A File with Teh See-Siss

I have a seemingly unanswerable question that’s been giving me brain aches, so I thought I’d throw it out there on this fine Saturday afternoon.

Why would an ordinary, if imperfect, citizen have a file with CSIS?

The rundown:  A friend of mine — and no, I’m not using “friend” as a euphemism for “I” — has been working on getting a Criminal Pardon from various ancient contretemps with the Law.  His record was the kind of run-of-the-mill, young guy dumbness that falls into that weird category known as “victimless crime”, and quite historical, the last one having taken place over 20 years ago.  But banal as they might be, these things have a way of stalking one through life and catching up at the least opportune moments — ie., when trying to cross the border into the Unforgiving States of America.  So my friend decided to put it all behind him in an official way, by getting a Pardon.

It seemed like the right thing to do and a probable slam dunk: for over 20 years, this guy has been a regular guy with a regular guy job, regular guy house, regular guy everything, and not even a traffic ticket to besmirch his good name.  But tons of RCMP paperwork, fingerprints and photos later, he’s running up against a solid wall of…here I’m inclined to say “bullshit”, but let’s call it “resistance”.  The RCs told him he’s ineligible for a Pardon because CSIS has an open file on him, so shut up and go away.

What what what wait… CSIS??

When my baffled friend told me about this, it seemed so ridiculous that I couldn’t help laughing:  “CSIS has a file on YOU?  Geez, I told you to erase bin Laden from your speed dial…” etc. Good times.

Thinking the RCMP must surely be mistaken, my friend took it to his MP, who ultimately came back with the same answer: CSIS file, shut up, go away.

This time there was no joking about it.

So okay, this guy was no angel when he was younger, but none of his legal altercations were what anyone would think of as Crimes serious enough to warrant the attention of CSIS.  Frustratingly, CSIS won’t even tell the RCMP, let alone the subject of a file, what they’ve got on them or why they’ve got it or anything else about the file.  All anyone is allowed to know is that the file exists, and even that information is only forthcoming under duress.  Most people never find out about it until they try to cross the border to buy cheap cheese in Seattle.

Apart from concern for my buddy’s rapidly diminishing prospects for a Pardon, this also makes me wonder what other kinds of ordinary-if-imperfect citizens CSIS is keeping files on… citizens who’ve done nothing more exciting than maybe, oh, I don’t know… get falsely arrested while exercising their democratic right to protest?

If anyone has any ideas about this, I’d love to hear them… “anyone” including any CSIS peeps that might surf on through (I linked to you for a reason, dumbasses).   Meanwhile, I think I’ll grab another sweater — this whole thing gives me that chilling “boot stamping on a human face forever” kind of feeling.

9 Responses to “A File with Teh See-Siss”


  1. 1 stageleft Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I am sure that CSIS has lots and lots of files on lots and lots of Canadians JJ, it’s what our government does these days.

    I have the paperwork filled out for an enhanced drivers license for a road trip into America on the bikes next summer that a couple of the lads have talked me into. It’s been sitting on my desk for a couple of week now as I’m still trying to decide if I really want to know………

  2. 2 Beijing York Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    CSIS has a file on me because when I was working for the Feds, they were in charge of doing my security clearance. Actually, it was kind of funny because they investigated the time I spent abroad and asked that I provide a translation of the documents that were provided. I told the HR person, “Surely you jest? Are you telling me they don’t have the capacity to do their own translation?” Anyway, the matter was dropped and I got my clearance.

    Still, before CSIS existed, getting a pardon for youthful indiscretions and/or minor convictions was pretty easy. That’s when we were a kinder, more reasoned society.

  3. 3 Toe Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Your friend is brave. I’m not even going to try. Cuz I already know the repercussions (it will highlight me) and my youthful indiscretions were supposedly nullified. They weren’t. (which I found out crossing border with B.C./Wash in fekking 1999). It doesn’t matter that I’m 60 and the ‘bust’ in 1972 was a complete discharge. No way I fly south, my two cents. Good Luck to your friend, but pls. tell him the ‘discharges’ are totally discretionary, the records never ever go away now.

  4. 4 Toe Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    One more thing, ‘Most people never find out about it until they try to cross the border’ that is NOW INTERNATIONAL.

  5. 5 Phatbiker Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Even if he gets a pardon he may not get let into the US. They don’t recognize Canadian pardons and the info stays in their computers. He would have to apply for a border crossing card from the US, which is expensive and no guarantee they will let him in. Frightening, I wonder how many of us CSIS has files on who don’t have a criminal record?

  6. 6 JJ Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    It’s amazing, with all this stuff about the Terrorist Threat©®™ they’ve been flogging for so long, you’d think they had better things to do with their time than keep files on the 23-year-old Pot Conviction Threat.

    I’ve been a little sour on the idea of crossing the border since my ex almost had his bike impounded the last time he tried to cross it, over an indiscretion from 1969. But that road trip sounds awfully fun, and well worth the possible trauma of finding out that there’s a file somewhere with your name on it, too.

  7. 7 JJ Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    That’s true, it seems to me that people I knew who were applying for pardons in the 80s were getting them within about 6 months. Back then it was pretty much a rubber stamp process, as long as you’d been clean for X number of years, no problem.

    But things have changed. Even before the stuff about the CSIS file came up, my friend was having a hell of a time just getting past the RCMP. They really don’t like issuing pardons. If you get convicted of a crime, they want you to wear it for life. Which really isn’t fair when you consider “victimless” crimes.

  8. 8 JJ Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    That’s when you always find out this stuff, when you least expect it or need it.

    Pardons are kind of a scam: they don’t actually mean that you’re “forgiven” and your record is shredded, its just “sealed”, whatever that means. Its not supposed to be able to come back to haunt you after that point, but it still can. No authoritarian government ever wants to completely forgive and forget, and that goes for Liberal as well as Conservative governments.

  9. 9 JJ Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Yeah, he was told by the last border crossing agent that turned him away that he needs more than a pardon, he needs something called a “waiver” to be able to drive back & forth across the border without worrying about getting pulled over, vehicle impounded etc. And even then, its not a 100% sure thing that they’ll let him in, it just makes his chances a lot better.

    I’m also wondering about how many ordinary citizens CSIS keeps tabs on for no apparent reason. I think people that are on file should at least be able to know about it. My friend’s file is “open”, which seems to indicate that he is part of an ongoing investigation 😯 but he can’t for the life of him figure out what it might be. He has a very common first & last name, so I’m almost starting to wonder if it’s mistaken identity.


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