Message from the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Message from the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

CSIS’ National Headquarters is located in Ottawa, Ontario. 

Year in Review: A Significant Period for National and International Security

Many Canadians considered Canada’s security intelligence service like never before in 2023. CSIS and its work was the subject of more media stories than ever before. This robust media coverage on national security matters propelled our work into the spotlight, and as a result, helped shape the national conversation.

E vents that transpired and topics that emerged last year, which are discussed in this report, such as foreign interference and espionage, will continue into 2024 and beyond. These extraordinary events have and will continue to set the stage for our country to reflect and have a mature conversation on national security. For example, the Business Council of Canada shares our concerns regarding the need to do more to protect Canadian businesses from research theft and the need to bolster our collective economic security with better information sharing practices. These discussions on the requirements and expectations of Canada’s security intelligence service are timely and needed. However, they need to go beyond the results of public inquiries and program reviews. Our democracy and our social cohesion depend on it.

While I previously committed to stop saying “this was an unprecedented year for CSIS” in many ways, 2023 was a truly exceptional year in CSIS’ nearly 40-year history. The unauthorized disclosure of CSIS and Government of Canada intelligence products on multiple occasions dominated the media landscape and reverberated in Parliament, leading to the establishment of an independent special rapporteur on foreign interference and ultimately, a public inquiry on foreign interference. Canadians became aware of the extent to which foreign states interfere in Canada’s affairs, and target and harass diaspora communities in Canada.

In June, a Canadian citizen and Sikh community leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was murdered in British Columbia. In September, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, made a statement in the House of Commons stating that Canadian security agencies had been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between Government of India agents and the killing of Nijjar. The Prime Minister stated that the protection of Canadian citizens and the defence of Canadian sovereignty were fundamental. He stated that the Government’s top priorities were for law enforcement and security agencies to ensure the continued safety of all Canadians, and for all steps to be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account.


La Poile River, Newfoundland and Labrador

In 2023, the world became less secure. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine waged on. The Kremlin continued to strike civilian areas and critical infrastructure with missiles and drones targeting Ukraine and Ukrainians. Russia continues its efforts to consolidate territory and legitimize a land and resource grab, redrawing borders by force. 

In October, Israel suffered the worst terrorist attack and hostage taking in its history after Hamas attacked Israeli civilians and members of its armed forces. Israel responded to the attack with the launch of an air campaign and ground invasion of Gaza that has had devastating consequences for the local population. In response, Hezbollah and Houthi rebels, backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, launched missile strikes, raising tensions in the region. 

Ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, in the Middle East, and elsewhere remind us that these hostilities are not abstract. Spikes in racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and acts of hatred here in Canada remind us that our country is not immune. In the fall of 2023, I had the chance to meet with Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby, and Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, Deborah Lyons, to discuss the important work we must do to combat Islamophobia, antisemitism, and all forms of hate.

In December, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested an Ottawa youth who was planning a terrorist attack on the local Jewish community. CSIS’ efforts had a crucial role in preventing the attack.

Hostile state actors such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to undermine Canada’s security, with sustained threat activities, including foreign interference, malicious cyber activities, and economic espionage against Western states.

In October, I participated in the Emerging Technology and Securing Innovation Security Summit at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University with my colleagues from the Five Eyes (FVEYs) domestic intelligence services (FBI, MI5, ASIO and NZSIS). The historic event marked the first time the FVEYs heads met together in a public forum with members of the media, academia, and the private sector from across the FVEYs countries in attendance. The Summit’s objective was to alert civil society to the pernicious economic espionage activities of hostile state actors, such as the PRC, that steal billions annually in technology and research from FVEYs economies.


Yukon Territory in autumn.

In today’s ever-evolving threat environment, security partnerships of like-minded democracies are a necessary and vital factor in combatting the malign activities of authoritarian states. However, national security encompasses more than just governments. It involves every single one of us in our daily lives: the entrepreneur who seeks to sell their software to the world, only to have their intellectual property stolen through economic espionage; the activist who speaks out about human rights abuses in specific countries and is then targeted by regime-directed agents; and the patient who loses vital access to healthcare in a cyberattack targeting hospitals. Whether we know it or not, national security affects everyone; and all Canadians need to play a role in protecting it. National security is a shared effort, built on trust and transparency.

In the fall of 2023, CSIS and the Government of Canada launched a public consultation on its founding legislation, the CSIS Act. The threat environment facing Canada is in a constant state of evolution, and Canada needs to ensure that it has the tools necessary to detect and address national security threats. The consultation was a contribution to the national discussion on threats to Canada’s security. The proposals for amendments seek to enhance CSIS’ authorities to better equip itself to address the threats of today, and the threats of the future.  I am pleased to announce that the input received was overwhelmingly positive, which reflects the growing awareness of national security matters by Canadians and the significance they attach to them.

In November, an allegation of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, reported in the media, was not taken lightly. After the conclusion of an internal investigation concerning serious allegations emanating from CSIS’ British Columbia office, CSIS committed to the establishment of an independent ombuds office. Its mandate is to provide an informal mechanism for employees to discuss workplace issues and to act as a supplemental approach to our existing internal processes. In addition to the creation of the ombuds role, I also committed to publishing an annual report outlining incidents of harassment and wrongdoing at CSIS to ensure Canadians can hold us accountable. We are determined to address any such allegations as they are brought to our attention, and in doing so, create a workplace that is respectful, safe, inclusive, and ensures our valued employees can continue to protect Canada and Canadians.

The year 2023 presented significant challenges, and CSIS employees stepped up during this extraordinary year to meet them while truly representing the best of Canada. I am tremendously grateful for their tireless efforts and dedication to the protection of Canada’s national security, prosperity, interests, and most importantly, people.

One Mission. One CSIS. One Canada.

"While I previously committed to stop saying ‘this was an unprecedented year for CSIS’ in many ways, 2023 was a truly exceptional year in CSIS’ nearly 40-year history."

David Vigneault, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

David Vigneault  Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
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