The federal government introduced today new legislation to create a joint oversight committee with robust powers to scrutinize national security matters.
The bill, titled “An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts,” was tabled in the Commons by Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc.
The nine-member committee would be made up of seven MPs and two senators who would have the clearance required to delve into “any matter, any activity” related to national security, Minister Goodale said. Of the seven MPs, a maximum of four would come from the governing party.
The minister said the goal of the committee would be to ensure the country’s security and intelligence agencies are keeping Canadians safe while at the same time protecting Canadian values, rights and freedoms.
Minister Goodale said the committee members would have to pass a high level of security clearance and swear an oath of secrecy before assuming their new responsibilities.
He said parliamentarians would need to maintain the confidentiality of information they receive even after they are no longer sitting on the committee.
In addition, members would not be able to claim parliamentary immunity if they divulged classified information.
Ministers would be allowed to withhold information from committee members if handing it over could compromise national security.
Minister Goodale said the onus would be on ministers to explain why they can’t comply with a review and provide substantive answers, not just “a capricious judgment.”
“If the committee is not happy with that explanation, they can make their unhappiness known publicly.
Liberal MP David McGuinty would chair the new committee once the legislation becomes law sometime in the fall, Minister Goodale said.
The Liberal Party promised to create this committee in the last federal election. The government will hold consultations over the summer regarding its review of national security legislation.