The Parliament of Canada has traditionally deferred to the government on matters relating to national security although parliamentarians have, on occasion, vied for the task of being actively involved in holding the government to account on these matters. In 1991, parliament conducted a five-year review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act where the Solicitor General of Canada and his officials presented classified summaries to parliamentarians to assist them in their review of the effectiveness of the legislation. In 2004, a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians was proposed in Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy. The Speaker’s ruling on the provision of documents of April 27, 2010 also dealt with this issue. This paper examines a number of issues and concerns that have arisen in the past on this issue, and it examines parliamentary review of national security matters in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It concludes that there are no reasonable barriers to the involvement of parliamentarians in reviewing matters of national security in Canada.
The notion of parliamentary review of national security matters is not unique to Canada. The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand all have well developed systems to involve parliamentarians in holding the government to account on matters of national security; Canada does not.