Message from the Director
On July 16, 2019, CSIS employees from coast to coast celebrated our 35th anniversary a little older, a great deal wiser and more proud than ever before about how we have come together to protect the security of Canada at home and abroad. As Director, I take enormous pride in the fact that, thirty five years on, CSIS continues to demonstrate its value to Canadians by providing the Government with crucial information and advice linked to threats to the security of Canada and our national interests.
In June 2019, the National Security Act, 2017 received Royal Assent and became law. This legislation modernized the original CSIS Act by addressing outdated legal authorities, introducing new safeguards and accountability measures as well as clarifying CSIS’ responsibilities. While this has addressed specific challenges and provides some new modern authorities, there is still work to be done.
CSIS must continue to provide timely and relevant intelligence to Government. Going forward, that will require a renewed vigilance in assessing whether our current authorities are keeping pace with continuous changes in the threat, technological and legal landscape. Much has changed since our formation in 1984. Our authorities must evolve with the world around it and keep pace with changes.
Whether it’s al-Qaida, Daesh or Blood and Honour, CSIS remains seized with the threat these groups pose to Canadians at home and abroad. These groups continue to be powerful influencers who can shape the pace and direction of mobilization through their efforts to inspire, enable and direct violence globally. These and other like-minded groups can reach into Canadian communities to encourage individuals to carry out acts of terrorism, domestically or abroad. The threat posed by those who have travelled for nefarious purposes and who then return to Canada continues to be a priority for CSIS.
As the world becomes smaller and more competitive, nation states are naturally seeking every advantage to position themselves as leaders in a lucrative global economy. As a result of this competitive thirst, hostile state actors seek to leverage all elements of state power to advance their national interests. This threat represents the greatest danger to Canada’s national security and can have a tremendous impact on our economic growth, ability to innovate, sovereignty and national interest. That is why CSIS is now routinely engaging with a variety of stakeholders across the Government of Canada and the private and research sectors, to learn from and advise on the nature of potential threats so that they are better prepared and can protect their important work.
As we have seen elsewhere in the world, democratic institutions and processes, including elections, are valuable targets for hostile state actors. Our country is not immune to threat activities in this area. In the lead up to the 2019 Federal Election, CSIS was a key member of the Security and Intelligence Threat to Elections (SITE) Task Force. As a member of the task force, CSIS collected information about foreign interference and provided advice, intelligence reporting and assessments to the Government about hostile state activities that could pose a threat to the election. CSIS’ threat reduction mandate provided the Government of Canada another tool to respond to threats, including foreign influenced activity, if required. Finally, CSIS participated in briefings to political parties, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections on the threat of foreign interference to ensure Canadians could participate freely and fairly in the democratic process.
SITE is now seen as a model for our allies around the world on how different departments and agencies within government can work together and leverage their own unique authorities to ensure free and fair elections for their citizens.
The variety and complexity of threats Canada continues to face means that CSIS must continue to recruit a new generation of professionals who have the skills, knowledge and commitment to work in security and intelligence. Our workforce is more diverse than ever before. Employees with different life experiences and backgrounds bring new ideas and make CSIS stronger. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is at the core of CSIS — because it is not just important, it’s a matter of national security. It is our diversity that allows us to better understand all the Canadian communities we protect. The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished.
My focus as Director has been to ensure all our employees come to work every day in a safe, healthy and respectful environment. With that in mind, I am very proud of the progressive changes that we have introduced to improve workplace policies and practices through a modern people strategy. It is incredibly important that every employee at CSIS understands that they play a crucial role in our mission to keep Canada and Canadians safe from threats at home and abroad and that they are well-supported by the organization. We recognize that there is more work to be done and will continue to make every effort to ensure our employees feel respected and valued.
Transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of a modern intelligence service. That is why CSIS welcomed changes introduced through the National Security Act, 2017 to help bolster our already robust oversight and accountability mechanisms. In order for CSIS to do its important work of keeping Canadians safe from threats at home and abroad, we must have the trust of Canadians. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly and work hard to earn every day. Though the National Security Act, 2017 made significant and critical changes to our legal mandate, the threat environment we face today and in the future requires further reflection to ensure that we have the tools required of a modern intelligence agency.
As part of CSIS’ ongoing commitment to public accountability, I welcome the tabling in the House of Commons of this CSIS Public Report, which provides an opportunity to report on our priorities and activities during 2019. CSIS will continue to fulfill our mandate of keeping Canada and Canadians safe – and do so in a way that is consistent with Canada’s values and the trust Canadians place in us.
David Vigneault, Director
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