POLITICS

Bill C-51: 5 Things To Know About Intelligence Watchdog Powers

02/18/2015 05:45 EST | Updated 04/20/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Opposition MPs, security experts and civil libertarians are calling for stronger oversight of Canada's intelligence services as the Conservative government moves to broaden their powers with new legislation.

Here's five things to know about Canada's intelligence watchdog powers as they currently stand:

— The Security Intelligence Review Committee, the watchdog over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has access to all CSIS records, carries out several studies each year and tables a report in Parliament.

— The review committee absorbed some functions of the CSIS inspector general's office after the Conservatives abolished that watchdog in 2012.

— The inspector general was considered the public safety minister's "eyes and ears" on CSIS, with the ability to alert him to any brewing problems.

— The NDP and Liberals point out the review committee is just that — a review body, not an oversight agency peering over CSIS' shoulder in real time.

— The opposition parties are calling for a full-fledged parliamentary oversight body whose members would be cleared to see and discuss secret records — similar to such committees in Britain and the United States.

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