Section 54(2) Reports

Parliament has given the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC or the Committee) specific powers to review the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS or the Service). These are defined in the CSIS Act, which is the governing legislation of both organisations.

Under Section 54(2) of the CSIS Act, SIRC has the authority to produce special reports for the Minister of Public Safety. The Act states:

The Review Committee may, on request by the Minister or at any other time, furnish the Minister with a special report concerning any matter that relates to the performance of its duties and functions.

It is important to note that Section 54(2) investigations need not be requested by the Minister; they can be initiated by SIRC and can encompass anything which falls under the Committee's jurisdiction. Normally, these special reports do not form part of the Committee's research plan for a given year. Instead, they are prompted by high-profile events or serious concerns which the Committee believes warrant attention. By law, SIRC has unrestricted access to any information in the Service's possession. CSIS has no power of veto over special reports, nor any other SIRC inquiry for that matter.

This mechanism is employed infrequently. Using these powers, SIRC investigated CSIS’s role in the interviewing of Afghan detainees; the case of Omar Khadr; the case of Mohammed Mansour Jabarah; Maher Arar; the Heritage Front Affair; the destruction of Air India Flight 182; and the attack on the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, among others.

Section 54(2) reports are classified “Top Secret” and are submitted directly to the Minister. A summary, like any other review, is included in SIRC's Annual Report to Parliament. However, the Committee must strike a balance between the public's right to know and its legal obligation to protect national security and privacy.

SIRC or the Minister can decide to release a Section 54(2) report publicly, after the document has been vetted. Severed copies of any report prepared by SIRC can also be requested under Access to Information legislation.

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