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Ottawa's workload can't be an obstacle to transparency, says LeBlanc

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Émilie Bergeron – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

1:56 p.m.

  • Canada

The heaviness of the task awaiting Ottawa to respond to requests from the commission of inquiry into foreign interference to disclose secret documents cannot “in any way” be used to refuse to collaborate, maintains the Minister of Security public, Dominic LeBlanc.

However, in a letter sent to Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue's team, lawyers from the Ministry of Justice wrote that the review exercise of 13 documents made public Thursday was tedious, to the point of being considered untenable if replicated in the longer term.

The missive states that this revision of leaked documents — most in heavily redacted form — required 200 hours of work.

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Questioned on this subject on Friday during the commission's public hearings, Minister LeBlanc assured that the disclosure “effort” by government officials will be “very robust” and “in good faith”.

“In no way do we seek to use the amount of work necessary on our part allowing the commission to do its job well (as) an impediment, a source of delay or frustration”, a- he said in an exchange with the lawyer representing a media coalition, Christian Leblanc.

Another lawyer, Guillaume Sirois, suggested that there is nothing in the letter to suggest that the public interest in disclosure was considered.

“At the moment, we can’t even know that,” said the representative of the Democratic Alliance of Russian Canadians.

Mr. LeBlanc replied that he had “complete confidence that the security agencies understand a fundamental principle […], which is that they have an obligation to respect the public interest.”

He added that public sharing of documents must be done in compliance with laws and measures to protect sensitive information, such as elements that would put Canadian Security Intelligence Service informants at risk. (CSIS).

As CSIS Director David Vigneault did on Thursday, Mr. LeBlanc mentioned that it is not only up to Canadian authorities to decide whether information can be declassified since this often involves other countries.

Disclosing secret documents “inappropriately” could harm Canada's relations with its allies and the government's ability to protect its population from threats such as foreign interference, he said. -he supported.

The minister has repeatedly emphasized that a significant part of the intelligence collected in the country comes from other states, notably those members of the Five Eyes alliance.

“Often, this information comes with restrictions,” said the minister, adding that the same goes for the documents that Canada communicates to its allies.

Mr. LeBlanc said it is essential to preserve the relationship between Canada and its intelligence allies. “I think it is important for Canadians to understand that if we do not respect or if we disclose certain information inappropriately, it could have consequences on our ability, in the future, to protect Canadians,” he said.

Approximately 80% of the documents received so far by Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue's team are classified. Of these, 80% have the highest protection ratings, meaning they are considered “top secret” or higher.

The commissioner and her entourage have access to the unredacted version of the documents, but she has insisted since her appointment on her desire to make as much information public as possible.

Mr. LeBlanc was the last witness heard by the commission during this week's preliminary hearings.

Later on Friday, various parties will make statements closing this first stage of the work which is taking place in front of the public eye.

Discussions on national security and information privacy should set the stage for the upcoming public hearings, which are expected to take place at the end of March.

Ms. Hogue must submit a first report no later than May 3. The final report is expected by December 2024.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116