Liberals Move To Create 9-Member Spy Oversight Committee

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OTTAWA — A nine-member, multi-party committee of parliamentarians would oversee federal intelligence activities under a long-anticipated bill tabled Thursday.

The legislation would authorize a security-cleared committee of seven MPs and two senators to scrutinize the intelligence work of more than a dozen agencies. A maximum of four MPs from the governing party could be members.

The goal is to ensure security and intelligence organizations are effective while protecting Canadian values, rights and freedoms, said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

ralph goodale
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale speaks with the media outside the House of Commons on Wednesday June 15, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

All of Canada's major allies — including the United States, Britain and France — have such committees.

"We have studied what those other committees do," Goodale told a news conference, adding Canada has learned from the examples — both good and bad.

The Canadian committee would have power to delve into any national security matter.

However, ministers could withhold information from the members if handing it over would harm national security.

In addition, a minister would have authority to halt a review of an ongoing operation if the scrutiny would be harmful.

Members would swear an oath of secrecy and would not be able to claim parliamentary immunity if they divulged classified information.