Canadian Security Magazine

Does CSIS really have nine lives?

Jennifer Brown   

Features Opinion

There have been countless debates in this magazine about the value of associations. Why be a member? What’s the value? Does the association really represent what I do? Is it worth my time?

The debate has been raised again and this time the focus is back on the
Canadian Society for Industrial Security (CSIS). Low attendance at
meetings has some members asking if the association is still viable  — some are wondering if, like a cat that keeps
coming back from near death, CSIS has the strength in numbers to keep
going. At the time of this writing, CSIS president Gene McLean did not
have current numbers for membership but said he would by the end of
March. As of last May, membership was said to be in the range of 250

No matter what the number is, the question is, are they engaged members or just names on a list?
CSIS has been fighting its way back
since 2006 following a financial crisis that caused many members to
flee. And they’ve fought an admirable fight. For the most part, it’s
come from executive director Bob Marentette and now Gene McLean.

McLean, who took over last May just when it seemed the organization
would be without leadership, has proposed a name change to, in his
opinion, better reflect the times — he wants to change the “I” in CSIS
from “Industrial” to “Integrated.”

While I understand the desire for an organization that is 50-plus years
old to try and modernize its image — ASIS, also founded in the ’50s,
did the same thing about four years ago in an attempt to disguise the
words “Industrial” and “American” and become more global in recognition
— to be honest, I don’t believe that a name change will really alter
how security professionals view the association. People join an
association for what it offers them professionally, not necessarily
what the acronym stands for, or once represented.


The last CSIS meeting I attended in February had seven attendees. I was
the speaker — and yes, I am willing to admit that perhaps the speaker
had something to do with the low attendance — that and the fact it was
held on the same night as the Canada/Russia Olympic hockey game!
Despite the low numbers and initially awkward feel of the small crowd,
I had a great conversation with those who did attend but it certainly
begged the question — is this an organization that has much life left
in it?

A push for renewed CSIS membership is great, but it has to be more than
names on a list. The last CSIS annual general meeting held in Ottawa
last May drew about 40 people, including the speakers.

Three years ago I wrote that CSIS seemed to be on the rebound. Since
then it’s had two different presidents — Kevin Murphy and now Gene
McLean. I’m not convinced it’s grown or gained strength since then
despite the efforts of all involved. It has maintained a core, loyal
following led largely by Bob Marentette, someone I respect very much.
CSIS is not alone when it comes to getting people out to meetings.
There are a lot of ASIS members out there who I don’t see at the
Toronto meetings, but the difference is the ASIS meetings have a
healthy following.

It would be unfortunate to see CSIS fade away, but it needs to take a
good look at the reality of the current situation, especially if, as
McLean says, it wants to be the one leading the industry.

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