Our Government is working to disrupt acts of terrorism before they come to pass. This Bill proposes to give CSIS a new mandate to intervene in order to disrupt threats to the security of Canada. Currently, CSIS does not have a legal mandate to take action concerning threats. Instead, CSIS is limited to collecting and analyzing information and intelligence, and advising the Government of Canada. For instance, when CSIS conducts an interview as part of an investigation, the sole purpose of the interview must be to collect information, not to dissuade the subject from actions that threaten the security of Canadians.
With its new mandate, CSIS could take measures, at home and abroad, to disrupt threats when it had reasonable grounds to believe that there was a threat to the security of Canada. Threats to the security of Canada are defined in the CSIS Act, and include espionage, sabotage, foreign influenced activities, terrorism and domestic subversion (activities against the constitutionally established system of government in Canada).
CSIS could only take reasonable and proportional measures to disrupt threats. To do this, CSIS would consider the nature of the threat, the nature of the proposed measures and the reasonable availability of other means to disrupt the threat.
Intelligence services in most of Canada's close democratic allies have had similar mandates and powers for many years.
A number of stringent safeguards would govern the new mandate:
- CSIS would be required to have “reasonable grounds to believe” that an activity was a threat to the security of Canada before it could take measures to disrupt the threat. This is more stringent than the “reasonable grounds to suspect” currently required to launch an investigation under CSIS's existing intelligence collection mandate;
- CSIS would need a court warrant whenever proposed threat disruption measures contravene Charter rights or would otherwise be contrary to Canadian law. This is similar to the current intelligence collection warrant system, where CSIS must have a warrant before using intelligence collection techniques that engage a person's privacy rights. CSIS would have to satisfy a judge that a warrant was required to enable it to intervene to address a threat to the security of Canada, and that the measures proposed were reasonable and proportional in the circumstances;
- Threat disruption warrants would be limited to a maximum of 120 days, with the possibility of limited renewal if the judge believes there are grounds to do so. This is in contrast to the existing system of intelligence collection warrants, which can last up to one year;
- CSIS would have to fulfill new reporting requirements to ensure that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was appropriately informed of CSIS' activities under its threat disruption mandate; and
- The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) would annually examine the performance of CSIS in its threat disruption mandate. SIRC would then summarize its findings in its annual report to the Minister, which is later laid before Parliament. SIRC would also report statistics on CSIS threat disruption warrants.
The Bill would also authorize judges to make assistance orders. These orders would require a person or organization to assist CSIS in carrying out its warranted authorities when the judge felt that the assistance was reasonably necessary. Assistance orders could apply to both intelligence collection and threat disruption warrants.
The Criminal Code currently authorizes judges to make assistance orders in relation to certain types of law enforcement warrants. This Bill would create a similar power for CSIS warrants.