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BCCLA case shows how ignorant Canadians really are about CSIS

By Phil Gurskii      

CSIS is legislatively mandated to investigate threats to the security of Canada, defined under Sec. 2 of the CSIS Act, by the powers granted under Sec. 12. One of these threats is politically motivated violence. Is it possible that some of the opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline could have turned to violence? Absolutely, ergo CSIS did what we ask of it.

Protesters, pictured in Ottawa on Jan. 8, 2018, out in solidarity with Indigenous peoples who had been arrested at Wet’suwet’en camp in British Columbia. Canadians need to appreciate that CSIS acts as an 'early warning system' on threats to national security and public safety. It has a lower threshold of investigative power than law enforcement does. It collects intelligence, not evidence, and does so to keep up on what may morph into real threats to Canada. Everything it did in looking into the Northern Gateway protest movement was not only allowed, it was required, writes Phil Gurski. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade

OTTAWA—As spy agencies go, ours in Canada is not that different from others in the Western world. Okay, CSIS does not have the sexiness of MI6’s James Bond and may not overthrow regimes like the CIA does, but it does share many characteristics with its closest equivalents. It collects intelligence to advise governments. It tries its best to protect its sources and methods. It tends to operate in the shadows. And it does a poor job of explaining to Canadians why it does what it does. It is this latter trait that sometimes leads to problems.

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