Canada's spy agency eager to fill positions

TORONTO -- As universities struggle to meet the growing post-9-11 demand for courses in security and intelligence, Canada's spy agency has revved up recruiting efforts to fill positions soon to be vacated by retiring baby boomers.

"We're looking for about 70 per cent more intelligence officers," said Canadian Security Intelligence Service spokesperson Barbara Campion, adding the agency currently employs about 2,400 people across Canada and around the world.

"It's a pretty significant increase and it's due mostly to the upcoming retirement of baby boomers."

Campion said CSIS stepped up recruitment in the spring with an aggressive advertising campaign, but noted the service has been boosting its ranks since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when it received additional funding from the federal government.

While the agency often looks to fill positions from within, it's "trying to increase personnel, not just move them around," Campion said.

According to the CSIS website, there are currently more than 20 positions up for grabs.

"We do get thousands of applications every year, but we really needed to increase the interest because that increases our potential pool of hires," she said.

Each individual hiring process can take up to a year since applicants must go through an extensive background check that includes a polygraph test and examination of financial records and personal acquaintances, Campion said.

While she wouldn't discuss numbers, Campion said there has been a significant increase in applications since the recruitment drive began, particularly after the arrests last June of 17 terrorism suspects in Ontario.

"Events like that tend to trigger increased interest in these types of jobs," she said. "Like after 9-11, apparently we were flooded with resumes."

Any Canadian citizen who has lived in the country at least 10 years, has a university degree, has the potential to become bilingual (if not already), and can pass the background check for "top secret" security clearance is eligible to become a CSIS officer.

If enrolment in security and intelligence university courses is any indication, CSIS should have no trouble finding qualified candidates.

University professors across the country say demand for such courses over the last few years has outstripped the ability of post-secondary institutions to provide them.