Former Yukon premier Pat Duncan is the first person from the territories to be selected as a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. (MikeThomas/Yukon News file)

Former Yukon premier Pat Duncan is the first person from the territories to be selected as a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. (MikeThomas/Yukon News file)

PM appoints Yukon senator Pat Duncan to national security committee

Duncan’s appointment comes amid heightened attention on foreign interference in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Yukon senator Pat Duncan to the national committee on security and intelligence on June 2.

She is the first-ever member of the committee from the territories.

“I think Yukoners — Northerners — are pleased that there is northern representation on this committee. I believe it’s the first time that they’ve had someone from the North, and that’s really important to all of us, particularly with attention to Arctic security,” says Duncan, who previously served as the Yukon’s first female premier from 2000 to 2002.

As its name implies, the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, formed in 2017, is mandated to oversee matters related to Canada’s national security and intelligence operations.

Composed of House of Commons and Senate members, the committee is disbanded at the end of each parliamentary session. New members are appointed after the opening of a new session of Parliament.

“The prime minister makes these appointments according to the legislation that establishes the national security and intelligence committee,” Duncan tells the News about the appointment process.

“The prime minister makes these appointments after consultation with the leaders in the Senate […] so he didn’t just look at the senators and pick one. He presumably spoke with the other leaders as required.”

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Duncan joins fellow Sen. Frances Lankin on the committee, which also counts members from all major political parties in the House of Commons among its membership.

She credits her selection for the role to her support for national defence projects in the Yukon, her attention to Arctic security, her participation in the Senate committee on national finances and her position as the chamber coordinator for the Independent Senators Group.

“I have been speaking very strongly about national defence, particularly in the Yukon, supporting Camp Boyle, our cadet camp, and national defence in Whitehorse. Also, [I’ve been] lobbying the minister of National Defence for a higher profile for our Department of National Defence staff that are in the Yukon,” says Duncan, who adds that she often speaks with Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson and Sen. Margaret Anderson from the Northwest Territories on matters of Arctic security.

Since its inception, the committee has assembled several reports covering topics ranging from cyber threats and foreign interference to diversity and inclusion within the security and intelligence community. Duncan says she has yet to be tipped off about any specific investigations or projects that the committee will concentrate on during her time on the panel.

Duncan’s appointment to the committee comes against a backdrop of increased focus by politicians and the general public on the topic of foreign interference in Canadian politics and institutions.

Since late last year, allegations have surfaced that the Chinese government ran interference operations in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, leading the prime minister to appoint David Johnston as special rapporteur on foreign interference.

Johnston’s decision last month to forgo a public inquiry into foreign meddling in Canadian elections in favour of public hearings has drawn considerable criticism and resulted in allegations of a conflict of interest, due to his past interactions with the Trudeau family.

Asked if she thought allegations of Chinese government interference in Canada could come before the committee, she said she could not comment. Speaking to why Canadians can trust the committee’s integrity, Duncan points to its non-partisan composition.

“I would look at the past work of the committee, and the membership crosses all party lines. It is a committee of parliamentarians […], and these are individuals who are serving their country, and they are diverse,” says Duncan.

“I’m looking forward to being part of the committee that has served and — I would anticipate — will continue to serve Canadians in a non-partisan manner and in such an important subject.”

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