March 29: Guidance on contact with Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

To: Graduate students, Postdoctoral scholars

Cc: Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies, Faculty Administrative Assistants, Graduate Studies, Faculty Recruitment Officers, Department/program Graduate Co-ordinators, Department/program Graduate Officers/Associate Chairs, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs staff, The Centre staff, Ian Milligan, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Analysis, Justin Nankivell, Director, Research Security

From: Jeff Casello, Associate Vice-President, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)

Subject: Guidance on contact with Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

Date:  Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Note: This email is for information and action

Safeguarding research, or research security, is a growing topic across the Canadian university sector, and the University of Waterloo is working to ensure that we safeguard research at the institution through our operational and administrative processes. Our goal is to assist members of our university community as they navigate this ever-changing landscape. This may include interactions with Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents, both on and off-campus.

Below you will find a memo, “Guidance on Contact with CSIS,” which is designed to assist University of Waterloo researchers, including graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, with possible CSIS encounters. The memo has been shared with faculty members, as well as Centres and Institutes. You can read the memo below, and also find it on the Office of Research safeguarding research webpage (guidance on contact with CSIS pdf). It outlines the steps by which researchers should think about these contacts, including their legal obligations, the support that the institution may be able to provide to them, and then a series of step-by-step guidelines to help structure their conversation.

Guidance on Contact with CSIS

In your capacity as a University of Waterloo community member, you may be approached by an agent from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). CSIS agents are not law enforcement officers, but rather have the role of investigating “activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada and to report on these to the Government of Canada.”

You do not have a legal obligation to talk to a CSIS agent. Furthermore, you do not need to meet them at the time and place with which they contact you. For example, if they appear unannounced at your place of residence, you can ask them to reschedule the meeting in the morning or at your workplace if you prefer.

If and when you speak with the CSIS agent, you should inquire as to why they wish to speak with you. These agents may be concerned that you could be a target of a foreign state or entity, or they may have questions about some aspect of your activities.

The University of Waterloo can provide advice to you and may be able to provide an individual to join you in this conversation (such as our Director of Research Security or your faculty Dean). If you have an encounter with CSIS about research or international activities and would like advice, please contact Justin Nankivell, Director of Research Security, Office of the Vice- President, Research and International, University of Waterloo, as soon as convenient - Alternatively, you can request that CSIS contact Justin Nankivell directly to arrange to speak with you.

If you are being asked questions which relate to your administrative duties at the University of Waterloo, we ask that you direct the agent to Justin Nankivell.

Engagement with a CSIS agent may be stressful. These step-by-step guidelines may be helpful:

  1. Try to remain calm and polite, and, as always, remain truthful in your statements.
  2. Ask for a business or contact card for each agent that you are speaking with. Consider taking notes of the conversation.
  3. You do not need to speak with the agent immediately, or at the place where they have approached you. You can decline to speak with the agent or ask to meet at a different place and time.
  4. It is important to ask why the CSIS agent has approached you:
    1. Do you have a high-priority research area and are they concerned that you might be a target
    2. Are they concerned about some aspect of your activities?
  5. As a reminder, all equipment purchased with research grant funding or operating funding is the property of the University of Waterloo. You must not consent to a search of University of Waterloo property without authorization from the University of Waterloo. A search could include, but is not limited to, electronic searches and physical searches. Please contact Justin Nankivell for information on how to handle such requests.

2023 communications to graduate students