Agreement between CSIS and the Security Intelligence Review Committee: Access to Certain Documents

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Agreement between CSIS and the Security Intelligence Review Committee: Access to Certain Documents




Document Synopsis: “The Service initially declined to provide a copy of the 2014 Memorandum regarding a SIRC study that examined CSIS’s use of firearms in dangerous operating environments (DOEs). Following several bilateral discussions, the Service subsequently provided a copy as an exception to this long standing agreement.”

“SIRC conducted a study in 2013-2014 on CSIS Operational Support and its Use Overseas, which examined the Service’s use of firearms in DOEs. Among its findings and recommendations, SIRC’s draft study noted that it was unable to conclude whether CSIS had adequately informed your predecessor of its use of firearms to DOEs outside of Afghanistan, and recommended that CSIS comprehensively justify to you its operational posture in DOEs, including the use of firearms”


SIRC has highlighted some of its findings re: CSIS firearms in DOEs here:

In 2010, CSIS acknowledged publicly that its intelligence officers could carry firearms in dangerous operating environments overseas.

That same year, SIRC undertook a review of CSIS’s decision-making overseas, which included its use of firearms within Afghanistan. At the time, the Committee found that there were strong measures in place to ensure proper training, accreditation and conditions under which firearms could be used. However, SIRC expressed caution about CSIS’s possible future decision to use firearms outside of Afghanistan. The review concluded with a recommendation that, should CSIS expand its use of firearms abroad, it should be done “after consultation with, and approval of, the Minister of Public Safety.”

SIRC found that CSIS’s new procedures provide improved direction to employees regarding their roles and responsibilities under the Service’s firearms program, but there appears to be a disparity between policy and its practical application by employees. Furthermore, SIRC learned that not all employees who should have a sound understanding of CSIS’s firearms program had knowledge of the policies or protocols. SIRC also found an instance where CSIS was not strictly following its own protocols on firearms. In light of these observations, SIRC impressed upon CSIS that its policy and protocols must be followed in the strictest possible terms, or be clearly written to indicate where there is latitude for interpretation.

SIRC also noted that CSIS’s policy on firearms fails to adequately address the issue of an employee’s liability, civil or criminal, under the laws of a foreign country and whether any mechanisms for immunity could be explored or what position the Government of Canada would take on helping to extract an employee from a certain situation. There is also no adequate advice on what course of legal action would be pursued domestically if an employee was believed to have acted negligently within a foreign environment, and consideration is not given on the extent to which certain types of firearms can be regarded as “defensive weapons.” Finally, there is also a lack of adequate advice on possible legal implications for Canada under international law.

In order to improve CSIS’s management of its firearms program, SIRC recommended that CSIS develop better guidelines on the sourcing and purchasing of weapons within dangerous operating environments, create a clear responsibility centre for the firearms program and obtain updated legal advice related to the reasonableness and necessity of carrying firearms within dangerous operating environments.

It remains unclear what other areas are defined as DOEs outside of Afghanistan; and where else firearm use is permitted for CSIS employees.


Other resources: “Undercover CSIS Agents Carry Guns in Foreign Flashpoints”

Ottawa's spies are carrying guns in Afghanistan, a new practice for the clandestine civilian agents who are not authorized to bear arms inside Canada.”




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Unknown, but between 2014-2015


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“Agreement between CSIS and the Security Intelligence Review Committee: Access to Certain Documents,” Secret Law Gazette, accessed December 8, 2023,