What are activities that would otherwise constitute offences and why does CSIS need to engage in them?

Backgrounder

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is responsible for ensuring that Canada and Canadians are safe from national security threats such as acts of terrorism, espionage and foreign interference.

We do so, in part, by gathering crucial information and obtaining access to individuals who may pose a threat to Canada’s national security and advising the Government of Canada or taking appropriate measures to reduce threats.

In carrying out our duties, CSIS relies on the assistance of persons, including human sources, who have access to people, organizations and activities that pose a threat to the security of Canada. These individuals are in a position to provide intelligence – that often could not be obtained by other means – to support investigations.  

Supporting this work requires that we provide logistical or financial support to those sources to enable their access to vital information.  This may involve paying a source for information or providing electronic items such as cellphones.

Where the subjects of an investigation are engaged in unlawful offences, sources may be required to participate to some degree, in order to gain trust, maintain credibility, and develop access. Not being able to do so can potentially put them at risk.

CSIS relied on Crown immunity to conduct activities routinely used by intelligence agencies and police forces in allied countries throughout the normal course of their duties. However, in Canada, this may involve activities that could constitute terrorism offences in the Criminal Code.

The National Security Act, 2017 provides a limited justification framework for certain acts or omissions that would otherwise constitute offences.  This framework is modelled on protections already in place for Canadian law enforcement. Within strict parameters, certain employees are authorized to take the necessary measures to conduct lawful, covert investigations.

The establishment of the justification framework enables CSIS to carry out operational activities that are necessary to the achievement of our mandate. The justification framework provides for the conduct of certain activities that otherwise constitute offences so that CSIS can continue to effectively investigate threats to the security of Canada, particularly those in the terrorist domain.

Please see the CSIS website for more information on the National Security Act (2017).

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