Engagement with Canadians
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In 2020 CSIS continued its work with the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG). The advisory group was established in 2019 and advises the Government of Canada on the implementation of the commitment to increase transparency across Canada’s national security and intelligence departments and agencies. NS-TAG advises on how to infuse transparency into Canada’s national security policies, programs, best practices, and activities in a way that will increase democratic accountability. It also seeks to increase public awareness, engagement and access to national security and related information. Finally, it aims to promote transparency – which is consistent with CSIS’s own long-established commitment with Canadians.
CSIS’s regular engagement with NS-TAG over the course of 2020 culminated in a December appearance by Director Vigneault to discuss a variety of topics including CSIS’s proactive engagement with the biopharma and healthcare sectors, ongoing work to increase diversity and inclusivity in national security, CSIS’s work with its review bodies and the need to modernize CSIS’s authorities.
CSIS builds important linkages to Canadians through open and transparent collaboration. Primarily driven through the work of the Academic Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement program, CSIS builds relationships that help develop a better understanding of current and emerging security concerns while informing public understanding of both national security issues and CSIS’s mandate and activities. This work contributes to CSIS’s transparency and accountability commitments while also ensuring that CSIS is recognized as a sophisticated and responsive security intelligence service, trusted by Canadians to uphold and defend Canadian interests in an increasingly complex geopolitical environment.
Engagement with academia
As an advanced economy and open and free democracy, Canada has long been targeted by persistent and sophisticated threat activity. This activity, which is conducted to gain information and intelligence as well as influence in order to advance the national interests of a foreign state, targets Canadian entities, including and especially academic institutions. This activity threatens Canada’s core values, vital assets and knowledge-based economy.
As a result and throughout 2020, CSIS provided advice on espionage and foreign interference threats to national security to Canadian post-secondary institutions to ensure they are aware of the threat environment and have the information they need to make informed decisions as well as implement pre-emptive security measures.
Despite the challenging conditions of the pandemic, CSIS was able to contribute to informed dialogue on national security issues by drawing on subject matter expertise in academia and hosting 16 virtual events, commissioning 25 reports, and coordinating CSIS expert briefings for numerous external stakeholders. Covering key national security priorities, as well as issues such as mental health and coping during a pandemic, social license, and GBA+ initiatives, CSIS facilitated collaboration and information sharing between CSIS and external sources of expertise to create an environment of continuous learning, challenge assumptions and unconscious bias and to support innovation. During the year, CSIS employees participated in class and seminar discussions in over thirty universities across eight provinces. In addition to broadening the awareness of students about CSIS, the effort also supported the organization’s proactive recruitment strategy by organizing virtual ‘job fairs’ to coincide with the presentation by CSIS’s employees.
Engagement with innovation sectors
Over the year, CSIS established trusted, reciprocal relationships with academia, industry, and other levels of government. The primary focus during the year was coordination of the COVID-19 outreach initiative and the development of relationships with stakeholders in the biopharmaceutical, research, life sciences and data sectors, as well as in the logistics, distribution and supply chain sectors. In 2020, CSIS provided hundreds of threat briefings and offered tailored threat mitigation advice to assist these sectors to take meaningful measures to protect Canadian research and economic interests. CSIS also used additional forms of engagement including the targeted publication of articles in industry magazines.
Engagement with communities
CSIS has invested significant effort in building relationships with individuals, communities and community leaders to establish and sustain trust. CSIS’s ongoing offer of support and commitment to work in partnership with these communities is not only good practice but serves in protecting individuals from intimidation or other hostile activities by foreign state actors.
For example, the tragic downing of flight PS752 prompted important outreach with Iranian-Canadian communities through targeted communication with various groups and community leaders. These discussions opened the door to future engagement opportunities. Similarly, following the tragic Toronto Mosque attack, CSIS engaged with important leaders in the Muslim community and is committed to continuing more proactive engagement.
These examples are an important demonstration of how CSIS continues to encourage all Canadian communities to engage in important discussions in order to help communities and have a more informed society on the national security threats that face Canada.
CSIS Academic Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement
- Engaging with partners and stakeholders in sectors including academia, industry, non-governmental, and community organizations and other levels of government;
- Supporting operational activities by connecting staff and decision-makers with external sources of information and diverse perspectives;
- Commissioning and disseminating research and expert analysis to inform operational activities and public dialogue on national security issues; and
- Fostering trust by providing a human face of CSIS, dispelling myths, and building reciprocal relationships.
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