CSIS collects and analyzes information and security intelligence from across the country and abroad, and reports to and advises the Government of Canada on national security issues and activities that threaten the security of Canada. The Service also provides security assessments to all federal departments and agencies, with the exception of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The activities that constitute a threat to the security of Canada include:
While CSIS is strictly concerned with collecting information and security intelligence for the purpose of advising the government, the role of the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies is to investigate criminal activity and to collect evidence that can be used in criminal prosecutions.
CSIS is is mandated to investigate individuals or groups that may pose a threat to the security of Canada. As defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act, threats include espionage or sabotage, foreign-influenced activities or activities in support of terrorism. Section 2 specifically bars CSIS from investigating "lawful advocacy, protest or dissent,"unless it is carried out in conjunction with one of the threat-related activities defined in the Act.
One of the acknowledged methods of investigation used by CSIS, and by security intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide, is the recruitment of human sources.
If a CSIS investigation involves the direction of a human source or the use of intrusive devices, the Service is required, pursuant to ministerial direction, to obtain ministerial approval.
Also, if a CSIS investigation involves the use of intrusive techniques, such as telephone intercepts or covert searches, the Service would be required, pursuant to section 21 of the CSIS Act, to obtain a warrant approved by a Federal Court judge.
CSIS' operational activities are also subject to ongoing review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), both of which are "arms-length" agencies whose main purpose is to ensure compliance with the CSIS Act, CSISpolicies and ministerial direction.
While CSIS cannot disclose its operational methodologies, it is important to note that when it decides to investigate a person or a group, it is because they are suspected of posing a threat to the security of Canada as defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act. The person or group must be engaging in activities that are believed to be in support of espionage, sabotage, foreign-influenced activity or activities in support of terrorism.
CSIS targets individuals and groups based on their activities-which must be in support of a threat as defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act-and not on their ethnic origin or country of birth. on their ethnic origin or country of birth. In recent years, certain Canadian minority groups have felt singled out by security and law enforcement agencies. This is a legitimate perception but it is only a perception.
CSIS' operational activities are subject to review by SIRC and the OIG on a yearly basis. In its more than 20 years of existence, CSIS has never been accused of inappropriate targeting by SIRC nor by the OIG.
As a federal government agency, CSIS is sensitive to Canada's multicultural society. The Service makes a concerted effort to have a workforce that represents Canadians from all backgrounds. In fact, cultural diversity is an essential component of CSIS' operational effectiveness.
You may file a complaint about an activity conducted by CSIS or concerning the denial or revocation of a security clearance. Read the process for filing a complaint for more information.
It is important to remember that shows such as CBC's The Border are works of fiction, and employ fictional devices and situations to generate drama. While life at CSIS has its moments, the work of intelligence officers bears little resemblance to how it is portrayed on television. The Border, for example, suggests that CSIS can arrest or detain people. CSIS, in fact, does not have the power to do either. The same show suggests CSIS can arbitrarily raid or seize material. CSIS requires warrants to conduct any such intrusive activities. Likewise, CSIS has extremely strict protocols governing how it shares information with other countries and how that information can be used. These protocols have been reviewed by both the SIRC and the Arar Commission of Inquiry.
Security intelligence is the product resulting from the collection, collation, evaluation and analysis of information regarding security threats. It provides government decision-makers with insight into activities and trends at national and international levels that can have an impact on the security of Canada. This insight allows decision-makers to develop suitable policy in anticipation of possible threats. Regardless of its source, security intelligence provides value in that it supplements information that is already available from other government departments or the media. Intelligence conveys the story behind the story.
The added value that CSIS provides stems from analysis and a wide variety of investigative techniques, including the use of covert and intrusive methods, such as electronic surveillance and the recruitment and tasking of human sources.
No. All intrusive methods of investigation used by CSIS are subject to several levels of approval before they are deployed. The most intrusive methods, such as electronic surveillance, mail opening, and covert searches, require a warrant issued by a judge of the Federal Court of Canada. SIRC and the IG closely review CSIS operations to ensure they are lawful and comply with the Service's policies and procedures.
CSIS reports to and advises the Government of Canada on threats to the security of Canada. CSIS intelligence is shared with other Canadian government departments and agencies, including Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Immigration and Citizenship Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the RCMP. CSIS also has arrangements to provide security assessments to other countries, mostly in relation to visa applications.
CSIS Security Liaison Officers(SLOs) are posted at Canadian diplomatic missions worldwide. They collect relevant information from foreign police services and security intelligence agencies and from open sources, such as newspapers, periodicals, domestic broadcasts and official documents. SLOs also conduct security assessments of prospective immigrants.
There is no restriction in the CSIS Act on where CSIS may collect information on threats to the security of Canada. We may collect information on security threats from anywhere in Canada or abroad.
The CSIS Act also allows the Service to provide the Government of Canada with non-threat related intelligence that is collected incidentally during CSIS operations.
CSIS has carried out operations overseas in the past, and will continue to do so as circumstances warrant.
Section 16 of the CSIS Act allows the Service to collect foreign information or intelligence relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of any foreign state or group of foreign states, or anyone other than a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or a Canadian corporation.
"Foreign intelligence," as defined in the Act, can only be collected in Canada at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, or the Minister of National Defence.
Our current priority, however, is threats to the security of Canada (particularly terrorist threats).
Security screening is a process by which the name of a security clearance applicant is verified against CSIS databases to determine whether the applicant is mentioned in relation to threat-related activities. Depending on the level or category of security clearance required, security screening can also involve interviewing the applicant's friends, neighbours and employers, consulting with local police, and possibly interviewing the applicant.
The purpose of security screening is to prevent anyone of security concern from gaining access to sensitive government assets, locations or information, and to prevent non-Canadians who pose security concerns or risks from entering Canada or receiving permanent residence in the country.
Federal public service employees, members of the Armed Forces and persons under contract to a government department who, in the performance of their duties, have access to classified government assets or information, as well as people who work at sensitive sites such as airports, the Parliamentary Precinct and nuclear power stations, are required to hold a security clearance. Non-Canadians who apply for permanent residency or refugee status must also undergo security screening. Security assessments fall into the following program categories: Government Screening, Sensitive Sites Screening, Foreign Screening, Immigration and Citizenship Screening, and Refugee Claimant Screening. Read more about security assessments.
CSIS provides security assessments of individuals to all federal government departments and agencies (except the RCMP). It does not, however, assist members of the general public with obtaining security clearances. To obtain a security clearance, you may contact the following authorities:
If you wish to file a complaint concerning the denial or revocation of a security clearance necessary to obtain or keep federal government employment or contracts, contact the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and follow the prescribed complaint process.
See the list of addresses and telephone numbers for CSIS headquarters and regional offices.
The Director of CSIS and the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) are responsible for responding to complaints concerning an activity conducted by CSIS, or the denial or revocation of a security clearance.
To file a complaint, follow the process for filing a complaint.