Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Senator Patricia Duncan to the security-oversight watchdog known as the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
This fills one of two Senate vacancies on NSICOP, which is not a committee of Parliament but scrutinizes matters related to national security. Appointments are made by the Prime Minister.
NSICOP is currently studying foreign interference in Canada’s democracy, a probe it was asked to undertake after intelligence leaks were reported to media, including in The Globe and Mail, on meddling by China in Canada’s political process.
Ms. Duncan is a member of the Independent Senators Group, a bloc formed of senators without partisan affiliation and the largest bloc in the Senate. She served as a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly for a decade, including as the first female premier of the territory from 2000 to 2002.
“As democracies around the world face increased threats from foreign interference and disinformation, I will continue to rely on the expert, transparent, and non-partisan advice of parliamentarians on the Committee to help protect our institutions, keep our communities safe, and uphold Canadians’ confidence in our democracy,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.
Don Plett, the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Senate, said one Senate vacancy on NSICOP remains unfilled and he thinks it should go to a senator from the Conservative caucus. Neither of the two senators on NSICOP now is from the Conservative caucus. There are three spots for senators on the committee.
Frances Lankin, the other Senate appointment to NSICOP, is also from the Independent Senators Group. Both her and Ms. Duncan were appointed to the Senate by Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. Plett said ignoring the 15-member Conservative caucus is unfair. “We deserve an appointment because we are the loyal opposition. It is the opposition’s role to keep the government’s feet to the fire.”
Alison Murphy, a press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, offered no indication that Mr. Plett’s concern would be addressed but said NSICOP appointments from the Red Chamber follow consultation with Senate leaders including the Leader of the Opposition.
“Every recognized party in the House of Commons is represented on NSICOP. Work is under way to fill the remaining vacancy and an appointment will be made in due course.”
On Thursday, MPs heard that a July, 2021, CSIS assessment warning that Beijing was targeting a Conservative MP and his relatives in China was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national-security adviser at the time, as well as three deputy ministers, but it’s unclear if anyone read the top-secret document.
National-security adviser Jody Thomas, who was deputy minister of National Defence in 2021, was adamant that Mr. Trudeau was unaware of the threat to the MP, who turned out to be Conservative foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong, until The Globe and Mail revealed he was a target on May 1. The Globe report cited the Canadian Security Intelligence Service assessment and a national-security source.
“I learned about it in The Globe. I had not previously seen the report nor had the Prime Minister,” she told the Commons procedure and House affairs committee.
But Ms. Thomas testified that the CSIS assessment was sent in July, 2021, to her at National Defence and to the deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs and Public Safety, as well as to David Morrison, who was Mr. Trudeau’s acting national-security adviser. Mr. Morrison was presented the information in mid-August, she said.