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What is CSIS' physical surveillance unit, where staff allege sex assault, harassment?


A recruitment video for the physical surveillance unit of Canada's spy agency shows people using trains, cars and a bicycle to surreptitiously trail a target through Montreal.

A "surveillant" identified in the video as "Andrea" says the unit's officers should be prepared for "long idle moments" and "bursts of adrenalin" and that they be able to "blend into the background."

The physical surveillance unit of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is tasked with collecting intelligence by covertly observing targets.

It's at the centre of allegations that its B.C. office was a toxic workplace, where senior staff bullied and harassed young officers, including two women who told The Canadian Press they were sexually assaulted by a senior colleague in surveillance vehicles while on missions.

One of the women said in an investigation published last week that she was raped nine times.

The women described working 10-hour shifts in surveillance vehicles that were sometimes fitted with curtains.

The recruitment video posted in 2012 shows officers fitting black material to the windows of one of their vehicles.

The agency says on its website that surveillance officers must have a minimum two-year college diploma or degree in any field.

They must also "demonstrate adaptability, communications, interpersonal and leadership skills".

Candidates will also be reviewed on the basis of work and travel experience, knowledge of foreign languages and "other extracurricular activities."

They also must have a valid driver's licence.

"My workday involves physically following a target or person of interest without he or she knowing that they are being observed," Andrea says in the recruitment video, adding that surveillance "is not a nine-to-five job."

She says it takes "patience, flexibility and common sense to complete often long, complex operations," calling the work "unique and exciting."

With files from Darryl Greer in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2023. Top Stories

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