What's New


July 19, 2021

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency introduces a new investigation process for complaints made under the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act.

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February 26, 2021

The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency introduces the declassified, depersonalized policy on final investigations reports.

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Make a Complaint


As Canada’s independent agency, part of NSIRA’s mandate is to investigate public complaints related to any activity carried out by CSIS and CSE as well as complaints relating to the denial or revocation of security clearances.

NSIRA also investigates complaints closely related to national security issues referred by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC), matters referred by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and certain reports made to NSIRA under the Citizenship Act.

Who do you have a complaint against?

Have a complaint against CSIS?

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Have a complaint against CSE?

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Have you been denied or revoked a security clearance? 

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Have a complaint against the RCMP?

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Complaints Process


If NSIRA determines that the subject of the complaint falls within its mandate to investigate, NSIRA will proceed with its investigation by reviewing documentary evidence, conducting investigative interviews of the complainant and witnesses identified by the parties and/or conducting an oral or written hearing on some or all of the issues of the complaint.

Once NSIRA’s investigation is completed, it will prepare a report with its findings and/or recommendations. A declassified copy of the final report will be sent to the complainant. A declassified and depersonalized version of the final report will be published on NSIRA’s website.

Informal Resolution

A complaint made to NSIRA, including a referral from the CRCC, can be informally resolved if the complainant and responding department consent.

The purpose of an informal resolution is to resolve some or all of the issues in a complaint. An informal resolution may take the form of any number of remedial actions and has several benefits. The goal is to provide an opportunity for the parties to gain a better understanding of the situation that gave rise to the complaint and to provide them with an opportunity to deal with the complaint expediently and to the satisfaction of all parties.

If the complaint is resolved informally, the terms of the informal resolution must be set out in writing and signed by all parties. A party or the NSIRA Member assigned to the investigation of the complaint may, at any time, request a resolution meeting between the parties. In the event that a complaint cannot be resolved informally, the merits of the complaint will be investigated by a different NSIRA Member.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


NSIRA has the mandate to investigate the following complaints:
– Complaints against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
– Complaints against the Communications Establishment Service (CSE)
– Complaints relating to the denial or revocation of security clearances
– Complaints referred to NSIRA by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC)
– Matters referred to NSIRA under the Canadian Human Rights Act
– Matters referred to NSIRA under the Citizenship Act

Each NSIRA complaint investigation is conducted by an individual Member (or Members) designated by NSIRA’s Vice-Chair. The Member is the decision-maker in the investigation, assisted by NSIRA’s Investigations section. NSIRA’s Investigations section comprises a legal team of registry staff and legal counsel supporting the NSIRA Members assigned to investigate complaints. The Registry staff liaises with members of the public and complainants and acts as an intermediary between NSIRA and the parties. All letters, email correspondence and all material for complaints received and sent by NSIRA go through the Registrar. NSIRA’s legal team assists the assigned NSIRA Members in their investigative role as independent decision-makers during an investigation. They ensure that the assigned Member has before them the most complete and accurate factual information relating to a complaint. In the course of an investigation, assigned Members review documentary evidence submitted by the parties and, where they decide it is necessary, will conduct an investigative interview of witnesses and/or will hold a hearing on some or all of the issues. The assigned Member may issue procedural guidance or directions throughout the investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, the assigned Member will provide a final report to the parties which outlines the findings and/or recommendations NSIRA has made concerning the complaint. NSIRA may make findings, however it does not have the authority to issue binding remedial rulings, such as financial compensation.

Any person can file a complaint with NSIRA. There is no fee associated when you file a complaint.

When submitting a complaint against CSIS or CSE, you may only submit your complaint after the 60 days has elapsed from the date you sent your letter of complaint to the Director of CSIS or Chief of CSE, as the case may be.

When submitting a complaint relating to the denial or revocation of a security clearance, you must submit your complaint within 30 days after receipt of the notice issued by the department responsible for the denial or revocation of your security clearance. Should you submit your complaint outside the 30-day timeline, you must indicate the reasons for the delay on your complaint form (Form 18). NSIRA has the authority to accept a complaint past the 30-day time limit and will review the reasons for the delay in making that determination.

You may file a complaint by sending the appropriate form under rule 5.01 to the NSIRA Registrar by mail or courier as well as the required documents (rules 5.03, 5.04 and 5.05). Should you prefer to file your complaint electronically, NSIRA would require your written consent as you would be providing your personal information.

Your complaint is deemed received when you submit all required documents. For example, if you are submitting a complaint against CSIS (rule 5.03), you are required to provide the following:

  • Form 16;
  • A copy of your letter sent to the Director of CSIS;
  • A copy of the Director’s response, if any; and
  • A statement indicating that you are dissatisfied with the Director’s response or a statement that a period of more than sixty (60) days has lapsed since you provided the Director with a written complaint.

If you are submitting a complaint against CSE (rule 5.04), you are required to provide the following:

  • Form 17;
  • A copy of your letter sent to the Chief of CSE;
  • A copy of the Chief’s response, if any; and
  • A statement indicating that you are dissatisfied with the Chief’s response or a statement that a period of more than sixty (60) days has lapsed since you provided the Chief with a written complaint.

If you are submitting a complaint relating to the denial or revocation of your security clearance (rule 5.05), you are required to provide the following:

  • Form 18;
  • A copy of the notice from the department responsible informing you of the decision to deny or revoke your security clearance.

If your complaint against the RCMP was referred to NSIRA by the CRCC, the complaint is deemed received upon receipt of the CRCC’s notice to NSIRA.

Yes. You can file a complaint if you reside or are currently outside of Canada.

You must provide written authorization for another person to act on their behalf. The authorized representative may be included on the complaint form, or on a separate form should the complaint already be filed.

The first step to a complaint is to determine whether NSIRA has jurisdiction (or the mandate) to investigate the complaint (rule 7). Upon receipt of a complaint, the Registrar will notify you that your complaint is deemed received and notify the respondent government department that a complaint has been received. A designated Member will conduct an independent review of the complaint in order to determine whether NSIRA has jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. Where the designated Member concludes it is necessary in order to make the determination on whether NSIRA may investigate the complaint, the Review Agency may request representations on the Review Agency’s jurisdiction to investigate the complaint from the parties. In deciding whether it has jurisdiction in a CSE, CSIS or RCMP complaint, NSIRA independently inquires into (and verifies) your allegations. NSIRA provides a letter of decision to the parties on whether NSIRA will investigate the complaint. If a party is dissatisfied with NSIRA’s decision, it can ask the Federal Court to review it. This is done by filing an application for judicial review with the Federal Court of Canada within 30 days after the time the decision was first communicated by NSIRA to the parties. Please refer to the Federal Courts Rules – https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/sor-98-106/.

Yes, you can (rule 16). Should you wish to amend your complaint, you must make a request in writing to the Registrar.

Should NSIRA determine that it has the mandate to investigate your complaint, the assigned Member will conduct an investigation and may make findings and/or recommendations in the final report, if any. The assigned Member cannot make a remedial order, such as compensation, or order a government department to pay damages. The Member cannot order the government to pay for the costs of the complaint.

A Member conducts an independent review of your complaint. NSIRA must determine whether your complaint falls within its mandate.

For example, if you submitted a complaint against CSIS (section 16 of the NSIRA Act) or CSE (section 17 of the NSIRA Act), the Review Agency will decide to investigate the complaint if:

– you have made a complaint to the Director or Chief, as the case may be, with respect to that activity and you have not received a response within a period of time that the Review Agency considers reasonable or is dissatisfied with the response given; and

– the Review Agency is satisfied that your complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.

If your complaint against the RCMP has been referred to NSIRA (section 19 of the NSIRA Act), the Review Agency must investigate your complaint if it is satisfied that the complaint is not trivial, frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith.

If you submitted a complaint relating to the denial or revocation of your security clearance, the Review Agency must investigate your complaint if:

  • you are an individual referred to in subsection 18 (1) of the NSIRA Act who has been denied a security clearance; or
  • you have been denied a contract to provide goods or services to the Government of Canada by reason only of the denial of a security clearance. NB: The NSIRA Act only gives NSIRA jurisdiction when a person has been denied a contract with the government. NSIRA does not have jurisdiction when the complaint is brought by an employee or subcontractor of the contractor who has been denied a contract. NSIRA also does not have jurisdiction when an employee or subcontractor loses employment or a contract with their private sector employer or client because of the denial of a security clearance. Complainants in the latter circumstance should seek advice on whether judicial review to the Federal Court is available.

Should the Review Agency determine that your complaint does not fall within its mandate, NSIRA will not investigate your complaint and your complaint file will be closed. A letter of decision is provided to the parties.

The Review Agency will conduct its investigation by reviewing documentary evidence and, if needed, conducting investigative interviews (rule 8).

The Review Agency will first request documentary evidence from the parties (rule 9). This request will be included in the letter of decision that the Review Agency will investigate your complaint. This letter also specifies the Member who has been assigned to investigate your complaint.

Upon reviewing the evidence, the assigned Member will determine whether they need to conduct any investigative interviews of witnesses and/or whether a hearing is necessary.

Should NSIRA schedule an investigative interview, it is generally held by videoconference. Prior to scheduling the interview, NSIRA will canvass your availability and other procedural matters so that you are ready for your interview.

Your file is not open to the public. Every investigation is conducted in private (section 25(1) of the NSIRA Act). Unless you are represented by counsel or you have provided written consent to be represented by another person, you are the only person present with NSIRA at the interview. If there is a hearing, the responding government party will be present and may present evidence to NSIRA. Whether NSIRA is conducting interviews or hearings, all proceedings are held in private.

You may request an extension by submitting a motion to the Review Agency (rule 3.02). However, you may start by making an informal request for an extension, in writing, to the Registrar (rule 13.03).

The time required to conduct an investigation varies depending on the complexity of the matter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, limitations on in-person work affected complaint investigations. Unlike in many other administrative proceedings, in-person presence is often required because of the classified nature of the relevant information. Some investigations were delayed during the pandemic and may require additional time. NSIRA has been working to find innovative approaches to continue to advance its investigations and to find efficiencies to enhance the timeliness of its complaint investigations. NSIRA is committed to addressing every complaint as informally and expeditiously as possible and also in a timely and efficient manner.

A party (you or the responding government department) or the assigned member may request an informal resolution meeting at any time throughout the process.

How does it work?

If a party or the assigned member requests an informal resolution meeting, the Registrar may contact the parties to seek their availability and willingness to participate in settlement discussions. A resolution meeting is an informal and confidential meeting between you, the respondent and an independent member of the NSIRA.

The role of the independent Member of the NSIRA during an informal resolution meeting is to provide the parties with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the situation that brought them into conflict and to facilitate discussions surrounding the settlement of some or all of the issues in a complaint. If the complaint is resolved informally, the terms of the informal resolution must be set out in writing and signed by all parties (rule 10).

Is an informal resolution mandatory step in the complaints process?

It is not a mandatory step. For an informal resolution to take place, it requires both parties to agree and participate in settlement discussions on a “without prejudice” basis. This means that the statements made in the course of the settlement discussions cannot be introduced as evidence in the investigation.

What happens if a resolution of my complaint is achieved?

Should your complaint be resolved, you and the other party will agree to and sign a notice of settlement and your complaint will be closed.

What happens if a resolution of my complaint isn’t met?

Should a settlement not be reached at a resolution meeting, a different Member will be assigned to your complaint to conduct a full investigation. That said, the parties may consent to the same Member investigating the complaint.

You may withdraw your complaint at any time (rule 15.01). You may make your request to withdraw your complaint by notifying the Review Agency in writing. You will receive confirmation that your complaint is now closed.

NSIRA cannot provide legal assistance. However, NSIRA may provide procedural guidance throughout the conduct of the investigation of your complaint to ensure fairness. You may seek representation of a lawyer at your own expense.

You may wish to refer to the following: NSIRA’s Rules of Procedure, NSIRA Act, Step by Step information for each complaint, Flow Charts for each complaint, What We Do, Who We Are and general information regarding NSIRA.

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