Trudeau to Chair New Cabinet Committee Dedicated to Security and Intelligence

Trudeau to Chair New Cabinet Committee Dedicated to Security and Intelligence
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference at the Canadian Permanent Mission, in New York, on Sept. 21, 2023. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

A newly established cabinet committee dedicated to reviewing national security and intelligence matters on a regular basis will be chaired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Prime Minister’s Office published an updated list of cabinet committees and membership on Sept. 27, indicating the creation of the National Security Council will serve as a “forum for strategic decision-making and for sharing analysis of intelligence in its strategic context.”

There are a total of eight ministers on the council, including Mr. Trudeau. Four of the ministers were shuffled or received promotions and three others have been in their roles longer. Defence Minister Bill Blair, Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc, Justice Minister Arif Virani, and Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan are members of the council who have had new roles since July 26.

The members who retained their posts are Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

Mr. Champagne is the only one with a portfolio that seemingly does not directly relate to security, but he does deal with economic security and reviews business transactions that could be injurious to Canadian interests.

The prime minister announced the upcoming creation of the National Security Council the day after his cabinet shuffle.

“We're now looking at building a further National Security Council that will have a role of overseeing and setting a strategic direction for the new and real security challenges that countries like Canada are increasingly facing,” he said.

He framed the creation of the council as another measure his government has taken to strengthen the national security apparatus. Few other details have been provided about the council.

The government has been under pressure in recent months due to national security leaks in the press depicting widespread interference by Beijing in Canada’s democracy.

The government previously didn’t have a high-level forum that meets regularly to discuss issues pertaining to national security. A special committee, the Incident Response Group, met on an as-needed basis to deal with emergencies, composed of ministers relevant to addressing any specific situation at the time.

The announcement of the upcoming creation of the National Security Council was welcomed by experts, some of whom had recommended it be established.

Vincent Rigby, a former national security and intelligence adviser to the prime minister, told a House of Commons committee in June that Canada is the only country of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that doesn’t have such a body. The alliance refers to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States.

“To me, it is just so logical to create that kind of a body at this time in our history,” Mr. Rigby said.