The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC or the Committee) is an independent, external review body which reports to the Parliament of Canada on the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS or the Service). It provides assurance to Parliament that CSIS is complying with the law, policy and Ministerial direction, by conducting reviews of CSIS activities and by investigating complaints.
The Committee is composed of four members: Chair, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, P.C., the Honourable Frances Lankin, P.C., C.M., the Honourable Denis Losier, P.C., C.M., and the Honourable Deborah Grey, P.C., O.C.
Members are appointed by the Governor-in-Council after consultation by the Prime Minister with the Leaders of the Opposition parties. All of the Committee members must be Privy Councillors, which means that they have full access to highly classified information, a privilege which is not granted to most Parliamentarians.
SIRC was created in response to a recommendation of the McDonald Commission, which looked into the activities of the RCMP Security Service. Its final report, published in 1981, led to the creation of a new civilian intelligence service as well as two review organizations to watch over it. SIRC was established in 1984 under the same legislation which created CSIS. It helps to ensure that CSIS does not undermine Canadians' fundamental rights and freedoms while CSIS carries out its mandate to guard against threats to national security.
The CSIS Act gives SIRC the right to have “
access to any information under the control of the Service.” As a result, SIRC has the absolute authority to examine all of the Service's activities, no matter how sensitive and no matter how classified that information may be. The sole exception is Cabinet confidences, which means deliberations among Ministers.
SIRC's complaint process is governed by the CSIS Act. If you have a complaint about “
any activity or thing” done by CSIS, Section 41 of the CSIS Act will apply. If you have a complaint concerning the denial or revocation of a security clearance necessary to obtain or keep federal government employment or contracts, Section 42 of the CSIS Act applies. In both cases, the procedures for making a complaint are explained on SIRC's website.
Every year, SIRC prepares an annual report which is publicly tabled in Parliament and is available on its website. Every study conducted, every query pursued and every complaint investigated is reflected in the pages of SIRC's annual report. Because SIRC is legally obliged to withhold classified information and protect the privacy of individuals, the annual report is an edited version of SIRC's internal reports.
Parliament and the people of Canada must have confidence that the Service is acting within the law. SIRC's role is to show that knowledgeable individuals, independent from CSIS and from Government but familiar with the security intelligence environment, will render an honest and fair-minded assessment based on the facts.