If CSIS comes knocking...
A community advisory from the People's Commission Network
Updated May 2010 - Montreal
Since the fall of 2009 there have been ongoing visits by members of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to various local social justice organizers and activists. These visits are in addition to CSIS’ ongoing harassment of targeted communities. This community advisory is in response to those visits.
Visits by CSIS and the RCMP to activists are nothing new; they have taken place before around specific events or projects. In general, these visits can have different purposes: they are not only about information-gathering but can also be attempts to create or exploit divisions between activists, plant misinformation, intimidate, develop psychological profiles, and recruit informers.
- If CSIS comes knocking, we strongly encourage total and complete non-cooperation. A CSIS visit to your home or workplace will be a surprise, but we encourage you to be ready to not cooperate with them in any way, which means not speaking with them or listening to them.
- If you are in a precarious position -- due to your immigration status, pending criminal charges, probation, parole, or any other reason – we strongly encourage you to NEVER EVER talk to CSIS alone. Instead, tell them to contact a trusted lawyer that you have chosen, and then refuse to say anything else. You can contact the People's Commission Network for references to lawyers who can act diligently against CSIS intimidation tactics.
If you are comfortable doing so, ask for the names, telephone numbers and cards of the CSIS agents who want to talk to you. Insist they provide their names, and don't say, or listen to, anything else. You are under no legal obligation, ever, to confirm your identity with CSIS.
Sometimes CSIS agents might begin speaking to you and only later identify themselves. In that case, if you are taken by surprise, we encourage you to refuse to continue speaking with CSIS. You can always default back to being silent. In dealing with security services, silence is the golden rule.
In all cases, you are encouraged to tell CSIS to leave your home or workplace or cease following you. Tell CSIS clearly to leave, in whatever fashion you feel is appropriate. You can insist they leave, to the point of closing doors in their face.
Remember, although CSIS can act in very ugly ways, it has no arrest or policing powers.
We encourage you to get in touch with the People's Commission Network to report any CSIS visits or related incidents. These visits can be de-stabilizing and stressful. That’s why it is important to not remain isolated in this situation; and the People’s Commission Network wants to offer concrete support to overcome the feeling of isolation these visits can create. Your correspondence with the People's Commission Network will be considered confidential. Consider any unannounced CSIS visit to be harassment against you. If possible, we encourage you to write down your experience so that you have the facts clearly noted. The People’s Commission Network can support you in documenting this harassment with the aid of a lawyer.
CSIS' job is to gather information for the state and to disrupt movements of social justice. Their broad mandate includes monitoring any activities they deem to threaten the current political and economic order. Their intimidation focuses on indigenous peoples, immigrants, racialized communities, radical political organizations, labour unions, as well as the allies of these groups. CSIS' actions, which show clear evidence of gross incompetence, racism, as well as complicity in torture, are all the more reason why they deserve no cooperation whatsoever by anyone involved in movements for social justice.
Total non-cooperation with CSIS and other security agencies by the entire social justice community - broadly and inclusively defined - is our best way of maintaining unity and solidarity, as well as keeping our focus on our important day-to-day organizing and activism.
To recap: Do not talk to CSIS or share any information with them, no matter how harmless you think it is. Do not listen to CSIS agents. Do consider reporting the visit to the People's Commission Network.