Supplementary information to the 2019–20 Departmental Plan

Raison d'être

The position of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner was created to review the activities of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to determine whether it performs its duties and functions in accordance with the laws of Canada. This includes having due regard for the privacy of Canadians. The Commissioner's office exists to support the Commissioner in the effective discharge of his legislated mandate.

The office is a micro-agency. The Commissioner is supported by 11 full-time employees (the Executive Director, seven program officers, three internal services staff). Subject matter experts are engaged from time to time to assist the Commissioner in discharging the core responsibilities of both the review program and internal services.

Mandate and role

The mandate of the Commissioner is set out under Part V.1 the National Defence Act (NDA):

  1. to review the activities of the CSE to ensure they comply with the law;
  2. in response to a complaint, to undertake any investigation that the Commissioner considers necessary; and
  3. to inform the Minister of National Defence and the Attorney General of Canada of any activity of the Communications Security Establishment that the Commissioner believes may not be in compliance with the law.

The Commissioner is also required to submit an annual report to the Minister, for tabling in Parliament, on the Commissioner's activities and findings within 90 days after the end of each fiscal year. He is also required to review and report to the Minister as to whether the activities carried out under a ministerial authorization are authorized.

The mandate is further defined under Section 15 of the Security of Information Act which requires the Commissioner to receive information from persons who are permanently bound to secrecy and who seek to defend the release of classified information about the Communications Security Establishment on the grounds that it is in the public interest.

Operating context

The core responsibility for the Commissioner's review program remains unchanged to examine CSE activities to determine whether or not CSE performs its duties and functions in accordance with the laws of Canada. The priorities of the office remain unchanged from the previous year, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the review program, to increase transparency and to maintain public trust. The funding available for the program is unchanged and has remained more or less constant over the past several years.

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