Information Sharing for National Security
Threats to national security can emerge rapidly and evolve unpredictably. Timely and effective information sharing is essential to the Government of Canada's ability to identify, understand and respond to national security threats. To help facilitate sharing between federal government departments and agencies, Public Safety Canada has launched the Strategic Coordination Centre on Information Sharing (SCCI), a policy centre dedicated to the coordination of government policy on domestic and international national security information sharing.
The Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act (SCIDA)
The Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act (SCIDA) was enacted in 2019 to improve the timely and effective sharing of information for national security purposes. The Act authorizes all federal government departments and agencies to disclose national security-relevant information – including personal information – to a select group of federal institutions with national security mandates.
The SCIDA maintains the overall intent of its predecessor, the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (2015), but makes several key enhancements to Canada’s national security framework. These enhancements ensure information is disclosed responsibly by:
- updating the name of the SCIDA from information “sharing” to “disclosure” to emphasize that it addresses only the disclosure of information, without creating a new authority to collect or use information;
- clarifying the definition of an “activity that undermines the security of Canada”;
- specifying that a disclosure is only authorized if it will contribute to the national security responsibilities of a recipient institution, without affecting a person’s privacy interest more than reasonably necessary; and,
- requiring that records be maintained for every disclosure of information.
The SCIDA does not replace or expand existing rules related to the collection or sharing of information. Rather, it fills the gaps in cases where a clear authority to share national security information does not exist. The SCIDA also does not change any information sharing practices with international partners, which remain subject to existing regulations and arrangements.
Protection of Privacy and Fundamental Rights
The sharing of information by federal government departments and agencies continues to be governed by Canada’s existing legal framework, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Privacy Act. Before disclosing any information, federal institutions must balance the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians with key national security objectives.
The SCIDA ensures consistency with Canada’s legal framework by establishing:
- illustrative examples of what constitutes a national security threat;
- a list of federal government departments and agencies that may receive information;
- a clarified and robust threshold for disclosure; and,
- guiding principles for information sharing.
These measures help ensure that national security information sharing does not affect any person’s privacy interests more than is reasonably necessary to keep Canadians safe.
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