Ministerial direction to Global Affairs Canada: Avoiding complicity in mistreatment by foreign entities

Purpose

  1. Pursuant to section 2 of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act, I preside over the Department, and have its management and direction in Canada and abroad. I hereby issue this Ministerial Direction.
  2. The Government of Canada is committed to addressing threats to national security and protecting rights and freedoms. The purpose of this Direction is to clearly state Canadian values and principles against torture and mistreatment and commitment to the rule of law.
  3. This Direction prohibits:
    1. the disclosure of information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of any individual by a foreign entity;
    2. the making of requests for information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of any individual by a foreign entity; and
    3. certain uses of information that was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity.
  4. The decision-making processes for these situations are set out in annexes A, B, and C of this document.

Definitions

  1. “Mistreatment” means torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
  2. “Substantial risk” is a personal, present and foreseeable risk of mistreatment. In order to be “substantial”, the risk must be real and must be based on something more than mere theory or speculation. In most cases, the test of a substantial risk of mistreatment will be satisfied when it is more likely than not that there will be mistreatment; however, in some cases, particularly where the risk is of severe harm, the “substantial risk” standard may be satisfied at a lower level of probability.
  3. “Foreign Entities” may include foreign governments, their departments, agencies and militaries, and may also refer to military coalitions, alliances, and international organizations.

Preamble

  1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 7, guarantees that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.”  Section 12 prohibits “any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment,” which Canadian courts have described as behaviour “so excessive as to outrage the standards of decency.”  This behaviour includes torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
  2. Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment represent affronts to Canadian values. The Government of Canada opposes in the strongest possible terms their use, including in responding to threats to national security.
  3. Canada is a party to a number of international agreements that prohibit torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.  These include the Geneva Conventions, the Law of Armed Conflict, international humanitarian law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).  The CATrequires state parties to criminalize all instances of torture, and to take effective measures to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in any territory under their jurisdiction.
  4. Torture is a criminal offence in Canada that has extraterritorial application.  The Criminal Code’s provisions governing secondary liability also prohibit aiding and abetting the commission of torture, counselling the commission of torture whether or not the torture is committed, conspiracy to commit torture, attempting to commit torture, and being an accessory after the fact to torture. Furthermore, the Criminal Code states that “exceptional circumstances” provide no defence to a charge of committing these offences.
  5. Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment also serve no legitimate military, law enforcement, or intelligence gathering purpose. Any information they yield is very likely unreliable, and is therefore inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.
  6. The Government of Canada, therefore, has no interest in actions associated with the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Knowingly associating the Government of Canada with any of these actions would damage the credibility and effectiveness of any department or agency associated with them.

Principles

  1. Recognizing that information-sharing with foreign entities is vital to Global Affairs Canada’s ability to maintain strong relationships and address threats to national and international security, and that Global Affairs Canada must also be able to quickly share information with domestic partners with a mandate and responsibility to respond to threats to national security, such sharing must be done in a manner that complies with Canada’s laws and legal obligations.
  2. Global Affairs Canada must avoid knowingly contributing to mistreatment by foreign entities.
  3. Global Affairs Canada must assess the accuracy and reliability of information received, and properly characterize this information in any further dissemination.  It must maintain measures for identifying foreign entities that engage in mistreatment of individuals.
  4. Global Affairs Canada has a responsibility to keep me, as Minister of Foreign Affairs,  informed about its information sharing arrangements.
  5. Transparency about the use of this Direction is a key principle. In accordance with Principle 4 of the Government’s National Security Transparency Commitment, Global Affairs Canada is expected to publish information that explains how this Direction is implemented, including the conduct of risk assessments, in line with Canadian values, including those expressed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Inter-Agency Cooperation

  1. Global Affairs Canada will maintain internal policies and procedures for assessing the risks associated with relationships with foreign entities. This includes evaluating the human rights records of foreign governments generally, and not only the specific entities associated with them.
  2. Global Affairs Canada will cooperate in this assessment process with all other Government of Canada departments and agencies covered by Ministerial Direction to ensure that decision-making is supported by the most comprehensive assessment base of information possible.
  3. Global Affairs Canada will monitor their arrangements with foreign entities based on a number of factors, including human rights and risk of mistreatment. These arrangements will be restricted if it is assessed by Global Affairs Canada that a foreign partner is engaging in, or contributing to, mistreatment. When such an action is taken, Global Affairs Canada will inform the other Departments and Agencies subject to this direction in a timely manner.

Accountability

  1. Global Affairs Canada is subject to the rule of law; Ministerial oversight; and, in areas related to national security and intelligence, review by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
  2. Global Affairs Canada is directed to produce a classified annual report to me, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding the application of this Direction. The report will include:
    1. details on substantial risk cases where this Direction was engaged, including the number of cases;
    2. the restriction of any arrangements due to concerns related to mistreatment; and
    3. any changes to internal policies and procedures related to this Direction.
  3. I, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, will provide the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians with as much information from the report as the Committee is authorized to receive by law.
  4. This report, in an unclassified format, will be released publicly, containing the content described above to the maximum extent possible without compromising the national interest, the effectiveness of operations, or the safety or security of an individual.

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.

Date

Appendix A of the Ministerial Direction:

Decision-making process for the disclosure of any information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity

  1. The ongoing assessment of the risks associated with Canada’s exchange of information with foreign entities is vital to ensuring that Canada does not knowingly contribute to mistreatment abroad.
  2. When there is a substantial risk that disclosing information to a foreign entity would result in the mistreatment of an individual, and officials are unable to determine if that risk can be mitigated, the matter will be referred to the Deputy Head for decision.
  3. If that substantial risk cannot be mitigated, information will not be disclosed to that foreign entity.
  4. In any case when approval to disclose information is granted because the Deputy Head determines that the substantial risk can be mitigated, the basis for such a determination must be clearly documented.
  5. I, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (subject to its legal mandate) will be informed, as soon as is feasible, of cases that required a decision by the Deputy Head and provided with relevant contextual information.  Information relating to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency may be provided to the Committee when the investigation is no longer ongoing.

Appendix B of the Ministerial Direction:

Decision-making process for the making of requests for information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity

  1. The ongoing assessment of the risks associated with Canada’s exchange of information with foreign entities is vital to ensuring that Canada does not knowingly contribute to mistreatment abroad.
  2. When there is a substantial risk that making a request for information to a foreign entity would result in the mistreatment of an individual, and officials are unable to determine if that risk can be mitigated through, for example, the use of caveats or assurances, the matter will be referred to the Deputy Head for decision.
  3. If that substantial risk cannot be mitigated, information will not be requested from that foreign entity.
  4. In any case when approval to make a request for information is granted because the Deputy Head determines that the substantial risk can be mitigated, the basis for such a determination must be clearly documented.
  5. I, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (subject to its legal mandate) will be informed, as soon as is feasible, of cases that required a decision by the Deputy Head and provided with relevant contextual information.  Information relating to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency may be provided to the Committee when the investigation is no longer ongoing.

Appendix C of the Ministerial Direction:

Decision-making process for the use of information that was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity

  1. Information that was likely obtained through mistreatment may not be used:
    1. in any way that creates a substantial risk of further mistreatment;
    2. as evidence in any judicial, administrative, or other proceeding; or,
    3. to deprive someone of their rights or freedoms, except, where the Deputy Head (or, if circumstances necessitate, a senior official designated by the Deputy Head) authorizes such use because it is necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury.
  2. In exceptional circumstances, as set out above in 1(c),  allowing use that deprives someone of their rights or freedoms may be necessary when, for example, information suggests someone is about to commit a terrorist act. The information must be accurately described, and its reliability properly characterized using caveats making clear that the use of this information has been authorized for a clearly defined and limited purpose.
  3. I, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (subject to its legal mandate), will be informed, as soon as is feasible, of cases that required a decision by the Deputy Head and provided with relevant contextual information. Information relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency may be provided to the Committee when the investigation is no longer ongoing.
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