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The CSIS Act (1984) provides the legislative foundation for the CSIS mandate, outlines CSIS roles and responsibilities, confers specific powers and imposes constraints, and sets the framework for democratic control and accountability for Canada's security intelligence service. For example,
- The Act strictly limits the type of activity that may be investigated, the ways that information can be collected, and who may view the information. Information may be gathered primarily under the authority of section 12 of the Act, and must pertain to those individuals or organizations suspected of engaging in activities that may threaten the security of Canada (i.e., espionage, sabotage, political violence, terrorism, and clandestine activities by foreign governments).
- The CSIS Act prohibits the Service from investigating acts of lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent. CSIS may only investigate these types of acts if they are linked to threats to Canada's national security.
- Sections 13 and 15 of the Act give CSIS the authority to conduct security assessments on individuals seeking security clearances when required by the federal public service as a condition of employment.
- Sections 14 and 15 authorize CSIS to conduct security assessments used during the visa application process and the application process for refugees and Canadian citizenship.
Other legislation related to security intelligence includes the following:
- The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides for security screening of people in the refugee stream who may pose security risks and allows for their early removal from Canada. This legislation strengthens Canada's ability to detect and refuse entry to suspected terrorists. It streamlines the process for deporting anyone who enters Canada and is later found to be a security threat. It also limits the right of refugee claimants to appeal if their claims are rejected on grounds of national security, and authorizes Citizenship and Immigration Canada to deny suspected terrorists access to the refugee system.
- The Anti-terrorism Act (Bill C-36) creates measures to identify, deter, disable and prosecute those engaged in terrorist activities or those who support these activities. The legislation makes it an offence to knowingly support terrorist organizations, whether through overt violence, or through material support. The Anti-terrorism Act requires the publication of a list of groups deemed to constitute a threat to the security of Canada and to Canadians.
- The Security of Information Act legislates various aspects of security of information, including the communication of information, forgery, falsification of reports, unauthorized use of uniforms and entering a prohibited place.
- The Public Safety Act enhances the ability of the Government of Canada to provide a secure environment for air travel and allows specified federal departments and agencies to collect passenger information for the purpose of national security. It also establishes tighter controls over explosives and hazardous substances and deters the proliferation of biological weapons. While the Anti-Terrorism Act focusses mainly on the criminal law aspects of combatting terrorism, this legislation addresses the federal framework for public safety and protection.
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