Miller-Black, Casandra - CSIS Surveillant

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[edit] Job Title [Casandra Miller-Black]

Surveillant for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

[edit] General overview

This job is part of the CSIS’s intelligence collection sector. The job entails working from within one of the regional offices, conducting surveillance work to provide intel about national security, and to keep an eye on potential threats to said security. Surveillants work as a part of CSIS’s dedicated and diverse team of security operatives and staff, belonging to a wider network of agents and technicians who help ensure civilian safety on a national scale. The position includes both physical surveillance and substantial research on probable threats, in a team setting where surveillants perform a wide range of tasks depending on the nature of the assignment [1] .

[edit] Job duties and responsibilities

Surveillants are expected to conduct reconnaissance operations and physical surveillance missions within the province they are located in. This may involve following a specific target around a city without being detected, or it could involve remaining in a stationary position for the entirety of a shift and reporting on the ongoings at that location. Surveillants are also responsible for researching and assessing possible threats and information related to said threats. They must pool resources and create detailed reports and profiles on potential threats to national security. Furthermore, a surveillant must provide working reports on the intel that has been collected through the previously mentioned surveillance activities, thereby creating further resources on the targets being observed. Finally, surveillants multitask during surveillance operations and complete multiple smaller assignments while simultaneously working on a larger task [1].

[edit] Typical workday

A surveillant’s workday will likely not be routine, the nature of the task being dependent upon how a target individual or group acts in a situation. Surveillants are often tasked with going to a location to observe and obtain information about a given target or group. When a surveillant is tasked with this type of work they typically have to follow the target wherever they go. The surveillant must remain discrete and invisible, never alerting the target to their presence [2]. In this case the surveillant may be required to follow around the group or individual for the duration of their shift with no guarantee that any intel will come within that time frame. Still, on other days the surveillant will be able to collect the right information needed to halt a threat to national security and possibly save lives [3]. Typically this work day will be carried out by a team, not an individual surveillant, as it takes a team of agents to make sure intel is collected with discretion and without any of the surveillants having their covers blown [2].

This job entails not only physical surveillance but also large amounts of research and analysis. Surveillants can be expected to spend some of their workdays within their regional office, drafting intel reports and organizing the information that has been collected on reconnaissance missions. A workday like this may include group debriefing sessions or tactical planning with a team of other surveillants and CSIS team leaders. Depending on the situation at hand, surveillants may spend part of their shift working in the field, collecting information, and then spend the remainder of said shift working within an office setting[2].

Surveillants work on shift work and may work from any of the six regional offices across the country, furthermore there are multiple regional divisions that report to the regional offices so the work locales for surveillants range depending on the province and city they are based out of. The offices are all in urban centres but a surveillant’s work could take them into a rural setting depending on the task. Overall, a typical workday will have a lot of variance not only depending on the task but on the province or territory the work is situated in. Surveillance tasks could be at any hour of the day in any city within the surveillant’s region [1][2].

[edit] Educational requirements and other qualifications

The bare minimum applicants are required to have completed a two year college diploma [1][3]. While these degrees can be obtained all over the country, the following schools have particularly relevant programs to the surveillant job based on its duties and responsibilities: Brock University (Collaborative Study in Policing and Criminal Justice, Psychology, Sociology with a Criminology Concentration), Georgian College (Police Foundations), and Niagara College (Police Foundations) [4][5][6][7][8]. The policing programs and criminology program are especially relevant since former police officers and criminology graduates make up the bulk of CSIS surveillant agents [3]. Since these programs focus on crime and society they will provide a solid background for the work a surveillant does.

Aside from education, top security clearance is also required for this position. The applicant must be a Canadian citizen and needs to be able to verify their whereabouts for at least the previous decade by providing access to personal records, bills, etc. Top security clearance is granted through an investigation by the organization: this process is extensive and requires a security interview, a lie-detector test utilizing a polygraph, and a thorough background check[9][10].

The applicant must also have a valid, and permanent Canadian driver’s license with at least two years of driving experience and if the applicant is seeking out a position in Quebec, fluency in French is absolutely essential for the position, while other provinces permit English-only speakers to serve as surveillants. On top of this, contacted applicants will be required to pass an training program assessing their suitability for the position [1][9][10].

[edit] Related skills, interests, and abilities

CSIS stresses that candidates for the surveillant position should be in good or excellent physical health because of the physical component of this job. Depending on the physical location of the surveillance operations, surveillants may be asked to walk or run long distances, climb, or partake in other physical activities that require a degree of strength and endurance [1][2][3][10].

Furthermore, CSIS Careers[2] stresses in their recruitment that patience, flexibility and common-sense are important attributes for surveillants as surveillants are often tasked with operations that involve large amounts of waiting and their tasks are likely to change on a whim. Since CSIS agents often have to work under changing circumstances, quick thinking and common-sense come into play when making split second decisions that could either ensure the success of their team or cause them to lose time. Individuals will also be expected to show collaboration and teamwork skills due to the group-oriented nature of the job[2]. Similarly, attention to detail and the ability to operate with discretion are vital skills to ensure a surveillant’s success. Since surveillants are at top security clearance they are often given classified and potentially dangerous information and therefore have to be vigilant about who they divulge this information to in order to maintain security [2].

A transferable skill that is of particular importance to this position is the ability to research and draft reports. Surveillants must go beyond physically surveilling an area or watching a group of people, they must be able to collect information from these tasks and then format them into formal reports. The ability to write concisely and clearly is absolutely vital to the reporting proportion of this job. That is, developed written communication skills are absolutely imperative to a surveillant’s work [1]. These qualities combined will make a surveillant more effective and therefore valuable to his or her team [2].

[edit] Relevance of Psychology undergraduate degree

While a psychology undergraduate degree is not required, the content from classes at Brock University such as “Introduction to Forensic Psychology” (PSYC 3P53) and “Violent Predators” (PSYC 4P72) are highly relevant to the security work surveillants do, as they introduce the individual to concepts involving law enforcement, national security, and potential threats to said security. Both of these courses would have a surveillant better understand what is going on in the minds of the criminals or targets they are surveilling because of the various theories on criminality presented throughout the courses. For example, in the introductory course students learn about criminal profiling techniques (e.g., geographical profiling) that could be applicable to a surveillant’s work [11]. Similarly, “The Development of Deception” (PSYC 3P32) would provide insight into the different processes of lying and deception that a target may utilize against a CSIS agent when interacted with. This material could help surveillants catch targets in a lie and to recognize deceptive behaviours while observing either up close or from a distance[12].

A fourth course from Brock University, simply titled “Stress” (PSYC 3P75) would be beneficial for developing content knowledge that is relevant for a surveillant’s career because the information could help a surveillant identify when a target of interest has become distressed based on the physiological markers that are associated with stress (e.g., increased heart rate, heavy breathing, sweaty, etc.) and this would help surveillants react to their target [13]. Furthermore, since surveillants are expected to deal with high levels of stress themselves, the psychological theories on how to decrease one’s own stress [1]. For example, research has shown that optimism and sufficient social circles can help an individual decrease their stress [14]. This kind of knowledge could help a surveillant create ways to cope with the high stress environment of their job.

These kinds of courses are not unique to Brock University and can be found at different universities and colleges across the country. Courses at any institution that focus on forensic psychology or criminology would serve the same function at the forensic psychology and violent predators courses previously mentioned. For example, Seneca College offers a course titled “Forensic Psychology” that examines the same types of theories as the equivalent Brock course [15]. Other institutions offering classes on deception and stress could also be utilized to prepare an individual for the surveillant position by examining similar topics as the ones explored in the Brock courses. Overall, a psychology undergraduate degree is relevant to this career because psychology involves studying human behaviour and the main objective a surveillant completes is to observe human behaviour.

[edit] Salary Potential

$58,000 to $70,000 a year. A surveillant’s salary is calculated under reviews of their performance in the position by a superior officer. Salary will vary based on years of experience and success in the position. Salary may differ by regional office but is mostly determined by the performance reviews previously mentioned [1][3].

[edit] Job outlook

Currently, CSIS is recruiting surveillants for the regional office in Quebec. While this is the only posted demand for this job, the organization welcomes résumés for all positions and offices through a general application [1]. There are also many surveillant jobs for other organizations, with over 7,500 results appearing on the Government of Canada’s website (Government of Canada, 2015). With the new funding for CSIS that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed to support Anti-terrorism across the country it is likely that demands for surveillants shall continue to increase. As more resources come to the agency the ability to hire more individuals for surveillant roles will open up in provinces other than Quebec [16].

[edit] To know more

Visit CSIS's website for more information

Watch the recruitment video here

--Cm10hj 11:13, 27 March 2015 (EDT)

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 CSIS. (2014c). Surveillant. Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 CSIS Careers. (2012). CSIS physical surveillance unit - recruiting video [Video file]. Retrieved from
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Scott, G. (2012). Unlike 007, CSIS gigs offer little glamour. Retrieved from
  4. Brock University (2010a). Collaborative study in policing and criminal justice program. Brock University. Retrieved from
  5. Brock University. (2010b). Department of psychology: Undergraduate program. Brock University. Retrieved from
  6. Brock University. (2010c). Department of sociology. Brock University. Retrieved from
  7. Georgian College (2015). Police foundations. Georgian College. Retrieved from
  8. Niagara College Canada (2015). Police Foundations. Niagara College Canada. Retrieved from http://
  9. 9.0 9.1 CSIS. (2014a). Do you qualify?. Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Retrieved from
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 CSIS. (2014b). Frequently asked questions. Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Retrieved from
  11. Book, A. (2013). Criminal profiling. PSYC 3P53. Lecture conducted from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON.
  12. Brock University. (2014). 2014-2015 undergraduate calendar: Psychology. Brock University. Retrieved from
  13. Lackner, C. (2015a). Biological substrates of the stress response. PSYC 3P75. Lecture conducted from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON.
  14. Lackner, C. (2015b). Stress, health, and illness. PSYC 3P75. Lecture conducted from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON.
  15. Seneca. (2015). Forensic Psychology. Seneca. Retrieved from
  16. Payton, L. (2015). Anti-terrorism bill to be supported by Liberals, Justin Trudeau says. CBC. Retrieved from
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