2020 and Beyond: Modernizing CSIS’ Authorities
The National Security Act, 2017 introduced the most significant changes to CSIS since 1984, however work remains to ensure CSIS’ authorities keep pace. Changes in our threat, operational, technological and legal environment continue to create challenges while expectations of CSIS continue to grow.
For example, technology has evolved dramatically, creating both new vulnerabilities that can be exploited by Canada’s adversaries, and a data rich environment with enormous potential to leverage modern tools to support investigations, while ensuring Canadians’ privacy is protected. Canada’s national security landscape has also changed significantly. The distinction between threats to national security and threats to Canada’s national interest – our economy, research and development – is increasingly blurred in the face of espionage by state actors who also seek to covertly undermine Canada’s institutions. To operate effectively in this environment, CSIS must increasingly engage with a wide variety of stakeholders, including private sector and academia.
CSIS’ critical engagement with the Federal Court further shapes our legal and operational realities. Key Federal Court decisions can have significant impact on our authorities and their limitations, creating tensions between technology in the context of modern investigations, and a statute drafted over thirty-five years ago.
Moving forward, it is important to consider Canadians’ expectations of CSIS as a modern, accountable intelligence service. We must ensure CSIS has the authorities to provide timely, relevant advice in line with Government and Canadians’ expectations of their intelligence service including expectations of accountability and transparency.
In this context, CSIS is working to ensure our authorities are, and continue to be, fit for purpose in our dynamic landscape. However, this work is not CSIS’ alone. In ensuring we have the flexibility and foresight necessary to adapt to evolving threats, evolving technologies and an evolving society, we are working closely with our Government of Canada partners both within the Public Safety Portfolio and with the Department of Justice, as well as learning from allied experiences as these challenges are not Canada’s alone. Cross-cutting work by external review agencies is also an important part of this work as it informs where CSIS, and its close partners, may be working with outdated authorities in an increasingly inter-connected world.
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