The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.
Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.
As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:
- Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
- Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
- Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
- Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.
Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.
CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.
The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.
Considering a Career?
While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.
In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.
Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.
They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.
Duties, Functions and Limits
The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.
Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.
CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.
While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.
Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.
With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.
* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com