What is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and what do I do if they approach me?

CSIS is Canada’s spy agency and it reports to and advises the Canadian government about national security.

What does CSIS do?

CSIS investigates activities that are suspected of being a threat to Canada, within the country and abroad. 

Activities that may be considered threats to Canada’s security include:

  • Spying on Canada to get political and military information, for instance by other governments
  • Using violence for political, religious, or ideological goals
  • Activities that aim to violently overthrow Canada’s system of government

CSIS agents do not have the power to arrest, detain, or take you somewhere to question you, however they may approach you with police officers who have that power. Also, CSIS agents are not required to tell you they work for CSIS. An agent or informant can pretend to be someone else to talk to you or your family, friends, colleagues, etc. to secretly obtain information. 

What do I do if CSIS contacts me?

You do not have to answer questions asked by a CSIS agent, and they do not have the power to arrest or detain you. 

If you are approached by CSIS, you can:

  • Politely decline to talk to them.
  • Document what occurred during the interaction
  • Get legal advice immediately.

If a CSIS agent approaches you with a police officer who tries to question, arrest, or detain you, you may exercise your right to remain silent and your right to speak to a lawyer. 

Can CSIS take my personal belongings?

CSIS can only take your things if they have a warrant issued by a judge. If they get a warrant, they can:

  • Enter any place to take any of your things
  • Search through and make copies or keep records of anything they take
  • Install or remove anything

You have the right to ask for what information CSIS took or what activities they’re monitoring, but CSIS can refuse to confirm or deny any information. 

Can CSIS affect my immigration status?

CSIS can give information to the government that makes them decide to deny you citizenship if they believe you’d be a security threat to Canada. If you’re under investigation by CSIS for certain offences, you will also not be granted citizenship. 

What else does CSIS investigate?

If they believe certain people or groups are a threat to Canadian security, CSIS may investigate:

  • Protest groups
  • Campus activities and community groups (e.g., Muslims) using spies
  • Other countries’ activities

How do I make a complaint against CSIS?

  1. Read about making a complaint to CSIS.
  2. Make a complaint to the Director of CSIS.
  3. If you do not get a response within 30 days or are dissatisfied with the response, make a complaint to the Canadian Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).