This is my third report as Communications Security Establishment Commissioner. It is an appropriate time, in my view, to reflect upon the nature of the work in which my office is engaged and the quality of the relationship that has evolved between the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and my office.
Decades of legal experience have taught me that the most important element in any relationship is trust. This is true of all relationships, including the one between my office and CSEC. Trust, in my opinion, is not an entitlement. It is something that must be earned through integrity and professionalism. In the case of CSEC, it is also earned by demonstrating commitment to the protection of national security in a way that ensures compliance with the law and respect for the privacy of Canadians. In the case of my office, trust is earned through a rigorous, comprehensive and fair review process.
Due to the nature of its work, CSEC is required to operate largely in secrecy. The role of my office is, in part, to represent the public interest in accountability in a way that optimizes effective review while not restricting unnecessarily CSEC's legislated role.
My predecessors and I have consistently recognized prevention as an important aspect of the Commissioner's legislated role. As such, most recommendations address shortcomings in CSEC's policies, procedures and practices in order to strengthen the compliance framework and reduce any risk to privacy.
While I have, over the past three years, reported that I have found no instances of lack of compliance with the law, there may be, and have been, instances where disagreements with CSEC arise over a particular issue or where I am not satisfied with CSEC's explanation or information. In such cases, I direct my staff to pursue the issue as thoroughly as required. The manner in which such matters are handled can enhance professional trust between organizations.
As my first term draws to a close, I take satisfaction in noting that mutual trust and commitment to shared democratic values have fostered a productive working relationship. I acknowledge the leadership of CSEC which has demonstrated its commitment to lawfulness and protecting privacy.
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