Government's invasive new security screening: What you need to know

PSAC opposes the new Standard on Security Screening

Employees have a right to privacy. While there are some times when privacy rights have to be balanced with security needs, privacy must be protected unless there is a clear security-related reason. We believe the new Standard on Security Screening goes way too far and most of the measures are not necessary to ensure security. The government has not shown any need for these new measures.

Important note: We suggest members 'obey now and grieve later'

Although the union disagrees with the new Standard and we are currently challenging it, we do not suggest that members should refuse to comply with it. PSAC members should follow the rule 'obey now and grieve later'. This means complying with the new Standard initially, but if you want to challenge the Standard or how it is applied to you, you can contact your component to file a grievance.

What you need to know:

  1. Do I have to give consent to disclose my personal information during the security screening process?

  2. What if I don’t want to give consent or don’t want to go through the security screening process?

  3. Do I have to disclose all of the information requested?

  4. I believe my manager is using the new security screening policy to harass me (or discriminate against me). What can I do?

  5. How long does the obligation to disclose personal information last?

  6. What personal information do I have to report?

  7. Can the employer review my reliability status or security clearance at any time?

  8. What can I do if my employer initiates a review of my security clearance or reliability status?

  9. What can I do if I am denied a reliability status, enhanced reliability status or security clearance?

  10. What can I do if my reliability status or secret clearance is suspended or revoked?

  11. Who is responsible for the safe keeping of my personal information? Can I have access to my personal information that is collected in the screening process?

  12. What recourses are available during the security screening process?

 

1.   Do I have to give consent to disclose my personal information during the security screening process?

Yes, you need to provide your consent for all initial security screenings. Your consent remains valid for as long as you’re employed, but the new standard states that you should be allowed to confirm or withdraw your consent each time you complete security screening forms. Consent must be confirmed when current employees engage in their first security screening process under the new standard.

Before giving consent, you can ask your department/agency to be provided with the security screening requirements of the position. This information may also be provided in the job posting, or your letter of offer if you are a current employee. You can also ask for a copy of the criteria used to determine the security screening requirements of the position. If the requirements have changed, you can ask to be provided with a response in writing stating why the requirements have changed.

If you are unsatisfied with the answer and you feel that the security requirements are not justified, you may be able to file a grievance. In this case, please contact your component.

2.   What if I don’t want to give consent or don’t want to go through the security screening process?

The security screening process will stop if you fail to give or delay giving consent. Because it is a condition of employment, ultimately it can result in not being granted the required reliability status and security clearance. Therefore, this could mean that you are no longer considered for appointment, employment, contract or assignment, or even lead to a termination of your employment for administrative reasons.

PSAC members should follow the rule “obey now and grieve later”. This means that you should comply with the Standard, but if you want to challenge the Standard or how it is applied to you, contact your component to file a grievance.

3.   Do I have to disclose all of the information requested?

Yes. Once you have given your consent, you are responsible for accurately and truthfully providing the personal information that is being requested. Security screening requirements are supposed to be determined by the type of job. Therefore, different levels of security screening and access permissions exist for different types of positions. This is why it is important to ask your department/agency for a written assessment of your position.

4.   I believe my manager is using the new security screening policy to harass me (or discriminate against me). What can I do?

If you believe that you are the victim of workplace harassment or discrimination, you may be able to file a grievance, harassment complaint or human rights complaint. Contact your component to speak to a union representative.

Keep in mind the following definitions of harassment and discrimination:

Discrimination involves treating someone differently or unfairly because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, mental or physical disability and pardoned conviction.

Harassment is conduct that is directed at you and is unwanted and harmful. It includes acts or comments that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and acts of intimidation or threat. When the harassment is from a manager or supervisor, it is conduct that goes beyond the regular exercise of managerial authority.

5.   How long does the obligation to disclose personal information last?

The obligation to report information that may affect your security status or clearance remains for as long as you’re employed.

6.   What personal information do I have to report?

The policy states that you must report any changes in personal circumstances that may affect your security status or clearance. This includes:

  • any change in marital status,
  • any change in criminal status,
  • criminal conviction,
  • suspension of a criminal record and any other judicial prohibitions,
  • involvement with law enforcement,
  • whether you are a suspect in a criminal investigation,
  • an arrest,
  • any and all associations with criminals
  • any significant change in financial situation, e.g. whether you have declared bankruptcy or received a substantial amount of wealth.

Failure to disclose these things can lead to an administrative suspension or disciplinary measures.

You can file a grievance if you believe that the information is private and not related to your ability to perform the functions of your position, your reliability or your loyalty to Canada. To file a grievance, please contact your component.

7.   Can the employer review my reliability status or security clearance at any time?

A reliability status or security clearance can only be reviewed for cause. This means that the employer needs a legitimate reason to do a review.

A review for cause is a reassessment of an individual’s eligibility to hold a security clearance. It occurs when new information is uncovered or reported about an individual that may call into question their “reliability” and/or “loyalty to Canada”.  A review can also be initiated when a manager reports changes in behaviour or security concerns.

Under the Standard, managers are required to report “unusual behavior” including:

  • drug or alcohol misuse;
  • sudden or marked changes in financial situation or expenditures;
  • expressions of support for extremist views, actions or incidents, particularly when violence is advocated;
  • unexplained hostile behavior or communications;
  • unexplained frequent absences;
  • indications of fraudulent activity;
  • disregard for safeguarding sensitive information or attempts to gain access to sensitive information without a work-related reason

8.   What can I do if my employer initiates a review of my security clearance or reliability status?

Remember that you can ask for access to review the information contained on your security file.

If you feel that the new information uncovered does not relate to your reliability and/or loyalty to Canada you must inform your department/agency management and those responsible for the security screening process in your department/agency. You should communicate in writing that you disagree and that you oppose the review. In your letter or email, state the reasons why you oppose the review.

9.   What can I do if I am denied a reliability status, enhanced reliability status or security clearance?

The Standard states that you can be denied reliability, enhanced reliability status or security clearance when information is uncovered that “raises a reasonable doubt as to an individual’s reliability or loyalty to Canada”.

The department/agency must inform you of the reasons why it is being denied and offer you an opportunity to respond and present any relevant information which could impact their findings and final decision.

All information considered in rendering a decision, along with any follow up action and the decision itself, must be recorded in the security screening file. They must inform you in writing of all available recourse rights you may have as a result of the denial. If you are not given this opportunity, you should write to your department/agency and request to be heard before a final decision is made.

You can make a complaint to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (“SIRC”) if, because of being denied a security clearance, you were denied employment, dismissed, demoted, transferred or denied a promotion. Complaints must be made within 30 days of  being notified of the denial of the security clearance.

You can also file a human rights complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act if you are denied a reliability status or secret clearance on the basis of a prohibited ground.

10.   What can I do if my reliability status or secret clearance is suspended or revoked?

If your reliability status or secret clearance is suspended or revoked for reasons unrelated to your reliability or loyalty to Canada, you may be able to file a grievance. Contact your component for assistance.

11.   Who is responsible for the safe keeping of my personal information? Can I have access to my personal information that is collected in the screening process?

Departmental security officers (DSO’s) or delegated officials are responsible for maintaining a security file for anyone who undergoes security screening. The DSO must ensure that personal information for the purpose of security screening is collected, used, disclosed, retained and disposed of in accordance with the Standard Personal Information Bank – Personnel Security Screening.

Under the Privacy Act, you are entitled to access personal information retained by Government of Canada institutions and you are entitled to make changes to this information if it is inaccurate.

If you are denied access to your personal information, you should write to the DSO and state that you are legally entitled to access your personal information under the Privacy Act. You should request to have a response in writing explaining the reasons for the refusal. If you are still denied access, you may be able to make a privacy complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

12.   What recourses are available during the security screening process?

If you feel that the information requested:

  • is not relevant to your reliability or loyalty to Canada,
  • is not relevant to the requirements of the position, or
  • is being used against you in a discriminatory manner or to harass you,

you can contact your component about filing a grievance.

You may also be able to file a human rights complaint or harassment complaint.

Loyalty to Canada is defined in the new Standard on Security Screening as follows:  “A determination that an individual has not engaged, is not engaged, nor is likely to engage in activities that constitute a "threat to the security of Canada" as defined in section 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.”

 

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June 17, 2015
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