Annex B: History of the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner
The Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner was created on June 19, 1996, with the appointment of the inaugural Commissioner, the Honourable Claude Bisson, O.C., a former Chief Justice of Québec, who held the position until June 2003. He was succeeded by the late Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, P.C., C.C., C.D., LL.D., D.U., former Chief Justice of Canada, for a term of three years. The Honourable Charles D. Gonthier, C.C., Q.C., who retired as Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003, was appointed as Commissioner in August 2006, a position he held until his death in July 2009. The Honourable Peter deC. Cory, C.C., C.D., also a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, served as Commissioner from December 14, 2009, to March 31, 2010. On June 18, 2010, the Honourable Robert Décary, Q.C., a former Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, was appointed Commissioner.
For the first six years (from June 1996 to December 2001), the Commissioner carried out his duties under the authority of Orders in Council issued pursuant to Part II of the Inquiries Act. During this period, the Commissioner's responsibilities were twofold: to review the activities of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to determine whether they conformed with the laws of Canada; and to receive complaints about CSEC's activities.
The omnibus Anti-terrorism Act, which came into force on December 24, 2001, introduced amendments to the National Defence Act by adding Part V.1 and creating legislative frameworks for both the Commissioner's office and CSEC. It gave the Commissioner new responsibilities to review activities carried out by CSEC under a ministerial authorization. The legislation also continued the Commissioner's powers under the Inquiries Act.
The omnibus legislation also introduced the Security of Information Act, which replaced the Official Secrets Act. This legislation gives the Commissioner specific duties in the event that a person, who would otherwise be permanently bound to secrecy, seeks to defend the release of classified information about CSEC on the grounds that it is in the public interest.
While the Commissioner continues to provide the Minister of National Defence with his reports, the Commissioner's office is separate from, and not part of, the Department of National Defence.
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