Making a Complaint

If you wish to make a complaint about any activity of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS or the Service), Section 16 of the NSIRA Act will apply.

If you wish to make a complaint about any activity of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Section 17 of the NSIRA Act will apply.

If you wish to make a complaint concerning the denial or revocation of a security clearance necessary to obtain or keep federal government employment or contracts, Section 18 of the NSIRA Act applies.

Types of Complaints

The types of complaints which NSIRA may investigate are described in section 8(1)(d) of the NSIRA Act and takes several forms. Under Section 16, NSIRA may investigate any activity carried out by CSIS. Under Section 17, NSIRA may investigate any activity carried out by CSE. While under Section 18, NSIRA may hear complaints regarding the denial or revocation of security clearances to federal government employees and contractors. Under Section 19, a complaint may be referred to NSIRA under the RCMP Act. NSIRA Act also gives NSIRA the authority to conduct investigations into matters referred to the Review Agency pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Citizenship Act. A brief description of each type of complaint follows.

Complaints against CSIS activities

Under Section 16 of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA investigates complaints made by “any person” with respect to “any activity carried out by CSIS”. Before the Review Agency investigates the complaint, there are two statutory requirements that must be met:

  • the complainant has made a complaint to the Director with respect to that activity and the complainant has not received a response within a period of time that the Agency considers reasonable (approximately 60 days) or is dissatisfied with the response given; and
  • the Agency is satisfied that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.

Under subsection 16(2), the Review Agency must not investigate a complaint in respect of which the complainant is entitled to seek redress by means of another grievance procedure under the CSIS Act or the Public Service Staff Relations Act. However, these conditions do not prevent the Review Agency from investigating cases and making findings and recommendations where individuals feel that they have not had their complaints answered satisfactorily by CSIS.

Your first step should be to gather as much documentation and other information as possible about the circumstances of your complaint.

You must send a letter of complaint in writing to the Director of the Service at the following address:

Director
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
P. O. Box 9732
Postal Station “T”
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 4G4

If you are not satisfied with the Director's response, or if you do not receive a response within a reasonable time (approximately 60 days), you may then submit your complaint to NSIRA by completing Form 16, and enclosing your letter of complaint to the Director of CSIS and the response, if any, received from the Director of CSIS. You may contact NSIRA as follows:

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430
Station “D”
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W5
Telephone: 1-833-890-0293
Fax: (613) 907-4445

Once your complaint is received, NSIRA will contact you to follow up on the information you provided and the next step regarding your complaint.

Complaints against CSE activities

Under Section 17 of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA investigates complaints made by “any person” with respect to “any activity carried out by CSE”. Before the Review Agency investigates the complaint, there are two statutory requirements that must be met:

  • the complainant has made a complaint to the Chief with respect to that activity and the complainant has not received a response within a period of time that the Agency considers reasonable (approximately 60 days) or is dissatisfied with the response given; and
  • the Agency is satisfied that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.

Under subsection 17(2), the Review Agency must not investigate a complaint where the complainant is entitled to seek redress by means of another grievance procedure under the Public Service Staff Relations Act. However, these conditions do not prevent the Review Agency from investigating cases and making findings and recommendations where individuals feel that they have not had their complaints answered satisfactorily by CSE.

Your first step should be to gather as much documentation and other information as possible about the circumstances of your complaint.
You must send a letter of complaint in writing to the Chief of CSE at the following address:

Chief
Communications Security Establishment
P.O. Box 9703
Terminal
Ottawa, ON
K1G 3Z4

If you are not satisfied with the Chief's response, or if you do not receive a response within a reasonable time (approximately 60 days), you may then submit your complaint to NSIRA by completing Form 17, enclosing your letter of complaint to the Chief of CSE and the response, if any, received from the Chief of CSE. You may contact NSIRA as follows:

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430
Station “D”
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W5
Telephone: 1-833-890-0293
Fax: (613) 907-4445

Once your complaint is received, NSIRA will contact you to follow up on the information you provided and the next step regarding your complaint.

Complaints relating to the denial or revocation of a security clearance

If your security clearance was denied or revoked, the NSIRA Act provides that the Deputy Head of the federal department or agency where you were employed or were seeking employment must advise you in writing within 10 days of making that decision.

Under Section 18 of the NSIRA Act, NSIRA can investigate any matter relating to security clearances. As such, CSIS is responsible for conducting investigations and providing security assessments on behalf of federal departments for the processing of security clearances. Security clearances are provided to both employees and contractors and permit access to classified information on a need to know basis. There are three types of security clearances: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret.

It is important to note that NSIRA does not hear complaints concerning the background screening or reliability checks done to determine the trustworthiness and suitability of a potential federal employee. This process, which usually involves reference checks, verification of qualifications and, often, credit and criminal history checks, determines whether or not an individual receives Basic Reliability or Enhanced Reliability status. NSIRA has no authority to hear complaints in these matters.

Complaints relating to security clearances can be made to the Review Agency by:

  • a person refused federal employment because a security clearance has been denied;
  • a federal employee who is dismissed, demoted or transferred, or denied a promotion or transfer for the same reason; and
  • anyone refused a contract to supply goods and services to the government for the same reason.

Under the NSIRA Act, individuals who have been denied a security clearance must be informed of this action by their Deputy Head. Individuals then have the right to make a complaint to NSIRA, and where appropriate, NSIRA will investigate and make written recommendations about the validity of the complaint.

Following a hearing, the Review Agency will report its findings, and any recommendations, to the Minister, the Director of the Service and the Deputy Head. The Review Agency also provides the complainant with a report of its findings, taking into consideration the obligation to protect sensitive information.

As a consequence of the Supreme Court's Thomson decision ([1992] 1 S.C.R. 385), the Review Agency only has the legislative authority to make a recommendation to grant or reinstate a security clearance, but this recommendation does not have to be followed by the Deputy Head. However, in the event of a disagreement, the Deputy Head must consult with the Privy Council Office, which will then review the issue. Deputy Heads must also inform the Chair of the Review Agency of their final decisions in writing.

Once you receive this notice, you have 30 days to file a complaint to NSIRA using Form 18. If your complaint is submitted outside the 30-day timeline, you must provide NSIRA with an explanation as to the reasons why for the delay.

Once your complaint is received, NSIRA will contact you to follow up on the information you provided and the next step regarding your complaint.

You may contact NSIRA as follows:

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
P.O. Box 2430
Station “D”
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W5
Telephone: 1-833-890-0293
Fax: (613) 907-4445

Complaints referred to NSIRA under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act

The NSIRA Act provides that a complaint against the RCMP may be referred to NSIRA under the RCMP Act by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission about an activity that is closely related to national security. Upon receipt of such a referral, the Review Agency carries out an investigation and reports findings should the Review Agency be satisfied that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.

Referrals under the Canadian Human Rights Act

In the event that the Canadian Human Rights Commission receives a complaint that relates to the security of Canada, the Commission may refer the matter to NSIRA. Upon receipt of such a referral, the Review Agency carries out an investigation and reports its findings to the Commission, the respondent and the complainant.

Reports pursuant to the Citizenship Act

If the Minister responsible for Citizenship is of the opinion that a person should not be granted citizenship, or should be issued a certificate of renunciation of citizenship, because there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person will engage in activities that constitute a threat to the security of Canada or organized criminal activities, the Minister may make a report to NSIRA. Upon receipt of such a report, the Review Agency carries out an investigation and reports its findings to the Governor in Council.

Date modified: