Amendments to the CSIS Act – Authorization Regime


The modernization of the CSIS Act will serve to address outdated legal authorities. It will also significantly enhance the transparency and accountability regime under which CSIS operates - a consideration repeatedly emphasized during the consultation process. 

In order to gain valuable intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians, CSIS officials, or those acting at their direction, must have close access to subjects of investigation involved in a range of potentially unlawful activities.

This is particularly true for counter-terrorism operations, where CSIS recruits human sources with access to known terrorists or terrorist organizations to acquire valuable information about threats to Canadians. The very act of providing direction to a human source operating covertly within a suspected terrorist entity could potentially engage a number of terrorism offences in the Criminal Code.

This legislation responds to recommendations raised in recent reviews by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

The proposed amendments would:

  • Establish in law an authorization regime for otherwise unlawful activities modeled on one that already exists in the Criminal Code for law enforcement officers but adapted to the particular context of security intelligence investigations.
  • Provide an exemption for offences that may be triggered by establishing or maintaining a covert identity modeled on exemptions that currently apply to law enforcement.
  • Modernize the Service’s authorities by ensuring that it has transparent, lawful authorities to ensure effective intelligence collection operations.
  • Ensure robust accountability by clearly articulating reporting and review requirements.

The legislation would also create a new oversight body, the office of the Intelligence Commissioner (IC). The IC would act as an independent third party to provide independent review of the Minister of Public Safety’s decisions. The IC will approve classes of acts or omissions that can be undertaken by CSIS pursuant to the authorization regime

The new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) will also be notified of all activities undertaken under this regime, with a new authority to report activity it deems to be unlawful directly to the Attorney General of Canada.

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