Foundational Concepts

AuthorCraig Forcese
 
Foundational Concepts
is short book is about the democratic regulation of Canada’s security
and intelligence agencies at the federal level. It is intended as a primer
or guidebook, both for those involved in Canada’s national security
system and for those with an interest in it.
I wrote this book to overcome a key obstacle that I believe impedes
broader understanding of this topic: those working in (and study-
ing) components of Canada’s national security system usually do not
approach it as a system. Instead, they often populate silos, from which
vantage point broader patterns and principles may be invisible. is
reality may make it hard to understand the overarching principles
and objectives of Canada’s national security system, especially those
relating to democratic regulation. A failure to understand the “why” of
this democratic regulation makes it dicult to approach questions of
“how” in a principled manner. e result is that an understanding of
the rationale for design choices may fade with time, and transactional
approaches to national security accountability done without under-
standing broader principles may end up hollowing out democratic
| Fundamentals of National Security Accountability in Canada
Such a development would be regrettable. Democratic regulation
is not a pious principle, amounting to an inconvenience shackling
security services. Done properly, it is instead a mechanism for nudg-
ing progressive improvement in a sector often insulated from more
conventional performance pressures. is book, therefore, stems from
my commitment to the concept of democratic regulation of security
services as a key force multiplier in national security.
I have structured this book into two parts. In the rst, comprising
chapters  and , I propose six “values” that underlie Canada’s national
security system and inform (or should inform) both the conduct of
security service activities and the approach taken by bodies conducting
democratic regulation of them. I believe these values to be supported
both by the structure of Canada’s laws and by the vision of those who
prompted, framed, debated, and then decided them. In proposing
these values, I also rely on positions articulated by observers in like-
minded democratic states — especially the United Kingdom and United
States — concerning the national security systems in their own countries.
ese six values should guide any evaluation of Canada’s national secur-
ity system and always be front of mind in the design and operation of it.
In the rest of the book, I discuss how democratic regulation of the
security services operates in Canada, focusing on executive oversight,
judicial and quasi-judicial control and scrutiny, specialized national
security review, and then conclude with other forms of scrutiny. ese
chapters are not simply a litany of institutions and mandates. I have
tried to articulate the background to these functions and outline con-
siderations properly informing their design and conduct, linked back
to the principles addressed in the rst part of the book.
Before embarking on these topics, however, I must dene relevant
terms and their application to Canada. I must also oer a concise
history of democratic regulation of national security in Canada. ese
contextual discussions reect the fact that there can be no universal
theory of national security accountability, extracted from the highly
variable practices of states. As Peter Gill argues, “[e]ven a cursory
1 Peter Gill, “Of Intelligence Oversight and the Challenge of Surveillance Corporatism”
(2020) 35:7 Intelligence and National Security 970 at 970. See also David Omand &
Mark Phythian, Principled Spying: The Ethics of Secret Intelligence (Washington, DC:

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