Right Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Minister of Justice):
I am prepared to answer that question; in fact, I have been seeking an opportunity for the last few minutes.
With reference to the questions asked on Saturday, June 19, by the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), the government are aware of the concern felt by members generally in the matter of the security of government employees. For that reason it is felt to be advisable that a general statement on the subject should be made.
The government is acutely aware of its responsibility in relation to security within the government service, and administrative measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the state in this respect. These measures do not interfere with traditional principles of just treatment.
In the government's view, loyalty is not susceptible to any precise series of tests. Accordingly, after careful consideration, it was decided not to set up an elaborate organization, as had been done elsewhere, to determine and adjudicate upon the loyalty of government employees. As was indicated to the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) on April 14, 1947 (Hansard, page 1993), an interdepartmental panel on security, composed of officials from departments and agencies of government, was set up some time ago to advise on the coordination of the planning, organization and execution of security measures generally which affect government departments. These measures necessarily include the devising of the best methods of carrying out inquiries concerning applicants for government employment in order to determine their suitability from a security point of view. The security panel advises on measures and methods. It does not deal with individual cases.
With regard to the so-called questionnaires, there are, of course, a number of forms used by departments for ordinary administrative purposes as a necessary part of their personnel management. In addition, forms are in use in some departments for the purpose of assembling relevant information concerning persons whose duties include work of a secret character. The use of these so-called questionnaires for security purposes is merely a means of facilitating the work of those who have to make the necessary inquiries. They are employed only for persons in positions of trust and not for the great majority of government employees. In some cases the information required can be and is obtained from departmental personnel records and from the records of the civil service commission. In other cases, the information is requested
Department of National Defence Act
of the employees themselves by means of questionnaires. The completion of such forms is not compulsory. They are designed to help those responsible to obtain quickly information which may be helpful in- assessing the suitability of individuals for confidential employment. Incidentally, departmental practice in this respect is under review and I can assure the house that any Objectionable and unnecessary features in such documents, such as questions concerning collateral relatives and any irrelevant inquiry into the private lives of individuals, will not be permitted.
The government is of the opinion that loyalty to the state of employees in positions 6f trust is an essential aspect of the efficient conduct of public administration. Moreover, there are certain duties of such a secret character that the state would not be justified in employing for their performance any person whose trustworthiness is in doubt.
Under the terms of the Civil Service Act and regulations, the civil service commission is required to satisfy itself as to the character and habits of persons appointed by it to government employment. These provisions do not apply to all employees or departments and agencies, nor do they relieve departments of their responsibility for satisfying themselves as to the suitability of individual employees from a security standpoint.
The particular attention of heads of departments and agencies of government has been drawn to their responsibility with respect to the reliability of employees under their charge from the security point of view. A procedure has been approved which will enable them to discharge this responsibility as a part of their normal administrative function.
This is the position of the government with respect to security in relation to government employees generally. There is, however, the special case of those who are members of or associated with the communist party. The government is satisfied, from all the evidence available, that it would be a risk to the security of the state to employ such persons in positions of trust. For this reason, and in the discharge of its primary responsibility for security, the government has decided that no person who is a member of the communist party or associated with it shall be employed in work of a secret character. I may add that the same rule applies to those associated with fascist organizations.
Topic: CIVIL SERVICE
Subtopic: INQUIRY AS TO QUESTIONNAIRE CIRCULATED IN CERTAIN DEPARTMENTS