Friday, July 08, 2022

Xavier to be next Chief of CSE

On 8 July 2022, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Caroline Xavier to be the next Chief of CSE, effective 31 August 2022. Xavier will replace incumbent Shelly Bruce, who is retiring.

Xavier is the third woman in a row to be appointed to the job of Chief. (But fret not, guys, there were eight men in a row before that, so it's way too early to consider yourselves hard done by.) She will also be the first racialized Canadian to get the job. Xavier was born in Montreal to parents who came to Canada from Haiti. According to the CBC, when she gave this interview on diversity and equity in the public service in 2020, she was "the only Black person serving as an associate deputy minister in the federal government."

Working at CSE will be something of a homecoming for Xavier, who served as Director, IM/IT Infrastructure and Operational Services in the Chief Information Officer Branch of the agency from 2004 to 2006. She also has experience working with the intelligence community at the Privy Council Office. Although currently the Associate Deputy Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, from 2017 to 2020 she was the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Security and Intelligence, where "she was responsible for advising and supporting the National Security and Intelligence Advisor on security, intelligence and emergency management issues. Ms. Xavier was the Co-Chair to the Cabinet Committee on Global Affairs and Public Security, and also served as secretary to Cabinet Committee on Incident Response Group." (See her bios here and here.)

The first four chiefs of CSE, who collectively ran CSE for 53 years, were all hired from inside the closed confines of the SIGINT world. The appointment of Ian Glen in 1999 ended that tradition, and for the next 19 years succeeding chiefs were all drawn from outside the agency. Then, in 2018, the job went back in-house when Shelly Bruce was given the nod, capping a career spent almost entirely inside the agency.

As Bruce's time in office seemed likely to end soon, I had been wondering recently, would the government again choose a chief from in-house (in which case, Dan Rogers, who was recently appointed to the position of Associate Chief, seemed like a plausible candidate) or would it revert to hiring from outside the agency? As it turns out, the decision was a bit of both.

As a former CSE employee who has spent most of her public service career in other parts of the government, and who has recent experience near the top of the Canadian security and intelligence community, Xavier should bring the advantages of both backgrounds to the job — familiarity with CSE, its activities, and its place in the Canadian and Five Eyes communities, and deep knowledge of, and connections to, the broader public service and government policy world.

Xavier will become the 11th Chief in CSE's 76-year history. The previous chiefs were:

  • Edward M. Drake (1946 - 1971)
  • N. Kevin O'Neill (1971 - 1980)
  • Peter R. Hunt (1980 - 1989)
  • A. Stewart Woolner (1989 - 1999)
  • D. Ian Glen (1999 - 2001)
  • Keith Coulter (2001 - 2005)
  • John L. Adams (2005 - 2012)
  • John Forster (2012 - 2015)
  • Greta Bossenmaier (2015 - 2018)
  • Shelly Bruce (2018 - 2022)


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