CSIS coasters are pictured in Ottawa in a 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CSIS *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Urgent changes needed to ensure CSIS can carry out intelligence mandate: spy watchdog

OTTAWA — A new watchdog report says Canada’s spy service has failed to make the crucial process of applying for court warrants a specialized trade that requires training, experience and investment.

The report by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency calls for fundamental changes to the relationship between the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and its legal counsel at the Department of Justice.

The reviewers heard repeated concerns from interviewees that systemic problems — rooted in governance and cultural issues — risk creating an intelligence service incapable of fulfilling its mandate.

A federal judge called for the comprehensive review in 2020 after ruling CSIS failed to disclose its reliance on information that was likely collected illegally in support of warrants to probe extremism.

Federal Court Justice Patrick Gleeson found the spy service breached its duty of candour to the court, part of a long-standing pattern.

The review agency describes an intelligence service and its counsel struggling to find ways to meet their legal obligations, including to the Federal Court.

“Addressing these challenges is in the urgent public interest,” the report says. “Though CSIS and Justice have made improvements, difficulties are still evident.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press