Security Clearances – All you need to know

Security Clearances – All you need to know

December 11, 2019

You are a Canadian and you want to work for the federal government and access top secrets? If the answer is yes, then you’ll have to pass more than just a standard background check but security clearances. 

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information (state or organizational secrets) or restricted areas, after a background check. The term “security clearance” is also sometimes used in private organizations that have a formal process to allow employees access to sensitive information. No one is supposed to be granted automatic access to classified information solely because of rank, position, or security clearance. 

Information on this form is collected under the authority of subsection 7(1) of the Financial Administration Act and the Government Security Policy (GSP) of the Government of Canada. It is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act in institutions that are covered.

Depending on the level of security screening required, the information may be disclosed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). They conduct the requisite checks and/or investigation

Why do we need security clearances? 

The Canadian government performs a security clearance on individuals attempting to obtain a government or security-related job. This helps them weed out candidates with less than noble intentions. Once you’ve obtained a Canadian Security Clearance, you’ll be able to work in jobs that require access to sensitive information. Before you can even apply for a clearance, you must be sponsored by an organization that has a clearance of its own. This will occur after you’ve applied for a job or position and been deemed worthy.

Federal public service employees, members of the Armed Forces (including civilian jobs in the military), and persons under contract to a government department who, in the performance of their duties, have access to classified government assets or information. The same goes for people who work at “sensitive sites” such as airports, the Parliamentary Precinct, ports, and nuclear power stations.

Non-Canadians who apply for permanent residency or refugee status must also undergo security screening.

Types of security clearances

Standard screenings are completed for individuals without law enforcement, security and intelligence functions with the government, whereas Enhanced screenings are for individuals with law enforcement, security and intelligence functions, or access to those data or facilities.

1. Security screening

Individuals who need to have Reliability Status (RS) because of their job or access to federal government assets will be required to sign the Personnel Screening, Consent and Authorization Form (TBS/SCT 330-23e).

  • Reliability Status, Standard (RS) is done by verifying personal data, criminal records check, credit check, educational, and professional qualifications, data on previous employment and references. It will grant the right to access designated documents with markings of Protected A & B information/assets on a need-to-know basis.
  • Reliability Status, Enhanced (ERS) requires open-source checks and security questionnaires or interviews from the RS. This level of clearance will grant the right to access designated documents with markings of Protected A, B & C information/assets on a need-to-know basis.

2. Security clearances

Individuals who require access to more sensitive information (or access to sensitive federal government sites and/or assets) because of their job will be required to sign the Security Clearance Form (TBS/SCT 330-60e). There are two levels of clearance:

  • Secret

This level of clearance will grant the right to access designated and classified information up to the Secret level on a need-to-know basis.

Only those with a Secret clearance, with enhanced screening, have access to Protected C information.

  • Top Secret

In addition to the checks at the Secret level, foreign travels, assets, and character references must be given. A field check will also be conducted prior to granting the clearance.

This level of clearance will grant the right to access all designated and classified information on a need-to-know basis.


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