The Canadian Security and Intelligence Community:
Helping Keep Canada and Canadians Safe and Secure

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I. Security and Intelligence: A Critical Function

Canada is one of the safest countries in the world. It has low levels of crime and violence, excellent relations with our closest neighbour, the United States, and a positive reputation in the international community.

Nevertheless, Canadians are aware that individuals and groups whose activities diminish our safety and security are present in Canada. Organized crime groups, for example, have a significant impact on our personal and economic well-being by importing and selling illegal drugs, operating prostitution rings, stealing credit cards, and smuggling people from other countries into Canada. Terrorist groups raise funds and plan operations here. People guilty of war crimes abroad hide out in Canada. Computer hackers threaten critical information systems.

Canadians can also face threats to their security when they go abroad. Our military men and women, for example, often enter highly dangerous situations when they undertake peacekeeping operations in other countries. Many of our diplomats serve in countries where they cannot take their personal safety for granted. And Canadian business people and tourists sometimes risk getting caught up in terrorist or criminal incidents abroad.

The Government of Canada has a responsibility to monitor threats to the interests of Canada and Canadians so it can take action. It also has an obligation to contribute to international attempts to counter organized crime, terrorism, weapons proliferation and similar activities.

The Canadian security and intelligence community is a key asset in the government's efforts to protect the interests of Canada and Canadians and to assure public safety. It also helps Canada contribute to global security. This brochure describes the community's roles and responsibilities as well as the arrangements in place for review and accountability of the community's activities.

II. What Does the Security and Intelligence Community Do?

The core work of the security and intelligence community is to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians. The community must judge the growth or decline of particular threats, provide political leaders with well-founded advice, and take appropriate prevention and enforcement actions. It adds value to decision-making and policy-making on the full range of matters vital to Canada's interests in foreign relations, defence, the economy and domestic security.

The people who work in Canada's security and intelligence community support the Government of Canada in several ways:

  • They provide the government with non-partisan advice on specific threats to Canadian safety and security.
  • They produce intelligence that is used by the government for its day-to-day operations and for longer-range policy development and decision-making.
  • They assess key international issues and events affecting Canada's interests.
  • They develop policy, legislative, and funding proposals to strengthen the community's effectiveness, and contribute to policy development in other sectors.
  • They undertake investigations to detect and assess threats to the security of Canada and Canadians, and enforcement actions to counter those threats.
  • They cooperate with provincial and territorial governments and the private sector on such issues as how to protect Canada's critical information infrastructure.
  • They work with other countries and with international organizations such as the G-8 and the Organization of American States on shared concerns, such as organized crime and terrorism.

The community is involved in such essential tasks as preventing illegal people-smuggling attempts, detecting and responding to the presence of terrorists in Canada, and preparing Canadian Forces personnel to undertake missions abroad. The tempo of the work varies in response to evolving government priorities as well as changing national and international developments.

A Significant National Asset

The men and women who work in Canada's security and intelligence community are highly skilled in a number of disciplines.

Some work in offices and laboratories, processing collected intelligence, interpreting information for decision-makers in government, or identifying and analyzing policy and resource issues.

Some are posted abroad. Most work in Canada, investigating and countering the activities of those who would threaten Canadian security, planning and carrying out enforcement actions, liaising with counterparts in other countries, or supporting international efforts to counter crime and terrorism.

Some are specialists on the subject of other countries or regions of the world, with an understanding of their cultures and politics and a knowledge of foreign languages.

Others are technical experts who keep the community technologically on par with such adversaries as organized criminals and international terrorists.

Together, they constitute a significant asset working together to advance Canada's national interests.

In doing their work, some components within the community possess a unique capability and authority to collect and assess information that is not available from conventional sources — in other words, secret information. In doing their work, security and intelligence community staff must blend this information with all other available information, including openly-available information from international broadcasts, newspapers, the Internet and academia, other parts of government, and intelligence generated by foreign countries.

III. The Role of Ministers

The Prime Minister of Canada is ultimately accountable to Parliament and to the people of Canada for the security and integrity of the nation. The Prime Minister therefore provides broad guidance to the security and intelligence community.

No single Cabinet minister is responsible for Canada's security and intelligence community. Instead, a number of ministers are accountable for the activities of the organizations that report to each of them.

Ministers collectively establish intelligence priorities for the security and intelligence community at the annual Meeting of Ministers on Security and Intelligence, usually chaired by the Prime Minister. Through discussions at Cabinet committee meetings, ministers also provide direction on major policy and resource issues related to security and intelligence, such as airport security upgrades, policy regarding the sale of Canadian encryption technology abroad, or funding for the community's action against organized crime.

IV. Roles and Responsibilities in the Security and Intelligence Community

In response to the overall priorities established by the government and the direction set by their individual ministers, the departments and agencies that constitute the security and intelligence community work both independently and together to safeguard Canada's security and to advance the country's interests. Some of these organizations are devoted exclusively to security and intelligence work, while others participate in the community as they fulfil broader mandates.

Solicitor General Canada

The Solicitor General portfolio is responsible for protecting Canadians and helping to maintain Canada as a peaceful and safe society. The Minister oversees the Department of the Solicitor General and four agencies: Correctional Service Canada, the National Parole Board, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The RCMP and CSIS are key members of the security and intelligence community.

Department of the Solicitor General

The department of the Solicitor General supports the Solicitor General in giving policy direction to the portfolio's four agencies. It works with the agencies and its counterparts in provincial and territorial governments on shared policy priorities such as organized crime prevention. It participates in international discussions to address security policy issues. It is also responsible for the National Counter-Terrorism Plan, which outlines roles and responsibilities for managing terrorist incidents. The Senior Assistant Deputy Solicitor General chairs the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Committee on Public Safety. This interdepartmental committee of ADMs provides a coordination and discussion forum for policy- and priority-setting in law enforcement and public safety.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

The RCMP is Canada's national police service, and is one of Canada's foremost national symbols. Founded in 1873 as the North-West Mounted Police to bring law and order to Canada's western territories, today it enforces federal laws and provides contract policing to most provinces, the three Northern territories, many municipalities, and First Nations communities. The RCMP participates in peacekeeping efforts and supplies world-leading expertise in such areas as forensics and criminal intelligence to Canadian and international police.

During World War I and II, the RCMP was responsible for the protection of national security. RCMP security operations evolved in the years that followed. This evolution eventually led to the creation of a separate agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in 1984.

Today, under the Security Offences Act, the RCMP has primary investigative responsibility for offences related to terrorism and espionage as well as for offences against internationally protected persons, such as foreign ambassadors accredited to Canada. The RCMP also provides physical protection for the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and such international visitors as foreign heads of state. Intelligence is key to the entire range of RCMP investigations, including those involving organized crime, high-technology crime and illegal migration. The RCMP's Criminal Intelligence Directorate collects and analyzes intelligence to support criminal investigations.

The RCMP has an independent public complaints mechanism, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC), whose role is described in Section V of this document.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, a domestic civilian agency, was created by an Act of Parliament (CSIS Act) in 1984. In fulfilling its mandate, CSIS investigates, analyzes and advises government departments and agencies on activities which may reasonably be suspected of constituting threats to Canada's national security.

Among the activities included in the CSIS mandate are the investigation of:

  • Political Violence and Terrorism: Such activities support the threat or use of serious violence, such as hostage-taking, bombings, and assassination, in order to advance a political cause. Examples may include political violence designed to influence Canadian governments, or the use of Canada as a base from which to plan or facilitate political violence in other countries.
  • Espionage and Sabotage: Espionage includes unlawful or unauthorized attempts to acquire information about sensitive political, economic, scientific or military matters by a foreign state or its agents. Sabotage encompasses activities conducted for the purpose of endangering the safety, security or defence of vital public or private property, such as key transportation links or power installations.
  • Foreign-influenced Activities: These include activities that are detrimental to Canadian national interests and that are directed, controlled or financed by a foreign state or its agents, such as interference with ethnic communities in Canada.

CSIS is also responsible for conducting security assessments for:

  • all federal government departments and agencies (upon request), with the exception of the RCMP, and
  • immigration, citizenship and refugee applicants upon referral from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

CSIS can assist in the collection of foreign intelligence within Canada at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of National Defence.

The Solicitor General tables a CSIS public report in Parliament, annually.

The CSIS Act outlines strict procedures governing CSIS methods of investigation to ensure that both the security of the state and the rights and freedoms of Canadians are protected. CSIS is subject to two external review mechanisms, the Inspector General of CSIS and the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). Both are described in Section V of this document.

Department of National Defence (DND)

The Canadian Forces need timely intelligence in support of operations abroad, in the preparation of peacekeeping missions and in war situations. The Cabinet also needs reliable information when it is making decisions about sending Canadian military personnel on missions outside the country.

The Director General Intelligence Division in DND provides defence intelligence on issues involving the use or potential use of the Canadian Forces abroad.

It assesses foreign political and military information as well as scientific and technical information. Its intelligence centre provides the government with an around-the-clock intelligence watch on developments abroad that could affect Canada or Canadians.

The Canadian Forces also maintain at high readiness a counter-terrorism unit prepared to rescue hostages or undertake other action in response to a terrorist incident.

The Minister of National Defence is accountable to Parliament for the Communications Security Establishment, which is described below.

Communications Security Establishment (CSE)

The Communications Security Establishment has two key activities:

  • It provides the government with foreign intelligence by collecting, analyzing and reporting on foreign radio, radar and other electronic signals.
  • Through its Information Technology Security, It helps ensure that the Canadian government's telecommunications are secure from interception, disruption, manipulation or sabotage by others.

The mandate of CSE is particularly challenging in today's world. Information is being moved globally in incredible volumes, at unprecedented speeds and on complex networks. The technology changes almost on a daily basis.

Cryptology is the science of hidden, disguised, or coded (encrypted) communications. It embraces both code-making and code-breaking. In Canada, the expertise in both these fields resides with CSE.

Canada first became involved in signals intelligence during World War II, when military code-breakers contributed to the Allied war effort. In 1946, the government established the Communications Branch of the National Research Council to continue the work with codes and ciphers. The organization was renamed the Communications Security Establishment and was made an agency of the Department of National Defence in 1975. It is supported by the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group.

The Chief of CSE reports to two senior officials: the Deputy Minister of National Defence for financial and administrative matters; and the Deputy Clerk, Counsel and Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, Privy Council Office, for policy and operational matters.

CSE has an independent review mechanism, the CSE Commissioner, whose role is described in Section V of this document.

Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness (OCIPEP)

The changing nature of Canada's critical infrastructure has brought about a more complex risk environment, with the possibility of failure or disruption due to accidents, natural disasters or deliberate acts. In recognition of this increased risk in key sectors such as energy, transportation, financial services, telecommunications and government services, the Prime Minister created the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness within the Department of National Defence.

The Office provides national leadership to help ensure the protection of Canada's critical infrastructure in both its physical and cyber dimensions, regardless of the source of threats and vulnerabilities. OCIPEP is also the Government of Canada's primary agency for ensuring national civil emergency preparedness. Close cooperation and information sharing within the security and intelligence community is essential, particularly in relation to threat assessments for information operations or "cyber warfare", cyber-sabotage and cyber-crime.

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade manages Canada's day-to-day relations with the governments and people of other nations, both bilaterally and within the many international organizations in which Canada participates. The Department leads Canada's efforts in developing effective international responses to security issues in such forums as the United Nations and the G-8. Its security and intelligence-related responsibilities include protecting Canadians and Canadian government facilities abroad, handling terrorism incidents abroad involving Canadians, and managing such issues as the expulsion of foreign diplomats from Canada for security reasons.

DFAIT's Security and Intelligence Bureau provides the Minister of Foreign Affairs with foreign intelligence to support policy and operational decisions and advises the Minister on intelligence activities. The bureau is also responsible for the security of the department's personnel, physical assets and information systems in Canada and around the world.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada manages the government's immigration and citizenship policies and programs through a network of offices located across Canada and abroad.

CIC is responsible for ensuring that Canada benefits from the global movement of people and that immigrants, refugees and visitors who come to Canada do not represent a risk. This is achieved through a series of policies and procedures that define potential risks and allow the department to deny access to any persons who pose a security or health risk to Canadian society.

Both at home and abroad, officers deal with individuals or groups who are involved with people-smuggling, organized crime, terrorism, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. CIC has the authority to deny access to Canada to those coming from abroad, to revoke Canadian citizenship and to deport people from Canada.

The increasing mobility of people worldwide ensures that CIC will continue to play an important role in the government's security and intelligence community.

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA)

The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency promotes compliance with Canada's border, tax, and trade laws and regulations. It has a significant role to play at border crossings, airports and harbours in protecting Canadian society from the entry of prohibited goods such as drugs, weapons and pornography. It is also responsible for helping fulfil Canada's international obligations regarding the illegal export of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or components, as well as chemicals for the production of illicit drugs.

CCRA officers are the first line of defence in preventing inadmissible people such as terrorists, undeclared foreign intelligence officers, and criminals from entering Canada. They provide direct support to CIC, the RCMP and CSIS in protecting Canada's security at the border. They also develop and maintain relationships with other Customs administrations, national and international law enforcement agencies, and private sector partners to combat smuggling and other border crimes.

Formerly a federal department known as Revenue Canada, CCRA was created as an agency in 1999 to give Canadians better service and streamlined tax, customs and trade administration.

Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada provides legal advice and services regarding security and intelligence issues and thereby plays a role in ensuring the legality of security and intelligence activities. Justice lawyers provide in-house legal services to institutions within the Government of Canada, including the RCMP, CSIS and CSE. In addition, senior Justice counsel serve on various committees that guide and coordinate the security and intelligence community's activities. Justice counsel also assist the Minister of Justice in performing functions as Attorney General of Canada.

Transport Canada

Transport Canada sets and enforces security standards for Canada's air, land and water transportation systems. It evaluates information from the security and intelligence community regarding possible threats, and directs the transportation industry to take appropriate security measures to deal with threats.

The Privy Council Office (PCO)

The Privy Council Office is part of the Public Service of Canada. It provides non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and Cabinet committees. The Prime Minister has particular responsibility for national security: in the context of setting overall policy directions; in operating the Cabinet decision-making system; in appointing senior office holders and organizing the government; in enhancing intergovernmental relations, and in managing specific issues.

The Clerk of the Privy Council is Canada's highest-ranking public servant and serves as the Prime Minister's deputy minister, the Secretary to the Cabinet, and the Head of the Public Service. The Clerk chairs a deputy minister-level group, the Interdepartmental Committee on Security and Intelligence (ICSI). This committee discusses strategic policy and resourcing issues, considers sensitive national security matters, reviews proposals destined for Cabinet, and recommends the annual intelligence priorities for the Meeting of Ministers on Security and Intelligence. ICSI (formerly the Security Panel) dates back to 1946, making it one of the oldest senior-level committees in the government.

Reporting to the Clerk of the Privy Council is the Deputy Clerk, Counsel and Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, who has a mandate from the Prime Minister to coordinate the security and intelligence activities of all Canadian government departments and agencies and to promote effective international intelligence relationships. In addition, the Deputy Clerk, Counsel and Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator is accountable to the Minister of National Defence for the policy and operations of the Communications Security Establishment.

Two PCO secretariats — a policy unit, the Security and Intelligence Secretariat, and an assessment unit, the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat — report to the Deputy Clerk, Counsel and Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator.

Security and Intelligence Secretariat

This secretariat provides advice to the Prime Minister on national security and foreign intelligence matters, including major policy developments, public issues, crises and community priorities. It supports ministerial decision-making on security and intelligence matters, helping departments and agencies bring forward security and intelligence issues for ministerial discussion or approval. It also ensures the security of Cabinet meetings and the facilities of the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office.

The Assistant Secretary, Security and Intelligence, chairs the interdepartmental Intelligence Policy Group of ADM-level officials from the security and intelligence community. This group, which is the principal forum for policy and operational coordination within the community, examines such issues as challenges posed by changing technologies.

Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS)

Under a PCODFAIT memorandum of understanding, both departments contribute to the staffing and management of the IAS, which produces assessments of conditions and trends in foreign countries including the implications for Canadian policy- makers. The IAS focuses principally on countries that are authoritarian, unstable, involved in conflict or, for other reasons, are of concern to Canada and the international community.

In preparing assessments, the IAS capitalizes on its analytical capability and its access to a wide variety of open, diplomatic and intelligence sources.

IAS assessments are written to be useful to policy-makers, but are neutral in their descriptions of the facts and in the assessment of possible future developments.

The Executive Director of the IAS chairs the Intelligence Assessment Committee (IAC), which brings together representatives of domestic departments and agencies that are involved in gathering or assessing intelligence and are major users of assessed intelligence. Chaired by the Executive Director of the IAS, the IAC produces papers that take a longer-range view of foreign developments, but are still of immediate interest to decision-makers.

V. Review and Accountability Arrangements

Like other parts of government, the members of the security and intelligence community are accountable through their Ministers to Parliament, and their representatives occasionally appear before parliamentary committees. The security and intelligence community is also subject to audits by the Auditor General, reviews of information holdings by the Privacy Commissioner, requests for access to documents through the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and examination by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Human Rights Commission.

Some agencies of the security and intelligence community have legal authority to collect information using special covert or technical means in support of Canada's interests. The courts have a significant control function by authorizing and imposing conditions on any use of special investigative techniques. As part of the appeals process, the Federal Court can play a role in reviewing immigration cases where security or criminal information may come to bear.

To further ensure full respect for the law and provide an avenue for public complaints, the government has put in place additional accountability arrangements for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Communications Security Establishment.

Inspector General of CSIS

Created by the CSIS Act, the Inspector General monitors CSIS compliance with its operational policies, reviews CSIS operational activities, and certifies his/her degree of satisfaction with the CSIS Director's classified annual report to the Solicitor General. In brief, the Inspector General carries out internal, independent reviews of CSIS matters for the Solicitor General. The Inspector General reports directly to the Solicitor General, but is responsible administratively to the Deputy Solicitor General.

Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)

The CSIS Act established SIRC as an independent body responsible for ensuring CSIS uses its powers legally and appropriately. The committee has access to all documents under the control of CSIS, except Cabinet confidences.

SIRC can audit any CSIS activity, and investigates complaints from the public about any CSIS action. In addition, people denied a security clearance for federal employment, or denied federal contracts on security grounds, can complain to SIRC. SIRC can also investigate when a person seeking admission to Canada or applying for Canadian citizenship is affected by detrimental security findings. Additionally, SIRC periodically provides reports to the Solicitor General on matters of special importance that are distinct from, but related to, its normal audit or investigative functions.

The Committee is composed of three to five privy councillors appointed by Cabinet after consultations between the Prime Minister and the leaders of parties having at least 12 members in the House of Commons. It publishes its findings in an annual report to Parliament, which is tabled by the Solicitor General.

Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC)

The CPC, established in 1988, is a federal agency that receives public complaints about the conduct of RCMP members in the performance of their duties. The Commission holds the RCMP accountable to the public by providing an independent review of complaints and by making findings and recommendations to the Commissioner of the RCMP.

When reviewing a complaint, the Commission does not act as an advocate for either the complainant or for RCMP members. Its role is to conduct an independent inquiry and reach objective conclusions based on the available information. The chair of the Commission has the authority to conduct an independent investigation or to hold a public hearing.

The Commission reports to Parliament. The Solicitor General of Canada tables the Commission's reports, but has no involvement in the operations of the Commission.

Communications Security Establishment Commissioner

In 1996, under Part II of the Inquiries Act, the Minister of National Defence appointed a Commissioner to review the activities of CSE to determine whether they are in compliance with the law. The Commissioner is independent of CSE and has access to all CSE personnel and records (except Cabinet confidences). The CSE Commissioner must inform the Minister of National Defence and the Attorney General of Canada of any activity that may not comply with the law. The Commissioner can also respond to complaints from the public about CSE. The Commissioner provides a public annual report to the Minister of National Defence, who tables it in Parliament.

VI. International Relationships

Hackers, organized criminals and terrorists make extensive use of today's advanced technology to conduct their illegal activities across international borders. Electronic banking fraud, migrant-smuggling, the drug trade, and financial and materiel support for international terrorism are examples of issues that confront both Canada and other nations.

During World War II and the Cold War period, Canada developed particularly close intelligence relationships with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. These linkages remain strong today, particularly with the United States, with whom Canada shares almost 9,000 kilometres of border.

Canada's security and intelligence agencies have also established working relationships with most countries in the world, allowing them to better protect Canadians and Canadian interests and to contribute to international security efforts. Several, including the RCMP, CSIS, DND, and CSE, have full-time liaison officers posted abroad. DFAIT and PCO are represented by dedicated intelligence liaison officers in both Washington and London.

In addition to these bilateral arrangements, Canada works closely with such organizations as Interpol, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the G-8, and fulfils its obligations under such international agreements as United Nations conventions that address the protection of peacekeepers, terrorism, war crimes, transnational organized crime, the smuggling of migrants, and the trafficking of persons, especially women and children.

VII. Helping Keep Canada and Canadians Safe and Secure

Canadians continue to consider public safety a high priority at the beginning of the 21st century.

The security and intelligence community is a major contributor to the effort of keeping Canada and Canadians safe and secure. It has prevented illegal people-smuggling attempts by organized criminals. It has prepared Canadian Forces personnel for military action and peacekeeping overseas. It has identified foreign spies operating in Canada. It has tipped off law enforcement authorities about major drug deals.

The issues facing the people who work in the security and intelligence community today are challenging ones. How can they maintain pace with adversaries who are making use of advanced technologies to plan and commit crimes and to elude detection? How can they best work with officials in other countries as globalization makes international cooperation increasingly important? How can they help protect Canada's critical infrastructure from risks that are being introduced through increased technological dependency and inter-connection?

With a track record of having delivered in peace and in war for more than half a century, Canada's security and intelligence community seeks answers to these questions, and more in the years to come, contributing to Canada's reputation as one of the safest countries in the world.

VIII. Reference Section


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