It is not for a lack of tools but for lack of inclination that agencies do not share information

On Thursday, June 21st, 2018 in Debate, Parliament

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for striking a blow for members being recognized by the Speaker as they rise to speak.

I want to suggest we had a confusion in some of the debate here tonight between the concept of oversight and review. I have the advantage, although I do not think at the time I thought it was an advantage, to be participating as much as I could in the legislative review of the parliamentary committee that was looking at Bill C-51 in the 41st Parliament.

Justice John Major who chaired the Air India inquiry testified at that committee his opinion it was not, as my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has suggested, a lack of tools that meant intelligence agencies did not share information. Judge Major said it was human nature. He said they just will not share the information. His experience from the Air India inquiry led him to believe that CSIS could have the information and out of its own inclinations, would not share it with the RCMP.

This was confirmed for us by a witness who testified, an MI5 agent from the U.K. who has been a security liaison with Canada, Joe Fogarty, who gave numerous examples. He used the ones that were in the public domain, by the way. He said he knew of more that we could not talk about, that the RCMP were deliberately kept in the dark by CSIS because it chose not to share the information.

I heard my hon. Conservative colleague speak of the cost of developing the security intelligence review agency. If the cost will save lives, then there is no point in not having a properly sourced security intelligence review agency. Review and oversight are quite different from review at the end of the year. We desperately need oversight of what our agencies are doing.

Mr. Garnett Genuis – Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan

Madam Speaker, my friend raised a few issues. She made a distinction that I do not actually agree is a distinction. It is conceptually a distinction, but in practice not as clearly. She talked about agencies having the ability to share information and on the other hand whether or not they have the will to share the information. She points out quite rightly that there may be cases where agencies still do not share the information because they do not have the will to share that information. Regardless, we should all agree that they should at least have the ability to share that information.

If we give agencies the ability, but make it harder for them to share that information and require them to jump through more hoops to do that, probably we are more likely to draw out that kind of territorial human instinct if it is more difficult to share the information. In other words, people might be willing to share the information if it is easier. If it is more difficult, that might give them another reason not to, which makes the case that we cannot change human nature. Some people in the House would like to, incidentally, but that is a whole other topic of conversation. We cannot change human nature, but we can establish the rules that at least facilitate the best possible outcomes while trying to influence the culture of our agencies as well.

I want to clarify my comments about the costs associated with the creation of the new national security and intelligence review agency. I did not say that the cost is decisive and that we should never do things that cost money when it comes to our security. Clearly not. I simply made the point that, if we are investing in new administrative infrastructure and we do not fund that with new money, it has to come out of somewhere. Yes, we can make an argument for this new agency, but it should not come at the expense of cuts to front-line security. That was the point.

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