This is my first report as Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Commissioner following my appointment on June 19, 2003.
During my twenty years on the Supreme Court of Canada, ten of them as Chief Justice, I witnessed and participated in the evolution of human rights and freedoms in this country, as we grappled with the application and impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This experience dovetails very well with my duties as CSE Commissioner, because safeguarding the rights of Canadians, including in particular the right to privacy, is an important element, although not exhaustive, of my mandate. In accepting this order-in-council appointment last June, therefore, I was honoured and pleased to have the opportunity to continue serving my country in a meaningful way.
Since retiring from the Court, I have participated in independent reviews and inquiries. One lesson I took from those experiences was the value of working collaboratively when seeking change and reform. With this background, my approach to reviewing the activities of the Communications Security Establishment is essentially proactive and preventive. When reviewing CSE operations to ensure that no unlawful activity has occurred, I also look for the existence of preventive counter-measures to safeguard against situations arising in which unlawful activity could occur. In areas as vital as security and intelligence where Canadians' privacy is at stake, I believe this approach is not only warranted but essential in establishing the appropriate balance between the demands of security and intelligence and the privacy rights of Canadians.
Under this approach, if I had concerns as a result of a review conducted by my office, my first step would be to share those concerns with the relevant persons — the Chief of CSE and those who report to him. This would afford them an opportunity to institute corrective measures or to explain to me why my concerns were unjustified. By proceeding in this way, it is my hope that when I submit classified reports to the Minister of National Defence, most of the problem areas I have identified will already have been addressed, and my report will have been rendered moot.
This approach has proved useful in the past, often resulting in prompt administrative action. As a result, it has been possible to improve the way things are done expeditiously and without confrontation. In this way, the review and reporting process becomes a vehicle not just for detecting unlawful activity but for preventing it in the first place. When constructive criticism is accepted in the spirit in which it is intended, this approach works to the benefit of all concerned.
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