Security Screening is one of the main operational responsibilities of CSIS and among its most visible functions. The goals of the Security Screening program are to assist the Government of Canada in preventing individuals who pose a threat to the security of Canada from either entering or obtaining status in this country; and to prevent individuals who pose such threats from obtaining access to sensitive government sites, assets or information. Security Screening serves as a first line of defence against both extremism and terrorism, as well as espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. CSIS supports its Security Screening program in both Canada and through its liaison efforts abroad.
CSIS provides security assessments and advice to all Federal Government departments and agencies in support of the Policy on Government Security (PGS). These assessments fall into the following program categories:
Under the Policy on Government Security (PGS), employees of the Government of Canada, members of the Canadian Forces or persons under contract to a federal government department who, in the performance of their duties, have access to classified government assets or information are required to hold security clearances.
It is under the authority of sections 13 and 15 of the CSIS Act that the Service may provide security assessments to all federal government departments and institutions. Screening can only be done with the written consent of the individual concerned. All departments have exclusive authority to grant or deny security clearances.
There are three levels of clearance, as defined by the PGS: Confidential (Level I), Secret (Level II) and Top Secret (Level III). The level of security clearance required is determined by the need for access to classified information or assets in the performance of duties associated with their employment. Level I and II security clearances involve verification of CSIS databases. Level III security clearances involve verification of CSIS databases and interviewing the applicant, and may also require further investigation, including interviews of friends, neighbours and employers, as well as consultations with law enforcement or other security and intelligence partners.
In addition, CSIS provides security assessments to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on drivers who apply for a border pass under the Canada-US Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program.
CSIS also provides security assessments on locally engaged staff (foreign nationals) who handle unclassified material at Canadian missions abroad.
Additionally, the Service's Government Screening program has several site access programs which provide assessments regarding individuals requiring access to major airports, ports and sensitive marine facilities, the Parliamentary Precinct, official residences, nuclear power facilities, as well as certain provincial and federal government departments. These programs also assist in enhancing security and reducing the potential threat from terrorist groups and foreign governments that may seek to gain access to classified information or other assets, materials and sensitive sites.
CSIS also plays a role, in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), during the accreditation process for Canadian and/or foreign nationals associated with major events held in Canada, such as the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, where access to designated security perimeters is limited.
Under reciprocal screening agreements, CSIS provides security assessments to the governments of foreign states, to foreign agencies and to international organizations (such as NATO) regarding Canadian residents wishing to reside in another country or who are being considered for classified access in another country or being employed at foreign Embassies / Consulates in Canada. Canadian citizens on whom information is being provided must give their consent in advance. Screening agreements are all approved by the Minister of Public Safety after consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
While Canada's long and valued tradition of welcoming immigrants and visitors continues, Canada and its allies must maintain a heightened and sustained vigilance to counter acts of political or religiously motivated violence and espionage, all of which constitute a threat to our personal and national security, including our economic security. Maintaining the integrity of the immigration system is a vital part of strengthening Canada's security environment.
The objective of CSIS's Immigration and Citizenship Screening Program is to prevent non-Canadians who pose security risks from entering or receiving status in Canada. The program is founded on the security-related criteria contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Citizenship Act; therefore, CSIS provides security advice regarding immigration and citizenship matters to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). CSIS also conducts security screening of Canadian visa applicants and prospective immigrants in cases where the applicant presents potential security concerns.
Canada's refugee determination system is recognized around the world for its fairness in offering protection to genuine refugee applicants. Without proper safeguards, however, the system is vulnerable to criminals or terrorists posing as refugees who wish to gain access to our country; therefore the Government of Canada's Refugee Claimant Screening Program is Canada's first line of defence, with a mandate to screen all refugee applicants in order to determine their admissibility to Canada.
The CSIS Security Screening program manages the Refugee Claimant Screening Program, providing security assessments on refugee applicants to CIC. The program's goal is to ensure that those who are inadmissible to Canada for security reasons under the IRPA are identified as early as possible in the refugee determination process and prevented from taking up residence in this country. In all immigration applications, CSIS provides CIC with an assessment regarding an individual's admissibility to Canada, based on its security screening investigation.
Even in an evolving threat environment CSIS is able, through its various screening programs, to support the Government of Canada's efforts to ensure our security. A secure environment helps enhance Canada's multicultural make-up, and promotes Canada's status as one of the best places in the world to work and live.