03:51 GMT20 January 2021
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    According to a government watchdog’s report, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) and Armed Forces (CAF) have no rules when it comes to intelligence operations, and they do not answer to any independent body for their actions.

    Canada needs to consider developing a legislation that will regulate how the military and the DND conduct intelligence operations, a national security watchdog committee in Canada's parliament suggests.

    In its report, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says the DND and the CAF have "one of the largest intelligence programs" in Canada, yet their operations face little to no outside scrutiny.

    The DND and CAF enjoy a freedom known as the "Crown prerogative," The Globe and Mail reports. This allows the Canadian government to make decisions as it sees fit unless its hands are somehow tied by statutes or the courts.

    "Once a statute occupies the ground formerly occupied by the prerogative power, the Crown must comply with the terms of the statute," the report quotes the Supreme Court of Canada as ruling.

    This means that while Canada does have certain administrative directives and rules that govern defence intelligence operations, no legislation explicitly guides these activities. At the same time, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) are subject to laws that say what they can and cannot do, the Globe and Mail reports.

    "DND/CAF is an anomaly in conducting its intelligence activities under the Crown prerogative. Those activities are similar in kind, risk, and sensitivity to those conducted by other Canadian security and intelligence organizations, which operate under and benefit from clear statutory authorities, limitations and requirements for ongoing review, tailored to the requirements of their specific mandates," the Committee's report says.

    Besides, the Committee points out that, unlike CSIS and CSE, military intelligence is not subject to review by an independent and external body, meaning that military intelligence operations are not only unregulated, but also do not report to anyone.

    Therefore, the Committee suggests developing legislation that would restrain the DND and CAF, as well as oblige them to report annually on their intelligence operations.

    In the meantime, Committee chairman MP David McGuinty said the watchdog found "no evidence of wrongdoing" by defence personnel during its investigation.

    Naturally, both the CAF and DND objected to the proposal, saying more oversight would make the military less flexible when it comes to operations; it would also undermine information sharing with Canada's closest allies, they argued, according to the Globe and Mail.

    Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said that his department would look at the Committee's suggestions.

    "There are internal processes that we have in place. Can we improve those? Of course we are looking at those," he said after a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

    However, he also noted that caution must be exercised in order to keep the military flexible, so that it "keep our soldiers safe."


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    report, rules, legislation, Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Canadian Department of National Defense (DND), Canada
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