CSIS head defends remarks on foreign influence
Published Monday, July 5, 2010 10:09PM EDT
Canada's spy chief says Canadians should be informed about the threat that foreign influence represents to the country, arguing that "it is good public policy" to do so.
Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a House of Commons committee Monday morning that foreign influence "is more common here and elsewhere than many think and it is desirable that this threat should be known and discussed."
The head of CSIS was called before the Standing Committee on Public Safety after he made a series of remarks about foreign interference during a CBC interview that was broadcast last month.
In the June interview, Fadden said that cabinet ministers in at least two provinces were being influenced by foreign governments. He did not specify which provinces he was referring to, although he did say CSIS had suspicions about a number of politicians in British Columbia.
On Monday, Fadden refused to name the B.C. ridings and politicians he referred to in the TV interview.
Fadden said his controversial interview stemmed from a speech he gave at the Royal Canadian Military Institute earlier this year, in which he spoke about the topic of foreign influence.
After the speech, Fadden answered questions, while providing detailed answers "to an audience of police, intelligence and military experts that I would not have provided to the public."
While he knew that TV cameras were recording his speech, Fadden said it was his understanding that the question-and-answer session was not being recorded.
A few months later, Fadden said he was confronted with some of the details from the question-and-answer session.
"I felt I had little choice but to address them in a forthright manner," said Fadden, explaining why the foreign influence topic was discussed during the interview.
"I agree that this was not the optimal way in which to have this matter raised in public and wished it had turned out differently."
Still, Fadden told the committee that the concerns he made public in the interview do not "constitute threats to the security of Canada," which means he has not yet had to inform higher authorities about them. But he said both Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and the Privy Council Office are "generally aware of foreign interference in Canada."
He also told the committee he stands by his "general message on foreign interference."
Furthermore, Fadden said they are not new allegations -- pointing out that CSIS has been investigating such concerns for decades.
"CSIS has been informing successive governments of the threat since its creation -- its last five annual reports have referred to it and Parliament has annually granted funds for us to investigate foreign interference," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press