A timeline of notable events

Early History: 1939 - 1946

1939, September 10: Canada joins Allies and declares war on Germany. Battle of the Atlantic begins.

1939, September 10: “Foreign Intelligence Section” is created within the Royal Canadian Navy to track German U-boats in the Atlantic.

1939, November: Intercept Section is created within the Canadian Army.

1939, December: Royal Canadian Navy’s Foreign Intelligence Section provides information used to damage and trap German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, leading to the first Allied Naval victory of the war.

1941, June 9: Civilian signals intelligence “Examination Unit” (XU) created within the National Research Council (NRC). Located in two rooms of the Aeronautical Laboratories of NRC, on Montreal Road.

1941, June 10: Herbert Yardley becomes head of the XU. Under him, the XU achieves its first success by breaking the German Abwehr communications code to South America. Once they acquire the complete key list, they are able to read the traffic regularly.

1941, December 6: Special Training School no 103, known as Camp X, is established at Whitby, Ontario.

1941, December 7: Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and attacks Hong Kong. Canada declares war on Japan.

1941, December 11: The United States declares War against the Japanese Empire. Germany declares war against the United States.

1942, January: Oliver Strachey takes over as head of XU; communications traffic out of Vichy France and Japanese intercepts are the XU’s main decryption targets.

1942, March: XU moves to 345 Laurier Street East (next door to Laurier House, home of PM Mackenzie King). XU occupies 2nd floor.

1942, May: Canadian Benjamin deforest Bayly opens HYDRA transceiver at Camp X to facilitate SIGINT exchanges between Canada, the UK, US, Australia, and India.

1942, June 12: Discrimination Unit (DU) is created within the Canadian Army, under Major Edward Drake. The Army DU occupies ground floor of 345 Laurier, directly below the XU.

1942, July: F.A. (Tony) Kendrick takes over as head of XU. Greater focus is shifted to Japanese intelligence.

1942, August: Army DU moves out of 345 Laurier; XU French section takes over the ground floor.

1942, September: Department of External Affairs establishes its Special Intelligence Section (SIS) at XU. Goal of the SIS is to review decoded SIGINT with other collateral information to produce intelligence summaries.

1943, May 17: BRUSA agreement signed between the US and UK, allowing exchange of personnel and sharing highly sensitive material.

1944, June 6: D-Day. Canadian Army, Air Force, and Navy play key roles in Normandy invasion.

1945, April: Gilbert de B Robinson appointed acting Director of the XU, until July 1945.

1945, May 7: Germany surrenders, bringing an end to the war in Europe.

1945, May 8: U-190 surrenders to Royal Canadian Navy. ENIGMA machines found on-board now part of CSE historical collection.

1945, August 1: The civilian Examination Unit is merged with military SIGINT Discrimination Units to form the new Joint Discrimination Unit, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Drake.

1945, August 15: Japan surrenders, bringing the Second World War to a close.

1945, September 5: Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko defects to Canada, exposing a vast Soviet spy network. Cold War begins.

1946 March 5: BRUSA Agreement is formalized for peacetime.

1946, April 13: Order in Council allows for postwar continuation of wartime cryptologic efforts.

1946, June 20: First meeting of “Communications Research Committee”, with oversight of Canadian SIGINT operations.


The CBNRC: 1946-1975

1946, September 1: Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC) officially begins operations; actual start date was September 3rd. Located at LaSalle Academy; Edward Drake is first Director.

1947, January 1: Domestic COMSEC efforts begins at CBNRC, called the “Make section”.

1947, March: Draft of CANUSA is given to the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Canada has not seen the bilateral UKUSA agreement, which is the basis for CANUSA.

1947, April: HYDRA ownership is transferred from UK to Canada.

1948, June: CFB Whitehorse becomes operational.

1948, September: ROCKEX is deployed to all stations.

1948, September: CBNRC begins processing its own intercepts.

1949, February: Mary Oliver is appointed first CBNRC Senior Liaison Officer (CLO) to GCHQ in the UK.

1949, June: CANUSA agreement.

1949, December: CBNRC begins moving from the LaSalle Academy at Guigues and Sussex to the Rideau Annex.

1950, February: R. S. McLaren is appointed first CBNRC Senior Liaison Officer (CBSLO) to Washington.

1950, June 25: Korean War begins.

1950, September: CFB Churchill becomes operational.

1950, November: CBNRC is approved for the production of TYPEX inserts (rotor core / key material).

1952, August: BRUSA is renamed UKUSA.

1953, July 27: Korean War ends.

1953, September: Australia joins UKUSA Partnership.

1955, May: Aklavik is confirmed, Edward Drake gets approval for survey of Alert and Resolute, with US support.

1956, October: CBNRC starts highspeed key tape production.

1959, February: Permanent 10-position station at Alert agreed.

1959, October 19: The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, visits CBNRC at the Rideau Annex.

1959, December: Online 5UCO is to be deployed to all stations.

1959, December: Alert fully manned (10 positions).

1961, June: CBNRC moves from Rideau Annex to Sir Leonard Tilley Building.

1962, March: first IBM supercomputer costing $372k, installed at Tilly Building.

1964, Ministers Martin (EA) and Hellyer (DND) visit CBNRC.

1964, December: CBNRC begins collaboration on “Canadian ALVIS” (CID 610), the first and only Canadian cypher machine to be mass produced. It is based on the British ALVIS (BID 610).

1968, July: Churchill and Whitehorse are shut down.

1971, February: CBNRC’s founding Director, Edward Drake dies in Office. Kevin O’Neill is named Director the second Director of CBNRC.

1974, January 9: CBC airs a documentary titled “The Fifth Estate: The Espionage Establishment.” This is the first time many Canadians hear of the CBNRC.


Communications Security Establishment: 1975 - Present

1975, April 1: CBNRC transferred by Order-in-Council to Department of National Defence and renamed Communications Security Establishment.

1980, July: Peter Hunt becomes Chief CSE.

1980, September 8: CSE moves into the Insurance Building (originally built to house the Department of Insurance).

1983, September 22: The existence of CSE is officially acknowledged to the public for the first time by the Government of Canada, when the Honourable Jean-Luc Pépin (then Minister of State for External Affairs), made a statement to the Special Senate Committee on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

1989, July: Stewart Woolner becomes Chief CSE.

1989, November 9: Fall of the Berlin Wall.

1990, August 2: Beginning of the Gulf War.

1991, February 28: End of the Gulf War.

1991, December 31: Official end of the Cold War as all Soviet institutions cease operation.

1994, July 7: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II approves use of the Crown for CSE’s proposed badge.

1994, October 19: Heraldic Badge is presented to CSE by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

1996, June 19: The Office of the CSE Commissioner (OCSEC) is created, with the appointment of the Honourable Claude Bisson, former Chief Justice of Quebec, as the first CSE Commissioner.

1996, September 6: At noon, the CSE pennant is raised for the first time by CSE Chief Stew Woolner.

1999, July: Ian Glen becomes Chief CSE.

2000, April 17: Project VISTA (refurbishment of former CBC building and move out of BBT) completed.

  • 28 June 2000: Public Works renames the former CBC building as the “Edward Drake Building” in a ceremony attended by the Drake family.

2001, August: Keith Coulter becomes Chief CSE.

2001, September 11: Nineteen terrorists trained by Al-Qaeda hijack four commercial planes in the United States. Two planes are deliberately flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. A third plane is flown into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth crashes into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers begin to fight back.

2001, October 7: Canada announces that it is prepared to contribute sea, land and air forces to America’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan under the Canadian operation named OP APOLLO.

2001, December 18: CSE mandate codified in the Anti-terrorism Act amendments to the National Defence Act.

2003, June 19: The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of Canada, is appointed as the second CSE Commissioner.

2005, July: John Adams becomes Chief CSE.

2006, August 1: Charles Gonthier, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is appointed as the third CSE Commissioner.

2009, December 14: Peter Cory, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is appointed as the fourth CSE Commissioner.

2010, June 18: Robert Décary, former Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, is appointed as the fifth CSE Commissioner.

2011, November: The “Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing” opens, named after Dr. William T. Tutte, a British-born Canadian codebreaker and mathematician, credited with breaking the Lorenz cipher used by the German High command during World War II.

2011, November 16: By Orders-in-Council, CSE becomes a separate agency.

2012, January 30: John Forster becomes Chief CSE.

2014, March: Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan ends.

2015, February 9: Greta Bossenmaier becomes Chief CSE.

2015, February 26: New CSE building officially inaugurated; named Edward Drake Building. Two of Edward Drake’s grandsons were present. Plaque was unveiled by John Forster and Greta Bossenmaier. Staff had already moved in throughout late 2014.

2016, May 9: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, visits CSE.

2017, June 20: Bill C-59 “An Act respecting national security matters” receives first reading in the House of Commons; Proposed new CSE Act is included within the bill.

2018, February 27: Federal Budget signals the creation of a “Canadian Centre for Cyber Security” as part of CSE.

2018, June 27: Shelly Bruce becomes Chief CSE.

2018, October 1: CSE founded its Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre), which protects and defends the country’s valuable cyber assets.

2018, December 12: Her Excellency Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, visits CSE.

2019, August: The CSE Act came into force and marked a milestone event for CSE. Together with the Privacy Act, the Criminal Code, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the CSE Act provides clear, explicit mandates to CSE.

2019, November 4: Edward Drake became the first Canadian to be inducted into the NSA Cryptologic Hall of Honor.

2022, August 31: Caroline Xavier becomes Chief CSE.




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