the world’s most extensive systems for independent review of national security.

1.2 Mandate

NSIRA has a dual mandate to conduct reviews on and carry out investigations of complaints related to Canada’s national security or intelligence activities.

Reviews

NSIRA’s review mandate is broad, as outlined in subsection 8(1) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act). This mandate includes reviewing the activities of both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), as well as the activities of any other federal department or agency that are related to national security or intelligence. Further, NSIRA reviews any national security or intelligence matters that a minister of the Crown refers to NSIRA.

Investigations

In addition to its review mandate, NSIRA is responsible for investigating complaints related to national security or intelligence. This duty is outlined in paragraph 8(1)(d) of the NSIRA Act, and involves investigating complaints about:

  • the activities of CSIS or CSE;
  • decisions to deny or revoke certain federal government security clearances; and
  • ministerial reports under the Citizenship Act that recommend denying certain citizenship applications.

This mandate also includes investigating national security-related complaints referred to NSIRA by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (the RCMP’s own complaints mechanism) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Observations and themes

NSIRA has a horizontal, in-depth view of the Canadian national security landscape that allows for an assessment of Canada’s complex, interwoven approach to national security. NSIRA annual reports discuss its activities within that framework. This annual report provides an opportunity to reflect on NSIRA’s body of work horizontally, and consider what broad trends or themes emerge.

NSIRA findings and recommendations touch on many aspects of government activities and operations. Grouping all findings and recommendations according to topics that fall under three broad themes helps simplify a horizontal assessment of trends to date. This categorization and the terminology used may evolve over time.

The themes that emerge are governance; propriety; and information management and sharing. These themes appear year after year in NSIRA annual reports. The following topics are included in these themes:

Theme Topics
Governance
  • Policies, procedures, framework and other authorities
  • Internal oversight
  • Risk management, assessment and practices
  • Decision-making and accountability, including ministerial accountability and direction
  • Training, tools and staffing resources
Propriety
  • Reasonableness, necessity, efficacy and proportionality
  • Legal thresholds and advice, compliance and privacy interests
Information management and sharing
  • Collection, documentation, tracking, implementing, reporting, monitoring and safeguarding
  • Information sharing and disclosure
  • Keeping and providing accurate and up-to-date information, timeliness

These themes can be found in every NSIRA annual report, and this year’s is no exception. In this year’s annual report, the following examples illustrate the three themes:

Governance:

  • the review of disclosures under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act for 2021 identified that employees did not receive adequate guidance to fulfill their obligations, and recommended improvements to training;
  • the review of a CSE foreign intelligence activity identified several instances where the program’s activities were not adequately captured within CSE’s applications for certain ministerial authorizations, resulting in recommendations that CSE more effectively inform the Minister of National Defence about aspects of its bilateral relationships with certain partners, the extent of its participation in certain types of activities, and the testing and evaluation of products.

Propriety:

  • in a report issued to the Minister of National Defence under s.35 of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA explained that, in its opinion, certain activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces may not have been in compliance with the law;
  • the review of the threat reduction measures of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service found that this agency did not meet its internal policy requirements regarding the timelines to submit threat reduction measure implementation reports.

Information management and sharing:

  • the Canada Border Services Agency air passenger targeting review noted that this agency does not document its triaging practices that use passenger data in a manner that enables effective verification of whether all triaging decisions comply with statutory and regulatory restrictions.

A high-level overview of the past three annual reports shows the number of NSIRA findings and recommendations each year, broken down by theme. Over the three years, governance related findings and recommendations constituted 43% of the overall total. The comparable figures for propriety and information management (IM) and sharing categories were 26% and 31% respectively. The breakdown by year is captured in the following table:

Figure 1: Trends in findings and recommendations

Graph image: Trends in finding and recommendations - Text version follows
Trends in findings and recommendations
  2020 annual report 2021 annual report 2022 annual report
Governance 45% 41% 44%
Propriety 26% 27% 24%
Information Management and Sharing 29% 32% 32%

The interconnected nature of the problems identified in NSIRA reviews, along with the balance of themes illustrated in the graphic above, reveals a narrative. Indeed, issues rarely stand-alone – governance and IM and sharing issues may, for example, culminate in propriety challenges. The number of findings and recommendations over three years that touch on governance, propriety and IM and sharing matters suggest that these are issues deserving close attention. Employees are expected to succeed in meeting intelligence and national security service missions while adhering to policy and legal requirements. Here, improvements to staff training and development are likely to have the most significant impacts.

Review

Details provided on individual reviews are a high-level summary of their content and outcomes. Full versions of each review are available once they have been redacted for public release.

3.1 Canadian Security Intelligence Service reviews

NSIRA has a mandate to review any Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) activity. The NSIRA Act requires NSIRA to submit an annual report on CSIS activities each year to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (with these responsibilities now divided into two portfolios, NSIRA currently submits these reports to the Minister of Public Safety). These classified reports include information related to CSIS’s compliance with the law and applicable ministerial directions, and the reasonableness and necessity of the exercise of CSIS’s powers.

In 2022, NSIRA completed one dedicated review of CSIS, and its annual review of CSIS activities, both summarized below. Furthermore, CSIS is implicated in other NSIRA multi- departmental reviews, such as the legally mandated annual reviews of the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act and the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act, the results of which are described in Multi-departmental reviews.

Threat reduction measures review

This is NSIRA’s third annual review of CSIS threat reduction measures (TRMs), which are measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada, within or outside Canada. Section 12.1 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSIS Act) authorizes CSIS to take these measures.

NSIRA found that CSIS’s activities under its TRM mandate in 2021 were broadly consistent with these activities in preceding years. NSIRA observed that 2018 was an inflection point for CSIS’s use of the TRM mandate. In that year, CSIS proposed nearly as many TRMs as were proposed in total in the preceding three years — the first three of the mandate. In the following year, however, the number dropped slightly, before a more significant reduction in 2020. The number of proposed TRMs in 2021 went up slightly compared with the previous year, as did both approvals and implementations.

NSIRA selected three TRMs implemented in 2021 for a more intensive review, assessing the measures for compliance with applicable law, ministerial direction and policy. At the same time, NSIRA considered the implementation of each measure, including the alignment between what was proposed and what occurred, and the role of legal risk assessments for guiding CSIS activity, as well as the documentation of outcomes.

For all the measures reviewed, NSIRA found that CSIS met its obligations under the law, specifically the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and sections 12.1 and 12.2 of the CSIS Act. In addition to general legal compliance, NSIRA found that CSIS sufficiently established a “rational link” between the proposed measure and the identified threat.

In one case, NSIRA found that CSIS did not meet its obligations under the 2015 Ministerial Direction for Operations and Accountability and the 2019 Ministerial Direction for Accountability issued by the Minister of Public Safety.

The TRM in question involved certain sensitive factors. NSIRA believes that the presence of these factors ought to have factored into the overall risk assessment of the measure. CSIS argued that risks associated with these factors relate primarily to reputational risk to CSIS, which it assessed in this case. Certain risks related to the sensitive factors, however, are not, and in this instance were not, captured by CSIS’s reputational risk assessment.

Similarly, the legal risk assessment for this TRM did not comply with ministerial direction. NSIRA recommended that legal risk assessments be conducted for TRMs involving these sensitive factors, and further, that CSIS consider and evaluate whether the current process for legal risk assessments complies with applicable ministerial direction.

A comparative analysis of the two legal risk assessments provided for the other TRMs under review underscored the practical utility of clear and specific legal direction for CSIS personnel. Clear direction allows investigators to be aware of, and understand, the legal parameters within which CSIS personnel can operate; it also permits reporting after an action is completed to document how implementation stayed within those legal parameters.

With respect to documenting outcomes, NSIRA further noted issues with how quickly CSIS produces certain reports after a TRM is implemented. Although NSIRA recognizes that overly burdensome documentation requirements can unduly inhibit CSIS activities, NSIRA nonetheless believes that the recommendations provided are prudent and reasonable. Relevant information, available in a timely manner, benefits CSIS operations.

Annual review of Canadian Security Intelligence Service activities

In 2022, NSIRA completed its annual review of CSIS activities, which aims to identify compliance-related challenges, general trends and emerging issues using CSIS documents in 12 categories (legislatively required and supplementary) from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. Besides contributing to NSIRA’s Annual Report to the Minister of Public Safety on CSIS activities, the review may identify areas that merit new NSIRA reviews and may produce a briefing or report with its own observations, findings and recommendations. NSIRA provided its report on CSIS activities in 2021 to the Minister of Public Safety on October 12, 2022, and the Chair subsequently met with the Minister to discuss its contents as well as ongoing issues and challenges related to NSIRA review of CSIS.

Statistics and data

To achieve greater public accountability, NSIRA has requested that CSIS publish statistics and data about public interest and compliance-related aspects of its activities. NSIRA is of the opinion that the following statistics will provide the public with information related to the scope and breadth of CSIS operations, as well as display the evolution of activities from year to year.

Warrant applications

Section 21 of the CSIS Act authorizes CSIS to make an application to a judge for a warrant if it believes, on reasonable grounds, that more intrusive powers are required to investigate a particular threat to the security of Canada. Warrants may be used by CSIS, for example, to intercept communications, enter a location, or obtain information, records or documents. Each individual warrant application could include multiple individuals or request the use of multiple intrusive powers.

Table 1: Section 21 warrant applications made by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2018 to 2022
  2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total section 21 applications 24 24 15 31 28
Total approved warrants 24 23 15 31 28
New warrants 10 9 2 13 6
Replacements 11 12 8 14 14
Supplemental 3 2 5 4 8
Total denied warrants 0 1 0 0 0

Threat reduction measures

CSIS is authorized to seek a judicial warrant for a TRM if it believes that certain intrusive measures, outlined in section 21 (1.1) of the CSIS Act, are required to reduce the threat. The CSIS Act is clear that when a proposed TRM would limit a right or freedom protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or would otherwise be contrary to Canadian law, a judicial warrant authorizing the measure is required. To date, CSIS has sought no judicial authorizations to undertake warranted TRMs. TRMs approved in one year may be executed in future years. Operational reasons may also prevent an approved TRM from being executed.

Table 2: Total number of approved and executed threat reduction measures, 2015 to 2022
  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

Approved threat reduction measures

10 8 15 23 24 11 23 16
Executed 10 8 13 17 19 8 17 12

Warranted threat reduction measures

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Canadian Security Intelligence Service targets

CSIS is mandated to investigate threats to the security of Canada, including espionage, foreign influenced activities, political, religious or ideologically motivated violence, and subversion.6 Section 12 of the CSIS Act sets out criteria permitting CSIS to investigate an individual, group or entity for matters related to these threats. Subjects of a CSIS investigation, whether they be individuals or groups, are called “targets.”

Table 3: Number of Canadian Security Intelligence Service targets, 2018 to 2022
  2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Number of targets 430 467 360 352 340

Datasets

Data analytics is a key investigative tool for CSIS, providing it with the capacity to make connections and identify trends that are not possible through traditional methods of investigation. The National Security Act, 2017, which came into force in 2019, gave CSIS new powers, including a legal framework for it to collect, retain and use datasets. The framework authorizes CSIS to collect datasets (divided into Canadian, foreign and publicly available datasets) that have the ability to assist CSIS in the performance of its duties and functions. It also establishes safeguards for the protection of Canadian rights and freedoms, including privacy rights. These protections include enhanced requirements for ministerial accountability. Depending on the type of dataset, CSIS must meet different requirements before it is able to use a dataset.

The CSIS Act also requires that NSIRA be kept apprised of certain dataset-related activities. Reports prepared following the handling of datasets are to be provided to NSIRA, under certain conditions and within reasonable timeframes. While CSIS is not required to advise NSIRA of judicial authorizations or ministerial approvals for the collection of Canadian and foreign datasets, CSIS has been proactively keeping NSIRA apprised of these activities.

Table 4: Evaluation and retention of publicly available, Canadian and foreign datasets by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2019 to 2022
  2019 2020 2021 2022
Publicly available datasets
   
Evaluated 9 6 4 4
Retained 9 6 2 4
Canadian datasets    
Evaluated 0 0 2 0
Retained (approved by Federal Court) 0 0 0 2
Denied by Federal Court 0 0 0 0
Foreign datasets    
Evaluated 10 0 0 1
Retained (approved by the Minister and Intelligence Commissioner 0 1 1 1
Denied by the Minister 0 0 0 0
Denied by the Intelligence Commissioner 0 0 0 0

Justification Framework

The National Security Act, 2017, also created a legal justification framework for CSIS’s intelligence collection operations. The framework establishes a limited justification for CSIS employees, and persons acting at their direction, to carry out activities that would otherwise constitute offences under Canadian law. CSIS’s Justification Framework is modelled on those already in place for Canadian law enforcement. The Justification Framework provides needed clarity to CSIS, and to Canadians, as to what CSIS may lawfully do in the course of its activities. It recognizes that it is in the public interest to ensure that CSIS employees can effectively carry out its intelligence collection duties and functions, including by engaging in otherwise unlawful acts or omissions, in the public interest and in accordance with the rule of law. The types of otherwise unlawful acts and omissions that are authorized by the Justification Framework are determined by the Minister and approved by the Intelligence Commissioner. There remain limitations to what activities can be undertaken, and nothing in the Justification Framework permits the commission of an act or omission that would infringe a right or freedom guaranteed by the Charter.

According to section 20.1 (2) of the CSIS Act, employees must be designated by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to be covered under the Justification Framework while committing or directing an otherwise unlawful act or omission. Designated employees are CSIS employees who require the justification framework as part of their duties and functions. Designated employees are justified in committing an act or omission themselves (commissions by employees) and they may direct another person to commit an act or omission (directions to commit) as a part of their duties and functions.

Table 5: Authorizations, commissions and directions under the Justification Framework, 2019 to 2022
  2019 2020 2021 2022
Authorizations 83 147 178 172

Commissions by employees

17 39 51 61
Directions to commit 32 84 116 131
Emergency designations 0 0 0 0

Compliance

CSIS’s internal operational compliance program unit leads and manages overall compliance within CSIS. The objective of this unit is to promote a culture of compliance within CSIS by leading an approach for reporting and assessing potential non-compliance incidents to provide timely advice and guidance related to internal policies and procedures for employees. This program is the centre for processing all instances of potential non-compliance related to operational activities.

NSIRA notes that CSIS reports Charter violations as operational non-compliance. NSIRA will continue to monitor closely instances of non-compliance that relate to Canadian law and the Charter, and work with CSIS to improve transparency around these activities.

Table 6: Total number of non-compliance incidents processed by CSIS, 2019 to 2022
  2019 2020 2021 2022

Processed compliance incidents

53 99 85 59

Administrative

  53 64 42
Operational 40 19 21 17
Canadian law
1 2
Charter 6 5
Warrant conditions 6 3
CSIS governance 8 15

3.2 Communications Security Establishment reviews

Overview

NSIRA has the mandate to review any activity conducted by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). NSIRA must also submit an annual report to the Minister of National Defence on CSE activities, including information related to CSE’s compliance with the law and applicable ministerial directions, and NSIRA’s assessment of the reasonableness and necessity of the exercise of CSE’s powers.

In 2022, NSIRA completed two dedicated reviews of CSE and commenced an annual review of CSE activities, all summarized below. Furthermore, CSE is implicated in other NSIRA multi- departmental reviews, such as the legally mandated annual reviews of the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act and the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act, the results of which are described in Multi-departmental reviews.

Review of the Communications Security Establishment’s active and defensive cyber operations

The Communications Security Establishment Act (CSE Act) grants CSE the authority to conduct active cyber operations and defensive cyber operations (ACOs and DCOs). CSE ACOs and DCOs have become a tool of Government of Canada foreign and security policy. In 2021, NSIRA reviewed CSE’s governance of and the general planning and approval process for ACO and DCO activities. The governance review made several observations about the governance of ACOs and DCOs by CSE — and to a lesser extent, by Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Some of these observations identified gaps that resulted in recommendations. Building on the governance review, the report focused on CSE’s ACOs and DCOs themselves:

  • the operations;
  • the implementation of CSE’s governance; and
  • the legal framework in the context of specific ACOs and DCOs.

NSIRA incorporated GAC, CSIS, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and DND/CAF into this review, given these organizations’ varying degrees of coordination or involvement in these CSE activities. NSIRA also inspected some technical elements of a case study ACO to verify aspects of the operation independently, as well as to deepen NSIRA’s understanding of how an ACO works. While NSIRA reviewed all ACOs and DCOs planned or conducted by CSE until mid-2021, this review focused on a sample of such ACOs or DCOs, each presenting unique characteristics.

Overall, NSIRA found that ACOs and DCOs that CSE planned or conducted during the period of review were lawful and noted improvements in GAC’s assessments for foreign policy risk and international law. NSIRA further observed that CSE developed and improved its processes for the planning and conduct of ACOs and DCOs in a way that reflected some of NSIRA’s observations from the governance review.

NSIRA also made findings pertaining to how CSE could improve aspects of ACO and DCO planning, as well as communication to the Minister of National Defence and coordination with other Government of Canada entities. More specifically, NSIRA identified areas of potential risk:

  • GAC’s capability to independently assess potential risks resulting from CSE ACOs and DCOs;
  • the accuracy of information provided, and issues related to delegation, within some of the applications for authorizations for ACOs and DCOs;
  • the degree to which CSE engaged with CSIS and the RCMP on ACOs and DCOs, and CSE explanations of how it determined whether the objective of an ACO or DCO could not reasonably be achieved by other means;
  • the extent to which CSE described the intelligence collection that may occur alongside or as a result of ACOs or DCOs in applications for ACO and DCO authorizations and in operational documentation; and
  • overlap between activities conducted under the ACO and DCO aspects of CSE’s mandate as well as under all four aspects of CSE’s mandate.

It should be noted that NSIRA faced significant challenges in accessing CSE information on this review. These access challenges had a negative impact on the review. As a result, NSIRA could not be confident in the completeness of information provided by CSE.

Review of a foreign intelligence activity

In 2022, NSIRA completed a review of a sensitive CSE foreign intelligence collection program. As part of this review, NSIRA made several findings and observations regarding the activities carried out as part of this program. Notably, NSIRA identified several instances where the program’s activities were not adequately captured within CSE’s applications for certain ministerial authorizations. As such, NSIRA recommended that CSE more effectively inform the Minister of National Defence about aspects of its bilateral relationships with certain partners, the extent of its participation in certain types of activities, and the testing and evaluation of products.

NSIRA also found several areas where the program lacked adequate governance structures, resulting in improper application of key policy and procedural requirements related to information sharing, confirmation of foreignness, and CSE’s mistreatment risk assessment process. NSIRA made recommendations to strengthen these processes, to establish governance structures specific to the program, and to improve other governance structures with broader applicability throughout CSE.

Annual review of Communications Security Establishment activities

In 2022, NSIRA launched the annual review of CSE activities, which aimed to identify compliance-related challenges, general trends and emerging issues using CSE documents in 11 categories (legislatively required and supplementary) from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. Besides contributing to NSIRA’s Annual Report to the Minister of National Defence on CSE activities, the review may identify areas that merit new NSIRA reviews and may produce a briefing or report with its own observations, findings and recommendations. It is based largely on the structure of the annual review of CSIS activities but has been adapted to CSE. NSIRA’s Chair met with the Minister of National Defence on December 15, 2022 to discuss ongoing issues and challenges related to NSIRA reviews of CSE activities.

Statistics and data

To achieve greater accountability and transparency, NSIRA has requested statistics and data from CSE about public interest and compliance-related aspects of its activities. NSIRA is of the opinion these statistics will provide the public with important information related to the scope and breadth of CSE operations, as well as display the evolution of activities from year to year.

Ministerial authorizations and ministerial orders

Ministerial authorizations are issued to CSE by the Minister of National Defence. Those authorizations support specific foreign intelligence or cybersecurity activities or defensive or active cyber operations conducted by CSE pursuant to those aspects of the CSE mandate. Authorizations are issued when these activities could otherwise contravene an Act of Parliament or interfere with a reasonable expectation of privacy of a Canadian or a person in Canada.

Table 7: Ministerial authorizations issued, 2019 to 2022
Type of ministerial authorization Enabling section of the CSE Act Issued in 2019 Issued in 2020 Issued in 2021 Issued in 2022

Foreign intelligence

26(1)
3 3 3 3

Cybersecurity — federal and non-federal

27(1) and 27(2) 2 1 2 3
Defensive cyber operations 29(1) 1 1 1 1
Active cyber operations 30(1) 1 1 2 3

Note: This table lists ministerial authorizations that were issued in a given calendar year and may not necessarily reflect ministerial authorizations that were in effect at a given time. For example, if a ministerial authorization was issued in late 2021 and remained in effect in parts of 2022, it is counted solely as a 2021 ministerial authorization.

Ministerial orders are issued by the Minister for the purpose of (1) designating any electronic information, any information infrastructures or any class of electronic information or information infrastructures as electronic information or information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada (section 21(1) of the CSE Act); or (2) designating recipients of information related to Canadians or persons in Canada, that is, Canadian- identifying information (sections 45 and 44(1) of the CSE Act).

Table 8: Ministerial orders in effect as of 2022
Name of ministerial order Enabling section of the CSE Act

Designating electronic information and information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada

21(1)

Designating recipients of information relating to a Canadian or person in Canada acquired, used or analyzed under the cybersecurity and information assurance aspects of the CSE mandate

45 and 44(1)
Designating recipients of Canadian identifying information used, analyzed or retained under a foreign intelligence authorization pursuant to section 45 of the CSE Act
45 and 43

Designating electronic information and infrastructures of Ukraine as Systems of Importance

21(1)
Designating electronic information and infrastructures of Latvia as Systems of Importance 21(1)

Note: Ministerial orders remain in effect until rescinded by the Minister.

Foreign intelligence reporting

Under section 16 of the CSE Act, CSE is mandated to acquire information from or through the global information infrastructure. The CSE Act defines the global information infrastructure as including electromagnetic emissions, any equipment producing such emissions, communications systems, information technology systems and networks, and any data or technical information carried on, contained in or relating to those emissions, that equipment, those systems or those networks. CSE uses, analyzes and disseminates the information for providing foreign intelligence in accordance with the Government of Canada’s intelligence priorities.

Table 9: Number of foreign intelligence reports issued, 2019 to 2022
CSE foreign intelligence reporting 2019 2020 2021 2022

Number of reports released

N/A N/A 3,050 3,185

Number of departments/agencies

N/A >25 28 26
Number of specific clients within departments/agencies N/A >2,100 1,627 1,761

Note: NSIRA did not ask CSE for statistics related to foreign intelligence reporting for its 2019 public annual report. In 2020, statistics were requested, but were provided in general terms due to the classification of the data at the time, and CSE indicated that release of further detail, would be injurious to national security.

Information relating to a Canadian or a person in Canada

Information relating to a Canadian or a person in Canada (IRTC) is the information about Canadians or persons in Canada that may be incidentally collected by CSE while conducting foreign intelligence or cybersecurity activities under the authority of a ministerial authorization. Incidental collection refers to information acquired that CSE was not deliberately seeking, and where the activity that enabled the acquisition of this information was not directed at a Canadian or a person in Canada. According to CSE policy, IRTC is defined as any information recognized as having reference to a Canadian or person in Canada, regardless of whether that information could be used to identify that Canadian or person in Canada.

CSE was asked to release statistics or data about the regularity with which IRTC or “Canadian- collected information” is included in CSE’s end-product reporting. CSE responded that “this information remains at a classified level. We have determined that the release of thisinformation would be injurious to Canada’s international relations, national defence and security. Furthermore, the sharing of this information would provide an additional level of detail on the success of Canadian collection programs, our level of reliance on information from Five- Eye partners to produce intelligence, as well as a level of detail on Five-Eye use and reporting from Canadian collection that has not been previously made public.”

Canadian identifying information

CSE is prohibited from directing its activities at Canadians or persons in Canada. However, CSE’s collection methodologies sometimes result in incidentally acquiring such information. When such incidentally collected information is used in CSE’s foreign intelligence reporting, any part potentially identifying a Canadian or a person in Canada is suppressed to protect the privacy of the individual(s) in question. CSE may release unsuppressed Canadian-identifying information (CII) to designated recipients when the recipients have the legal authority and operational justification to receive it and when it is essential to international affairs, defence or security (including cyber security).

Table 10: Number of requests for disclosure of CII, 2021 and 2022
Type of request 2021 2022

Government of Canada requests

741 657

Five Eyes requests

90 62
Non-Five Eyes requests
0 0
Total 831 719

In 2022, of the 719 requests received, CSE reported having denied 65 requests. By the end of the year, 51 were still being processed.

CSE was asked to release the number of instances where CII is suppressed in CSE foreign intelligence or cyber security reporting. It indicated that “[d]isclosure of the number of instances where [CII] is suppressed in CSE intelligence reporting would be injurious to CSE’scapabilities. Such a disclosure would reveal information about CSE’s capabilities including theirlimitations. Thus, this information could be used by hostile security threats to counter CSE’s capabilities impeding CSE’s ability to protect Canada and its citizens.”

Privacy incidents and procedural errors

A privacy incident occurs when the privacy of a Canadian or a person in Canada is put at risk in a manner that runs counter to, or is not provided for, in CSE’s policies. CSE tracks such incidents via its Privacy Incidents File and, for privacy incidents that are attributable to a second-party partner or a domestic partner, its Second-party Privacy Incidents File.

Table 11: Number of privacy incidents recorded by CSE, 2021 and 2022
Type of incident 2021 2022
Privacy incidents 96 114
Second-party privacy incidents 33 23

Cyber security and information assurance

Under section 17 of the CSE Act, CSE is mandated to provide advice, guidance and services to help protect electronic information and information infrastructures of federal institutions, as well as those of non-federal entities that are designated by the Minister as being of importance to the Government of Canada.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) is Canada’s unified authority on cybersecurity. The Cyber Centre, which is a part of CSE, provides expert guidance, services and education, while working in collaboration with stakeholders in the private and public sectors. The Cyber Centre handles incidents in government and designated institutions that include:

  • reconnaissance activity by sophisticated threat actors;
  • phishing incidents, that is, email containing malware;
  • unauthorized access to corporate information technology (IT) environments;
  • imminent ransomware attacks; and
  • zero-day exploits, which involves exploration of critical vulnerabilities in unpatched software.
Table 12: Number of cyber incident cases opened by CSE, 2022
Type of incident 2022
Federal institutions 1,070
Critical infrastructure 1,575
Total 2,645

Defensive and active cyber operations

Under section 18 of the CSE Act, CSE is mandated to conduct DCOs to help protect electronic information and information infrastructures of federal institutions, as well as those of non- federal entities that are designated by the Minister as being of importance to the Government of Canada from hostile cyber attacks.

Under section 19 of the CSE Act, CSE is mandated to conduct ACOs against foreign individuals, states, organizations or terrorist groups as they relate to international affairs, defence or security.

CSE was asked to release the number of DCOs and ACOs approved, and the number carried out, during 2022. CSE responded that it is “not in a position to provide this information for publication by NSIRA, as doing so would be injurious to Canada’s international relations,national defence, and national security.”

Technical and operational assistance

As part of the assistance aspect of CSE’s mandate, CSE receives requests for assistance from Canadian law enforcement and security agencies, as well as from the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces (DND/CAF).

Table 13: Number of requests for assistance received and actioned by CSE, 2020 to 2022
  2020 2021 2022
Approved 23 32 59
Not approved 1 3 Not applicable
Cancelled Not available Not available 1
Denied Not available Not available 2
Total received 24 35 62

3.3 Other departments

Overview

In addition to the CSIS and CSE reviews above, NSIRA completed the following reviews of departments and agencies in 2022:

  • A review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces;
  • A review of the Canada Border Services Agency; and
  • NSIRA’s annual reviews of both the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act and the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act, both of which involve a broader set of departments and agencies that make up the Canadian national security and intelligence community.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Report issued pursuant to section 35 of the NSIRA Act

In the course of a review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) human source handling activities, which was still ongoing at the time of writing, NSIRA issued on December 9, 2022, a report under section 35 of the NSIRA Act to the Minister of National Defence. According to section 35, NSIRA must submit to the appropriate minister a report with respect to any activity that is related to national security or intelligence that, in NSIRA’s opinion, may not be in compliance with the law. The Minister of National Defence submitted a copy of this report to the Attorney General of Canada and included her comments indicating that her interpretation of the facts and law differs from NSIRA’s. NSIRA stands by its position and is of the view that the Minister’s position is based on a narrow interpretation of the facts and the law. NSIRA will complete the larger review of DND/CAF’s human source handling activities in 2023. While the section 35 report does not include recommendations, the broader review will examine accountability and oversight of the program, its risk framework, and DND/CAF’s discharge of its duty of care with respect to human sources. The review also assesses the lawfulness of the program and its related activities, as well as the sufficiency of its legal and policy foundations. In doing so, the report may include recommendations addressing the observations made in the section 35 report.

Canada Border Services Agency

Air passenger targeting review

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) air passenger targeting program uses pre-arrival risk assessments to identify inbound air travellers at higher risk of being inadmissible to Canada or whose entry, or that of their goods, may otherwise contravene the CBSA’s program legislation.

The first step in these multi-stage assessments is to triage travellers based on the characteristics and travel patterns conveyed to the CBSA by commercial air carriers in AdvancePassenger Information and Passenger Name Record data. This triage may be manual (flight list targeting) or automated (scenario-based targeting). In both methods, the CBSA relies on information and intelligence from a variety of sources to determine which data elements to treat as indicators of risk in relation to particular enforcement issues, including those related to national security. Use of these indicators may lead the CBSA to differentiate among travellers in subsequent stages of targeting or at the border, with impacts on passengers’ time, privacy and equal treatment.

The review of air passenger targeting was NSIRA’s first in-depth assessment of the CBSA’s compliance with relevant law. It focused, first, on whether the CBSA complies with restrictions on the use of passenger data established by the Customs Act and the Protection of Passenger Information Regulations. Next, the review examined whether the CBSA’s use of these types of passenger data was discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

NSIRA found that the CBSA’s use of both types of passenger data in scenario-based targeting was for a purpose authorized by the Customs Act. For flight list targeting, however, the CBSA does not document the reasons underpinning its triage decisions. NSIRA was therefore unable to verify compliance of flight list targeting with the purpose limitations set out in the Customs Act. As well, the documentation did not allow NSIRA to verify that the CBSA’s use of Passenger Name Record data in either triage method complied with the Protection of Passenger Information Regulations, which require that access to retained data be for a purpose related to the identification of persons who have or may have committed a terrorism offence or serious transnational crime.

NSIRA also found that the CBSA did not consistently demonstrate an adequate justification for its selection of particular indicators as signals of increased risk. When adequate justification is not present, differentiating among passengers on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination (such as age, national or ethnic origin, or sex) creates a risk of discrimination.

NSIRA recommended that the CBSA document its triage practices in a manner that demonstrates compliance with the Customs Act and, where applicable, the Protection of Passenger Information Regulations. It recommended that the CBSA ensure, in an ongoing manner, that its selection of risk indicators be adequately justified based on well-documented information or intelligence. NSIRA further recommended that the CBSA develop more robust and regular oversight of air passenger targeting, including updates to policies, procedures, training and other guidance. NSIRA also recommended that the CBSA begin collecting the data necessary to identify, analyze and mitigate discrimination-related risks stemming from air passenger targeting.

3.4 Multi-departmental reviews

Review of federal institutions’ disclosures of information under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act in 2021

The review of federal institutions’ disclosures of information under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act (SCIDA) in 2021 describes the results of a review of the 2021 disclosures made by federal institutions under this legislation. In 2022, NSIRA focused the review on Global Affairs Canada (GAC)’s proactive disclosures.

The SCIDA encourages and facilitates the disclosure of information between federal institutions to protect Canada against activities that undermine or threaten national security, subject to certain conditions. The SCIDA provides a two-part threshold that must be met before an institution can make a disclosure:

  • that the information will contribute to the exercise of the recipient institution’s jurisdiction or responsibilities in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada (paragraph 5(1)(a)); and
  • that the information will not affect any person’s privacy interest more than reasonably necessary in the circumstances (paragraph 5(1)(b)).

The SCIDA also includes provisions and guiding principles related to the management of disclosures, including accuracy and reliability statements and record keeping obligations.

NSIRA identified concerns that demonstrate the need for GAC to improve its training. NSIRA found that there is potential for confusion on whether the SCIDA is the appropriate mechanism for certain disclosures of national security–related information. For some disclosures, GAC did not meet the two-part threshold requirements of the SCIDA before disclosing the information, which was not compliant with the SCIDA. Two disclosures did not contain accuracy and reliability statements, as required under the SCIDA. With respect to record keeping, NSIRA recommended that departments document, at the same time as they are deciding to disclose information under the SCIDA, the information they are relying on to satisfy themselves that the disclosure is authorized under the Act (paragraph 9(1)(e)).

Review of departmental implementation of the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act for 2021

This review focused on departmental implementation of directions received through orders in council issued under the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act (ACA). This was NSIRA’s third annual statutorily mandated review of the implementation of all directions issued under the ACA. It assessed departments’ implementation of the directives received under the ACA and their operationalization of frameworks to address ACA requirements. As such, this review constitutes the first in-depth examination of the ACA within individual departments.

This year’s review covered the 2021 calendar year and was split into three sections. Section one addressed the statutory obligations of all departments. Sections two and three were an in- depth analysis of how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) have implemented the directions under the ACA. NSIRA used case studies, where possible, to examine these departments’ implementation of their ACA framework.

This was the third consecutive year where no cases were referred to the deputy head level in any department. This is a requirement of the orders in council when officials are unable to determine if the substantial risk can be mitigated. Future reviews will be attuned to the issue of case escalation and departmental processes for decision-making.

In the 2019 NSIRA Review of Departmental Frameworks for Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities14, NSIRA recommended that “the definition of substantial risk should be codified in law or public direction.” NSIRA noted that some departments have accounted for this gap by relying on the definition of substantial risk in the 2017 ministerial directions. In light of the pending statutorily mandated review of the National Security Act, 2017 and the importance of the concept of substantial risk to the ACA regime, NSIRA reiterated its 2019 recommendation that the definition of substantial risk be codified in law.

In the review of departmental implementation of ACA in 2020, NSIRA identified the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Public Safety Canada as not yet having finalized their ACA policies. While the CBSA and Public Safety Canada continue to make advancements, these departments have not fully implemented an ACA framework and supporting policies and procedures.

The RCMP has a robust framework in place for the triage and processing of cases pertaining to the ACA. The in-depth analysis portion of this review found that the RCMP does not have a centralized system of documenting assurances and does not regularly monitor and update the assessment of the reliability of assurances. The RCMP has also not developed mechanisms to update country and entity profiles in a timely manner, and the information collected throughthe liaison officer during an operation is not centrally documented such that it can inform future assessments.

In the analysis of one of the RCMP’s Foreign Information Risk Advisory Committee case files, NSIRA found that the RCMP’s Assistant Commissioner’s rationale for rejecting the risk advisory committee’s advice did not adequately address concerns consistent with the provisions of the orders in council. In particular, NSIRA found that the Assistant Commissioner erroneously considered the importance of the potential future strategic relationship with a foreign entity in the assessment of potential risk of mistreatment of the individual.

NSIRA found that GAC is now strongly dependent on operational staff and heads of mission for decision-making and accountability under the ACA. This is a marked change from the findings of the 2019 review that found decision-making was done by the Ministerial Direction Compliance Committee at Headquarters.

GAC has also not conducted an internal mapping exercise to determine which business lines are most likely to be implicated by the ACA. Considering the low number of cases this year and the size of GAC, and that ACA training is not mandatory for staff, NSIRA has concerns that not all areas involved in information sharing within Global Affairs Canada are being properly informed of their ACA obligations.

NSIRA also notes that GAC has no formalized tracking or documentation mechanism for the follow-up of caveats and assurances. This is problematic as mission staff are rotational and may therefore have no knowledge of previous caveats and assurances related to prior information sharing instances.

3.5 Closed review work

This past year NSIRA determined that certain ongoing review work would be closed or not result in a final report to a Minister. These decisions allow NSIRA to remain nimble and to pivot its work plan. Considerations such as shifting priorities, resourcing demands, ongoing work taking place within the reviewed department, and deconfliction with partner review agencies can all be factors that lead to a decision to close a review. Such decisions allow NSIRA to redirect its efforts and resources towards other important issues, and thereby maximize the value of its work.

For example, a review of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) Operations Research Branch was closed. A contributing factor in this decision was that the RCMP branch in question ceased to operate. Another example is the decision to cease an ongoing review of how the RCMP handles encryption in the interception of private communications in national security criminal investigations. This review was cancelled to support deconfliction efforts with the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), who were conducting a similar review. Finally, a review of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre’s (FINTRAC) terrorist financing and information sharing regime, which was in its early stages, was cancelled at the same time that NSIRA decided to initiate a review of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Review and Analysis Division, which delivers the CRA’s anti- terrorism mandate.

3.6 Technology in review

Integration of technology in review

Digital technologies continue to play a crucial role in the operational activities of Canada’s national security and intelligence community as agencies increasingly use new technologies to meet their mandates, propose new avenues for activities, and monitor new threats.

It remains essential for an accountability body like NSIRA to keep pace with the use of digital technologies in Canada’s national security and intelligence community. By staying apprised of rapidly changing technology ecosystems, NSIRA can ensure that the organizations it reviews are pursuing their mandates lawfully, reasonably and appropriately.

NSIRA’s Technology Directorate is a team of engineers, computer scientists, technologists andtechnology review professionals. The mandate of NSIRA’s Technology Directorate is to:

  • lead the review of Information Technology (IT) systems and capabilities;
  • assess a reviewed entity’s IT compliance with applicable laws, ministerial direction andpolicy;
  • conduct independent technical investigations;
  • recommend IT system and data safeguards to minimize the risk of legal non-compliance;
  • produce reports explaining and interpreting technical subjects;
  • lead the integration of technology themes into yearly NSIRA review plans;
  • leverage external expertise in the understanding and assessment of IT risks; and
  • support assigned NSIRA members in the investigation of complaints against CSIS, CSE or the RCMP when technical expertise is required to assess the evidence.

In 2022, the Technology Directorate grew from one full-time employee to three and welcomed a cooperative education student and two external researchers. With its increased capacity, the Technology Directorate expanded its analysis of technologies in many NSIRA reviews, started formalizing its research methodology, and began hosting micro-learning sessions and discussion forums focused on relevant technical issues, including dark patterns, open-source intelligence and encryption.

The Technology Directorate also began establishing an academic research network with the goal of supporting NSIRA reviews. To date, contributors to the research network have produced valuable internal memos, reports, and discussion forums, which have enhanced NSIRA’s knowledge of a broad set of technical issues.

During the last year, the Technology Directorate also launched NSIRA’s first technology-led review, which focuses on the lifecycle of CSIS information collected by technical capabilities under a Federal Court warrant. This review presents an opportunity for NSIRA to draw on technical standards and review processes used by its Five Eyes peers and the international review and oversight community. NSIRA has been using this review to develop a risk assessment model and technical inspection plan, expanding NSIRA’s broader review toolkit.

Future of technology in review

During the next year, NSIRA will continue to hire more full-time employees in the Technology Directorate, support cooperative education and use external researchers to add capacity. Doing so will augment NSIRA’s ability to keep pace with the rapidly changing and expanding use of digital technologies in Canada’s national security and intelligence ecosystem.

Building on the successes of its budding academic research network, the Technology Directorate intends to prioritize unclassified research on a number of topics, including open- source intelligence, advertising technologies and metadata (content versus non-content data).

NSIRA’s Technology Directorate will also support NSIRA’s complaint investigations team to understand where and when technology factors into their processes and pursuits.

3.7 Engagement with reviewees

Improvements and ongoing challenges

As discussed in previous annual reports, as a new review body, NSIRA experienced initial challenges in its interactions with departments and agencies being reviewed. These challenges are continually being addressed and NSIRA’s relationship with reviewees has matured. While work on this front is not done, reviewees have demonstrated improvements in cooperation and support to the independent review process. The following discussion captures general commentary on the overall engagement with reviewees that were the focus of the past year’s reviews. These overviews cover 2022 and up to the date of writing of this report. Related review-specific commentary or issues, where available, are discussed within each review’s overview above.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

After temporary restrictions and adjustments related to COVID-19 were lifted, NSIRA returned to its pre-pandemic level of occupancy within CSIS headquarters for CSIS-related reviews. This includes dedicated workspace and building passes for NSIRA employees reviewing CSIS activities. NSIRA employees have direct access to CSIS databases, and CSIS provides any training necessary, when requested, to navigate and access those systems. Generally, CSIS responds to NSIRA requests for information in a reasonably timely manner. Delays and challenges occur on occasion, but communication between NSIRA and CSIS is constructive in resolving issues.

Communications Security Establishment

NSIRA continued to use the space it procured within CSE’s headquarters in the Edward Drake Building to conduct review-related business. There was little improvement in 2022 to NSIRA’s access requirements at CSE. However, as of 2023, NSIRA is piloting limited direct access to CSE’s primary corporate document repository, GCDOCS. Issues remain and NSIRA is not in a position to assess the pilot project’s utility. In some instances, CSE has improved its responsiveness to NSIRA information requests in terms of timeliness, although some challenges remain with the quality of responses. NSIRA continues to work diligently with CSE to address these concerns.

Department of National Defence

Discussions continue with respect to developing dedicated office space and access to networks. While there has been little advancement on longer-term solutions, DND/CAF has worked with NSIRA to provide access to relevant documents, including sensitive files. DND/CAF has provided good access to facilities and people. Generally, responses to requests for information have been timely; however, a lack of proactiveness in DND/CAF disclosures has required NSIRA to send additional requests to ensure completeness and accuracy of information. Overall, the communication between NSIRA and DND/CAF has been constructive.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The past year was marked by inconsistencies in the RCMP’s responsiveness to NSIRA’s requests for information. The RCMP has taken steps to add to its capacity to respond to NSIRA, and this has yielded positive results. NSIRA does not have direct access to information systems but has been granted access to the files relevant to the matters under review. NSIRA has, on multiple occasions, had to send additional requests to ensure the completeness of files provided. In most cases, materials are reviewed on site in the dedicated NSIRA office space that has been provided within RCMP Headquarters. Despite challenges earlier in the year, NSIRA generally had access to people, including RCMP regular members who are experts in the areas under review. Overall, the engagement between NSIRA and the RCMP has seen improvements.

Global Affairs Canada

GAC has been responsive to NSIRA’s requests, made effort to clarify requests, and facilitated all meetings requested. During the review of departmental implementation of the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act for 2021, GAC provided NSIRA with documents requested within a reasonable time frame. NSIRA did not have direct access to GAC systems, however this did not have an impact on NSIRA’s ability to verify information or access sensitive files as GAC was able to transfer all materials requested either by email or through their secure portal.

Canada Border Services Agency

The CBSA has provided NSIRA with adequate access to information and people. Some challenges in terms of timeliness were resolved promptly after NSIRA sent notice of a pending advisory letter. These challenges appear to be related to the CBSA’s lengthy approval process for the release of documents to NSIRA. NSIRA does not have direct access to CBSA systems, but this has not impeded NSIRA’s access to sensitive files. Overall, the CBSA has been responsive to NSIRA requests, ensuring that CBSA employees are available to answer NSIRA’s questions.

Refining NSIRA’s confidence statements

Assessing responsiveness and verification

NSIRA continues to place importance on assessing the overall quality and efficiency of its interactions with reviewees. Previously, NSIRA captured this assessment in a “confidence statement,” which provided important additional context to the review, apprising readers of the extent to which NSIRA was able to verify necessary or relevant information, and therefore whether its confidence in the information was impacted. These statements were also informed by aspects such as access to information systems and delays in receiving requested information.

NSIRA has further refined and standardized its approach for evaluating the key aspects of its interactions with reviewees and going forward will evaluate the following criteria during each review:

  • timeliness of responses to requests for information;
  • quality of responses to requests for information;
  • access to systems;
  • access to people;
  • access to facilities;
  • professionalism; and
  • proactiveness.
Follow-up on timeliness and advisory letters

NSIRA’s 2021 public annual report committed to addressing the ongoing struggle for timely responses from reviewees for requested information. During the past year, all delays have been captured by a request for information tracking system. The results inform one of the criteria discussed above. Additionally, NSIRA continues to leverage its three-staged approach to address continued delays by sending advisory letters to senior officials and ultimately respective Ministers should delays persist. This advisory tool was used at five occasions in 2022, three of which were sent to CSE, and two to the RCMP.

Advisory letters sent to a reviewee during a review may be appended to the final report for both the appropriate minister’s and the public’s awareness of such delays. Combined with the updated assessment criteria discussed above, NSIRA works to provide transparency and awareness of both the challenges and successes on interactions with those reviewed.

Complaints investigations

4.1 Overview

In the three years since its establishment, NSIRA has focused on reforming the investigative process for complaints and developing procedures and practices to ensure the conduct of investigations is fair, timely and transparent. NSIRA previously reported on the creation of its Rules of Procedure, on its policy to commit to the publishing of redacted investigation reports, and on the implementation of the use of video technology. In the past year, NSIRA streamlined its jurisdictional assessment phase and its investigative process through the increased use of investigative interviews as the principal means of fact finding. These developments enabled NSIRA to deal with a significant volume of complaints over this reporting period.

After receiving a complaint, NSIRA must evaluate whether it is within NSIRA’s jurisdiction to investigate based on conditions stated in the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act). For complaints against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), NSIRA must be satisfied that the complaint against the respondent organization refers to an activity carried out by the organization and that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious. For complaints referred from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), NSIRA must receive and investigate a complaint referred to it under subsection 45.53(4.1) or 45.67(2.1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act if satisfied that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith. For security clearance denials, with impacts upon individuals as set out in the NSIRA Act, NSIRA must receive and investigate the complaint.

NSIRA has developed a robust process to review and independently verify respondent organization information, mindful of the interests of the complainant and the security imperatives of the organization.

In the past, the Security Intelligence Review Committee routinely dealt with complaints related to CSIS by recourse to formal hearings. While NSIRA retains this statutory power, it has sought to make increasing use of interviews to ascertain the evidence required to fully investigate and consider complaints. Considering the security constraints that limit the disclosure of information to complainants during formal hearings, investigative interviews permit NSIRA access to information in a timely manner and are expected to decrease the length of time toresolve complaints. This will be important as NSIRA deals with an increased complaint case load owing to its mandate (which includes complaints related to CSIS, CSE, RCMP and security clearances), as well as delays resulting from COVID-19 impacts over the last three years.

4.2 Ongoing initiatives

NSIRA has committed to establishing service standards for the investigation of complaints, with the goal of completing 90% of investigations within NSIRA service standards by March 2024. During 2022, NSIRA began developing these service standards, which also aim to encourage prompt and efficient administrative decision-making. The service standards will set internal time limits for certain investigative steps for each type of complaint, under normal circumstances. The service standards will specify the circumstances under which those time limits do not apply. The development of the service standards includes tracking and data collection on whether NSIRA is meeting its own service standards in the investigation of complaints. NSIRA will finalize and publish its service standards in 2023 and is committed to reporting on whether they were met.

For the year ahead, NSIRA will continue to improve its website to promote accessibility to the investigation of complaints. More specifically, NSIRA will develop an online password-protected portal through which complainants will be able to submit complaints and receive updates on the status of their file.

NSIRA began the last phase of the study on race-based data and the collection of demographic information jointly commissioned with the CRCC. The study is assessing the viability of the collection of identity-based and demographic data as part of the CRCC’s ongoing anti-racism initiatives. Improved, more precise and more consistent tracking, collection and measurement of data is necessary to support anti-racism efforts in government. In completing the study, the CRCC and NSIRA will be informed on:

  • meaningful and purposeful data collection;
  • challenges with the collection of data;
  • perspective on how the data collected can be applied to address any potential systemic barriers in NSIRA’s investigations process and its anti-racism initiatives; and
  • public sentiment of the retention of identity-based data.

NSIRA notes that some reforms to its legislation would make it easier to fulfill its investigations mandate. Among these would include an allowance for NSIRA members to have jurisdiction to complete any complaint investigation files they have begun, even if their appointment term expires. Broadened rights of access to individuals and premises of reviewed organizations would enhance verification activities.

4.3 Investigation report summaries

Allegations against CSIS’s role in delaying security assessments regarding permanent resident and temporary resident visa applications (07-403-30)

Background

The complainants filed a complaint against CSIS alleging that it caused delays in their permanent resident and temporary resident visa applications.

Investigations

During NSIRA’s investigation, CSIS provided its advice in relation to the complainants’ permanent resident applications. In light of this information, NSIRA requested confirmation from the complainants regarding whether they still wished to proceed with their complaint. The complainants clarified that they wanted to either receive monetary compensation or an explanation for the delay that occurred in relation to their file.

Conclusion

NSIRA informed the complainants that it does not have the authority to make remedial orders such as requiring CSIS to make monetary compensation to a complainant. However, NSIRA inquired whether CSIS was interested in participating in an informal resolution process to resolve some of or all the issues in the complaint. In the context of NSIRA’s informal resolution process, information was provided to the complainants regarding CSIS’s involvement in their permanent resident and temporary resident visa applications. NSIRA attempted to communicate with the complainants on several occasions to determine whether they had any questions that would assist in clarifying the circumstances of their complaint.

NSIRA determined that reasonable attempts had been made to communicate with the complainants and issued reasons deeming the complaint abandoned as per NSIRA’s Rules of Procedure. The complaint investigation file was closed.

Allegations against CSIS, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, and Public Safety Canada in relation to their role in processing immigration applications (07-405-1 et al.)

Background

Under subsection 45(2) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) referred 58 individual and group complaints to NSIRA. This matter constituted the first time NSIRA had received a section 45 referral from the CHRC.

The complainants, Iranian nationals, alleged that the Government of Canada discriminated against them on the basis of national or ethnic origin or race due to the delays in the processing of their temporary or permanent residency visa, or Canadian citizenship.

Under section 46 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, NSIRA is obliged to conduct an investigation and return a report to the CHRC. It further provides that on NSIRA’s report, the CHRC may dismiss the complaint or proceed to deal with the complaint.

NSIRA’s role in section 45 referrals is confined to scrutinizing the components of a matter that are based on considerations relating to the security of Canada and report findings of its investigation into classified information to the CHRC in an unclassified manner. NSIRA does not possess the authority to exercise the CHRC’s statutory discretion to refer the matter to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Investigation

During its investigation, NSIRA considered the evidence given by witnesses and submissions of their counsel during an investigative interview, and the documentation and submissions submitted by the government parties, including classified documents disclosed to NSIRA by CSIS, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Public Safety Canada.

Importantly, NSIRA heard evidence from the government parties in relation to a particular mandatory indicator developed by the CBSA and used by IRCC officers in deciding referrals for security screening of Iranian immigration applications. Prior to reforms made by August 2018, one indicator was based entirely on Iranian nationality, coupled only with the age and sex of the applicant. Where an applicant met the criteria, IRCC officers would automatically refer the file to the CBSA and CSIS for security screening. The evidence showed that the government abandoned mandatory indicators in 2018 because of efficacy concerns and because it contributed to delays.

NSIRA further noted that IRCC did not keep a record of the particular indicator on which the referral was based. This hindered NSIRA’s ability to investigate the other indicators that may have affected the processing of a complainant’s immigration application. That being said, NSIRA acknowledged that an indicator tracking code system was being piloted at the time of the investigative interview. This technical solution would allow for the tracking of the IRCC officers’ decisions to refer immigration applications for security screening through a coding system identifying the reason for the referral.

Conclusion

NSIRA found that:

  • the mandatory age and sex indicator used by IRCC in processing immigration applications until May 2018 relied exclusively on nationality, age and sex, which are listed as prohibited grounds of discrimination in section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • the mandatory age and sex indicator produced a disadvantage (including in terms of delays) to those Iranians who were subjected to security screening and to those whose own files were linked to these applicants;
  • at the material times at issue in this matter, the application of that mandatory indicator was not justifiable on national security grounds; and
  • the security screening process applicable to citizenship applications in this matter did not produce a disadvantage based on grounds enumerated in the Canadian Human Rights Act, as citizenship applications received by IRCC are sent to CSIS for security screening, regardless of the applicant’s country of birth.

NSIRA submitted its report to the CHRC so that it can assess whether there is a reasonable basis in the evidence for a referral to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal or whether to dismiss the complaints.

Investigation of a complaint regarding the revocation of a security clearance by the Chief of the Defence Staff (1170-17-7)

Background

The complainant was a regular force soldier who held a Top-Secret security clearance. The results of the complainant’s polygraph examination, although not exclusively relied on, were the primary influence in the security assessments of the complainant prepared by CSIS and the DND Departmental Security Officer. As a result of those assessments, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) revoked the complainant’s security clearance. The complainant filed a complaint with NSIRA against the CDS over the revocation of the security clearance.

Investigation

During the Investigation, NSIRA heard from government witnesses from DND and CSIS about the polygraph examination, the investigation into the complainant, and the process leading to the revocation of the complainant’s security clearance. In addition to the oral evidence, the government parties filed documents and made submissions. NSIRA also considered the oral evidence and written submissions provided by the complainant.

NSIRA reviewed all of the evidence it received to determine whether there were reasonable grounds for the CDS to revoke the complainant’s security clearance and to ensure the accuracy of the information the CDS used to reach the decision to revoke.

NSIRA found several deficiencies in the way the complainant’s polygraph was handled, reported and disseminated. In addition, NSIRA found that exculpatory facts were not contextualized nor placed before the CDS prior to the decision to revoke.

Conclusion

NSIRA found that the information the CDS relied on to make the decision to revoke was not accurate. As a result, the decision to revoke the clearance was not reasonable.

NSIRA recommended that CSIS apologize to the complainant for the manner in which the polygraph was handled, reported and disseminated and that the CDS revisit the decision to revoke the complainant’s security clearance.

Review of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s report regarding a public complaint (07-407-3)

Background

The complainant filed a complaint with the CRCC related to the conduct of members of the RCMP. The complainant alleged that the RCMP carried out an unjustified and arbitrary arrest of their minor son, conducted a zealous and abusive search of the family home, and publicized the arrest.

In addition, the complainant alleged that the RCMP disclosed information to U.S. authorities, stated that the complainant’s son’s arrest form would be forgotten and destroyed, and violated the son’s safety and that of his family, their constitutional rights and their whistleblower rights.

The RCMP concluded, in a report sent to the complainant pursuant to section 45.64 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act), that the members had acted appropriately and consequently did not support any of the complainant’s allegations.

The complainant referred their complaint to the CRCC for review as they were not satisfied with the RCMP’s findings. The CRCC referred the complaint to NSIRA pursuant to subsection 45.53(4.1) of the RCMP Act.

Investigation

NSIRA determined that it had jurisdiction to review the request for review of the RCMP’s report under section 19 of the NSIRA Act.

NSIRA’s investigation included a review of:

  • the complaint;
  • the complainant’s request for review filed with the CRCC;
  • the RCMP investigation file related to the complaint, including documents provided by the complainant during the investigation; and
  • the RCMP’s operational file related to the complaint, including numerous audio and video recordings, as well as relevant policies and legislation.
Conclusion

NSIRA found that the RCMP’s conclusions in its report were reasonable.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, NSIRA pointed out to the RCMP the importance of the decision- maker and signatory of an RCMP report having no prior involvement with the file that is the subject of the complaint, in addition to the importance of complete and contemporaneous notetaking.

4.4 Statistics on complaints investigations

Investigation activity continued at significant levels in 2022 (see Annex D). One noteworthy difference in activity from 2021 to 2022 was the significant decline in the number of active investigations: from 81 in 2021 to 19 in this reporting period. This decrease is largely attributed to a referral of close to 60 related files from the CHRC, which were dealt with during this reporting period.

Under section 16 of the NSIRA Act, any person may make a complaint to NSIRA with respect to any activity carried out by CSIS; section 17 covers complaints related to CSE activities. However, for NSIRA to be able to accept a complaint, the complainant to CSIS must first send a letter of complaint to the Director of CSIS; for CSE complaints, a letter must first be sent to the CSE Chief. NSIRA will investigate the complaint if the complainant has not received a response within a period of time that NSIRA considers reasonable or if the complainant is dissatisfied with the response given. In that regard, NSIRA observed that in 2022, 53% of complainants did not receive a letter from CSIS in response to their letter of complaint to the Director of CSIS.

There is a need to increase awareness and understanding on the part of members of the public and complainants on NSIRA’s investigative mandate and process. For example, NSIRA members do not have the ability to make remedial orders, such as compensation, or to order a government department to pay damages to complainants. NSIRA continues to make improvements to its public website to raise this awareness and better inform the public and complainants on the investigations mandate and investigative procedures it follows.

Expanding NSIRA partnerships

NSIRA believes that establishing a community of practice in the business of independent review and oversight is essential and is actively contributing to this effort. During the past year, it resumed and expanded its engagement with valuable partners, both domestically and internationally, and has already reaped the benefits of these efforts.

International partnerships

NSIRA has identified international relationships with counterparts as a priority for its institutional development. During the past year, NSIRA benefited from excellent free-flowing and extensive interactions with its closest international partners. A better understanding of the parameters of the review and oversight activities of NSIRA’s international counterparts, and sharing best practices, are vital to the agency’s growth.

Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council

Since its inception, NSIRA has been an active participant in the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council. The council comprises agencies with an oversight and review mandate concerning the national security activities in their respective countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). NSIRA participates alongside the Office of the Intelligence Commissioner as Canada’s delegation to the council. The group meets annually, and NSIRA participated in the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council conference in Washington D.C. in 2022. NSIRA has the distinct pleasure of hosting council partners in Ottawa in fall 2023.

NSIRA also frequently engages bilaterally with council partners at the working level. These exchanges allow NSIRA to better understand critical issues impacting its work, compare challenges and best practices in review and oversight methodology, and discuss views on subjects of mutual interest and concern. For instance, learning about council partners’ information access rights, and the legal framework enabling such access, has helped to contextualize some of NSIRA’s own access challenges.

NSIRA met with one of its council partners, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office in London, U.K. The Commissioner’s office has a broad mandate of activities that includes, among others, approving warrants authorized by the Secretary of State and the independent oversight of the use of the powers by the U.K.’s security and intelligence community. The multi-day meetings provided an opportunity to better understand each other’s respective organizations, exchange ideas and share best practices. NSIRA met with a number of departments with whom the Commissioner’s office engages and shadowed a day-long inspection carried out by the Commissioner’s office. Of particular interest was the Commissioner’s office’s approach for following up on the implementation of recommendations it provides and its insights on the production of annual reports. Support for this important partnership continues, and NSIRA has further engaged with Commissioner’s office staff to cement this strong relationship.

NSIRA was also able to complete working-level visits to the office of Australia’s Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security and to offices of some members of the U.S. inspector general community in Washington.

Additional European engagement

NSIRA also participated in the International Intelligence Oversight Forum, which brings together oversight, review and data protection agencies from all over the world. The event was productive and NSIRA had the additional benefit of constructive bilateral exchanges with participating institutions.

As part of its efforts to build strong relationships with continental European counterparts in like- minded jurisdictions with strong accountability mechanisms, NSIRA visited the Norwegian Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Security Services, the Danish Intelligence Oversight Board, the Netherlands’ Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services, and the Swiss Independent Oversight Authority for Intelligence Activities.

Each of these highly productive visits allowed NSIRA to learn from these partners and make its work more visible within this review community.

Stronger domestic coordination

NSIRA continued to invest in strengthening relationships with key domestic partners — the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and the Office of the Intelligence Commissioner, as well as the various agents of Parliament who play a key role in government accountability.

NSIRA and NSICOP have complementary roles in enhancing accountability for federal national security and intelligence activities and are required by law to cooperate in the fulfillment of their respective mandates. Regular cooperation meetings are held at various levels and the two agencies continue to refine ways to cooperate and coordinate. NSIRA and NSICOP have supported each other’s work by communicating regularly on review plans to avoid duplication and to make adjustments where required. These coordination efforts contributed to NSIRA’s decision to cease work on an RCMP encryption review. NSIRA has also provided, after ministerial consultation, many of its final reports to NSICOP. For its part, NSICOP has provided NSIRA with its classified reports and background briefings. These exchanges have allowed both organizations to refine their review topics and methodologies. NSICOP’s and NSIRA’s legal teams have also engaged productively, with a view to working through common access challenges, among other things. These frequent and in-depth exchanges serve as an important foundation for a cohesive and robust national security and intelligence review apparatus, and NSIRA and NSICOP enjoy a level of cooperation that is among the strongest of their international counterparts.

As discussed under Ongoing initiatives, NSIRA and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP have jointly commissioned a study on race-based data and the collection of demographic information. This study will inform each organization’s approach to developing and implementing an identity-based data strategy in the context of its complaints investigations. The study is currently in its last phase and is expected to be completed in fiscal year 2023–2024.

In 2022, the NSIRA Secretariat joined a network of legal professionals from across the various agents of Parliament. As a separate agency and separate employer mandated with supporting independent oversight, NSIRA’s Secretariat benefits from collaborating with this community of practice through discussions on legal issues of common interest, professional development and knowledge transfer initiatives.

Emerging cooperation in technology

Building partnerships allows NSIRA’s growing Technology Directorate to gather diverse perspectives, collaborate on common goals, refine methodologies, and build on established best practices. In 2022, the team focused on building relationships with peers who share mandates on technical topics, such as privacy-enhancing technologies, automated decision- making and service design. Within Canada, this included collaboration with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s Technology Analysis Directorate, the artificial intelligence team at the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, and the Canadian Digital Service.

International and academic collaborations offered access to rich technical knowledge and expertise of other review and oversight bodies. Knowledge management, talent retention and evolving technical capabilities became the focal point of regular engagement with teams at the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, Australia’s Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and the Norwegian Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Security Services. Finally, 2022 gave rise to NSIRA’s external research program aimed at informing and supporting reviews already in progress with relevant and timely technical expertise. Building on the past year’s efforts, the Technology Directorate intends to continue developing domestic and international partnerships, including expanding its network with academics, civil society and commercial leaders to ensure key technological issues factor into its approaches.

Conclusions

As NSIRA fulfills its role within Canada’s security and intelligence landscape, it is continually motivated by the vital importance of its mandate. This is expressed through each review and complaint investigation completed. In executing its mission in 2022, NSIRA continued to build best practices across the agency. This ongoing growth and evolution position it well to take on new challenges.

As the agency’s experience grows so too does its knowledge, and it is confident in its ability to be a leading voice in the review and investigations discourse. Partnerships and engagement with reviewees are maturing, and NSIRA is already reaping the benefits of significant effort on both fronts. Applying lessons learned from these partnerships allows NSIRA to iterate and improve its processes and approaches. While there is there is still much work ahead, the results are encouraging.

As NSIRA’s members consider the agency’s accomplishments this past year, they are proud of the diligence and enthusiasm that Secretariat staff have demonstrated. NSIRA has risen to the challenge of changing circumstances and growth and have done so with an outstanding professionalism. The agency looks forward to the year ahead as it carries on with its important work.

Annexes

Annex A: Abbreviations

Abbreviation Full Name
ACA Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act
ACO active cyber operations
CAF Canadian Armed Forces
CBSA Canada Border Services Agency
Cyber Centre Canadian Centre for Cyber Security
CDS Chief of the Defence Staff
CHRC Canadian Human Rights Commission
CII Canadian-identifying information
CRA Canada Revenue Agency
CRCC Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP
CSE Communications Security Establishment
CSIS Canadian Security Intelligence Service
DCO defensive cyber operations
DLS Directorate of Legal Services
DND Department of National Defence
DOJ Department of Justice
FINTRAC Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre
FIRAC Foreign Information Risk Advisory Committee
GAC Global Affairs Canada
IRCC Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
IRTC Information relating to a Canadian or a person in Canada
IT Information technology
JPAF Joint Planning and Authorities Framework
MA Ministerial Authorization
NSICOP National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians
NSIRA National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
NSLAG National Security Litigation and Advisory Group (Justice)
PS Public Safety Canada
RCMP Royal Canadian Mounted Police
SCIDA Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act
SIGINT Signals intelligence
TRM Threat reduction measure

Annex B: Financial overview, staffing, achievements and priorities

Financial overview

The NSIRA Secretariat is organized according to two main business lines: Mandate Management and Internal Services. The table below presents a comparison of spending between 2021 and 2022 for each of these two business lines.

(In dollars) Expenditures (2022) Expenditures (2021)
Mandate Management 7,679,950 7,523,552
Internal Services 11,033,465
8,926,178
Total 18,713,415 16,449,730

In the 2022 calendar year, the Secretariat spent $18.7 million, a $2.3 million (14%) increase from the $16.4 million spent in 2021. This spending increase is mainly attributed to the ramping up of a large infrastructure project and an increased use of external services for corporate activities.

Staffing

As of June 30, 2023, NSIRA Secretariat staff complement stood at 76. In an attempt to address hiring and retention challenges, the Secretariat implemented several initiatives including the introduction of an internal development program for its mandate management sector employees. The Program aims at promoting existing employees once they acquire the level of knowledge and competencies required to be promoted. The program is individualized, informed by regular review of progress in the achievement of core knowledge and competencies expectations. The Secretariat has also launched a program to hire recent Ph D. graduates in fields of expertise that are of interests to NSIRA’s mandate.

The Secretariat also continues to use modern and flexible staffing strategies, procedures and practices. It has adapted its operations and activities to allow, to the extent possible, a flexible hybrid work model.

Clearer articulation of its core competency profiles, operational methodologies and practices also enabled a more effective integration and onboarding of employees into the organization.

Having hired a dedicated employee responsible for the implementation of an employee wellness agenda combined with an active Mental Health and Wellness Committee, several initiatives have been delivered in an aim to foster workplace well-being and increased interactions between employees.

Progress on foundational initiatives

Accessibility, employment equity, diversity, and inclusion

Informed by its three-year action plan and its commitments to the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Secretariat’s internal committee responsible for accessibility, employment equity, diversity and inclusion invited guests and led discussions aimed at increasing awareness, celebrating the Secretariat’s diverse workforce, and identifying barriers and solutions with respect to these themes.

NSIRA also took concrete steps as part of its mandated activities to include, among other things, a Gender-based Analysis Plus lens into the design and implementation of its policies and programs. As a result, NSIRA’s renewed forward-looking review plan is informed by considerations related to anti-racism, equity and inclusion. These considerations apply to the process of selecting reviews to undertake, as well as to the analysis that takes place within individual reviews. NSIRA reviews routinely consider the potential for national security or intelligence activities to result in disparate outcomes for various communities and will continue to do so in the year ahead.

In 2022, NSIRA also continued to work with another review body to develop strategies for the collection, analysis and use of identity-based data. The goal of the exercise is to rely on public consultations to determine how the public perceives the collection, analysis and use of identity- based data in relation to mandate.

Finally, the Secretariat also developed and posted its inaugural accessibility plan on NSIRA’s external website. The plan outlines the steps that will be taken over the next three years to increase physical and information accessibility, both for employees within the organization as well as for Canadians more generally.

Facilities projects, technology and security

The Secretariat is in the process of retrofitting additional workspace to enable it to accommodate all its employees within the confines of one building. The construction phase is expected to be completed late in 2023. Over the course of 2022, the Secretariat worked closely with lead security agencies to ensure the fit-up meets best practices and established standards.

Transparency and privacy

The Secretariat continues to promote transparency by dedicating resources to redact, declassify and release previous reports from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, in addition to proactively releasing NSIRA’s reviews. In 2022, a major upgrade to NSIRA’s external website was initiated with the goal of increasing access to information including access to redacted review reports and recommendations. It is expected that the website will be released in 2023.

From a privacy perspective, the NSIRA Secretariat continued to make progress further to the privacy impact assessment exercise conducted in fiscal year 2021-2022 in relation to review activities and internal services. It also initiated a privacy impact assessment for the investigations function. This work is expected to be completed in fiscal year 2023-2024.

Considering the importance of privacy as part of its activities, NSIRA took concrete steps to implement best practices to protect the privacy of individuals as part of complaints investigations and as part of the conduct of reviews.

Annex C: Review findings and recommendations

This annex lists the full findings and recommendations for the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) reviews completed in 2022, as well as reviewees’ management responses to NSIRA’s recommendations, to the fullest extent possible at the time of publication. NSIRA will update such information from all reviews when they are published on its website.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service review

Threat Reduction Measures Annual Review

NSIRA’s findings

NSIRA finds that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS’s) use of its TRM mandate in 2021 was broadly consistent with its use in preceding years.

For all the cases reviewed, NSIRA finds that CSIS met its obligations under the law, specifically the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and sections 12.1 and 12.2 of the CSIS Act.

For all the cases reviewed, NSIRA finds that CSIS sufficiently established a “rational link”between the proposed measure and the identified threat.

For Case 1 and Case 2, NSIRA finds that CSIS met its obligations under the 2015 Ministerial Direction for Operations and Accountability and the 2019 Ministerial Direction for Accountability issued by the Minister of Public Safety.

For Case 3, NSIRA finds that CSIS did not meet its obligations under the 2015 Ministerial Direction for Operations and Accountability and the 2019 Ministerial Direction for Accountability issued by the Minister of Public Safety.

With respect to legal risk assessments, NSIRA finds that greater specificity regarding legal risks, and direction as to how said risks could be mitigated and/or avoided, resulted in more detailed outcome reporting vis-à-vis legal compliance.

For Case 2 and Case 3, NSIRA finds that CSIS did not meet its obligations with respect to one requirement of its Conduct of Operations, Section 12.1 Threat Reduction Measures, Version 4. CSIS did not meet its internal policy requirements regarding the timelines to submit TRM implementation reports.

For Case 3, NSIRA finds that the Intended Outcome Report was not completed in a timely manner.

NSIRA finds that current policy for the completion of Strategic Impact Reports may inhibit the timely production of important information.

NSIRA’s recommendations

Recommendation
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that formal legal risk assessments be conducted for TRMs involving [*sensitive factors*].
Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that CSIS consider and evaluate whether legal risk assessments under TRM Modernization comply with applicable ministerial direction.
Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that CSIS work with the Department of Justice to ensure that legal risk assessments include clear and specific direction regarding possible legal risks and how they can be avoided/mitigated during implementation of the TRM.

Recommendation 4: NSIRA recommends that Implementation Reports specify how the legal risks identified in the legal risk assessment were avoided/mitigated during implementation of the TRM.

Recommendation 5: NSIRA recommends that CSIS specify in its Conduct of Operations, Section 12.1 Threat Reduction Measures when the Intended Outcome Report is required, as it does for the Strategic Impact Report.
Recommendation 6: NSIRA recommends that CSIS integrate in policy a requirement that the Strategic Impact Report be completed at the expiry of the TRM authority.

Communications Security Establishment reviews

Review of the Communications Security Establishment’s Governance of Active and Defensive Cyber Operations — Part 2

NSIRA’s recommendations

NSIRA finds that the Global Affairs Canada Foreign Policy Risk Assessment process, as well as the related international legal assessment, improved since the Governance Review, for Communications Security Establishment (CSE) active cyber operations (ACOs) and defensive cyber operations (DCOs).

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada does not have capability to independently assess potential risks resulting from the techniques used in CSE ACOs and DCOs.

NSIRA finds that CSE and the Department of Justice demonstrated a thorough understanding of section 32 of the CSE Act. However, CSE does not appropriately consult with the Department of Justice at the [*specific step*]15 stage to ensure that the assessment of legal compliance remains valid.

NSIRA finds that CSE’s applications for authorizations issued under subsections 29(1) and 30(1) of the CSE Act for [*description*] activities did not include all the available information relevant to a meaningful assessment of the requirements in subsections 34(1) and (4) of the CSE Act.

NSIRA finds that there is potential for overlap between CSE and CSIS activities in the context of capabilities used by CSE to conduct its ACOs and DCOs. However, CSE did not consistentlyconsult with CSIS about CSE’s cyber operations.

NSIRA finds that despite close collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, and the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces on ACOs and DCOs, CSE did not demonstrate consistent engagement with CSIS or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to determine whether the objective of an ACO or DCO could not reasonably be achieved by other means.

NSIRA finds that the Chief’s applications for active and defensive cyber operations activities for the period of review did not accurately describe the relationship between a cyber operation, and intelligence collection.

NSIRA finds that, in its [*a specific document*], CSE did not always provide clarity pertaining to foreign intelligence missions.

NSIRA finds that CSE’s ACOs and DCOs that were planned or conducted prior to July 30, 2021,including the case studies analyzed in this report, were lawful.

NSIRA finds that there is significant overlap between activities conducted under the ACO and DCO aspects of CSE’s mandate, as well as between all four aspects of CSE’s mandate.

NSIRA’s recommendations, and CSE response

Recommendation CSE and GAC Response (June 21st , 2023)
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that Global Affairs Canada develop or otherwise leverage capability to enable it to independently assess potential risks resulting from the techniques used in CSE ACOs and DCOs. Disagree. CSE and GAC disagree with this recommendation.
In accordance with the CSE-GAC Governance Framework, GAC assesses CSE cyber operations for foreign policy risks and compliance with international law. CSE’s internal risk assessment process assesses the cyber operation for technical risks based on the techniques used.
Just as CSE relies upon GAC to provide expertise in foreign policy and international law, GAC relies upon CSE to provide expertise on technologies and techniques at the forefront of development.
Accurate assessment of all risks from a cyber operation relies on the continuation of open and honest dialogue and trust between GAC and CSE. As such, CSE will continue to share information with GAC on techniques, whenever their use may have an impact on GAC’s foreign policy risk assessment.
Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that the Department Justice be fully consulted at all stages of an ACO or DCO, particularly prior to operational execution. Agree in principle. CSE agrees with this recommendation in principle.
CSE believes that the advice and guidance provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ) representatives embedded in CSE's Directorate of Legal Services (DLS) is integral to CSE's success. CSE consults with DLS at all relevant stages of a cyber operation. As a matter of practice, CSE consults DLS throughout the Joint Planning and Authorities Framework (JPAF) process and at a key stage, and more consultation is conducted when an activity is new or novel.
Internal tools developed by DLS are used to ensure that activities do not contravene the prohibitions set out in the CSE Act and assist analysts in identifying when a higher risk necessitates further legal review. Additionally, CSE's internal operational policy team is consulted on all key stages.
Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that CSE abandon the practice of generic ACO and DCO applications to the Minister of National Defence, and instead submit individual applications. Disagree. CSE and GAC disagree with this recommendation.
When submitting an application for these particular ACO and DCO Ministerial Authorizations (MAs), CSE and GAC always ensure that the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of foreign Affairs are provided with a sufficient amount of information to make an informed decision as to whether CSE’s proposed activities are reasonable and proportionate against a specific set of objectives. To that end, these particular ACO and DCO MAs are structured around key objectives in countering a number of well-defined threats globally. In that sense, they are not “generic”, but their scope is broad enough to give CSE the flexibility to act against a wide range of targets, when the identity of threat actor or the location and context is unknown at the time of application.
For any operations assessed as falling under the authority of these MAs, the current governance framework allows for appropriate risk management of operations. CSE provides GAC with detailed mission plans for each operation, which allows for a proper assessment of foreign policy risks associated with CSE’s cyber operations.
Following Recommendation no. 1 from the Governance review (FCO 1), CSE and GAC increased the amount of information included in the 2021 application for this MA. The level of detail was improved further in the 2022 application. Moreover, CSE and GAC work collaboratively on any new MAs to both ensure that relevant foreign policy objectives are reflected and that authorized operations are sufficiently scoped. Whenever an activity does not fit within the category covered by these MAs, CSE will submit a new application specific to that circumstance.
Recommendation 4: NSIRA recommends that CSE always engage with CSIS, the RCMP, and any other federal departments or agencies as to whether those departments are in a position to reasonably achieve the objective of a cyber operation.
Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.
CSE values the importance of consulting with all relevant Government of Canada stakeholders. During the planning of operations, CSE has and will continue to strengthen its collaborative relationships with its partners, including engaging with CSIS, RCMP, and other relevant federal departments or agencies whose mandates may intersect with a planned ACO or DCO.
Recommendation 5: NSIRA recommends that the Chief’s applications for active and defensive cyber operations inform the Minister of National Defence that acquisition of information under a valid foreign intelligence, cybersecurity, or emergency authorization, [*description*]. Agree. CSE and GAC agree with this recommendation.
This recommendation has already been addressed in the applications for the 2022-23 ACO and DCO Ministerial Authorizations.
Recommendation 6: NSIRA recommends that documentation prepared as part of the CSE’s cyber operations framework provide clear links to all known applicable foreign intelligence (or cybersecurity) missions. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.
Since the period under review, and partially stemming from NSIRA recommendations issued in the Governance review (FCO 1), CSE has implemented this change into its cyber operations framework. Under the current framework, the documentation now includes links to s.16 or s.17 operations that are directly relevant to a s.18 or s.19 cyber operation.
Recommendation 7: NSIRA recommends that CSE continue to refine, and to define, the distinctions between activities conducted under different aspects of its mandate, particularly between ACO and DCO activities, but also with regard to foreign intelligence and cybersecurity activities. Agree in principle. CSE agrees with this recommendation in principle.
CSE agrees with the principle of understanding the nuances of its mandate. The CSE Act (ss.15-20) expressly distinguishes between the five aspects of the mandate. Operations are planned with an understanding of the scope and boundaries of the authorizing aspect of the mandate. CSE works closely with the Directorate of Legal Services (DLS) and its Operational Policy team to ensure that operations are planned and conducted under the appropriate authorities.
In the body of its report, NSIRA acknowledges both the clarity of the Act and of CSE’s ability to explain why an operation should be authorized under a particular aspect of the mandate. CSE’s policies and procedures governing the planning and conduct of operations rely on the distinction between aspects of the mandate. CSE’s Mission Policy Suite addresses each aspect of the mandate and provides a distinction between ACOs and DCOs. The cyber operations framework provides for planning documentation that sets out why the objectives and nature of the planned operation align with the authorities of an ACO versus a DCO, notwithstanding the techniques being applied. Finally, CSE is in the process of launching updated legal and policy training to its operational staff.

Foreign intelligence review

NSIRA’s findings

NSIRA finds that CSE has not updated the Minister of National Defence since [*year*] on its relationship with a foreign partner.

NSIRA finds that in the context of a joint operation, CSE’s analytic exchanges with a partner did not comply with all of CSE’s internal policy requirements relating to such exchanges with its partners.

NSIRA finds that CSE’s applications to the Minister of National Defence for Foreign Intelligence Authorizations did not describe the full extent of CSE’s involvement in [*specific activity*].

NSIRA finds that CSE did not appropriately apply its Mistreatment Risk Assessment process to information shared with a foreign partner. CSE conducted a mistreatment risk assessment only after having already shared substantial information with the partner.

NSIRA finds that CSE did not appropriately justify its mistreatment risk for targets of an operation.

[*Finding not releasable in public report*]

NSIRA finds that CSE does not have a mechanism to obtain timely and concrete verification ofa person’s Canadian status in order to verify that it is not directing its activities at Canadians.

NSIRA finds that CSE has not developed policies and procedures to govern its participation in [*specific activity*].

NSIRA finds that CSE’s contributions to operations with its partners are not governed by any written arrangements with operational activities.

NSIRA finds that CSE’s contributions to operations led by a partner have not been accompanied with the operational planning and risk assessment as described by CSE to the Minister of National Defence.

NSIRA finds that CSE does not obtain operational plans or risk assessments developed by its partners leading the operations, nor contributes to the development of these plans or their associated parameters.

NSIRA finds that CSE’s application for the Authorization did not inform the Minister of National Defence that it intends to conduct testing and evaluation activities under the authority of the Authorization.

NSIRA’s recommendations, and CSE response

Recommendation CSE and GAC Response (March 14th , 2023)
Recommendation 1: CSE should update the Minister of National Defence on of its relationship with a foreign partner. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

CSE concurs and regularly updates the minister on topics of importance, including the status of relationships with international partners.

CSE plans to continue providing comprehensive updates to the Minister on its international engagements and relationships with foreign partners, including the named foreign partner.

Recommendation 2: CSE should comply with the Releasable SIGINT Products requirements pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Mission Policy Suite when conducting analytic exchanges with its partners in the performance of all operational activities. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

CSE recognizes that despite having robust policies, practices, and procedures, improvements can still be made in outreach and training to mission staff. CSE is working on a comprehensive revision of its operational legal and policy training, and will consider this recommendation when developing its compliance plans for 2023–2024.

Recommendation 3: CSE should describe to the Minister of National Defence the full extent of its participation in any activities when applying for Foreign Intelligence Authorizations. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

CSE will include relevant details to clarify [specific activities] in its next Ministerial Authorization application at a level of detail consistent with Ministerial Authorization applications.

Recommendation 4: CSE must perform a Mistreatment Risk Assessment prior to sharing information with [*country*] in accordance with parameters established with the Minister of National Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Privy Council Office in the development of CSE’s working arrangement with this partner. Agree in principle. CSE agrees with this recommendation in principle.

CSE is of the view that its policy instruments are already clear and that there are already established best practices when sharing information with foreign entities about identifiable individuals. CSE continually seeks to improve both the implementation of internal policies, and the training and internal outreach programs for its analysts.

Additionally, it is important to note that there exists a strong mitigating factor in the overarching agreements with [*country*] which contain explicit language regarding how SIGINT may be used, and with explicit prohibitions for purposes that could result in mistreatment.

Recommendation 5: When performing a Mistreatment Risk Assessment, CSE should specify why and how its risk rating applies to each individual implicated in the sharing of information with a foreign partner. Agree in principle. CSE agrees with this recommendation in principle.

Since 2011, CSE has continually refined its mistreatment risk assessment process and documentation. In certain cases where an initial assessment has determined that all of the conditions of information sharing will be identical across a category of individuals in an activity, CSE has determined that a group mistreatment risk assessment appropriately documents the risk profiles for all individuals associated with that activity. In the event that the information sharing conditions change, or specific characteristics related to an individual associated with the activity may change the risk, a separate assessment is conducted.

CSE has continued to improve our documentation to ensure that it better reflects the analysis behind the risk assessment and why a rationale would apply to a group of individuals under a single activity. As CSE’s operational activities continue to evolve, the mistreatment risk assessment process grows to reflect the requirements of those activities.

Recommendation 6: CSE should ensure that a foreignness assessment is completed prior to commencing collection and reporting on individuals. CSE should also develop policy requirements for the documentation, tracking, and management review of foreignness assessments. Agree in principle. CSE agrees with this recommendation in principle.

As part of the SIGINT process, and relying on a combination of policy, administrative, and technological means, CSE already documents a targeting justification demonstrating reasonable grounds to believe that a target is a foreign entity outside Canada. This auditable justification crystallizes the current state of knowledge about the foreignness of a target, at the time of targeting.

In addition, as analysts perform their duties and build knowledge about a target, a foreignness assessment persists throughout SIGINT analysis in a process that is guided by the Mission Policy Suite. Each new fragment of information acquired about a target increases the body of knowledge evaluated by an analyst, including more information about a target’s foreignness that may not have been available at the time of targeting.

If at any point the analyst no longer has reasonable grounds to believe that the target is a foreign entity outside Canada, the analyst must de-target the associated selectors and register a privacy incident with CSE’s Program for Operational Compliance team, who will guide internal processes through any additional required remedial steps, such as purging any collected information. In addition, a citizenship check can also be requested from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) if sufficient information is available.

Recommendation 7: CSE should develop a mechanism with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or other federal institutions as appropriate, to facilitate timely and concrete confirmation of the Canadian status of individuals implicated in CSE’s operational activities. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

This recommendation was previously put forward in the SCIDA 2020 final report. CSE continues to pursue discussions with IRCC for an information sharing agreement. CSE is reengaging at both working and executive levels to facilitate progress.

It should be recognized that in order to produce more accurate results, a citizenship check needs to include specific information regarding an individual target, which is not always available to CSE. In the absence of that information, a citizenship check is not guaranteed to produce conclusive results, and cannot be considered as a concrete confirmation of citizenship status. In addition, it is CSE’s understanding that IRCC databases may not capture Canadians born with Canadian citizenship. The citizenship check process and associated timelines are fully within the jurisdiction of IRCC.

Recommendation 8: CSE should develop policies and procedures to govern its participation in [*specific activities*] within the program. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

CSE remains committed to building robust policy frameworks to govern its activities and ensure that its work continues at the highest level of integrity.

While at the time of review, policies and procedures specific to the program were still in development, CSE’s existing policies and procedures include principles that govern all foreign intelligence activities conducted under CSE authorities, including [*program*].

Recommendation 9: CSE should develop written arrangements with its partners implicated in activities, to set the parameters for collaborating on these activities. Disagree. CSE disagrees with this recommendation.

CSE has enjoyed a uniquely strong relationship with partners for [*amount of time*]. By leveraging shared capabilities, Canada benefits greatly, magnifying its ability to provide quality information exponentially. The cooperation with our partners means that we [*description*], with procedures in place to manage our interactions. CSE’s operations with partners are based on bilateral information sharing and technical cooperation arrangements.

Recommendation 10: When collaborating on an operation with a partner, CSE should prepare an operational plan and conduct a risk assessment associated with the activity with a view to ensuring an operation’s alignment with CSE’s priorities and risk tolerance levels. CSE should also ensure that parameters and any caveats for the partner’s [*specific activity*] be outlined and acknowledged. Agree. CSE agrees with this recommendation.

CSE policy outlines that, when conducting SIGINT operations, including joint operations with a partner, the activity be approved via an operational plan and risk assessment in order to exercise an aspect of the CSE mandate.

Collaboration that involves [*specific activity*] without participating in the resulting operation does not require operational plans or risk assessments to be created at CSE, but rather at the partner agency conducting the operation and adopting the risk. CSE will, however, ensure that the partner agency is aware of and acknowledges any caveats or parameters.

Recommendation 11: When applying for a Ministerial Authorization, CSE should disclose to the Minister any related testing or evaluation activities that it intends to undertake pursuant to paragraph 23(1)(c) of the CSE Act. Disagree. CSE disagrees with this recommendation.

The purpose of a ministerial authorization is to seek authorities for activities that would contravene an Act of Parliament or involve the acquisition of information that interferes with the reasonable expectation of privacy (REP) of a Canadian or any person in Canada. Testing activities, as per s.23(1)(c) of the CSE Act, are not carried out under the authorities of a ministerial authorization if they do not risk contravening an Act of Parliament or do not involve the acquisition of information that interferes with the REP of a Canadian or any person in Canada. In such cases, it is not required to request authorities to conduct testing activities from the Minister through a ministerial authorization. However, at the Chief’s discretion, CSE will inform the Minister of non- ministerial authorization activities through other means.

Paragraph 23(1)(c) provides an exception to CSE’s prohibition on directing its activities at a Canadian or any person in Canada when conducting testing or evaluating products, software and systems. This means that CSE may conduct these activities which will not be considered directed at a Canadian or any person in Canada.

Any foreign intelligence activities, including testing activities, that contravene an Act of Parliament or involve the acquisition of information that interferes with the REP of a Canadian or any person in Canada can only be conducted under the authorities of a ministerial authorization. In such cases, the activities must be conducted under the authorities of an existing ministerial authorization or will require that the Minister issue a new ministerial authorization, and the Minister would be fully informed of the activities being considered before being in a position to approve them.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces Review

Report issued pursuant to section 35 of the NSIRA Act

NSIRA’s finding

The report contained a finding that, in NSIRA’s opinion, certain activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces may not have been in compliance with the law.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF’s) response

DND/CAF recognize the importance of independent, external reviews of the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities. We fully support NSIRA’s review mandate and take all of its reports seriously.

Upon receipt of NSIRA’s section 35 compliance report, DND/CAF conducted a comprehensive analysis and do not agree with NSIRA’s opinion. Our analysis supports that the reviewed activities were conducted in accordance with the law within a robust system of oversight and accountability. Furthermore, an earlier independent external review was consistent with our analysis and supported a number of recommendations that were implemented to strengthen the governance framework. The Minister is following the steps in order to meet all the requirements outlined in section 35 of the Act.

Canada Border Services Agency review

Air Passenger Targeting Review

NSIRA’s findings

The use of Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record data by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in scenario-based targeting complied with section 107(3) of the Customs Act.

The CBSA does not document its triaging practices in a manner that enables effective verification of whether all triaging decisions comply with statutory and regulatory restrictions.

The CBSA has not consistently demonstrated that an adequate justification exists for its Air Passenger Targeting triaging practices. This weakness in the link between the indicators used to triage passengers and the potential threats or contraventions they seek to identify creates a risk that Air Passenger Targeting triaging practices may be discriminatory.

The CBSA’s policies, procedures, and training are insufficiently detailed to adequately equip CBSA staff to identify potential discrimination-related risks and to take appropriate action to mitigate these risks in the exercise of their duties.

The CBSA’s oversight structures and practices are not rigorous enough to identify and mitigate potential discrimination-related risks, as appropriate. This is compounded by a lack of collection and assessment of relevant data.

NSIRA’s recommendations, and the CBSA’s responses

Recommendation Response (July 2022)
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that the CBSA document its triaging practices in a manner that enables effective verification of whether all triaging decisions comply with statutory and regulatory restrictions. Agree. The CBSA will complete a review of its air passenger targeting triaging practices to ensure practices are in place which will enable effective verification of compliance with statutory and regulatory restrictions.
Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that the CBSA ensure, in an ongoing manner, that its triaging practices are based on information and/or intelligence that justifies the use of each indicator. This justification should be well-documented to enable effective internal and external verification of whether the CBSA’s triaging practices comply with its non-discrimination obligations. Agree. While we are satisfied that justification for triaging and targeting practices exist, the CBSA acknowledges that better documentation practices could be implemented to enable effective internal and external verification of whether the CBSA’s triaging practices comply with its non- discrimination obligations.
The CBSA’s Scenario Based Targeting Governance Framework will be updated to include information and/or intelligence that justifies the use of each indicator.
Annual reviews of scenarios will continue to be conducted and documented to confirm that each active scenario is supported by recent and reliable intelligence.
Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that the CBSA ensure that any Air Passenger Targeting- related distinctions on protected grounds that are capable of reinforcing, perpetuating, or exacerbating a disadvantage constitute a reasonable limit on travellers’ equality rights under the Charter. Agree. The CBSA will review its air passenger targeting practices to ensure that distinctions based on protected grounds are reasonable and can be demonstrably justified in the border administration and enforcement context.
Recommendation 4: NSIRA recommends that the CBSA develop more robust and regular oversight for Air Passenger Targeting to ensure that its practices are not discriminatory. This should include updates to the CBSA’s policies, procedures, training, and other guidance, as appropriate.
Agree. The CBSA acknowledges that policies, procedures, training, and other guidance, as appropriate can be improved to ensure robust and regular oversight for Air Passenger Targeting to ensure that its practices are not discriminatory.
The CBSA will complete a review of its policies, procedures, guidelines and training to ensure practices are not discriminatory.
Recommendation 5: NSIRA recommends that the CBSA start gathering and assessing the necessary data to identify, analyze, and mitigate discrimination-related risks. This includes disaggregated demographic data, data on the effects of Air Passenger Targeting on secondary examinations that may be apparent from related human rights complaints, and data on a baseline comparator group.
Agree. To that end, the CBSA is taking deliberate steps to develop its capacity to capture and analyze reliable and accurate data in non-intrusive ways. The Agency is working on developing standard and consistent positions and frameworks on the collection, use, management and governance of disaggregated data, developing metrics and indicators to measure the impact of decisions and policies on different groups; using data to build more inclusive and representative policies and strategies, and; identifying possible discrimination and bias.

Multi-departmental reviews

Review of Federal Institutions’ Disclosures of Information under the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act in 2021

NSIRA’s findings

NSIRA finds that, in 12 out of 13 disclosures, Global Affairs Canada demonstrated that it satisfied itself as to the contribution of the information to the recipient institution’s responsibilities in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada, as required under paragraph 5(1)(a) of the SCIDA.

NSIRA finds that, without first conducting the analysis under paragraph 5(1)(a) of the SCIDA, departments risk disclosing information that does not pertain to the national security mandate of the recipient institution or to activities that undermine the security of Canada.

NSIRA finds that, in 1 of 13 disclosures, Global Affairs Canada consulted on more information than necessary to obtain confirmation from CSIS that the disclosure contributed to its mandate and was linked to activities that undermine the security of Canada.

NSIRA finds that, in 10 out of 13 disclosures, Global Affairs Canada demonstrated that it satisfied itself that the disclosure will not affect any person’s privacy interest more than reasonably necessary in the circumstances, as required under paragraph 5(1)(b) of the SCIDA.

NSIRA finds that 2 of 13 disclosures did not contain the accuracy and reliability statements as required by subsection 5(2) of the SCIDA.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada training on the SCIDA lacks sufficient illustrative examples required to provide employees with adequate guidance to fulfill their obligations under the SCIDA.

NSIRA’s recommendations, and government response

Recommendation Response (February 14th, 2023)
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that consultations be limited to the information necessary to obtain confirmation from the potential recipient that the information contributes to its mandate and is linked to activities that undermine the security of Canada. Agree. Public Safety’s Step-by-Step SCIDA Guide 2022 (“SCIDA Guide 2022”) was updated and distributed to federal institutions in October 2022. Many of the updates to the SCIDA Guide 2022, that were based on practitioner feedback, directly address this recommendation. The updated SCIDA Guide 2022 specifies that preliminary consultations prior to a disclosure should only include general information to ensure that SCIDA thresholds are met before the disclosing institution proceeds with the disclosure. In addition, SCIDA training material was updated in September 2022 with a renewed emphasis on the need for disclosing institutions to strictly limit the information communicated with recipient institutions during preliminary consultations.

Multiple SCIDA trainings have been delivered to federal institutions using the new material. Public Safety will continue to work with federal institutions to provide them with access to training, guidance and other useful resources on the use of the SCIDA. Given the focus of this review, Public Safety will work closely with Global Affairs Canada to address this recommendation.

Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that in order to provide the most valuable and meaningful context for the recipient institution, accuracy and reliability statements should be clear and specific to the circumstances of the disclosure. Agree. Statements regarding the accuracy of the information and the reliability of the manner in which it was obtained are an essential part of the disclosure process. To ensure greater compliance with this requirement, the SCIDA Guide 2022 and its related templates, as well as the updated SCIDA training material, emphasize the importance of providing statements on the accuracy of the information and reliability of the manner in which it was obtained that are clear and specific to the circumstances of the disclosure.

Public Safety will continue to provide SCIDA training and guidance to federal institutions to highlight the requirement for statements of accuracy and reliability that are clear, complete, accurate and do not include formulaic language in support of disclosures under the SCIDA.

Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that all disclosing departments contemporaneously prepare descriptions of the information that was relied on to satisfy themselves that disclosures were authorized under the SCIDA. Agree. Record keeping is an essential component of the SCIDA, and records of disclosures must include an appropriately robust description of the information relied upon to satisfy the disclosing institution that the disclosure meets the thresholds of the SCIDA. The SCIDA Guide 2022 includes templates that support federal institutions with their record-keeping requirements. This includes sections where disclosing institutions must prepare and maintain records that set out a description of the information that was relied on to satisfy the disclosing institution that the disclosure was authorized under the SCIDA. While paragraph 9(1)(e) of the SCIDA does not explicitly require departments to contemporaneously prepare descriptions of the information related to SCIDA disclosures, Public Safety takes note of NSIRA’s recommendation to do so in a timely manner.

Public Safety will continue to provide SCIDA training and guidance to federal institutions to highlight their recordkeeping obligations to ensure that all disclosures are authorized under the SCIDA and assist them in understanding their authorities for requesting and disclosing information under the Act.

Recommendation 4: NSIRA recommends that additional illustrative examples and scenarios be included in the SCIDA training, including for disclosure threshold requirements, accuracy and reliability statements and record-keeping requirements.

Agree. SCIDA training material was updated in September 2022 with multiple illustrative examples and case studies that provide further details on how to apply the disclosure threshold requirements, accuracy and reliability statements and record-keeping requirements. SCIDA training sessions have been delivered to federal institutions using the new material. Given the focus of this review, Public Safety will work closely with Global Affairs Canada to address this recommendation.

Review of departmental implementation of the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act for 2021

NSIRA’s findings

NSIRA finds that the Canada Border Services Agency and Public Safety Canada still have not fully implemented an ACA framework and supporting policies and procedures are still under development.

NSIRA finds that from January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021, no cases under the ACA were escalated to deputy heads in any department.

NSIRA finds that the RCMP has a robust framework in place for the triage of cases pertaining to the ACA.

NSIRA finds that the RCMP’s Foreign Information Risk Advisory Committee (FIRAC) risk assessments include objectives external to the requirements of the Orders in Council, such as the risk of not exchanging information.

NSIRA finds that the RCMP use of a two-part risk assessment, that of the country profile and that of the individual to determine if there is a substantial risk, including the particular circumstances of the individual in question within the risk assessment is a best practice.

NSIRA finds that the RCMP does not have a centralized system of documenting assurances and does not regularly monitor and update the assessment of the reliability of assurances.

NSIRA finds that the RCMP does not regularly update or have a schedule to update its Country and Entity Assessments. In many cases these assessments are more than four years old and are heavily dependent on an aggregation of open-source reporting.

NSIRA finds that information collected through the Liaison Officer in the course of an operation is not centrally documented such that it can inform future assessments.

NSIRA finds that FIRAC members concluded that the information sharing would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment that could not be mitigated. The Assistant Commissioner determined that it may be mitigated. This amounts to a disagreement between officials or a situation where “officials are unable to determine whether the risk can be mitigated”.

NSIRA finds that the Assistant Commissioner’s rationale for rejecting FIRAC’s advice did not adequately address concerns consistent with the provisions of the Orders in Council. In particular, NSIRA finds that the Assistant Commissioner erroneously considered the importance of the potential future strategic relationship with a foreign entity in the assessment of potential risk of mistreatment of the individual.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada is now strongly dependent on operational staff and Heads of Mission for decision-making and accountability under the ACA.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada has not demonstrated that all of its business lines are integrated into its framework under the ACA.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada has not made ACA training mandatory for all staff across relevant business lines. This could result in staff being involved in information exchanges without the proper training and knowledge of the implications of the ACA.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada has not regularly updated its Human Rights Reports. While many were updated during the 2021 review year, more than half have not been updated since 2019. This is particularly problematic when departments and agencies rely on these reports as a key source in assessing risk related to the ACA.

NSIRA finds that Global Affairs Canada does not have a standardized centralized approach for the tracking and documentation of assurances.

NSIRA’s recommendations

Recommendation
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that the RCMP establish a centralized system to track caveats and assurances provided by foreign entities and where possible to monitor and document whether said caveats and assurances were respected.
Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that in cases where the RCMP Assistant Commissioner disagrees with FIRAC’s recommendation not to share the information, the case be automatically referred to the Commissioner.
Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that the assessment of substantial risk be limited to the provisions of the Orders in Council – namely the substantial risk of mistreatment and whether the risk may be mitigated – and external objectives such as fostering strategic relationships should not factor into this decision-making.

Recommendation 4: NSIRA recommends that FIRAC recommendations are referred to an Assistant Commissioner who is not responsible for the branch from which the case originates.

Recommendation 5: NSIRA recommends that GAC ensure that accountability for compliance with the ACA clearly rests with the Avoiding Mistreatment Compliance Committee.
Recommendation 6: NSIRA recommends that GAC conduct a formal internal mapping exercise of other possibly implicated business lines to ensure it is meeting its obligations set out in the ACA.
Recommendation 7: NSIRA recommends that GAC make ACA training mandatory for all rotational staff.

Recommendation 8: NSIRA recommends that GAC ensure countries’ Human Rights Reports are updated more regularly to ensure evolving human rights related issues are captured.

Recommendation 9: NSIRA recommends that GAC establish a centralized system to track caveats and assurances provided by foreign entities and document any instances of non-compliance for use in future risk assessments.

This review was approved in 2022. Under section 38 (1) of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA is therefore obliged to report on its findings and recommendations as part of its annual report for the calendar year 2022. A summary of this review is available in NSIRA’s Annual Report 2021.

NSIRA’s findings

NSIRA finds that the legal advice-seeking and giving process, and resource constraints at the Department of Justice’s National Security Litigation and Advisory Group (NSLAG) contribute to considerable delays, [*description of timeline*].

NSIRA finds that Justice legal opinions have sometimes been prepared without sufficient attention to the audience that needs to understand and act on them. Opinions have been focused on assessing legal risk, often late in the development of a CSIS activity, with limited effort made to propose alternative and legally sustainable means of arriving at the intended objective.

NSIRA finds that the Justice Legal Risk Management Framework is misunderstood at the working level at CSIS and further that it does not provide an appropriate framework for the unequivocal communication of unlawful conduct to CSIS.

NSIRA finds that difficulties in acquiring prompt and relevant legal advice have contributed to [*discussion of the detrimental effects on and risks to operations*] that may require legal advice. In consequence, the manner in which NSLAG has provided legal advice to CSIS has often not met the needs of CSIS operations.

NSIRA finds that Justice does not generate the necessary business analytics to track its service delivery performance to CSIS.

NSIRA finds that Justice has acknowledged that internal silos at NSLAG between the advisory and litigation wings have sometimes left warrant counsel unaware of emerging legal issues and that Justice has taken steps to resolve these issues.

NSIRA finds that Justice has committed to improve its advice-giving to CSIS, including moving toward “road map” style legal advice that involves working collaboratively and iteratively with CSIS to achieve operational goals within the bounds of the law.

NSIRA finds that CSIS has not always shared all relevant information with NSLAG, prompting a degree of mistrust and limiting Justice’s ability to provide responsive legal advice.

NSIRA finds that CSIS has a history of quick reforms, followed by neglect, high turnover of personnel leading to a loss of institutional knowledge, and resourcing that did not match stated priorities. CSIS does not track or measure the outcome of past reforms adequately and has no performance metrics for assessing success.

NSIRA finds that CSIS policies have not kept pace with operational reality, as they are often vague, dated, overlapping and contradictory. The absence of clear policy creates legal doubt or concerns, and gives rise to disparate interpretations of legal and operational standards.

NSIRA finds that there is little common understanding regarding the process or basis on which a warrant is prioritized. Frequent shifts in this process of prioritization have added to operational uncertainty. The prioritization process has made it very difficult to bring novel issues to the Court with the goal of addressing legal ambiguities through court decisions.

NSIRA finds that the actors involved in the warrant process do not have a common understanding of the rationale for each of the [*multiple*] of steps in the overarching warrant application scheme and are not always sure what role each approval step plays.

NSIRA finds that the proliferation of process in seeking warrants has created a system of diluted accountability widely regarded as slow and unwieldy, with delays caused by multiple levels of approval.

NSIRA finds there is no regular feedback process in which explanations for warrant-related decisions made at one level filter back to other levels. The absence of feedback is especially acute for the regional investigators.

NSIRA finds that often, the sole means to address legal uncertainty is to bring legal questions to the Federal Court through warrant applications. In consequence, an unwieldy warrant process makes resolution of legal doubt more difficult.

NSIRA finds that CSIS has struggled to ensure that all information material to the credibility of sources is properly contained in warrant applications. This “recurring omissions” problem stems from a misunderstanding of the Federal Court’s role in assessing the credibility of sources and from the presence of multiple, siloed information management systems. CSIS has undertaken reforms, but work remains to implement long-term sustainable solutions.

NSIRA finds that the Affiant Unit constitutes a vital and laudable reform within CSIS. However, the Affiant Unit is currently at risk of collapse. CSIS has not supported the unit with resources commensurate with the importance of this unit in fulfilling CSIS’s mission. The benefits of the Affiant Unit are currently in jeopardy because of governance, human resource, and training deficiencies.

NSIRA finds that the Affiant Unit’s placement in the [*Name*] branch is not commensurate with its functions and importance. This governance anomaly most likely contributes to administrative hurdles and resource challenges faced by the Affiant Unit.

NSIRA finds that without a functional Affiant Unit able to produce timely and accurate warrant applications, CSIS puts at risk access to warrants and the information collected under them.

NSIRA finds that the “independent counsel” role falls short of creating a thorough challenge function.

NSIRA finds that the CSIS regional warrants coordinators have not received sufficient training enabling them to translate the contents of the warrants into advice on proper warrant execution.

NSIRA finds that CSIS lacks long-term training programs for Intelligence Officers.

NSIRA finds that CSIS has failed to provide systematic training programs for “non-Intelligence Officers.”

NSIRA finds that the CSIS’s Learning and Development Branch has not been sufficiently resourced to develop and administer comprehensive training programs, especially in specialized areas not covered by the training offered for Intelligence Officers early in their career.

NSIRA finds that CSIS and Justice are at risk of not being able to fulfill their respective mandates. No one reform is likely to succeed unless each is pursued as part of a coherent package. No package will succeed unless backed by prioritization at senior levels, and the stable provision of resources, including people with the means and institutional knowledge to see reforms through. And no reform initiative will succeed unless accompanied by clear performance indicators, measured and analyzed regularly to track progress.

NSIRA’s recommendations and departmental responses

Recommendation Departmental response (March 29, 2022)
Recommendation 1: NSIRA recommends that Justice pursue its commitment to reforming the manner of providing legal advice to CSIS, and its stated commitment to “road map”-style advice as a best practice. In support of this objective and the provision of timely, operationally relevant advice, NSIRA further recommends that Justice implement the following:

  • Whether through an expanded “office hours” and liaison counsel program or otherwise, NSLAG must develop a legal support service operating full time, staffed by experienced lawyers empowered to provide operational advice in real time on which CSIS officers can rely, on the basis of settled Justice positions on recurring legal issues, accessible directly to CSIS officers across all regional offices and at all levels.
  • NSLAG develop a concise reference tool with its position on recurring issues and most common legal authorities invoked and make the tool accessible to counsel to support their real-time advice.
  • To minimize the need to resort to the formalized legal advice-seeking process, NSLAG (in coordination with CSIS) must involve counsel with CSIS officers at the early stage of the planning of key or novel operations and throughout their entire operational lifecycle to case-manage an iterative legal guidance process.
Agree. Prior to NSIRA issuing its report, Justice Canada has been working on a number of measures concerning policies and practices in the provision of legal services to CSIS. These measures include activities related to the duty of candour and the warrant acquisition process, best practices in the delivery of legal services, advising CSIS on legal risks associated with its operations, the sharing of information in the national security context, and tracking and responding to key performance indicators related to the delivery of legal services.

Justice is committed to improving the manner of providing legal services and ensuring practical and timely legal services. The measures undertaken to date and further measures underway support a coordinated approach for legal services, striking the right balance of resources across corporate and operational priorities. This includes providing legal advice in a more accessible, iterative manner, and supporting Counsel through interactive training to better understand and support their work in a proactive manner.

Justice and CSIS working together in an integrated fashion ensures that counsel are involved throughout an operation’s life-cycle, including the early stages. Early integration into operational planning supports the provision of timely and relevant legal advice as operations progress.

Justice has already modified its liaison counsel model. Liaison counsel are experienced counsel designated to support CSIS officers across regional offices and particular operations.

Enhancements to the role have resulted in liaison counsel providing timely and focused advice, supporting operational imperatives, and identifying trends and issues of concern to develop guidance documents and other practical tools.

Justice is developing a suite of practical tools and legal service delivery mechanisms to support CSIS. These include:

  • a user-friendly blog that describes relevant legal issues and concepts in plain-language and with a practical application to CSIS’s work;
  • a field guide for the practical application of legal concerns to CSIS’s operations that can be used by officers in the field and in real time;
  • interpretation and guidance documents; and,
  • knowledge management tools ensuring counsel can access legal precedents and interpretations.
Recommendation 2: NSIRA recommends that NSLAG (in coordination with CSIS) develop Key Performance Indicators to measure the delivery of legal services to CSIS.

Agree. Justice has developed business metrics to measure service delivery performance. Justice will continue to work with CSIS to invest in resources to conduct detailed business analytics to enhance the provision of legal services and make improvements to the existing system. Client feedback surveys are undertaken regularly.
Recommendation 3: NSIRA recommends that CSIS and Justice should include in their training programs interactive scenario-based training developing the operational intelligence activities expertise of NSLAG counsel and the legal knowledge of CSIS operational staff.

Agree. Justice has worked with CSIS to develop and deliver interactive scenario-based training and is committed to continuing that involvement.

Recommendation 4: To ensure Justice is able to give meaningful and responsive legal advice as recommended in recommendation #1, NSIRA recommends that CSIS invite Justice counsel to sit at the table at all stages of the lifecycle of key and novel operations, and that it fully and frankly brief counsel on operational objectives, intent, and details.

Agree. As set out above, Justice is working with CSIS to be involved sooner and more continuously across the lifecycle of operations to provide timely, focused and iterative legal services.
Recommendation 5: NSIRA recommends that Justice’s advice-giving must clearly and unequivocally communicate advice on the unlawfulness of client conduct, whether criminal or otherwise.

Agree. Justice is currently undertaking a review of its legal risk framework in order to improve both how legal risk is assessed, and also how risks are communicated to clients.
Recommendation 6: NSIRA recommends that CSIS adopt, and share internally, clear criteria for the warrant prioritization process.

Agree. CSIS will further refine the warrant prioritization process and work to set clear criteria.
Recommendation 7: NSIRA recommends that CSIS establish a new warrant process eliminating steps that do not make a significant contribution to a more accurate application. The process should assign clear lines of responsibility for the production of accurate applications. The reformed system should ensure that delays associated with managerial approvals are minimized, and that time is reallocated to those steps contributing to the preparation of the accurate applications.

Agree. Work on implementation is underway. CSIS and Justice are committed to streamlining warrant applications, templates, and requests as part of broader modernisation objectives.
Recommendation 8: NSIRA recommends that CSIS integrate the regional stakeholders (including the implicated investigators) at every key milestone of the warrants process.

Agree. CSIS has already undertaken related improvements to address this recommendation, including through the updated Affiant Unit business approach to warrant acquisition, which now includes regional stakeholders.
Recommendation 9: NSIRA recommends that CSIS adopt policies and procedures governing the reformed warrant process that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of each participant and the objective of each step in the warrant process and that these policies be kept current as the process evolves. Agree. The revised CSIS Justice Joint Policy on Duty of Candour and the associated guidance document outline the role of all CSIS employees (not just the affiants) in ensuring that disclosure obligations to the Court are met. In addition, CSIS has developed a s.21 warrant policy and the drafting of the related procedure is underway. In 2020 and 2021, CSIS provided Duty of Candour training to all operational employees through a special project.
Recommendation 10: To address the seeming inevitability of “recurring omissions”, NSIRA recommends that CSIS prioritize the development of [*an improved*] system for human source information management. CSIS should also continue initiatives meant to ensure that source handlers are assiduous in documenting and then reporting in source precis information going to credibility. Even with these reforms, the Affiant Unit should adopt procedures for verifying the information prepared by the regions. Agree. The recommendation endorses a CSIS initiative already underway. An Action Plan approved by the Executive in January 2021 identified the requirement, and CSIS stakeholders are advancing this initiative. CSIS developed a comprehensive requirements package, and identified a potential technical solution. The complexity of the technical development process means this will be a long process.
Recommendation 11: NSIRA recommends that CSIS recognize the importance of the Affiant Unit by assigning affiants and analysts an employment classification congruent with their responsibilities. Agree. CSIS has addressed this recommendation by classifying affiants at one level above the Intelligence Officer working level to recognize the complexity of their work and to attract/retain candidates. A competitive competition process is underway to staff the affiant positions and is anticipated to be completed by the end of March 2022.
Recommendation 12: NSIRA recommends that CSIS should create an Affiant Branch reporting directly to the CSIS Director. Disagree. The Service notes the concerns raised by the committee in its report regarding the Affiant’s Unit current placement in the organization’s hierarchy. This said, throughout the course of this review, CSIS has invested heavily in the Affiant Unit and its employees and has made significant changes to the warrant process and its governance. The Service is confident that these changes will be sufficient to address the concerns that resulted in this finding and recommendation, particularly as it relates to observations related to administrative and human resource challenges. In addition, the current placement of the Affiant Unit with other units with corresponding responsibilities for warrant acquisition best facilitates the provision of ongoing guidance and advice throughout the warrant lifecycle to ensure compliance and duty of candour obligations are met. Given its importance, CSIS commits to ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the Affiant Unit to ensure the concerns highlighted in the report do not re-occur.
Recommendation 13: NSIRA recommends that CSIS urgently resource the Affiant Unit to meet its responsibilities and ensure its sustainability. In deciding the size of the Affiant Unit, CSIS should assess how many warrants an affiant team might reasonably complete every year. Agree. In line with the recommendation, CSIS already increased the resourcing of the Affiant Unit and approved changes to the organizational chart in March 2021. As noted above, a staffing action is currently underway that aims to create a pool of qualified candidates which can be leveraged to help increase the Affiant Unit’s capacity.
Recommendation 14: NSIRA recommends that CSIS, in consultation with Justice, develop a comprehensive training course for all affiants and analysts, codifying best practices and methods for members of the Affiant Unit.

Agree. CSIS intends to provide fulsome training to the affiant unit, as recommended. In late 2021, initial consultations were held to identify appropriate training. Unfortunately, the pandemic has disrupted training efforts.

Justice is supporting CSIS in the development and delivery of all comprehensive and practical training for all those working on warrant applications. Cross-reference recommendations 3 and 18.



Recommendation 15: NSIRA recommends that NSLAG be staffed by a complement of counsel and support personnel sufficient to ensure that CSIS operations are not impeded by resource limitations at NSLAG. Agree. Justice and CSIS will continue to work together on resources and staffing issues.
Recommendation 16: NSIRA recommends that the function of the Independent Counsel as performed by National Security Group counsel at the Department of Justice should be eliminated, in favour of a new challenge function, analogous to the role a defence lawyer would play were warrants subject to an adversarial process, situated at Public Safety and supported by the Public Safety vetting team, and performed by a knowledgeable lawyer from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the private sector, or elsewhere, who is independent from Justice management and not otherwise involved in CSIS warrant applications. Agree. Public Safety will develop an enhanced vetting function, housed in Public Safety Canada, that reflects the principles and objectives set out by NSIRA. Public Safety Canada will develop the enhanced vetting function as part of the CSIS warrant acquisition process such that it provides a meaningful challenge function without adding undue complexity or delay. While this work is underway, Public Safety Canada will take steps to strengthen warrant vetting on an interim basis.
Recommendation 17: NSIRA recommends that CSIS regional warrants coordinator positions receive adequate training, and that CSIS professionalize the position and enable warrant coordinators to more effectively translate the content of warrants into advice on warrant execution. Agree. CSIS acknowledges the importance of training and of centers of expertise. CSIS is determining training requirements.
Recommendation 18: NSIRA recommends that CSIS adequately resource and regularly deliver evergreen scenario-based training programs for all CSIS employees, including;
  • annual, comprehensive, warrant training for all operational employees;
  • specialized onboarding training for all employees not part of the Intelligence Officer program; and
  • continued long-term training for all specialized personnel.
Agree. CSIS is committed to improving the training offered to all of its employees, as recommended. Scenario-based training, which helps employees understand the application of policies and procedures, is now an integral part of operational training, which includes the development of an annual operational workshop. A recently approved business case will significantly increase staffing in Learning & Development to further enable training of CSIS employees. This business case includes the creation of a new position responsible for developing an enhanced onboarding for all newly hired employees, as well as the creation of new positions to create and deliver additional learning opportunities for all operational employees. Cross- reference recommendations 3 and 14.



Recommendation 19: The recommendations within this review should be treated as a coherent package and that progress and outcomes in implementing these recommendations be tracked, allowing management, the Ministers of Public Safety and of Justice, and NSIRA, to assess the efficacy of reforms and course-correct if necessary. Agree. PS, CSIS, and Justice are committed to taking a holistic approach to the implementation of the recommendations and will track and course correct as required in this complex operating environment.
Recommendation 20: The full classified version of this report be shared with the designated judges of the Federal Court. Partially agree. The Attorney General of Canada has shared the full report, redacted for solicitor- client privilege, with the designated judges of the Federal Court of Canada.

Annex D: Statistics on complaints investigations

January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022

INTAKE INQUIRIES 75
New complaints filed 75
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act), section 16, Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) complaints

22
NSIRA Act, section 17, Communications Security Establishment (CSE) complaints 2
NSIRA Act, section 18, security clearances 3
NSIRA Act, section 19, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) referred complaints 3
NSIRA Act, section 19, Citizenship Act 0
NSIRA Act, section 45, Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) referrals 0
Accepted jurisdiction to investigate 6
  Accepted Declined
NSIRA Act, section 16, CSIS complaints 3 16
NSIRA Act, section 17, CSE complaints 0 1
NSIRA Act, section 18, security clearances 1 1
NSIRA Act, section 19, RCMP referred complaints 2 3
Active investigations (at the time of writing) 19
NSIRA Act, section 16, CSIS complaints 9
NSIRA Act, section 17, CSE complaints 0
NSIRA Act, section 18, security clearances 4
NSIRA Act, section 19, RCMP referred complaints 6
NSIRA Act, section 45, CHRC referrals 0
Total investigations closed 65
  Abandoned Final report Resolved informally Withdrawn
NSIRA Act, section 16, CSIS complaints 1 0 0 3
NSIRA Act, section 17, CSE complaints 0 0 0 0
NSIRA Act, section 18, security clearances 0 1 0 0
NSIRA Act, section 19, RCMP referred complaints 0 2 0 0
NSIRA Act, section 45, CHRC referrals 0 58 0 0
Total 1 61 0 3
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Date Modified:

Annual Report on the Privacy Act 2022-23

Date of Publishing:

Introduction

The Privacy Act gives individuals the right to access information about themselves that is held by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Secretariat, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions. The Privacy Act also protects the privacy of individuals by giving them substantial control over the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information and by preventing others from having access to that information.

Section 72 of the act requires the head of each government institution to prepare an annual report on the administration of the act within the institution and to submit the report to Parliament.

This report to Parliament, which is prepared and tabled in accordance with section 72 of the Privacy Act, describes the activities of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Secretariat in administering the Act during the period of April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.

If you require more information or wish to make a request under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act, please direct your inquiries to the following:

Access to Information and Privacy Office
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430, Station “D” Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5W5
​Email: ATIP@nsira-ossnr.gc.ca

Who we are

Established in July 2019, NSIRA is an independent agency that reports to Parliament and conducts investigations and reviews of the federal government’s national security and intelligence activities.

The NSIRA Secretariat assists NSIRA in fulfilling its mandate. It is the NSIRA Secretariat, headed by an Executive Director, that is the government institution for the purposes of the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

Mandate

The NSIRA Secretariat supports NSIRA in its dual mandate to conduct reviews and investigations in relation to Canada’s national security or intelligence activities.

Reviews

NSIRA’s review mandate is broad, as outlined in subsection 8(1) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act). This mandate includes reviewing the activities of both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), as well as the national security- or intelligence-related activities of any other federal department or agency. This includes, but is not limited to, the national security or intelligence activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the Department of Justice. Further, NSIRA may review any national security or intelligence matters that a minister of the Crown refers to NSIRA.

NSIRA reviews assess whether Canada’s national security and intelligence activities comply with relevant laws, policies, and ministerial directions, and whether they are reasonable and necessary. In conducting its reviews, NSIRA can make any findings or recommendations it considers appropriate.

Investigations

NSIRA is responsible for investigating national security or intelligence-related complaints from members of the public. As outlined in paragraph 8(1)(d) of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA has the mandate to investigate complaints about:

  • any activity of CSIS or of CSE;
  • decisions to deny or revoke certain federal government security clearances;
  • any complaint referred under subsection 45.53(4.1) or 45.67(2.1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act,
  • reports made under section 19 of the Citizenship Act, and
  • matters referred under section 45 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Access to Information and Privacy Office – Organizational Structure

NSIRA’s ATIP Office is accountable for the development and implementation of effective policies, guidelines, systems, and procedures to ensure that the NSIRA Secretariat meets its responsibilities under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. For the reporting period, the NSIRA ATIP office consisted of:

  • 1 Full-time Access to Information Consultant;
  • 1 Part-time Privacy Consultant; and
  • 1 Full-time ATIP Manager who fulfilled the duties that would normally be carried out by an ATIP Coordinator, as well as managed the ATIP Office in addition to fulfilling normal duties as Manager of Administrative Services for the Secretariat and Agency Members.

NSIRA Secretariat Senior General Counsel and Corporate Counsel supported the ATIP Office on an as required basis.

The ATIP Office is responsible for the following:

  • monitoring compliance with ATIP legislation and relevant procedures and policies;
  • processing requests under both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act;
  • developing and maintaining policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure that the NSIRA Secretariat respected the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act;
  • maintaining Personal Information Banks and conducting privacy impact assessments.
  • preparing annual reports to Parliament and other statutory reports, as well as other material that might be required by central agencies; and
  • representing the NSIRA Secretariat in dealings with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the information and privacy commissioners, and other government departments and agencies in matters pertaining to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

The NSIRA Secretariat was a party to a service agreement under section 73.1 of the Privacy Act during the reporting period, pursuant to which it received administrative services from the Privy Council Office related to the tabling of the Privacy Act annual report in Parliament. The NSIRA Secretariat was also a party to a service agreement under section 71.1 of the Act, pursuant to which it received ATIP Online services from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

To assist the ATIP Office in meeting its overall legislative obligations, the NSIRA Secretariat relied on a collaborative internal group of subject matter points of contact from all its branches.

Delegation Order

The Executive Director, as the Head of the NSIRA Secretariat, is responsible for the administration of the Privacy Act within the institution. Pursuant to section 73 of the Privacy Act, the Executive Director has delegated the ATIP Manager and ATIP Officer – as well as persons acting in these positions – to perform powers, duties, and functions for the administration of the Act. These positions have limited delegation of authority under the Act and the Access to Information Act, in accordance with the delegation of authority instrument approved by the Executive Director in August 2022. The Privacy Act Delegation Order can be found in Appendix A.

Performance 2022-2023

Performance in Processing Privacy Requests

During the reporting period, from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023, the NSIRA Secretariat received 12 formal requests. All 12 requests were completed during the reporting period. No requests were carried over from the previous reporting period.

Statistical Reports for 2022-2023

The institution’s 2022-2023 Statistical Report on the Privacy Act and Supplemental ATIP Statistical Report for 2022-2023 are found in Appendices B and C.

Extensions and Completion Time of Closed Requests

During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat invoked extensions in processing 5 requests: 3 extensions of 31 to 60 days, and 2 extensions of 61 to 120 days, all of which included extensions necessary to consult with third parties.

Of the requests completed during the reporting period:

  • 1 request, or 8.33% of the requests completed, was disclosed in its entirety. This request was completed within 16 to 30 days.
  • 4 requests, or 33.33% of the requests completed, were disclosed in part. 1 request completed within 16 to 30 days, 2 requests completed within 31 to 60 days, and 1 request completed within 61 to 120 days.
  • 7 requests, or 58.33% of the requests completed, resulted in no records. 1 request completed within 1 to 15 days, 4 requests completed within 16 to 30 days, 1 request completed within 31 to 60 days, and 1 request completed within 61 to 120 days.

The NSIRA Secretariat’s responses to many requests required intensive review of complex records, including extensive internal and external consultations. In 2022-23, the NSIRA Secretariat’s on-time response rate decreased to 58.33% from 71% in the previous reporting year.

Consultations

No consultations were received by the NSIRA Secretariat during the reporting period.

Impact of COVID-19 Measures

During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat was not affected by measures related to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Complaints and Investigations

During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat received 9 privacy complaints, 2 of which were related to access. All 9 complaints remained active on March 31, 2023.

Moreover, one privacy breach-related investigation initiated by the Privacy Commissioner in fiscal year 2020-2021 continued during the reporting period and remained active on March 31, 2023.

Training and Awareness

During the reporting period, privacy training requirements were identified for all NSIRA Secretariat employees, as well as for those with functional or delegated responsibility for the administration of the Privacy Act, in accordance with the Directive on Personal Information Requests and Correction of Personal Information. The Canada School of Public Service course Access to Information and Privacy Fundamentals (COR502) was included as mandatory training in all employees’ training curriculum.

In addition, an all-staff lunch and learn session was held in August 2022 to provide employees with a debrief of the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Conference.

Policies, Guidelines, and Procedures

The NSIRA Secretariat updated the Delegation Order during the reporting period and also established its internal Directive on Managing Security and Safety Events in March 2023, which provides for coordination with the ATIP Office and Office of Primary Interest when a security event involves a suspected or actual privacy breach.

Initiatives and Projects to Improve Privacy

The NSIRA Secretariat’s IT team began work to develop an ATIP software tool for our classified and unclassified systems. The NSIRA Secretariat also signed a memorandum of understanding with TBS to make full use of ATIP Online and implemented the tool during the reporting period.

Summary of Key Issues and Actions Taken on Complaints

As previously outlined, all 9 complaints received during the reporting period remained active on March 31, 2023. The NSIRA Secretariat meaningfully engaged with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner on all active investigations and disclosed additional records in 1 of the 2 access-related complaints.

Material Privacy Breaches

In the 2022-2023 reporting period, no material privacy breaches occurred.

Privacy Impact Assessments

The NSIRA Secretariat did not complete any PIAs in 2022-2023. During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat received feedback from TBS for its PIA on the creation of NSIRA — which had been submitted to TBS in FY 2021-2022 — and undertook revisions to the PIA. During the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat also launched a PIA exercise pertaining to its investigations-related activities.

Public Interest Disclosures

No disclosures were made pursuant to paragraph 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act during the reporting period.

Monitoring Compliance

In order to meet the legislative deadlines for privacy requests, deadlines for individual requests are strictly monitored by using MS Outlook reminders. The ATIP Manager organizes ad hoc meetings to discuss request-related activities (such as whether inter-institutional consultations are necessary), determine deadlines and ensure that all team members are informed of the status of files. At bi-weekly team meetings with the Senior General Counsel and Corporate Counsel, the ATIP Manager raises and discusses compliance with legislative and policy obligations. The Executive Director is also briefed on all ATIP compliance issues.

For contracts issued during the reporting period, the NSIRA Secretariat included a Standard Procurement Clause on the Handling of Personal Information or a Supplemental General Condition on Personal Information from Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions Manual.

Appendices

Appendix A: Delegation Order

Access to Information Act Designation Order

The Executive Director of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, pursuant to section 95 of the Access to Information Act, hereby designates the persons holding the positions or acting in these positions, set out in the schedule hereto to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Executive Director of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency as the head of a government institution under the section of the Access to Information Act set out in the schedule opposite each position.

Privacy Act Designation Order

The Executive Director of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, pursuant to section 73 of the Privacy Act*, hereby designates the persons holding the positions or acting in these positions, set out in the schedule hereto to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Executive Director of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency as the head of a government institution under the section of the Privacy Act set out in the schedule opposite each position.

Appendix B: 2022-2023 Statistical Report on the Privacy Act

Name of institution: National Security and Intelligence Review Agency

Reporting period: 2022-04-01 – 2023-03-31

Section 1: Request Under the Access to Information Act

1.1 Number of Requests
  Number of Requests
Received during reporting period 12
Outstanding from previous reporting period 0
Outstanding from more than one reporting period 0
Total 12
Closed during reporting period 12
Carried over to next reporting period 0
Carried over within legislated timeline 0
Carried over beyond legislated timeline 0
1.2 Channels of requests
Source Number of Requests
Online 10
E-mail 2
Mail 0
In person 0
Phone 0
Fax 0
Total 12

Section 2: Informal requests

2.1 Number of informal requests
  Number of Requests
Received during reporting period 0
Outstanding from previous reporting periods 0
Outstanding from more than one reporting period 0
Total 0
Closed during reporting period 0
Carried over to next reporting period 0
2.2 Channels of informal requests
Source Number of Requests
Online 0
E-Mail 0
Mail 0
In person 0
Phone 0
Fax 0
Total 0
2.3 Completion time of informal requests
Completion Time
1 to 15 days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More than 365 Days Total
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2.4 Pages released informally
Less Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1000 Pages Processed 1001-5000 Pages Processed More Than 5000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Section 3: Requests Closed During the Reporting Period

3.1 Disposition and completion time
Disposition of Requests Completion Time
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
All disclosed 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Disclosed in part 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 4
All exempted 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
No records exist 1 4 1 1 0 0 0 7
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 6 3 2 0 0 0 12
3.2 Exemptions
Section Numbers of Requests
18(2) 0
19(1)(a) 0
19(1)(b) 0
19(1)(c) 0
19(1)(d) 0
19(1)(e) 0
19(1)(f) 0
20 0
21 1
22(1)(a)(i) 3
22(1)(a)(ii) 0
22(1)(a)(iii) 0
22(1)(b) 4
22(1)(c) 0
22(2) 0
22.1 0
22.2 0
22.3 0
22.4 0
23(a) 0
23(b) 0
24(a) 0
24(b) 0
25 0
26 0
27 2
27.1 0
28 0
3.3 Exclusions
Section Numbers of Requests
69(1)(a) 0
69(1)(b) 0
69.1 0
70(1) 0
70(1)(a) 0
70(1(b) 0
70(1)(c) 0
70(1)(d) 0
70(1)(e) 0
70(1)(f) 0
70.1 0
3.4 Format of information released
Paper Electronic Other
E-record Data set Video Audio
0 5 0 0 0 0
3.5 Complexity
3.5.1 Relevant pages processed and disclosed for paper and e-record formats
Number of Pages Processed Number of Pages Disclosed Number of Requests
795 795 5
3.5.2 Relevant pages processed per request disposition for paper and e-record formats by size of requests
Disposition Less Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1000 Pages Processed 1001-5000 Pages Processed More Than 5000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
All disclosed 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclosed in part 3 150 0 0 1 644 0 0 0 0
All exempted 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 151 0 0 1 644 0 0 0 0
3.5.3 Relevant minutes processed and disclosed for audio formats
Number of Minutes Processed Number of Minutes Disclosed Number of Requests
0 0 0
3.5.4 Relevant minutes processed per request disposition for audio formats by size of requests
Disposition Less Than 60 Minutes Processed 60 – 120 Minutes Processed More than 120 Minutes Processed
Number of Requests Minutes Processed Number of Requests Minutes Processed Number of Requests Minutes Processed
All disclosed 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclosed in part 0 0 0 0 0 0
All exempted 0 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0 0
Declined to act with the approval of the Information Commissioner 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0
3.5.5 Relevant minutes processed and disclosed for video formats
Number of Minutes Processed Number of Minutes Disclosed Number of Requests
0 0 0
3.5.6 Relevant minutes processed per request disposition for video formats by size of requests
Disposition Less Than 60 Minutes Processed 60 – 120 Minutes Processed More than 120 Minutes Processed
Number of Requests Minutes Processed Number of Requests Minutes Processed Number of Requests Minutes Processed
All disclosed 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclosed in part 0 0 0 0 0 0
All exempted 0 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0
3.5.7 Other complexities
Disposition Consultation Required Assessment of Fees Legal Advice Sought Other Total
All disclosed 0 0 0 0 0
Disclosed in part 0 0 0 0 0
All exempted 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0
3.6 Closed requests
3.6.1 Requests closed within legislated timelines
  Requests closed within legislated timelines
Number of requests closed within legislated timelines 7
Percentage of requests closed within legislated timelines (%) 58.33333333
3.7 Deemed refusals
3.7.1 Reasons for not meeting legislated timelines
Number of Requests Closed Past the Legislated Timelines Principal Reason
Interference with Operations/Workload External Consultation Internal Consultation Other
5 0 3 0 2
3.7.2 Requests closed beyond legislated timelines (including any extension taken)
Number of Days Past Legislated Timelines Number of Requests Past Legislated Timeline Where No Extension Was Taken Number of Requests Past Legislated Timeline Where an Extension Was Taken Total
1 to 15 Days 0 1 1
16 to 30 Days 1 0 1
31 to 60 Days 1 1 2
61 to 120 Days 1 0 1
121 to 180 Days 0 0 0
181 to 365 Days 0 0 0
More than 365 Days 0 0 0
Total 3 2 5
3.8 Requests for translation
Translation Requests Accepted Refused Total
English to French 0 0 0
French to English 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0

Section 4: Disclosures Under Subsections 8(2) and 8(5)

Paragraph 8(2)(e) Paragraph 8(2)(m) Subsection 8(5) Total
0 0 0 0

Section 5: Requests for Correction of Personal Information and Notations

Disposition for Correction Requests Received Number
Notations attached 0
Requests for correction accepted 0
Total 0

Section 6: Extensions

6.1 Reasons for extensions and disposition of requests
Number of requests where an extension was taken 15(a)(i) Interference with operations 9(1)(b) Consultation 9(1)(b) Consultation
Further review required to determine exemptions Large volume of pages Large volume of requests Documents are difficult to obtain Cabinet Confidence Section (Section 70) External Internal
3 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0
6.2 Length of extensions
Length of Extensions 15(a)(i) Interference with operations 9(1)(b) Consultation 9(1)(b) Consultation
Further review required to determine exemptions Large volume of pages Large volume of requests Documents are difficult to obtain Cabinet Confidence Section (Section 70) External Internal
1 to 15 days 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0
16 to 30 days 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0
31 days or greater               0
Total 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0

Section 7: Consultations Received From Other Institutions and Organizations

7.1 Consultations received from other Government of Canada institutions and other organizations
Consultations Other Government of Canada Institutions Number of Pages to Review Other Organizations Number of Pages to Review
Received during reporting period 0 0 0 0
Outstanding from the previous reporting period 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0
Closed during the reporting period 0 0 0 0
Carried over within regotiated timelines 0 0 0 0
Carried over beyond negotiated timelines 0 0 0 0
7.2 Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other Government of Canada institutions
Recommendation Number of Days Required to Complete Consultation Requests
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
Disclose entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclose in part 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exempt entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclude entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Consult other institution 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7.3 Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other organizations outside the Government of Canada
Recommendation Number of Days Required to Complete Consultation Requests
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
Disclose entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclose in part 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exempt entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclude entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Consult other institution 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Section 8: Completion Time of Consultations on Cabinet Confidences

8.1 Requests with Legal Services
Number of Days Fewer Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1000 Pages Processed 1001-5000 Pages Processed More Than 5000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
1 to 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16 to 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 to 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
61 to 120 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
121 to 180 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
181 to 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
More than 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8.2 Requests with Privy Council Office
Number of Days Fewer Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1000 Pages Processed 1001-5000 Pages Processed More Than 5000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
1 to 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16 to 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 to 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
61 to 120 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
121 to 180 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
181 to 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
More than 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Section 9: Complaints and Investigations Notices Received

Section 31 Section 33 Section 35 Court action Total
1 8 0 0 9

Section 10: Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) and Personal Information Banks (PIBS)

10.1 Privacy Impact Assessments
Number of PIA(s) completed Number of PIAs modified
0 0
10.2 Institution-specific and Central Personal Information Banks
Personal Information Banks Active Created Terminated Modified
Institution-specific 0 0 0 0
Central 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0

Section 11: Privacy Breaches

11.1 Material Privacy Breaches reported
Number of material privacy breaches reported to TBS Number of material privacy breaches reported to OPC
0 0
11.2 Non-Material Privacy Breaches
Number of non-material privacy breaches
0
12.1 Allocated Costs
Expenditures Amount
Salaries $60,000
Overtime $0
Goods and Services $5,000
Professional services contracts $5,000
Other $0
Total $65,000
12.2 Human Resources
Resources Person Years Dedicated to Access to Information Activities
Full-time employees 0.000
Part-time and casual employees 1.000
Regional Staff 0.000
Consultants and agency personnel 0.500
Students 0.000
Total 1.500

Note: Enter values to three decimal places.

Appendix C: Supplemental Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act

Section 1: Capacity to Receive Requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act

  Number of weeks
Able to receive requests by mail 52
Able to receive requests by email 52
Able to receive requests through the digital request service 52

Section 2: Capacity to Process Records under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act

2.1 Number of weeks your institution was able to process paper records in different classification levels
  No capacity Partial Capacity Full capacity Total
Unclassified Paper Records 0 0 52 52
Protected B Paper Records 0 0 52 52
Secret and Top Secret Paper Records 0 0 52 52
2.2 Number of weeks your institution was able to process electronic records in different classification levels
  No capacity Partial Capacity Full capacity Total
Unclassified Paper Records 0 0 52 52
Protected B Paper Records 0 0 52 52
Secret and Top Secret Paper Records 0 0 52 52

Section 3: Open Requests and Complaints Under the Privacy Act

3.1 Number of open requests that are outstanding from previous reporting periods.

Fiscal Year Open Requests Were Received Open Requests that are Within Legislated Timelines as Open Requests that are Beyond Legislated Timelines as of March 31, 2023 Total
Received in 2022-23 0 0 0
Received in 2021-22 0 0 0
Received in 2020-21 0 0 0
Received in 2019-20 0 0 0
Received in 2018-19 0 0 0
Received in 2017-18 0 0 0
Received in 2016-17 0 0 0
Received in 2015-16 0 0 0
Received in 2014-15 0 0 0
Received in 2013-14 or earlier 0 0 0

3.2 Number of open complaints with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada that are outstanding from previous reporting periods

Fiscal Year Open Complaints were received by institutions Open Requests that are Within Legislated Timelines as
Received in 2022-23 9
Received in 2021-22 0
Received in 2020-21 0
Received in 2019-20 0
Received in 2018-19 0
Received in 2017-18 0
Received in 2016-17 0
Received in 2015-16 0
Received in 2014-15 0
Received in 2013-14 or earlier 0
Total 9

Section 4: Social Insurance Number

Has your institution begun a new collection or a new consistent use of the SIN in 2022-23?
No

Section 5: Universal Access under the Privacy Act

How many requests were received from confirmed foreign nationals outside of Canada in 2022-2023?
0
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Date Modified:

Quarterly Report: For the quarter ended June 30, 2023

Date of Publishing:

Introduction

This quarterly report has been prepared by management as required by section 65.1 of the Financial Administration Act and in the form and manner prescribed by the Directive on Accounting Standards, GC 4400 Departmental Quarterly Financial Report. This quarterly financial report should be read in conjunction with the 2023–24 Main Estimates.

This quarterly report has not been subject to an external audit or review.

Mandate

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is an independent external review body that reports to Parliament. Established in July 2019, NSIRA is responsible for conducting reviews of the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence activities to ensure that they are lawful, reasonable and necessary. NSIRA also hears public complaints regarding key national security agencies and their activities.

A summary description NSIRA’s program activities can be found in Part II of the Main Estimates.  Information on NSIRA’s mandate can be found on its website.

Basis of presentation

This quarterly report has been prepared by management using an expenditure basis of accounting. The accompanying Statement of Authorities includes the agency’s spending authorities granted by Parliament and those used by the agency, consistent with the 2023–24 Main Estimates. This quarterly report has been prepared using a special-purpose financial reporting framework (cash basis) designed to meet financial information needs with respect to the use of spending authorities.

The authority of Parliament is required before money can be spent by the government. Approvals are given in the form of annually approved limits through appropriation acts or through legislation in the form of statutory spending authorities for specific purposes.

Highlights of the fiscal quarter and fiscal year-to-date results

This section highlights the significant items that contributed to the net increase or decrease in authorities available for the year and actual expenditures for the quarter ended June 30, 2023.

NSIRA spent approximately 19% of its authorities by the end of the first quarter, compared with 12% in the same quarter of 2022–23 (see graph 1).

Graph 1: Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q1 2023–24 and Q1 2022–23

Comparison of total authorities and total net budgetary expenditures, Q1 2023–24 and Q1 2022–23
  2023-24 2022-23
Total Authorities $23.0 $28.3
Q1 Expenditures $4.3 $3.3

Significant changes to authorities

As of June 30, 2023, Parliament had approved $23.0 million in total authorities for use by NSIRA for 2023–24 compared with $28.3 million as of June 30th, 2022, for a net decrease of $5.3 million or 8.1% (see graph 2).

Graph 2: Variance in authorities as at June 30, 2023

Variance in authorities as at June 30, 2023 (in millions)
  Fiscal year 2022-23 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2023 Fiscal year 2023-24 total available for use for the year ended March 31, 2024
Vote 1 – Operating 26.5 21.3
Statutory 1.7 1.8
Total budgetary authorities 28.2 23.0

*Details may not sum to totals due to rounding*

The decrease of $5.3 million in authorities is mostly explained by a reduction in capital funding for infrastructure projects.

Significant changes to quarter expenditures

The first quarter expenditures totalled $4.3 million for an increase of $1 million when compared with $3.3 million spent during the same period in 2022–23.  Table 1 presents budgetary expenditures by standard object.

Table 1

Variances in expenditures by standard object(in thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2023–24: expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2023 Fiscal year 2022–23: expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2022 Variance $ Variance %
Personnel 2,886 2,345 541 23%
Transportation and communications 130 44 86 195%
Information 0 5 (5) 100%
Professional and special services 1,165 846 319 38%
Rentals 48 10 38 380%
Repair and maintenance 24 31 (7) (23%)
Utilities, materials and supplies 7 16 (9) (56%)%
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 48 9 39 433%
Other subsidies and payment 4 (2) (6) (300%)
Total gross budgetary expenditures 4,312 3,304 1,008 31%

Personnel

The increase of $541,000 is largely caused by an increase in cost per FTE and change in the timing of Member’s pay.

Transportation and communications

The increase of $86,000 is explained by a change in the timing of invoicing for the internet connection.

Professional and special services

The increase of $319,000 is mainly explained by an increase in the cost of the maintenance and services in support of our classified IT network infrastructure. It also relates to the use of guard services for office accommodation fit-up.

Rentals

The increase of $38,000 is explained by a change in the timing of invoicing for the rent for temporary office space.

Acquisition of machinery and equipment

The increase of $39,000 is explained by a one-time purchase of a specialized laptop along with a wall mounted charging station and warranty.

Risks and uncertainties

The Secretariat assisted NSIRA in its work with the departments and agencies subjected to reviews to ensure a timely and unfettered access to all the information necessary for the conduct of reviews. While work remains to be done on this front, we acknowledge the improvements in cooperation and support to the independent review process demonstrated by some reviewees.

There is a risk that the funding received to offset pay increases anticipated over the coming year will be insufficient to cover the costs of such increases and the year-over-year cost of services provided by other government departments/agencies is increasing significantly.

NSIRA is closely monitoring pay transactions to identify and address over and under payments in a timely manner and continues to apply ongoing mitigating controls.

Mitigation measures for the risks outlined above have been identified and are factored into NSIRA’s approach and timelines for the execution of its mandated activities.

Significant changes in relation to operations, personnel and programs

There have been no new Governor-in-Council appointments during the first quarter.

Mr. Pierre Souligny, NSIRA’s Senior Director, Corporate Services and CFO since 2020, has retired. He has been replaced by Mr. Marc-André Cloutier.

Approved by senior officials:

John Davies
Deputy Head

Pierre Souligny
Chief Financial Officer

Appendix

Statement of authorities (Unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended June 30, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2023 (note 1) Used during the quarter ended June 30, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Vote 1 – Net operating expenditures 21,254 3,873 3,873 26,523 2,872 2,872
Budgetary statutory authorities
Contributions to employee benefit plans 1,728 439 439 1,728 432 432
Total budgetary authorities (note 2) 23,009 4,312 4,312 28,251 3,304 3,304

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

Departmental budgetary expenditures by standard object (unaudited)

(in thousands of dollars)

  Fiscal year 2023–24 Fiscal year 2022–23
  Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2024 (note 1) Expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2023 Year to date used at quarter-end Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2023 Expended during the quarter ended June 30, 2022 Year to date used at quarter-end
Expenditures
Personnel 13,303 2,886 2,886 13,245 2,345 2,345
Transportation and communications 650 130 130 597 44 44
Information 372 0 0 372 5 5
Professional and special services 3,596 1,165 1,165 3,506 846 846
Rentals 271 48 48 271 10 10
Repair and maintenance 4,580 24 24 9,722 31 31
Utilities, materials and supplies 73 7 7 103 3 3
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 132 48 48 232 9 9
Other subsidies and payments 33 4 4 133 (2) (2)
Total gross budgetary expenditures
(note 2)
23,009 4,312 4,312 28,251 3,304 3,304

Note 1: Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament as at quarter-end.

Note 2: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding.

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Date Modified:

Review of Departmental Implementation of the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act for 2020

Completed Reviews

Review of Departmental Implementation of the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act for 2020


Backgrounder

The Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act (ACA or Act) and its associated directions seek to prevent the mistreatment of any individual as a result of information exchanged between a Government of Canada department and a foreign entity. At the heart of the directions is the consideration of substantial risk, and whether that risk, if present, can be mitigated. To do this, the Act and the directions lay out a series of requirements that need to be met or implemented when handling information. This review covers the implementation of the directions sent to 12 departments and agencies from their date of issuance, January 1, 2020, to the end of the previous calendar year, December 31, 2020. It was conducted under subsection 8(2.2) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act), which requires NSIRA to review, each calendar year, the implementation of all directions issued under ACA.

This was the first ACA review to cover a full calendar year. Many of the reviewed departments noted that the pandemic impacted their information sharing activities, thus impacting the number of cases requiring further review as per the ACA. As such, NISIRA found that from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, no cases under the ACA were escalated to deputy heads in any department.

As part of the review, NSIRA examined the case triage process of all twelve departments. NSIRA found that even when departments employ similar methodologies and sources of information to inform their determination of whether or not a case involving the same country of concern should be escalated, significant divergences in the evaluation of risk and the required level of approval emerge.

In keeping with NSIRA’s 2020 Annual Report which emphasized the implementation of a “trust but verify” approach for assessing information provided over the course of a review, NSIRA continues to work on various verification strategies with the Canadian intelligence community. However, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, implementation of verification processes was not possible across all twelve departments which fall under the ACA. Notwithstanding, the information provided by departments has been independently verified by NSIRA through documentation analysis and meetings with department subject matter experts, as warranted. Further work is underway to continue developing an access model for the independent verification of information relevant to ACA considerations.

Date of Publishing:

Executive Summary

The Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act (ACA or Act) and its associated directions seek to prevent the mistreatment of any individual as a result of information exchanged between a Government of Canada department and a foreign entity. At the heart of the directions is the consideration of substantial risk, and whether that risk, if present, can be mitigated. To do this, the Act and the directions lay out a series of requirements that need to be met or implemented when handling information. This review covers the implementation of the directions sent to 12 departments and agencies from their date of issuance, January 1, 2020, to the end of the previous calendar year, December 31, 2020. It was conducted under subsection 8(2.2) of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act (NSIRA Act), which requires NSIRA to review, each calendar year, the implementation of all directions issued under ACA.

This was the first ACA review to cover a full calendar year. Many of the reviewed departments noted that the pandemic impacted their information sharing activities, thus impacting the number of cases requiring further review as per the ACA. As such, NISIRA found that from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, no cases under the ACA were escalated to deputy heads in any department.

While NSIRA was pleased with the considerable efforts made by many departments new to ACA in building their frameworks, Canada Boarder Services Agency (CBSA) and Public Safety did not finalize their policy frameworks in support of the Directions received under the ACA for the review period.

As part of the review, NSIRA examined the case triage process of all twelve departments. NSIRA found that even when departments employ similar methodologies and sources of information to inform their determination of whether or not a case involving the same country of concern should be escalated, significant divergences in the evaluation of risk and the required level of approval emerge.

A case sent to both GAC and CSIS was reviewed by NSIRA for its implications under the ACA. While the information was ultimately not shared with the requesting foreign entity, nonetheless, NSIRA found that the risk of mistreatment was substantial and the decision should have been referred to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as the accountable deputy minister for this request.

Mitigation measures used by departments were also reviewed this year, since they are an integral part in the information sharing process for departments. NSIRA observed that there are gaps in departments’ ability to verify whether a country or entity has actually complied with caveats or assurances because of the difficulty in tracking compliance to mitigation measures.

NSIRA believes that it is now in a position to conduct in-depth case study assessments of individual departments’ adherence to the ACA and Directions, irrespective of whether or not a department reported any cases to its deputy head. Finally, future reviews will follow up on the ongoing implementation of NSIRA’s past recommendations.

In keeping with NSIRA’s 2020 Annual Report which emphasized the implementation of a “trust but verify” approach for assessing information provided over the course of a review, NSIRA continues to work on various verification strategies with the Canadian intelligence community. However, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, implementation of verification processes was not possible across all twelve departments which fall under the ACA. Notwithstanding, the information provided by departments has been independently verified by NSIRA through documentation analysis and meetings with department subject matter experts, as warranted. Further work is underway to continue developing an access model for the independent verification of information relevant to ACA considerations.

Authorities

This review was conducted under subsection 8(2.2) of the NSIRA Act, which requires NSIRA to review, each calendar year, the implementation of all directions issued under the Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act (ACA or the Act).

Introduction

Review background

Departments and agencies in the Government of Canada routinely share information with a range of foreign entities. However such practices can sometimes bring into play a risk of mistreatment for individuals who are the subjects of these exchanges or other individuals. It is therefore incumbent upon the Government of Canada to evaluate and mitigate the risks that this sharing entails.

In 2011, the Government of Canada implemented a general framework for Addressing Risks of Mistreatment in Sharing Information with Foreign Entities. The aim of the framework was to establish a coherent approach across government when sharing with and receiving information from foreign entities. Following this, Ministerial Direction was issued to applicable departments in 2011 (Information Sharing with Foreign Entities), and then again in 2017 (Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities).

On July 13, 2019, the ACA came into force. The preamble of the Act recognizes Canada’s commitments with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s international legal obligations on prohibiting torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment. The Act also recognizes that information needs to be shared to enable the Government to fulfill its fundamental responsibility to protect Canada’s national security and the safety of Canadians.

On September 4, 2019, pursuant to section 3 of the ACA, the Governor in Council (GiC) issued written directions (Orders in Council (OiCs) or Directions) to the deputy heads of 12 departments and agencies. This added six new Canadian entities in addition to those that were already associated with the 2011 and 2017 Directions.

This report is NSIRA’s first full year assessment of the implementation of the Directions issued under ACA for the 2020 calendar year. The review builds upon two previous reviews conducted in respect of avoiding complicity in mistreatment. The first was in respect to the 2017 Ministerial Directions, while the second assessed the Directions issued under the ACA, but was limited to the four months from when the Directions were issued to the end of the 2019 calendar year.

ACA and Directions

The ACA and the Directions issued under its authority seek to prevent the mistreatment of any individual due to the exchange of information between a Government of Canada department or agency and a foreign entity. The Act and the Directions also aim to limit the use of information received from a foreign entity that is likely to have been obtained through the mistreatment of an individual.

Under the authority of subsection 3(1) of the Act, the Directions issued to the 12 departments and agencies are near identical in language and focus on the three aspects of handling information when interacting with a foreign entity: the disclosure of information, the requesting of information, and the use of any information received.

In regards to disclosure of information, the Directions state:

If the disclosure of information to a foreign entity would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual, the Deputy Head must ensure that the Department officials do not disclose the information unless the officials determine that the risk can be mitigated, such as through the use of caveats or assurances, and appropriate measures are taken to mitigate the risk.

With respect to requesting information, the Directions read as follows:

If the making of a request to a foreign entity for information would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual, the Deputy Head must ensure that Department officials do not make the request for information unless the officials determine that the risk can be mitigated, such as through the use of caveats or assurances, and appropriate measures are taken to mitigate the risk.

Lastly, as it relates to the use of information, the Directions provide:

The Deputy Head must ensure that information that is likely to have been obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity is not used by the Department
(a) in any way that creates a substantial risk of further mistreatment;
(b) as evidence in any judicial, administrative or other proceeding; or
(c) in any way that deprives someone of their rights or freedoms, unless the Deputy Head or, in exceptional circumstances, a senior official designated by the Deputy Head determines that the use of the information is necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury and authorizes the use accordingly.

The consideration of substantial risk figures prominently in subsection 3(1) of the Act as well as the Directions. In considering whether to disclose or request information, a department must determine whether a substantial risk is present and if so whether it can be mitigated. As noted in the previous reviews on information sharing, the ACA does not define “substantial risk”. Departments refer to a definition of this term as set out in the 2017 Ministerial Directions as a general starting point when conducting assessments under the ACA. The 2017 Ministerial Directions define substantial risk as:

‘Substantial risk’ is a personal, present and foreseeable risk of mistreatment that is real and is based on something more than mere theory or speculation. In most cases, the test of a substantial risk of mistreatment would be satisfied when it is more likely than not there would be mistreatment; however, in some cases, particularly where the risk if of severe harm, the standard of substantial risk may be satisfied at a lower level of probability.

Based on the outcome of these determinations, the decision may be to approve, deny, or elevate to the Deputy Head for his or her consideration. Substantial risk is also contemplated in the consideration of the use of information received from a foreign entity. If it is evaluated that the information was likely obtained from the mistreatment of an individual, the department is prohibited from using the information in any way that creates a substantial risk of further mistreatment.

Throughout the process to determine whether to disclose or use information, the Directions require that the accuracy, reliability, and limitations of use of all information being handled are appropriately described and characterized.

Additionally, reporting requirements are found at sections 7 and 8 of the Act as well as within the Directions. Among these requirements, the Minister responsible for the department must provide a copy of the department’s annual report in respect of the implementation of the Directions during the previous calendar year as soon as feasible to NSIRA, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICoP) and, if applicable, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Reporting requirements as articulated in the Directions oblige the reporting of decisions which were considered by the Deputy Head in regards to disclosure, requesting of information, or authorizing use of information that would deprive someone of their rights or freedoms be made as soon as feasible to the responsible Minister, NSIRA, and NSICoP.

Review Objectives and Methodology

The review period was January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. The objectives of this review included:

  • Following-up on departments’ implementation of the directives received under the ACA;
  • Assessing departments’ operationalization of frameworks/processes that enable them to meet the obligations set out in the ACA and directives; and
  • Assessing coordination and consistency in implementation across applicable departments.

Additionally, NSIRA evaluated all twelve ACA member departments’ ‘case triage’ frameworks (i.e., the combination of policy assessment criteria and a pre-determined ‘escalation ladder’ for cases that require higher levels of managerial approvals). Refer to annexes B to M that provide additional details on each departments’ triage process. Finally, NSIRA reviewed the use and policies around departmental mitigation measures.

FINDINGS

Reporting and Framework Updates

As per the Act, all twelve departments fulfilled their obligations to report to their respective ministers and NSIRA on progress made in operationalizing frameworks and identifying cases escalated to the deputy head level.

Of the nine departments who had reported to NSIRA last year that they had finalized frameworks, all continued to refine assessment protocols over the 2020 review period. Based on submissions to NSIRA, TC has developed a corporate policy to highlight the department’s ACA-related requirements. However, CBSA and PS had yet to finalize their ACA policy. As a result, employees may not have adequate and up to date guidance on how to make determinations related to the ACA.

NSIRA Finding #1: NSIRA found that CBSA and PS did not finalize their policy frameworks in support of Directions received under the ACA over the review period.

Referrals to Deputy Head

The Directions specify that when departmental officials are unable to determine whether the risk of mistreatment arising from a disclosure of or request for information can be mitigated, the matter must be referred to the Deputy Head. The Directions also require the Deputy Head, or in exceptional circumstances a senior official designated by the Deputy Head, to determine the matter where the use of information that is likely to have been obtained through mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity would in any way deprive an individual of their rights or freedoms and the use of this information is necessary to prevent loss of life or significant injury. In 2020, no cases were escalated to the deputy head level. NSIRA sought clarification on the absence of cases referred; the most common reason provided by departments for this outcome was that cases were either mitigated before deputy head involvement and/or this was a result of an overall reduction in the number of foreign information exchanges generally due to the ongoing pandemic.

NSIRA Finding #2: NSIRA found that from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, no cases under the ACA were escalated to deputy heads in any department.

Case Triage

Typically, when departments are making ACA applicability decisions, they employ varying “case triage” processes, that is, the combination of policy assessment criteria and a pre-determined ‘escalation ladder’ for cases that require higher levels of managerial assessment. NSIRA closely evaluated all twelve ‘case triage’ frameworks of the departments subject to the ACA (Refer to Annex B-M). In carrying out this work, NSIRA noted some issues in the implementation of triage systems; for example, there were instances of not having one designed and of information being outdated.

NSIRA observed that there were two main types of initial case triage processes: case-by-case, where the framework places the onus on the working level official to first make determinations based on policy assessment tools, relevant training, and individual experience; and country assessment rating, which emphasizes the initial use of a country-based risk level that may trigger case escalation. A country assessment rating is a representation of the assessed risk of mistreatment associated to a country, based on a number of criteria and often derived from a range of sources.

Initial Case Triage Category 1: Case-by-Case

All departments use working level officials to determine whether there is a risk of mistreatment. When a working level officials’ assessment is inconclusive as to whether a substantial risk of mistreatment exists, they will defer the decision to a higher management authority. NSIRA has developed Figure 1 to illustrate this type of triage process where the working level official consults assessment tools at his or her disposal to determine whether a substantial risk of mistreatment exists.

Figure 1: Case by Case Triage Diagram

Initial Case Triage Category 2: Informed by Country Assessment Rating

CSIS, CSE, FINTRAC, and RCMP require working level officials to use country assessment ratings that may trigger case escalation. For example, NSIRA has developed Figure 2 to illustrate this type of triage process where country assessment ratings may trigger case escalation.

Case Escalation

In addition to the two categories of case triage frameworks identified above, all departments except for FINTRAC, PS, CSE and TC make use of internal consultation groups/senior decision making committees when cases are identified as requiring consultation/escalation (e.g. working groups and senior management committee secretariats). The following table illustrates the various consultation groups across departments that would make determinations related to the ACA.

The general purpose of consultation groups is to serve as a single point of contact for employees who require assistance in assessing foreign information sharing activities or interpreting policy and procedure. Senior decision making committees are responsible for making determinations on the information exchange. They are the final decision making authority prior to escalation to the deputy head. NSIRA observed that leveraging the overall expertise of these groups may assist officials in consistently applying assessment criteria, as well as provide greater oversight for information exchanges with foreign entities.

Consistency in Implementation Across Departments

Beginning with the 2017 Ministerial Directions on Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities, it was required that departments maintain policies and procedures to assess the risks of information sharing relationships with foreign entities. While not specified in the Act or Directions, departments continue to implement country and entity assessments, a practice NSIRA has supported. NSIRA has previously raised concerns regarding the absence of unified and standardized approach to departments’ country assessments. The PCO-led community response to last year’s recommendation on this element stated in part that:

The information sharing activities of these organizations all serve either an intelligence, law enforcement, or administrative purpose with each carrying different risk profiles, privacy concerns, and legal authorities. Individual departments and agencies are responsible for establishing specific thresholds or triggers in their information sharing frameworks that are appropriate for their operational contexts. It is the view of the Government of Canada that applying the same threshold across all organizations for triggering, evaluating, and elevating cases is not necessarily practical nor essential to ensuring that each department or agency is operating in compliance with the Act.

In order to engage in the questions to which the divergence of thresholds gives rise, NSIRA asked departments to rank bi-lateral information exchanges with foreign partners in terms of volume, excluding exchanges with [***example of foreign entity information sharing***]. Nine of the twelve departments identified ███████ as a foreign exchange entity, a country which is widely recognized as having human rights concerns.

NSIRA then selected only those departments that initially utilize country assessment ratings as a triage method (i.e. FINTRAC, RCMP, CSIS and CSE). [***description of how departments determined foreign entity example***]. Nonetheless, in carrying out this analysis, NSIRA observed that all four departments relied on a combination of open source human rights reports and consultations with other departments. Additionally, RCMP, CSIS and CSE utilize classified intelligence sources.

However, although these departments utilize a similar approach when assessing a country, the assigned rating for ████ was not consistent. CSIS assigned █████████████; FINTRAC and RCMP assigned a [***description of department’s specific ratings***] ; and finally, CSE assigned a ██████ rating.

NISRA examined to what degree country ratings affected the level of approval required for an information exchange. Because CSE has assigned a rating of █████ when they receive a request from ████, a CSE official could require [***description of the factors used to determine the appropriate level process***] CSE acknowledged that its “human rights assessments do not necessarily correlate with the risk level assigned to an instance of sharing,” and nor do they “necessarily correlate to levels of approval or to restrictions to sharing.” [***description of the factors used to determine the appropriate level process***]

In contrast, according to their framework and methodology, an exchange with any one of the █████ authorities listed in the RCMP’s country and entity assessment list could result in an [***description of department’s specific ratings***] because █████ is associated with a country assessment rating. When an entity is yellow, the employee must consider whether or not there is a risk of mistreatment by looking at a list of criteria. If one or more of these criteria exist, the employee must send the case to a senior management committee. NSIRA observes that where the RCMP has a red country rating, the working level official must escalate to the senior management committee. Therefore, unlike CSE and CSIS, country ratings within the RCMP have direct impacts on approval levels.

NSIRA’s ACA report from last year recommended that departments should identify a means to establish unified and standardized country and entity risk assessment tools to support a consistent approach when interacting with Foreign Entities of concern. While PCO disagreed with this recommendation, NSIRA believes that there remain concerns regarding divergences in country and risk assessments.

NSIRA Finding #3: NSIRA found that even when departments employ similar methodologies and sources of information to inform their determination of whether or not a case involving the same country of concern should be scalated, significant divergences in the evaluation of risk and the required level of approval emerge.

Following this review, NSIRA intends to further scrutinize the processes employed regarding ACA triage and decision making by reviewing GAC and RCMP.

A case study as provided for in Box 1 exemplifies the divergent nature on the evaluation of risk where two departments’ considered responding to an identical request made by a foreign entity.

Box 1: A divergent decision-making process

[***description of the case study***] The foreign entity provided this information to GAC and CSIS and requested confirmation [***description of the information sharing request***]

In considering whether to respond to this request, GAC determined that the human rights record of the country in question generally and of the foreign entity specifically making the request were of significant concern. GAC’s senior decision making committee, working under the presumption that the individual’s detention was ongoing, considered whether the disclosure of this information “would not substantially increase the detainee’s risk of mistreatment.” The senior decision making committee determined that confirmation of the individual’s previous employment status with GAC was permissible, subject to the determination of CSIS’s assessment.

Ultimately, the decision by CSIS was made by a DG-level executive and, as the foreign entity was listed by CSIS as a restricted partner, information was not shared.

The assessment by GAC’s senior decision-making committee is of concern. The Act and the Directions impose that departments consider whether disclosing or requesting information “would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment.” [***legal advice to department***]

NSIRA agrees with this interpretation of the law, but not with its implementation by GAC in this case. GAC’s position was that responding to the request “would not aggravate” the risk of mistreatment. However, NSIRA is of a different view. Regardless of the information sought, the human rights record of the foreign entity and of the foreign country was of significant concern, and GAC was operating under the presumption that the individual may have already been subjected to mistreatment. While GAC’s sharing could not have accounted for any mistreatment that could have occurred earlier, responding to the request given the facts of this case would have nonetheless resulted in a substantial risk of mistreatment. Therefore, this case should have been refered to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for consideration.

NSIRA also observes that this case was triaged at different levels within GAC and CSIS. In GAC’s triage process, the decision was made at the higher senior decision-making committee that disclosure was permissible. Comparatively, CSIS’s decision-making process was completed prior to reaching their senior-level committee and yielded the opposite result. The different levels of decision-making and different outcomes underscore a problematic inconsistency in how each organization considers the same information to be disclosed to the same foreign entity. Furthermore, while a department responsible for the information may consult with other departments as to whether disclosure of information is permissible, it cannot abdicate this responsibility and decision-making to another department.

NSIRA Finding #4: NSIRA found a procedural gap of concern in a case study involving the disclosure of information, even though information was ultimately not shared. The risk of mistreatment was substantial and the decision should have been referred to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as the accountable deputy minister for this request.

Mitigation Measures

Use of Mitigation Measures

To decrease the risk of mistreatment, departments will employ mitigation measures such as caveats, assurances, sanitization, and redactions. The most common mitigation measures are caveats and assurances. Caveats are specific stipulations appended to information to limit or prohibit certain uses of information unless otherwise authorized by the issuing department. For example, any departments use a ‘third party’ caveat that restricts further dissemination of the information to other departments (domestic and foreign), unless the originating department is consulted on the request to share.

Assurances are not specific to a single information exchange; rather, these are agreements with foreign entities (whether formal or informal), which aim to help ensure that a particular foreign entity understands Canada’s position on human rights and that the entity, in turn, agrees to comply with this expected behaviour. For example, when formulating a risk mitigation strategy for an information exchange, departments will consider written or verbal assurances, who provided the assurance (i.e. working level official or agency head), and whether the assurance is considered credible and reliable.

Furthermore, CSIS, CSE, and GAC have highlighted a number of differences in the types of assurances sought, including a number of informal and formal methods. For example, verbal assurances, scheduled formal assurances, and ad-hoc written assurances can be sought by various levels.

In a related issue, NSIRA observed that there are [***description and an example of a Department’s ability to track compliance***] CSIS, GAC, and CSE indicated that there is ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ is not specific to the ACA but is nonetheless key ████████████ when exchanging information with the Government of Canada.

Given that no cases were escalated to the level of deputy head, departments’ lower-level use of mitigation strategies would have taken on considerable prominence in decision making. In a subsequent review, NSIRA intends to further investigate policies of mitigation measures pertaining to their use and tracking.

CONCLUSION

This review assessed departments’ implementation of the directives received under the ACA and their operationalization of frameworks to address ACA requirements.

NSIRA’s first review of departments’ implementation of the Act and Directions was limited to a four month period (September-December 2019). As such, this review constitutes the first examination of the ACA over the course of one full year. NSIRA believes that it is now in a position to conduct in-depth case study assessments of individual departments’ adherence to the ACA and Directions, irrespective of whether or not a department reported any cases to its deputy head. Additionally, future reviews will follow up on the ongoing implementation of NSIRA’s past recommendations.

Annex A: Findings

NSIRA Finding #1: NSIRA found that CBSA and PS did not finalize their policy frameworks in support of Directions received under the ACA over the review period.

NSIRA Finding #2: NSIRA found that from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, no cases under the ACA were escalated to deputy heads in any department.

NSIRA Finding #3: NSIRA found that even when departments employ similar methodologies and sources of information to inform their determination of whether or not a case involving the same country of concern should be escalated, significant divergences in the evaluation of risk and the required level of approval emerge.

NSIRA Finding #4: NSIRA found a procedural gap of concern in a case study involving the disclosure of information, even though information was ultimately not shared. The risk of mistreatment was substantial and the decision should have been referred to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as the accountable deputy minister for this request.

Annex B: Canada Border Services Agency

Annex B: Canada Border Services Agency Framework

Framework updates: In 2018, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued a high-level policy document in response to the 2017 MD. Since then, CBSA has drafted updated policies and procedures that have not yet been finalized.

Working Groups: CBSA Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment Working Group (ACMWG)

Senior Management Committee: Senior Management Risk Assessment Committee (SMRAC). This committee convenes on an as needed basis, to assess cases that have a potential for mistreatment.

[***description of CBSA’s decision making methodology***]

Country Assessment: In-house risk scoring template under development

Mitigation Measures: The CBSA is currently working to strengthen its formal framework/process for deciding whether substantial risk of mistreatment associated with a given request can be mitigated.

Annex C: Canada Revenue Agency

Annex C: Canada Revenue Agency Framework

Framework Updates: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) indicated that it did not make any changes to its framework since last year’s response. The department continues to refine its processes and has developed the Canada Revenue Agency Exchange of Information Procedures in the Context of Avoiding Complicity in the Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act.

[***departmental cabinet confidence***]

Working group: The CRA formed a Risk Assessment Working Group (RAWG) that developed a methodology to assess the human rights records of its information exchange partners, so that senior management can make informed assessments of the risk of mistreatment.

Canada has a large network of international partners with 94 tax treaties and 24 Tax Information Exchange Agreements. Canada is also a party to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (MAAC), which includes 144 signatories. These International Legal Agreements allow the CRA to exchange information on request, spontaneously and automatically. Each legal agreement includes secrecy provisions (caveats) that govern appropriate use and disclosure. In addition, members of the Global Forum (Global Forum) on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are subject to peer reviews on a cyclical basis, including on Confidentiality and Data Safeguard .

Senior Management Committee: During the review period a senior committee was not in place, however there was a formal process to escalate reviews/risk assessment through the Director, Director General and ultimately the Assistant Commissioner of the Compliance Programs Branch (CPB) who is accountable for the administration of the ACA.

Additionally, in July 2021, the CRA established an ACA governance framework that includes the ACA Panel, a senior management consultative committee to support risk assessments, reporting, recommendations, and priorities. The panel currently consists of DGs and Directors within the CPB and the Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch. Also in July 2021, the CRA established an executive level committee to consider and develop recommendations on case specific engagements as well as issue identification and guidance. The committee consists of Directors across several directorates of the CRA that manage programs that are directly impacted by/reliant on exchange of information with other jurisdictions.

Triage: The initial assessment is done by a working level employee and requires, at minimum, director approval. The case may escalate to the DG and the AC and so on if there is doubt about risk mitigation.

In cases where risk was identified, there were challenges in conducting full assessments to determine if the risk was substantial, the CRA delayed disclosing the information until the full assessment could be completed. This was largely in part due to COVID-19. As such, files that normally would have been referred were temporarily put on hold and no action was taken during the review period.

The CRA informed NSIRA that funding from the November 2020 Fall Economic Statement was allocated to the creation of a dedicated risk assessment team. It is anticipated that the development and regular updating of country-level assessments and the preparation of individual-level risk assessments will transition to this new dedicated team housed within the CPB, in summer 2021.

The team will also be responsible for:

  • Creating and formalizing the framework for consulting with CRA senior management and other government departments and agencies;
  • Advising CRA officials who engage in exchange of information (EOI);
  • Identifying mitigation and other factors specific to the type of information that CRA exchanges and that would impact risk assessment;
  • Preparing annual and other reporting required under the Act and Directions;
  • Providing awareness and training sessions; and
  • Continuously improving documentation, policies, guidance, and procedures.

Country/Entity Assessments: Since January 2020, the CRA has completed their own set of mistreatment risk assessments for each potential information exchange, including the use of information received from the CRA’s information exchange partners in consultation with other Government of Canada partners. The CRA can only exchange information with another jurisdiction pursuant to a treaty, tax convention or other legal instrument that permits exchange of tax information.

The CRA uses a colour coded system to rate the risk related to a country: green; yellow; red. However, for specific or spontaneous exchanges of information, the CRA completes an analysis based on the specifics of the file to supplement the country specific risk assessment.

Mitigation Measures: Mitigation measures, including caveats (data safeguards and confidentiality provisions) are embedded in all legal instruments that govern and allow for all the CRA’s exchanges of information, while peer reviews of jurisdictions’ legal frameworks and administrative practices provide assurances of exchange partners’ compliance with international standards for exchange of tax information. According to CRA, all information exchanged during the review period were subject to these mitigation measures. Due to COVID19, and for the period under review, the CRA put on hold all exchanges where it was deemed there may be a residual potentially significant risk of mistreatment until a process and mitigation measures were in place, including to redact information. However, the CRA routinely redacted personal information where it would not impact the substance of the exchange for those mitigated risk exchanges that did proceed during this period.

Annex D: Communications Security Establishment

Annex D: Communications Security Establishment Framework

Framework Updates: No changes made to the framework in 2020. It is the same procedure as the last review period.

Working group: Based on the RFI, there are no working groups leveraged to assess the level of risk of mistreatment. The Mistreatment Risk Assessment Process follows a process that has been refined continuously since its inception in 2012. The higher the level of risk (low, medium, high, substantial), the higher approval authority required to exchange or use information.

Senior Management Committee: There is no Senior Management Committee. As explained above, CSE relies on an approval authority scale based on the level of risk (from low to substantial). Senior level officials are involved in the process when there are medium and high-risk cases, which require Director and Director General/Deputy Chief approval, respectively.

Triage: A CSE official performs an initial assessment by consulting the Mistreatment Risk Assessment (MRA), which considers equity concerns, geolocation and identity information, human rights assurances, risk of detention and a profile of the recipients’ human rights practices.

Low (For Low Risk Nations)

If the MRA indicates a low level of risk, the official will need Supervisor [***specific unit***], approval if they wish to proceed with the information exchange or use.

Low (For non-Low Risk Nations)

If the MRA indicates a low level of risk, the official will need Manager [***specific unit***], approval if they wish to proceed with the information exchange or use.

Medium

If the MRA indicates a medium level of risk, the official will need Director, Disclosure and Information Sharing approval if they wish to proceed with the information exchange or use.

High

If the MRA indicates a high level of risk, the official will need Director General, Policy Disclosure and Review or Deputy Chief, PolCom approval if they wish to proceed with the information exchange or use.

Substantial

If the MRA indicates a substantial level of risk, the official may not proceed with the information exchange or use.

Country Assessments: CSE establishes its own country assessments (which CSE refers to as Human Rights Assessments) by using information from OGDs, its own reporting, and open source information. Foreign entity arrangements are reviewed annually. These HRAs are part of CSE’s MRAs.

There are two types of MRAs: Annual and Case-by-case. Annual MRAs include foreign entities with whom CSE regularly exchanges information, [***description of the foreign entities with whom CSE exchanges information***] Caseby-case MRAs are conducted in response to particular requests. Case-by-case MRAs often concern individuals and information sharing activities. There are Abbreviated MRAs, which are a sub case-by-case MRA, and they are conducted for Limited Risk Nations. These nations are considered low risk by CSE.

When making MRAs, CSE does the following:

  • assesses the purpose of the information sharing;
  • verifies there are mistreatment risk management measures in existing information sharing arrangements;
  • reviews CSE’s internal records on the foreign entity under consideration;
  • consults other available Government of Canada assessments and reports related to the foreign entity;
  • assesses the anticipated effectiveness of risk mitigation measures; and
  • evaluates a foreign entity’s compliance with past assurances, based on available information.

CSE consults with GAC, DND, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defence for some MRAs, usually case-by-case ones. CSE may also consult GAC for human rights-related advice in certain instances.

Mitigation Measures: CSE considers a number of mitigation factors, such as risk of detention, [***statement regarding information sharing obligations of partners***] caveats, formal assurances, and bilateral relationships. CSE’s principle mitigation measure is Second Party assurances. [***statement regarding information sharing obligations of partners***]

Identifying/Sensitizing: The DG, Policy Disclosure and Review or the DC PolCom review high-risk cases. 303 information-sharing requests were assessed for risk of mistreatment and 10 of them (3%) were referred to the Director, Disclosure & Information Sharing. For the 2020 review period, the Deputy Chief, Policy and Communications was responsible for ACA accountability and quality assurance.

Annex E: Canadian Security Intelligence Service

[***Info-graphic of CSIS’s Risk Assessment process***]

Framework Updates: While there were no changes during the 2020 review period, CSIS modified its procedure on January 2021. Most notably, cases will only be escalated to ISEC if the DG cannot determine if the substantial risk can be mitigated. In addition, CSIS merged the [***statement regarding internal process***] CSIS updated its human rights ‘Assurances’ procedures as a stand-alone policy. This policy requires CSIS Stations to seek assurances from [***statement regarding internal process***] coordination responsibilities for ISEC were moved to the ██████████. Through that, the █████ became ISEC’s Chair.

Triage: CSIS working-level officials do the initial assessment. This assessment requires the official to determine if one or more of the four risk criteria are met. These criteria are:

  • “Based on the available information about the foreign entity, if the information is disclosed or requested, is there a probability that the foreign entity will engage in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against an individual(s)?”
  • “If the information is disclosed or requested, is there a probability that the foreign entity will disseminate the information in an unauthorized manner to a 3rd party, which may result in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against an individual(s) by that 3rd party?”
  • “If the information is disclosed or requested, is there a probability that it may result in the extraordinary rendition of an individual(s) by the foreign entity which would lead to the individual(s) being tortured or subject to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment?
  • “If the information is disclosed or requested, is there a probability or an extrajudicial killing of an individual(s) by the foreign entity or other security entities within the country?”

Four scenarios could occur before a case lands at ISEC:

[***description of four possible scenarios and the assessment criteria used to determine risk mitigation and/or ecalation***]

Working Group: While there is a senior management committee, there is no working level group on the operations side.

Senior Management Committee: ISEC is CSIS’s senior-level review committee for foreign information sharing activities. It is composed of CSIS senior managers and representatives from DoJ and GAC. This committee is responsible to determine if a case poses a substantial risk and if it can be mitigated. If ISEC cannot determine if the substantial risk is mitigatable, the case is referred to the Director. Of note, GAC and DoJ are no longer voting members on ISEC but will continue to provide feedback and advice.

Country Assessments: CSIS conducts its own country assessments. Each information exchange arrangement with a foreign entity has its own Arrangement Profile (AP). APs include a summary of the human rights summary.

Mitigation Measures: CSIS relies on a few mitigation measures. First, CSIS widely uses ‘Form of Words’, which include caveats. Second, CSIS uses assurances and relies on standardized templates provided to foreign entities. CSIS may also tailor assurances to address specific concerns, such as extra-judicial killings.

Identifying/Sensitizing Information: ██████ is responsible for CSIS’s information sharing framework. [***name of a specific unit***] is responsible for official policy management. Concerned program areas are responsible for applying related polices and procedures for ACA-related activities.

Annex F: DFO

Annex F: DFO Framework

Framework Updates: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) did not make any changes to last year’s approach.

Triage: The initial assessment is made by the person receiving the request for information sharing or who first comes into possession of information derived from a foreign source. Risk is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The sector-level analyst/officer does the initial assessment and relies on OGD assessments to determine the level of risk. They determine the level of risk in relation to the specific case and whether they assess that there is a substantial risk or not will impact the level of approval. If the analyst/officer does not think there is risk, the case may proceed. This, according to the decision screen and information received, does not require any manager or senior level approval.

If the analyst/officer believes or is unsure that there is a substantial risk, the senior-level Internal Review Committee (IRC) must seek DM approval.

Working Group: Internal Review Committee

Senior Management Committee: DFO employs the use of a decision screen and the IRC as demonstrated above. It is unclear whether DFO has developed guidance to help officials and management accurately and consistently determine the risk of mistreatment.

Country Assessments: DFO relies on country assessments conducted by GAC (as well as DFO legal services, RCMP and CSIS as needed) to make mistreatment risk determinations.

Mitigation measures: DFO indicated that it employs the use of caveats and assurances as necessary but has not yet had to seek such assurances. As such, there is no tracking mechanism in place. The Department is able to retroactively determine when, how, and why a decision was made through its record keeping system. A process is in place to record the details of each case, its evaluation process, and any resulting actions and decisions.

Annex G: Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces

Annex G: Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces Framework

Framework Updates: The Department of National Defence (DND) indicated that there were no changes to its framework since last year’s response.

Triage: The process of assessing risk is largely the same across all three forms of information sharing transactions. The process involves examining country human rights conditions, and researching specific partner entities, including any reports of mistreatment. Adverse information on a foreign partner is reviewed by the Defence Information Sharing Working Group (DISWG) and recommendations are made to the implicated L1s on how to manage information sharing activities (request, disclosure, or use). There are no differences in the types of mitigation measures employed across the three forms of information sharing. The primary governance document Release and Disclosure Officers (RDOs) and Release and Disclosure Authorities (RDAs) must adhere to is the CDI Interim Functional Directive: Information Sharing with Certain Foreign States and their Entities.

Working Group: The Defence Information Sharing Working Group (DISWG) is a working-level committee led by the Release and Disclosure Coordination Office (RDCO) within CFINTCOM that serves as an advisory body to operation Commanders regarding issues covered under the ACA. This Working Group exists as a platform for open dialogue related to information sharing arrangements and transactions. This group convenes monthly, or as required.

Senior Management Committee: The Defence Information Sharing Assessment Committee (DISAC) is chaired by the Chief of Defence Intelligence / Commander CFINTCOM . The DISAC’s primary object is to act as an advisory committee for the Deputy Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff in support of their decision making regarding issues pertaining to the ACA.

Country Assessments: Currently, RDCO has established a list of low-risk countries that can be referred to by other L1s. Inclusion in this list indicates CDI’s confidence that sharing information with government entities of that foreign state can take place without a substantial risk of mistreatment. Moreover, RDCO has developed a draft methodology for Country Human Rights Profiles to classify countries as low, medium, or high risk but has only begun producing country human rights profiles on a few medium and high-risk countries and the methodology has not yet formally approved. These profiles will be used by other L1s in the development of specific Partner Entity Assessments and to inform the overall risk assessment of sharing information with foreign entities.

Information Management: There is no common shared system or repository for all RDOs. Information decisions are recorded by RDOs at the unit level. In some cases, all transactions are recorded using a spreadsheet and should include all details relating to the collection, retention, dissemination or destruction of the information, but the precise format will vary. CFINTCOM is working to standardize RDO logs across DND/CAF. From an information management perspective, there have been no changes since last year’s report. Records of discussion of all DISWG meetings are kept centrally within RDCO/CFINTCOM and it is possible to retroactively determine how and why a decision or recommendation was made.

Mitigation Measures: DND uses mitigation measures to reduce the risk of mistreatment. For example, DND uses measures such as the sanitization of information, the inclusion of caveats, and/or the seeking of assurances, including on low-risk cases in order to err on the side of caution.

Annex H: FINTRAC

Annex H: FINTRAC Framework

Framework Updates: The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) did not make any changes to their framework for the 2020 review year.

Triage: Who does the initial assessment will depend on the risk level classification of the country. If it’s green, the intelligence analyst (IA) does the risk assessment. If it’s yellow, the IA’s team leader does the risk assessment. If it’s red, Senior Level does the risk assessment. Regardless of the determined risk level, Senior Level must ultimately approve or decline the information exchange/use.

Partnerships and Working Groups: FINTRAC makes use of external organizations, such as the Egmont group, to ensure that member organizations are adhering to global standards against mistreatment. If one of these groups is found to have breached their duty of care, and is expelled from the group, then FINTRAC will cease to exchange information until the matter has been rectified. FINTRAC enters Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) with nations who wish to exchange information with them. To do so, each nation is assessed using a variety of criteria to determine their risk rating and whether an MOU should be established.

FINTRAC also regularly participates in ISCG meetings alongside other departments.

Senior Management Committee: FINTRAC does not have a senior management committee to determine risk like other departments. Instead, they rely on senior management and the Director to make final decisions on cases.

Country Assessments: FINTRAC established its own country assessments. Establishing each country assessment involves gathering pertinent information on the human rights situation in the country and using indicators to assess the risk level of mistreatment of each country. During the development of the country assessment process, FINTRAC consulted with other agencies/government departments captured under the ACA.

The Manager of International Relationships is responsible for monitoring and assessing the human rights profile of countries with which FINTRAC shares an MOU.

Mitigation Measures: Caveats and assurances are established at the signing of an MOU and repeated whenever sharing information with any foreign entity. The sharing of information is not allowed without a signed MOU.

Annex I: Global Affairs Canada

Annex I: Global Affairs Canada Framework

Framework Updates: Global Affairs Canada (GAC) indicated that no changes to their framework was made during the current review period.

Triage: There is not one unified set of processes at GAC for determining whether information being used by the department is likely to have been obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity. If an official determines that information that he or she has received is likely to have been obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity and that official still wants to use the information, they are instructed in their training to consult with their Program management at HQ. Should that manager be unable to make a determination on their own as to whether the use would comply with the Act, they will consult the relevant departmental policy group and the department’s Legal Services Unit.

Working Groups: The Ministerial Direction Compliance Committee Secretariat

Senior Management Committees: The Ministerial Direction Compliance Committee (MDCC) meetings focuses on the following:

  • Has the information, the use of which is being sought, likely been derived from mistreatment?
  • What are the proposed measures to mitigate the risks? What is the likelihood of their success?
  • Consider the justifications for and proportionality of any potential involvement with the foreign state or entity that may result in mistreatment.

The MDCC Secretariat will create a record of decision and circulate it for comment by MDCC members. Once finalized, it will be kept by the Secretariat for future reporting. The MDCC Secretariat follows up with the requesting official for updates on the outcome of the situation and requests a final update from the requesting official once the situation is resolved. Currently the MDCC Secretariat consists of one person.

Country Assessments: Global Affairs Canada’s human rights reports provide an evidence-based overview of the human rights situation in a particular country, including significant human rights-related events, trends and developments and include a section focused on mistreatment. There are no scores for countries however, and it is up to the officials to assess the risk based on the information in the reports.

Mitigation Measures: The Legal Services Unit and/or Intelligence Policy and Programs division will provide guidance on the limitations and the prohibitions of the use of information obtained through mistreatment. They are also able to propose potential mitigation measures, such as sanitization of the information, if there is a risk of further mistreatment; of depriving someone of their rights or freedoms; or if the information could be used as evidence in any judicial, administrative or other proceeding.

Annex J: IRCC

Annex J: IRCC Framework

Framework Updates: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) indicated that there were no changes to its procedures regarding the disclosure of information to foreign entities.

Triage: The initial assessment is done by the employee/officer receiving a request to disclose information. Officers are provided with a country assessment tool that provides a country-level risk assessment. If the country is listed as low-risk and the employee does not believe there are any risks of mistreatment, they may proceed with the exchange and record the details of that exchange (i.e., what information was exchanged; to which country, etc) into the Global Case Management System (GCMS). If the country is high-risk, or the officer believes that there is any risk of mistreatment and they wish to pursue with the case, then the officer is required to refer the case to IRM and Admissibility to assess the risk of the exchange.

Senior Management Committee: IRCC has the Avoiding Complicity Assessment Committee. The Committee is comprised of executives representing relevant policy, operations, legal and privacy branches within the Department. The purpose of the Committee is to reassess whether the circumstances of the case meet the “substantial risk” threshold, and to determine whether mitigations could be sufficiently imposed to allow for the disclosure. If the Committee is unable to unanimously determine if the risk can be mitigated, and there remains a need to disclose the information to the requesting foreign entity, then the case will be referred to the Deputy Minister for final decision.

Country Assessments: IRCC officers are instructed to refer to an initial country assessment tool when they are contemplating any disclosure or request for information from a foreign entity. This tool provides a general assessment of the country’s risk. If the country is identified as a high-risk country, then the officer is required to make a Consultation Request before disclosing, requesting or using information. If the country is identified as medium-risk, then it is recommended that the officer make a Consultation Request.

Mitigation Measures: Possible mitigation measures for a case where a substantial risk of mistreatment has been determined, if available, would be established in the Consultation Request assessment and, if necessary, in the Avoiding Complicity Assessment Committee’s recommendation. In either case, the mitigations will be manually recorded in the case file where they can be later recalled and noted in the Annual Report.

Annex K: Public Safety

Annex K: Public Safety Framework
Annex K: Public Safety Framework Image 2

Please note that the above flow charts are draft and have not yet been approved.

Framework Updates: Public Safety (PS) does not yet have a framework for deciding whether an exchange of information with a foreign entity would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual. PS noted, however, that it has drafted a departmental policy to support the department’s implementation of the Directions but it has not yet been approved by senior management.

Triage: PS officials at the operational level are responsible for identifying whether the disclosure of or request for information would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual. Prior to the disclosure of or request for information to/from a foreign entity, PS officials, as per the draft policy, are expected to:

  • review risk assessments and information sharing arrangements/agreements to determine risks;
  • identify mitigation measures as needed; and
  • seek DG approval for the disclosure or request; and the DG would determine whether the risk can or cannot be mitigated and whether the case should be referred to the DM for determination and decision.
  • PS officials at the operational level are responsible for identifying whether information for potential use was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual. As per the draft policy, prior to the use of information, PS officials are expected to:
  • conduct an assessment to determine if the information was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual, if not previously completed by PS officials or another government department, and mark it accordingly, based on DG-level determination;
  • assess and characterize the accuracy and reliability of the information; and,
  • advise their DG of the circumstance; and the DG would determine whether the information would be used as per section 3 of the Directions and refer the decision to the DM to determine if the use of information in any way that deprives someone their rights or freedoms is necessary to prevent the loss of life or significant personal injury.

For PS program areas where responsibilities for program delivery are shared among multiple Government of Canada departments, PS officials may use accuracy and reliability assessments conducted by another Government of Canada department for the express purpose of the specific information exchange. In these cases, and where PS does not have sufficient information (such as the source of the information) to conduct an assessment, it will require Government of Canada departments to attest to having conducted the assessment. This same principle applies risk assessments and assessments as to whether information was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual.

Working Group: The ISCG is the primary interdepartmental forum for supporting interdepartmental collaboration and information-sharing between members as they implement the Act and Directions and is regularly attended by all members.

PS participates in the ISCG in three ways as the:

  1. chair, coordinator and PS policy lead;
  2. area responsible for implementing the ACA;
  3. legal counsel representative.

PS has also made progress with ISCG guidance. However, due to COVID-19, the ISCG was limited in its capacity to convene meetings.

Senior Management Committee: PS does not have a formal senior management committee to review high-risk cases. The Investigative Authorities and Accountability Policy (IAAP) unit supports program areas in the referral process to the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister (SADM) of the National and Cyber Security Branch for further examination. Acting as a senior Public Safety official, the SADM is responsible for referring cases to the Deputy Minister if they are unable to determine whether the risk of mistreatment can be mitigated.

Country Assessments: PS currently does not have any country assessments completed and plans to use other department’s assessments, but as outlined in its draft policy, PS expects to conduct country and entity assessments as part of its annual risk assessment process. The risk assessment process will ensure that an agreement with the foreign entity is in place prior to information sharing exchanges; review risk and country assessments developed by portfolio agencies (e.g. CSIS) and other departments (e.g. GAC), and consider human rights reporting from non-government entities.

The IAAP will coordinate, on an annual basis, risk assessments. To do so, IAAP may, for example, review human rights reports developed by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), country assessments prepared by portfolio agencies (e.g. CSIS), human rights reporting from non-government entities and country/entity specific material.

Mitigation Measures: PS currently has developed a draft policy to address mitigation measures and caveats. The draft policy will provide guidance to officials on how to assess risk and apply mitigation measure, while also defining approval levels and country assessment responsibilities.

Once a risk of mistreatment has been identified, the PS official is required to undertake a risk mitigation assessment prior to requesting the information. Approved risk mitigation mechanisms include:

  • the caveating of information,
  • obtaining assurance and/or
  • disclosing a limited amount of the information.

The policy also outlines requirements regarding the use of congruent mitigation mechanisms to collectively reduce the risk.

Annex L: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Annex L: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Framework

Framework Updates: There were no changes to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) framework in 2020. RCMP has undertaken a number of internal reviews of its information sharing framework and continues to refine and optimize its processes.

RCMP also noted that it was in its final stages of rolling out an online training course specifically tailored to the ACA.

Triage: The Foreign Information Risk Advisory Committee (FIRAC) process may be initiated if and when an information exchange involves a country identified as high or medium risk. A low-risk case would only be sent if an official believes there is the potential for mistreatment.

All RCMP personnel are required to consider the risk of mistreatment before requesting, disclosing or using information and to engage the FIRAC process if there is a substantial risk identified to a specific individual(s) with a country of exchange.

An employee is almost always the one to perform the initial risk assessment. When an entity is green, the employee may exchange or use information without consulting FIRAC, unless they express doubts. When an entity is yellow, the employee must consider whether or not there is a substantial risk of mistreatment by looking at a list of criteria (similar to CSIS). If one or more of these criteria is present, the employee must send the case to FIRAC. If the entity is red, the employee must send the case to FIRAC for the initial assessment, unless no personal information is exchanged.

Working Group: Law Enforcement Assessment Group (LEAG). Full-length LEAG assessments include classified information from other Federal departments and agencies. The FIRAC Portal was developed to allow RCMP employees to access the assessments, and to further support compliance with the directions.

Senior Management Committee: FIRAC was established to facilitate the systematic and consistent review of RCMP files to ensure information exchanges do not involve or result in the mistreatment of any person.

FIRAC holds the responsibility to determine if a substantial risk exists and in cases where a substantial risk of mistreatment exists, make a recommendation on whether the proposed mitigating measures are adequate to mitigate the risk.

FIRAC’s recommendations are made by the Chair, upon the advice of the Committee, to the appropriate Assistant Commissioner / Executive Director responsible for the operational area seeking to disclose, request or use the information.

FIRAC determines if the risk is mitigatable or not. If it is, the case goes to the Assistant Commissioner. If it is not, FIRAC declines the exchange or use of information.

Country Assessments: An in-house country assessment model has been completed.

Countries are listed in alphabetical order, along with any specific foreign entities (i.e. police forces, military units, etc.) that have been assessed. For each entity, the risk level (Red-High, Yellow-Medium, Green-Low) is provided, as are the specific crime types and conditions.

Mitigation Measures: The RCMP leverages existing MOU’s with specific partners to partially mitigate underlying risk, in particular where mutually agreed standards around human rights exist as well as having a good track record for respecting caveats. Similarly, officials work with Liaison Officers to identify any relevant assurances or strategies, factors or conditions that could mitigate the risk of mistreatment posed by the information exchange, request for information or use of information.

All mitigation measures used are tracked through the FIRAC by filling in a FIRAC Request Form. Noting which mitigations/caveats are used is a mandatory part of the process.

Annex M: Transport Canada

Does not have a departmental framework for assessing ACA considerations, outside of the Passenger Protect Program (PPP).

Changes: Transport Canada (TC) developed a corporate policy in September 2020 to highlight the department’s ACA-related requirements, roles and responsibilities and remains a participant in PS framework.

Triage: Relies on PS’ framework for the Passenger Protect Program.

Should they have any concerns about a request for information from a foreign partner they will consult with other agencies, such as CSIS or GAC.

Working Group: TC is a voting member of the PPP Advisory Group but does not have any responsibility for drafting case briefs. At each meeting of the PPP Advisory Group, TC has ensured that all other voting members have acknowledged TC’s SATA-legislated responsibility for sharing the List with domestic and foreign air carriers, and its associated responsibilities under the ACA.

Senior Management Committee: TC does not have any senior management committee in place to further review cases with a potential for mistreatment.

Country Assessments: Rely on other government departments.TC relies on assessments by other departments such as PS and GAC.

Mitigation measures: The framework was established by Public Safety (lead on PPP), with consultations with the PPP partners (RCMP, CSIS, CBSA). TC has worked with PS to integrate mitigation measures into the operating procedures and protocols of PPP partners.

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