MPs to scold spy chief over candid remarks
CSIS Director Richard Fadden waits to testify at the Commons public safety committee on Parliement Hill in Ottawa, Monday, July 5, 2010. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, March 23, 2011 6:23AM EDT
OTTAWA - The public declarations of Canada's spy chief will come under scrutiny once again when a Commons committee criticizes Dick Fadden on Wednesday over comments about foreign meddling in national affairs.
MPs on the public safety committee plan to table a report taking the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to task for remarks that prompted a backlash last summer, The Canadian Press has learned.
The report could revive controversy that flared last year when Fadden told CBC-TV he was in the process of warning at least two provinces -- through the Privy Council Office -- that members of their cabinets had come under foreign influence.
He also said CSIS had suspicions about municipal politicians in British Columbia.
Though Fadden was somewhat circumspect concerning the countries involved, he did not deny that China was a country that worried the spy service.
Fadden's interview enraged critics -- including opposition MPs -- who said the comments left a cloud over all elected officials with overseas ties.
He quickly backpedalled, saying in a statement that he had not apprised the PCO -- the department that serves the prime minister -- of the two cases because they were not serious enough.
In a rare summer appearance before the public safety committee, Fadden acknowledged making comments of "unfortunate specificity" about foreign interference.
But he stood by his general warning, saying there was no reason for him to step down or even apologize.
Nor did he soften his message a few weeks later in a confidential report to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, painting a broad threat from countries out to influence Canadian policy, target dissidents and steal technology.
"Canada is a target for foreign interference due to our natural resources, scientific and technological sectors, our role and influence in the international community, and our close relations with powerful allies," says a declassified version of Fadden's lengthy memo to the minister.
The opposition has refused to let the matter drop.
"You cannot drop a bomb like that and not clear the air afterwards," Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said in October.
Don Davies, the NDP public safety critic, said Fadden left a stain on provincial cabinet ministers across Canada and municipal politicians in B.C. -- comparing Fadden to U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy, who made accusations of disloyalty during the Cold War.
"The Chinese-Canadian community was particularly singled out. His McCarthy-like accusation tarred them all," Davies said in the Commons.
"Chinese-Canadians feel as though their loyalty to this country has been called into question. In my riding, I have heard this repeatedly."