Section 42 Complaint Process before the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)

Presented to:
Personnel Screening and Investigations,
Canadian Industrial Security Directorate

Presented by:
Chantelle Bowers
Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel

Shayna Stawicki

November 7, 2017

SIRC 101: General Overview of SIRC

Mandate, History, SIRC Committee, SIRC Staff, Core Functions, Annual Report


Both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (“CSIS,” or “the Service”) and the Security Intelligence Review Committee (“the Committee” or “SIRC”) were established in response to abuses by the RCMP Security Service.

McDonald Commission (1981): Called for greater control and accountability of Canada’s security intelligence activities

CSIS Act (1984): Legislation that created CSIS, which reports to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and SIRC, which reports to Parliament.


SIRC is an independent external review body that provides assurance to Parliament, and by extension to all Canadians, that CSIS investigates and reports on threats to national security in a manner that respects the law and the rights of Canadians.

With the sole exception of Cabinet confidences, the CSIS Act gives SIRC the right to have “access to any information under the control of the Service,” regardless of how sensitive or highly classified that information may be.

SIRC is not involved in day-to-day operations of the Service but has developed a comprehensive understanding of the Service's activities.

Security Intelligence Review Committee Organizational Chart

Text Version
    • Prime Minister
      • Minister of Justice and Attorney General
        • Department of Justice Canada
      • Minister of Public Safety
        • Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP
        • Department of Public Safety
        • Canada Border Services Agency
        • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
        • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
      • Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)
      • Minister of Foreign Affairs
        • Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
      • National Security Advisor
        • Security and Intelligence Secretariat (PCO)
        • Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (PCO)
      • Minister of National Defence
        • Department of National Defence
        • Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
        • Office of CSE Commisioner
      • Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
        • Citizenship and Immigration Canada
      • Minister of Transport
        • Transport Canada

About the Committee

2017-2018 Committee Members

Pierre Blais, P.C., Chair – Appointed May 1st 2015
Former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal and former Cabinet Minister

L. Yves Fortier, P.C., C.C., O.Q, Q.C. – Appointed August 8th 2013
Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and former President of the Security Council of the United Nations.

Ian Holloway, P.C., C.D, Q.C. – Appointed January 30th 2015
Dean of Law at the University of Calgary

Marie-Lucie Morin, C.M., P.C. – Appointed May 1st 2015
Former National Security Advisor

Gene McLean, P.C. – Appointed March 7th 2014
Security consultant, former RCMP Officer and former Vice President and Chief Security Officer for TELUS Corporation.

SIRC Staff

Why have a SIRC?

SIRC has been providing impartial and objective retrospective review of CSIS’s activities for more than 30 years. Our principal role is to advise the Service and those bodies of government that direct it; our reviews and complaints decisions often include findings or recommendations that may help these bodies to modify policies and procedures as needed.

Bill C-59 – National Security Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)

Bill C-59 – National Security Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)

SIRC has three core functions:

  1. Carrying out in-depth reviews of CSIS’s activities;
  2. Conducting investigations; and
  3. Certifying the CSIS Director’s Annual Report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

1. Reviews

On average, SIRC conducts approximately twelve in-depth reviews of CSIS’s activities and operations per year.

When viewed together and over time, these provide a broad picture of Canada’s security intelligence landscape. The information and recommendations garnered from these reviews can impact CSIS’s current and future operations.

An edited summary of each review and CSIS’s response is included in SIRC’s Annual Report to Parliament. Selected reviews are also available on SIRC’s website:

SIRC’s reviews consider:

2. Investigations

SIRC conducts investigations in the following instances:

About Investigations

3. Certification of the CSIS Director’s Annual Report

The Certificate must include:

Findings and Recommendations

The 2016-2017 Annual Report, tabled in October 2017, contains:

Under the CSIS Act, SIRC must submit its Annual Report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness no later than September 30th. The Minister must then table SIRC’s report in Parliament within 15 days of the House sitting.

Section 42 Complaints Process

Phases and Steps of SIRC Investigations

Key Takeaways

  1. Demystifying the SIRC Process:
    Better understanding of the s. 42 complaint process at SIRC
  2. Understanding your role as a DSO/ member of the security community during the conduct of a SIRC s. 42 investigation

Governing Legislation and Policies for Section 42 Complaints at SIRC:

  1. CSIS Act
  2. SIRC Rules of Procedure
  3. TBS’s Policy on Government Security (PGS)

**Standard on Security Screening (SSS)

Section 42(1) of the CSIS Act states:

“Where, by reason only of the denial of a security clearance required by the Government of Canada, a decision is made by a deputy head to deny employment to an individual or to dismiss, demote or transfer an individual or to deny a promotion or transfer to an individual, the deputy head shall send, within ten days after the decision is made, a notice informing the individual of the denial of the security clearance.”

*What is the purpose of a SIRC s. 42 investigation?

Scope of SIRC’s Jurisdiction

Does SIRC have jurisdiction to investigate:

  1. Security Clearances: YES
  2. Reliability Statuses: NO
  3. Site Accesses: YES, but traditionally not per s. 42

**Be mindful of the difference between security clearance vs reliability status


Step 1: SIRC receives intake

Step 2: Complaint deemed received

Step 3: Representations on Jurisdiction

Step 4: Preliminary Review done by SIRC

Step 5: Designated SIRC member determines whether SIRC has jurisdiction

Step 6: Once SIRC has determined that it has jurisdiction, all parties will be advised of:

Step 7: Statement of Circumstances

Step 8: Ex Parte Hearing

Step 9: In Camera Hearing

Step 10: Final Submissions

Step 11: Final Report


What if the Deputy Head disagrees with SIRC’s recommendation(s)?

What if a Complainant disagrees with SIRC’s recommendation(s)?


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