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Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

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Before studying anything we should know about its core so here, first of all, I will define intelligence and national security which is every state’s first priority – to maintain its sovereignty and in order to maintain its sovereignty the state ensures its security this also includes in the fundamental goals of the state, so to ensure security state needs intelligence which is used for various aspects intelligence is ‘collection of secret information of military or political value’ and based on this secret information agencies work and ensures the national security of a state.

Here we are going to talk about a similar working agency which is CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Canada has given great attention to its intelligence roles, policies and issues Canadian security intelligence service is somehow similar to USA and UK basically its work is to examine different activities in the state which are associated with establishing dangers to the national security of Canada on which they investigate and then present their report to Government of Canada on specific acts. It also performs operations both within the state and out of the state  (Vigneault, n.d.).


Its headquarter is in Ottawa Ontario and it was formed on June 21, 1984, this agency was made in the place of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) because RCMP had some allegations on it that it was involved in some inappropriate activities in 1977 which were not in favor of state hence a report was proposed under the supervision of ‘Justice David MacDonald’ which stated that there should be a different organization of security intelligence and it should not be mixed with police.

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At the start when the bill was proposed in parliament it faced many criticisms which included that this would directly interfere in all matters and it’s given more powers which can also be used unnecessarily eventually then, a new bill was proposed with some modifications which was later on accepted in its early years, its right of coming first was to investigate groups and terrorists causing great fear through unlawful activity groups for a series of crimes of political violent acts, including the Air India plane making attacks with bombing device on a flight from Montreal and the armed property of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. The Service over-sees divisions based on harmful groups which are also involved in a well-publicized activity.

When CSIS came into existence and started its function, CSIS had an estimated monetary arrangement of $115 million. Today CSIS has a budget plan appropriate to some degree more than $589 million. If we see the current reports then CSIS has allotted a budget of more than $607 million (Sallot, 2006).


Today there are more than 3200 individuals working under the Canadian security intelligence service it has different rankings and positions in its structure it runs under the supervision of its director. Its first director was ‘Ted Finn’ from 1984 to 1987 and current director is ‘David Vigneault’ from 2017 they are supposed to report minister of public safety as every operation cannot be carried out directly by CSIS as per the bill in 1977 and this was only done to avoid wrong use of power there were two main aspects. The 5-member Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and the CSIS inspector general can examine all aspects of CSIS operations and can report any irregularities directly to the solicitor general, who is a minister in the federal Cabinet.

CSIS is the best-known central intelligence agency of Canada’s national security community. Together with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the RCMP according to the McDonald Commission under which CSIS was made two main responsibilities were assigned to CSIS related to the security of the country. The first one is the protection of citizens and government from foreign attacks in any form, and the second is to save the established Canadian democracy from attempts to destroy them. Their structure is very much specific and they always try to make it more advanced and effective (Vitkauskas, 1999).

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They have the following basic principles on which Canadian security intelligence service works these were the specific plans of the McDonald Commission:

  1. Give effective counterintelligence essential to the protection of Canada.
  2. Have an adequate legal framework at intervals that to work beneath the rule of law which recognizes human rights and basic freedoms of Canadians.
  3. Have an efficient management system, guaranteeing accountable direction and respect for the rule of law.
  4. Be effectively responsible to ministers who are responsible to the parliament.
  5. Be receptive to a satisfactorily external review, to make sure that the service doesn’t abuse its powers which it’s not misused by the government


The Canadian Security Intelligence Service 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 management and responsibility for CSIS. (Vigneault, government of canada, 2019).

Section 12 of the Act permits CSIS to assemble info concerning those people or organizations suspected of participating in activities that will threaten the protection of Canada as well as espionage, sabotage, political violence, terrorism, and covert activities by foreign governments. If there’s reason to believe that a specific activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada, CSIS may take measures, among or outside Canada, to cut back the threat in accordance with well-defined legal necessities and Ministerial Direction.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act prohibits CSIS from work acts of lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent.

Sections 13 and 15 of the Act offer CSIS the authority to conduct security assessments on people seeking security clearances once needed by the federal public service as a condition of employment.

Sections 14 and 15 authorize CSIS to conduct security investigations used throughout the visa application method and also the application process for refugees and Canadian citizenship.

National security act 2017:

In 2019 some changes were made in the legislation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which was named the national security act 2017 because it was proposed in 2017 and accepted later in 2019. The Act includes the type of measures to boost Canada’s national security framework and keep individuals of the country safe, whereas respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and so the values of a free and democratic society. (constitution, 2017).

There are the following points to be noted in the context of both CSIS structure and the national act of legislation:

  • Accountability and review
  • Threat reduction measures
  • Data analytics
  • Justification framework
Accountability and Review:

The National Security Act (2017) created new entities to reinforce the framework of duty for Canada’s country-wide safety and intelligence agencies: the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) and the Office of the Intelligence Commissioner (IC). NSIRA replaces the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner (OCSEC). It has unique evaluation obligations associated with authorities’ agencies, together with CSIS, and additionally has the mandate to check any interest with the aid of using a central authority branch associated with country-wide safety or intelligence. A retired advanced court judge would be answerable for reviewing the reasonableness of unique selections with the aid of using the Minister of Public Safety associated with CSIS authorities.

Threat Reduction Measures

Some changes made in the CSIS Act in regards to improve the national security and reduce the threat in the state the threat reduction mandate describe the outline of this authority by clarifying; the requirement of the Service, the agency should seek judicial authorization earlier than intending with a warrant or operation of any activity that is done against the threat or regarding security that might restrict right or freedom assured with the aid of using the Charter. It lists what kind of measures may be legal with the authorities of using Federal Court warrant and expands the listing of prohibitions, activities which can by no means be undertaken as a threat reduction measure.

Data Analytics

The acquisition of big volumes of data of intelligence for analysis, so that they can improve mandated investigations of activities and threats has come to be an essential device in intelligence work. The amendments in the CSIS Act delivered with the advancement of the National Security Act (2017) set up a framework for the series, retention, and use of datasets by the agency Service. The framework authorizes CSIS to gather datasets which might probably help the Service inside the overall performance of its responsibilities and functions. However, in doing so, it establishes strong security, to make certain citizens’ rights and freedoms, together with privacy, and protection.

Justification Framework

The changes made in the CSIS Act in accordance with the National Security Act (2017) well known that it also ensured public hobby to make certain that CSIS personnel specified with the aid of using the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness can correctly perform the Service’s intelligence series responsibilities and functions. To permit this, the amendments to the CSIS Act offer a confined justification framework for CSIS personnel or the ones performing at their path to have interaction in sports that might in any other case represent offenses. In sectors wherein the objectives of the research are engaged in such sports, reassets can be required to take part to a few degree, so that you can advantage trust, preserve credibility, and broaden access. It additionally establishes strong measures to make certain this authority is exercised in a way this is reasonable, proportional, obvious, and accountable.

The modern CSIS:

Canadian security intelligence service has performed many operations in its history due to its national security investigation and intelligence collection, as it has almost 3200 working employees in it which collect intelligence and make an analysis of it and whenever a threat is analyzed it informs and advises the government most of the activities of CSIS remained in secrecy and the modern time policy of CSIS allows it to do any type of investigation and operations they can breakout anywhere but there should be no life threat there according to the charter this all is done to make a quick response against the threat and attacks in  Canada.


There has been too much controversy in Canada’s security intelligence service in 2009 CSIS have involved in the mishandling of the evidence else than that it has also faced problems in the 1985 air India bombing when knowledge came to the individuals that it has destroyed evidence and still the case is unclear then later in 2006 it has sent a person named Maher Arar to Jordan and Syria on basis of wrong information where he was tortured and then again Canadian intelligence service have faced criticism not only this In 2017, it is shown that the members of CSIS accused the organization of having a racist and homophobic workplace culture many cases had become viral and are shown in social media.


conducting these research I have come t know that Canada maintains its secrecy due to which many events were not disclosed but the ones disclosed are very harsh for CSIS So Canadian security intelligence service have many qualities as well as it also have controversies in it according to me the CSIS agency must need to improve still no doubt it had conducted many operation in it history and it have a strong base from the MacDonald commission which had strict regularities and with the vision of safety with a popper structure but always things couldn’t be 100% perfect CSIS have some malfunctions in it such as it has been seen many times involved in illegal activities in January 2018 more than 10 operation were approved by the new director of CSIS and all the 10 were illegal and according to the court decision all were suspended its difficult to underestimate how the agency is working and how the circumstances are so at many points Canadas agency is still trying to improve it ability capability and function.

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constitution. (2017). canadian securiy intelligence service. From government of canada:

Sallot, J. (2006, february 6). Canadian Security Intelligence Service. From

Vigneault, D. (2019). government of canada. From Canadian Security Intelligence Service:

Vigneault, D. (n.d.). Canadian Security Intelligence Service. From

Vitkauskas, D. (1999). THE ROLE OF A. From

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This write-up has been contributed by Abdul Salam and Abdul Hadi. 

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