Former CSIS officers call for all documents to be handed over to foreign interference inquiry
Former CSIS officers call for all documents to be handed over to foreign interference inquiry

Former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officers are calling for all transcripts and documents to be handed over to the public inquiry into alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections, should it be officially launched.

The Pillar Society, an organization for retired CSIS officers, has been joined by former members of the RCMP who also believe that a public inquiry could only be properly executed with complete access to any evidence that may prove Prime Minister Trudeau was in fact informed about election interference in 2019 and 2021. 

The Pillar Society believes that further delays in calling for a public inquiry will only hurt the possibility of it eventually happening.  

“The momentum that was there in the spring may have lapsed a bit and I think Canadians won’t be well-served if we don’t end up having an inquiry,” said Dan Stanton, a member of the Pillar Society’s board of directors. “I think we will find the answers of whether anyone briefed the Prime Minister or not.”

“Did he get wind of the fact that these ridings were being targeted by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] because they were Conservative and I think those answers are going to be possibly in the cabinet papers. To simply say he wasn’t briefed doesn’t really answer the question of was he aware of it,” said Stanton.

There is frustration within the intelligence community, according to Stanton, saying it’s due to cabinet ministers and senior officials denying that they read secret documents that explained the magnitude of PRC election interference.

“What was really disheartening in the testimony that was given where it seemed that very senior people including cabinet ministers didn’t read the reports because nobody phoned them to say. ‘You need to read this,’” said Stanton.

In July 2021, CSIS issued an assessment warning to Trudeau’s national-security advisor at the time, saying that Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and his relatives were being targeted by the PRC. The warning was also sent to three deputy ministers. 

In June, a parliamentary committee spoke with the three deputy ministers as well as Trudeau’s then security advisor regarding the warning. Under testimony, the three deputy ministers all claimed to have never read the assessment. 

David Morrison, Trudeau’s security advisor at the time said he did read the July, 2021 memo however he didn’t relay the information to Prime Minister Trudeau because he didn’t feel the warning was a call to action.

In May, 2021, Bill Blair, who was then acting public safety minister, received a top-secret document regarding threats to Chong but said he never read the document nor recalls receiving it. Blair claims that CSIS director David Vigneault ultimately was responsible for informing Trudeau of the problem.

Chong believes that the Pillar Society is correct in identifying that the Liberal government’s key failure was not handling these threats with the severity of the risks they posed. 

“These are not documents written by an academic or civil society group. These are documents presented to the government by the head of our national-security agency,” said Chong. “And that is why we need an independent public inquiry.”

The Liberal government does seem to be slowly taking foreign interference more seriously, according to Stanton, who commended the newly created cabinet committee on national security. 

The official launching of a public inquiry has been in talks for almost two months following David Johnston’s resignation as special rapporteur on Beijing’s interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections. The delayed launch is primarily due to the difficulty of finding someone to act as its commissioner, with at least 6 sitting or retired judges declining the offer so far. In addition, the Liberals have to appoint someone in agreement with the opposition parties.

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