Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit
Summary of National Security Panels
- Public Safety organized five panels at the Summit on: national security and democratic values; expert perspectives on national security transparency; oversight and review bodies; diversity and inclusion in national security, and; the Christchurch Call to Action.
- Officials and experts from Canada and abroad shared their views on how to enhance national security transparency and accountability.
- Key takeaways include the importance of robust oversight and review mechanisms and the desire for further government collaboration with civil society and academia.
- Next steps include enhancing dialogue with international partners and with civil society.
- The sixth annual Open Government Partnership Global Summit was hosted in Ottawa from May 29 to 31 in Ottawa.
- Over 2,600 government leaders and civil society activists from 115 countries attended the Summit to promote accountable, responsive and inclusive governance.
- Over 20 Ministers from around the world attended, included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and former President of the US Barack Obama.
Public Safety’s Panels
Public Safety organized the development and delivery of five national security-related panels at the Summit. Academics, civil society advocates, and government leaders from Canada, the US, the UK, France and New Zealand came together to discuss issues ranging from the role of oversight bodies to inclusion and diversity in national security. Approximately 500 participants attended the national security panels alone, and Public Safety produced the second-highest number of panels of any Government of Canada department.
Participating in the Summit provided a valuable platform to showcase the importance of transparency in national security, and preceded the announcement of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group, which provides guidance on the implementation of the National Security Transparency Commitment. The Summit also provided a forum for discussion and interaction between attendees and high-level officials, politicians and experts. A number of panelists expressed a desire to continue collaborating in future.
Below are some key takeaways from the five panels spearheaded by Public Safety:
Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) & Diversity in National Security: Can We Ever Be “Bias-Free”?
Catherine Clark (moderator) – Host, Before the Bell
Monik Beauregard – Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, National and Cyber Security Branch, Public Safety Canada
Caroline Xavier – Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Security and Intelligence, Privy Council Office
Tricia Geddes – Assistant Director, Policy and Strategic Partnerships, Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Rachel Schmidt – TSAS Research Fellow
Highlights of the panel:
- GBA+ is an analytical tool used to assess how diverse groups of people may experience policies, programs and initiatives differently based on intersecting identity factors.
- Only recently has GBA+ become a formalized horizontal and holistic initiative across national security institutions.
- Considering factors like gender, sex and age, enhances the ability to effectively assess and address national security threats.
- Ex: DAESH’s exploitation of traditional gender stereotypes regarding women extremists and militants is ineffective when policymakers safeguard against those stereotypes.
- It is impossible to be bias-free. The goal instead is to be bias-aware or bias-sensitive, and by using tools like GBA+, to prevent biases that may influence national security work.
- Among the Canadian national security establishments, CSIS is taking a leading role in implementing GBA+, with a team of four dedicated employees for an initial period of 2 years. Public Safety is also leading an interdepartmental GBA+ in National Security Network.
National Security & Democratic Values
Tim Sebastian (moderator) – Host, Conflict Zone and The New Arab Debates; former BBC correspondent (UK)
Tufyal Choudhury – Senior Research Fellow, Rights Watch (UK)
Alex Joel – Chief, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC – Former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation (UK)
Mary Beth Goodman – Former Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Development and Democracy, National Security Council, The White House (US)
Highlights of the panel:
- According to panelists, full transparency in national security is not possible. The task instead is to achieve the highest level of accountability, and a proper and reasonable degree of trust between the public and government as a result.
- It is difficult for the public to hold the government to account when it does not know what the government has done, is doing and is planning to do.
- Engaging proactively and regularly with civil society is crucial to raising public interest and awareness of national security information.
- Ex: the US has a Tumblr page called “IC on the Record” which they use primarily to release documents, as well as Intel.gov, which features more storytelling and accessibly-written materials.
- Panelists said that there needs to be fair, robust, and independent judgement of what information can be disclosed and what cannot be disclosed.
National Security Transparency: Expert Perspectives
Aaron Shull (moderator) – Managing Director & General Counsel, Centre for International Governance Innovation
Christopher Parsons – Senior Research Associate, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy
Wesley Wark – Visiting Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Veronica Kitchen – Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Waterloo
Leah West – Lecturer (Incoming), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs
Highlights of the panel:
- Panelists said that it is important not ‘to grab the low-hanging fruit’, but instead to decide what the public really needs to know about when it comes to past, present and future transparency practices.
- According to panelists, people do not trust national security institutions to be candid, and are dubious of review bodies. Canada lacks a group of trusted, competent civil society experts to act as an intermediary: to evaluate what the government is doing, and to ensure that the accountability systems in place are adequate.
- Along with journalists, academics are at the frontline of holding government accountable. Enhancing the government’s relationship with academic experts is critical.
- Within the past several years of TSAS being in action, long-term relationship building has resulted in increased transparency and honesty between national security practitioners and academics.
- Transparency is ultimately about public education and accountability, which translates to outreach, enhanced public reporting, and other tools to involve the public in government processes.
Oversight and Review Bodies in the Canadian National Security Landscape
Tim Sebastian (moderator) – Host of Conflict Zone and The New Arab Debates; former BBC correspondent
David McGuinty – MP; Chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP)
Pierre Blais – Chair of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee
Daniel Therrien – The Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Mary Francoli – Associate Dean and Director, Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs
Highlights of the panel:
- Less than 1% of all commitments in OGP action plans have any mention of security. The few commitments that do refer to security do not necessarily refer to national security (ex: social security, food security, etc.).
- For NSICOP, a fundamental role of review bodies is to strengthen the security and intelligence community through their findings. With this shared goal, it is possible for review bodies and the national security institutions to have respectful, strong relationships.
- For the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Bill C-59 is imperfect, but is a good example of important recommendations being taken into account following Bill C-51.
- Moderator Tim Sebastian complimented NSICOP on a very frank first annual report, saying that in his view the level of criticism would not be possible in the British system.
Collective Actions to Eradicate Online Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content
Kara Brisson-Boivin (moderator) – Director of Research, Media Smarts
Henri Verdier – Ambassador for Digital Affairs (France)
Daniel Mellsop – High Commissioner to Canada (New Zealand)
Brett Kubicek – Acting Senior Director, Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence
Micah Clark – Program Director, Moonshot CVE
Merlyna Lim – Canada Research Chair in Digital Media & Global Network Society, Carleton University
Highlights of the panel:
- Involving civil society in efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism online helps hold governments and digital industry accountable, and helps guide government policy.
- Respecting fundamental rights and freedoms is essential for protecting online spaces and was crucial to the Christchurch Call to Action.
- Improving the availability of primary data to properly investigate and understand violent extremist and terrorist use of the Internet is critical, and can be enhanced by robust data sharing networks between digital industry, civil society and governments.
- Smaller online platforms also host violent content, and panelists advocated for their greater involvement in the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.
- Bill C-59 (NSIRA, Intelligence Commissioner) and NSICOP will help make the national security community more transparent.
- The US and the UK have accepted the need for robust transparency and accountability of national security organizations and have created the necessary review and oversight bodies to carry out this work.
- There is a strong interest in civil society and academia to contribute to the National Security Transparency Commitment and to engage with the Canadian national security community in a more regular and substantive manner. Greater engagement with the public is part of the Commitment.
- Proactive disclosure of national security activities enhances not just transparency, but accountability to the public.
Moving Forward/Next Steps
The Summit provided many lessons learned for future transparency-related initiatives. It also gave Public Safety an opportunity to hear the perspectives of government and non-government experts on transparency work to date and potential avenues for future activities.
Feedback to be integrated into transparency initiatives moving forward includes:
Enhancing Dialogue with International Partners
The National Security & Democratic Values panel featured panelists from the US and the UK and highlighted case studies and best practices in national security transparency from both respective countries. As the Government of Canada moves forward with our own transparency initiatives, we will be building on the relationships established with Summit participants and increasing dialogue with international partners.
Engaging with Civil Society
Whether hearing from Rights Watch UK on the National Security & Democratic Values panel, or academics discussing their relationship with national security practitioners on the National Security Transparency: Expert Perspectives panel, panelists impressed the importance of more robust consultation with civil society proactively and continuously moving forward.
- Open Government Partnership website
- Open Government Partnership Global Summit website
- Canada’s 2018-2020 National Action Plan on Open Government
- Open Government Partnership YouTube Channel
News Coverage and Press Releases
- Prime Minister Welcomes the 2019 Open Government Partnership Global Summit to Ottawa
- Canada reaffirms commitment to Open Government at successful Partnership Summit in Ottawa
- Is Our Government Really Open?
- OGP Summit: Fighting corruption and promoting inclusion – this is how
- Trudeau warns internet regulation could be used to repress citizens, free speech – CTV News, National Post, Global News
- Date modified: