Accountability and Review

CSIS depends on the trust of Canadians to do its work. That is why robust oversight and accountability mechanisms are so fundamental. They provide assurance to Canadians that CSIS operates lawfully in its efforts to protect Canada and Canadians.

Due to the nature of its work, CSIS is required to report on its activities in various settings:

Public Reporting

CSIS provides information to Parliament and the public through its annual public report and the Minister's Annual Statement on National Security. These documents provide Canadians with an assessment of the current security intelligence environment and detail the government's efforts to ensure national security.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

The Minister is responsible to Parliament for CSIS as a whole and for its general direction. The Minister issues policy guidelines on operational procedures, is informed of security operations and problems and approves, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, cooperative agreements and relationships with foreign agencies.

Relationship with the Federal Court

The Federal Court authorizes warrants for CSIS’ intelligence collection activities. CSIS requires a Federal Court warrant to carry out intrusive investigative techniques, when CSIS has reasonable grounds to believe these means are proportional to the gravity and imminence of a threat. When the threshold established under section 21.1(1) of the CSIS Act is met, CSIS requires a Federal Court warrant to carry out threat reduction measures.

In addition, a Federal Court judge can issue an assistance order, ordering an individual or entity to assist CSIS to give effect to a warrant, and order measures to ensure the confidentiality of such an order.

Review Bodies

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)

NSIRA is responsible for ensuring that Canada’s national security agencies, including CSIS, are complying with the law and that their actions are reasonable and necessary. It has the full and independent authority to decide the activities it will review, including the review of ongoing activities. NSIRA also investigates complaints related to national security, including those relative to the CSIS Act, the RCMP Act, the Citizenship Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP)

The NSICOP is a committee of parliamentarians mandated to review any national security or intelligence matter including ongoing operations and activities.

Committee members come from both Houses of Parliament. All hold Top Secret security clearances, allowing CSIS to provide briefings in a classified setting to explain the complex threats it faces and the responses deployed to fight them.

Parliamentary Committees

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security reviews and studies the policies and programs of the Ministry of Public Safety and its agencies, which includes CSIS. The Standing Committee on National Security and Defence examines legislation and studies issues related to national defence and security.

The Intelligence Commissioner

The Intelligence Commissioner conducts independent quasi-judicial reviews of the conclusions reached by ministers in issuing certain ministerial authorizations and determinations concerning intelligence activities, including the use and retention of datasets. The Intelligence Commissioner also reviews decisions by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness related to the justification framework that provides legal authority to CSIS employees who are specifically designated by the Minister, and persons assisting the Service, such as human sources, to engage in activities that would otherwise constitute offences.

Like all departments and agencies of government, CSIS is also accountable to Canadians through:

  • The Office of the Auditor General
  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner
  • The Office of the Information Commissioner
  • The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • The Access to Information Act
  • The Privacy Act
  • The Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act

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