Partner Focused: Engaging with Canadians and Partners

2 Partner Focused: Engaging with Canadians and Partners

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge at twilight. The span connects Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Nicole Giles, Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic  Partnerships at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Executive Spotlight – Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships

Shining the Light: Building a Strategic, Transparent, and Accountable CSIS

Nicole Giles, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, is responsible for strategic policy development, legislation, and strengthening key partnerships and engagement with oversight bodies, the Government of Canada, foreign partners, and all Canadians.

I joined CSIS in late 2022, having spent my career working on international issues for the Government of Canada, both In Canada and as an ambassador abroad. Everyday I apply these experiences, including my time spent in academia, to help strengthen CSIS and Canada’s national security.

Our mandate in the Policy and Strategic Partnerships Directorate is simple: facilitate the mission. To achieve this key objective, the Directorate ensures that CSIS is well positioned to strategically guide and respond to all complex policy and operational matters affecting its day-to-day activities. It also acts as CSIS’ most prominent advocate in engagements with government partners, Parliament, provinces and territories, Indigenous governments, community organizations, and the Canadian public, our most important partner. As part of our strategic approach we have established three critical priorities: strategy, transparency, and accountability.

First, we must ensure that CSIS has a strong framework that guides the implementation of Government of Canada policies and legislation through a whole-of-CSIS response, from operations to policy. This also allows CSIS to collaborate more effectively with Government of Canada partners on issues of national security.

One recently developed key strategic framework is CSIS’ Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) Framework. The CSIS IPS Framework builds upon the broader Government of Canada strategy for the region and guides all CSIS activities in the region. Under the IPS, we are increasing engagement and expanding our relationships with key regional partners, which in turn allows us to better respond to threats and hostile activities emanating from the region to better protect Canada’s national security and economic prosperity.


Grands-Jardins National Park, Charlevoix, Quebec.

Another key strategic framework is our Northern and Arctic Framework, which guides CSIS’ implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDA). In 2023, CSIS made history as the first intelligence service in the world to action the UNDA declaration. This important framework based on reconciliation and cooperation will guide CSIS as it expands and strengthens its relationship with Indigenous governments, organizations, communities and peoples, all of whom have an integral role to play in protecting national security.

Strategic frameworks guide all CSIS engagements. In October, I travelled to Iqaluit to discuss building stronger relationships and collaboration on security matters with the Government of Nunavut and other key Arctic partners. During a sitting of the Nunavut Legislature, I was honoured, on behalf of CSIS, to be officially recognized by Premier P.J. Akeeagok, who thanked CSIS for its ongoing engagements with regional partners and enhanced prioritization of Arctic and Northern Security. Engagement and communication is key to building strong partnerships and trust between all Canadians and their security intelligence service.

Transparency remains one of our utmost priorities. As such, we endeavour to ensure CSIS is as transparent as possible with Canadians concerning its important work in protecting national security while ensuring the continued protection of sources of intelligence and CSIS methodologies. It is time for CSIS to not only come out of the shadows, but to be the one shining the light. Canadians may have noticed in recent years that CSIS has been more publically engaged than ever before. This is evident through our recent public acknowledgements of CSIS’ critical efforts in major national security investigations; our increased engagement with the media; our public release of our comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy; and through key public products like this public report, which for the first time features key CSIS executives.

Even for a security intelligence service, transparency is relevant and essential, particularly if we want to build trust with all those we serve. It ensures that Canadians have a better understanding of what we do, which leads to a more informed discussion on national security and ultimately builds their resilience against threats. This is why we decided to publish operational statistics in this year’s public report, such as CSIS’ threat reduction measures and the Justification Framework.


Rideau Falls, Ottawa, Ontario

True accountability must be built on a foundation of transparency brick by brick, which is the third priority. Being accountable to Canadians and Parliament is paramount to earning and maintaining trust, which is why we prioritize our relationships with external bodies like the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), the Federal Courts, and the Intelligence Commissioner. We welcome the reviews these bodies conduct of CSIS activities and their recommendations because we are a learning organization that constantly strives to improve. In 2023, we experienced a 300% increase in requests for information and briefings, which were actioned to ensure review bodies received the necessary information required to conduct a thorough review. To further transparency and accountability, CSIS began to provide public responses to these recommendations to ensure Canadians are aware of CSIS’ position on specific matters and the actions we will take to address them.

Another key accountability and transparency mechanism is realized through parliamentary appearances. In 2023, CSIS executives, including myself, provided testimonies to various parliamentary committees on topics ranging from research security and foreign election interference.

Effectively facilitating the mission requires that CSIS be strategic, transparent, and accountable. Building trust and strong relationships takes time. Canadians have historically been unaware of their security intelligence service and how we protect them; going forward, that must change. As we enter into an increasingly complex threat environment, CSIS must be better positioned to effectively respond and counter these threats, and Canadians must be more informed on national security concerns. Ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of Canada requires a whole-of-society effort, and CSIS will continue to include all Canadians in this collective effort. 


"It is time not only for CSIS to come out of the shadows, but to shine the light."

Nicole Giles, Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

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Building Partnerships through Engagement

People First: 3 A Workplace for All

In recent years, CSIS has prioritized its external engagement activities because combatting whole-of-society national security threats requires a whole-of-society effort.

The Evolution of Disinformation: A DEEPFAKE FUTURE

Partner Engagement

In 2023, CSIS conducted 147 outreach engagements with various partners across multiple sectors. CSIS’ outreach engagements aim to develop relationships with, work alongside, and learn directly from Canadians. This year marked several milestones.

In support of securing Canada’s Arctic and North, CSIS had numerous engagements with Arctic and Northern partners, including governments, communities, and Indigenous groups. In March, CSIS presented at the Inuit Technology Forum in Iqaluit. The presentation, made available in Inuktitut to the participants, focused on cyber threats to the security of Canada. In November, CSIS, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Privy Council Office established a mechanism that supports Inuit leadership in accessing security screening services. This important milestone will facilitate the sharing of information, while supporting Inuit self-determination.

In addition to CSIS’ traditional outreach and engagement channels, CSIS senior executives have increased their participation in public-facing events. In 2023, then Assistant Director of Requirements, Cherie Henderson, spoke at the Canadian Security Showcase on the latest developments in the security landscape, and the importance of operational partnerships and exploring future approaches to protect national security. 

In September, Director Vigneault gave the keynote address to the members’ meeting of the Business Council of Canada (BCC), a network composed of 170 chief executives of Canada’s leading enterprises, which together employ millions of Canadians and contribute 50% to Canada’s private sector GDP. In his address, Director Vigneault spoke about the targeting of Canadian innovation and industry by foreign state actors, such as the PRC. CSIS’ robust relationship with the BCC is a demonstration of CSIS’ work to increase resilience against foreign interference in private industry, so that Canadian jobs, technology, and intellectual property are protected. The BCC’s 2023 report, Economic Security is National Security, is one result of this important partnership.

On December 11, Director Vigneault delivered his annual address at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The theme of his address was the interconnection of human rights and national security. Director Vigneault discussed the increasing complexity and intensity of security threats, CSIS’ efforts to uphold and defend human rights and democracy in today’s rapidly evolving geopolitical environment, and how a successful response to threats requires working in partnership with civil society. This event marked the first time the Director provided his annual address with journalists in attendance.


Percentage of CSIS Engagements by Sector
Academia 22%
Indigenous 14%
Private sector 14%
Government of Canada 13%
Provincial and territorial government 8%
High-tech 8%
Community group 7%
Health science 4%
Municipal government 4%
International 3%
Finance 1%
Manufacturing 1%
Transportation and logistics 1%
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Policy and Accountability

People First: 3 A Workplace for All

Protecting national security and Canada’s interests requires CSIS to be a policy-driven organization that is accountable to Canadians and Parliament.

Akshayuk Pass, Baffin Island, Nunavut

Banff, Alberta, from Sulphur Mountain.

Justification Framework

The National Security Act (2017) acknowledged that it is in the public interest to ensure that CSIS employees can effectively carry out CSIS’s intelligence collection duties and functions, including by engaging in covert activities, in accordance with the rule of law. To enable this, the amendments provide a limited justification for CSIS employees and persons acting at their direction to carry out activities that would otherwise constitute offences, modelled on the framework already in place for Canadian law enforcement.

The Justification Framework provides legal authority for CSIS employees who are designated by the Minister of Public Safety and persons acting under their direction, such as human sources, to engage in activities that would otherwise constitute offences. This means that when a CSIS employee, or human source acting at their direction, engages in activities with a suspected terrorist in the hope of gaining their confidence, they are protected from criminal liability. For example, the very act of providing direction to a human source operating covertly within a suspected terrorist entity could potentially engage terrorism offences in the Criminal Code. Another example is providing electronic items, such as a cell phone, to enable the human source’s access to vital information.

As a first layer of accountability, the Framework requires the Minister of Public Safety to determine, at least once a year, the classes of acts or omissions that designated CSIS employees may be justified in committing or directing another person to commit, and this determination is only valid after it is reviewed and approved by the IC. As a second layer of accountability, and as an added layer of transparency, Section 20.1(24) of the Justification Framework also requires the Minister to publicly release certain information. The following table provides the information required to fulfill Section 20.1(24), by fiscal year:

Justification Framework Table
2019–2020 2020–2021 2021–2022 2022–2023
Number of Emergency Designations under s. 20.1(8) 0 0 0 0
Number of Authorizations to Direct the Commission of Acts or Omissions under s. 20.1(12) 83 165 172 173
Number of Directions under s. 20.1(15)(b) 0 0 0 0

Since the coming into force of the Justification Framework, the majority of the authorizations granted were in support of information and intelligence collection activities relating to espionage/sabotage, foreign interference, and terrorism as defined in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of the definition of threats to the security of Canada in Section 2 of the CSIS Act. During the same time, the majority of the acts or omissions that were directed to be committed under paragraph (b) were related to terrorism as defined in paragraph (c) of the definition of threats to the security of Canada in Section 2 of the CSIS Act, and as such could constitute terrorism related offences under the Criminal Code.

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