Origins of SIRC

The proposal to establish a civilian intelligence service originated with two Royal Commissions: the Mackenzie Commission (1969) and the McDonald Commission (1981). The McDonald Commission had been created in 1977 after it became known that the RCMP Security Service had been involved in illegal activities.

The McDonald Commission made recommendations for restructuring the Security Service and enhancing Ministerial control. It recommended a civilian intelligence service separate from the RCMP, and that this new agency should be established by an Act of Parliament which would define the agency's mandate, basic functions, and powers, including conditions under which those powers could be used. The threats to be investigated by the agency were to be strictly defined and limited.

The McDonald Commission also recommended that Parliament establish an independent, review body to examine the agency's activities. The Commission proposed an “Advisory Council”, comprised of persons independent from the government of the day. This Council would focus on the legality and propriety of the agency's activities. The Commission further recommended that the Council report to a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security and Intelligence.

In May 1983, when the Government introduced Bill C-157, the broad mandate proposed for the new agency caused considerable public opposition. As a result, the Government referred the bill to a Senate Committee which recommended major changes. In place of the Advisory Council and Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Senate Committee proposed a two-tiered system.

The first level of review, an internal review mechanism, was to be an Inspector General, responsible to the Deputy Solicitor General. The Inspector General would review the operational policies and activities of the new agency. Also, when its Director submitted annual or other reports to the Minister, the Inspector General would certify that he/she was satisfied with the contents of each report or, if not, would comment upon them. In June 2012, the Government of Canada consolidated some of the review functions of the Inspector General with those of SIRC.

The second level of review, an external review mechanism, was to be a Security Intelligence Review Committee whose members were to be Privy Councillors. The Committee would be appointed by the Governor in Council after consultation by the Prime Minister with the Leaders of the opposition parties.

In January 1984, the Government introduced Bill C-9 which included virtually all of the changes recommended by the Senate Committee. This revised bill was passed by the House of Commons and the Senate in June 1984, and on July 16, 1984, an Act to establish the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was proclaimed.

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