Bill Blair blames CSIS director for not passing along memo warning of threats to MP
Bill Blair is blaming Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault for the fact he didn't receive a memo warning about the alleged targeting of Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family by a Chinese diplomat.
"The director determined this was not information the minister needed to know," Blair said Thursday afternoon.
The former public safety minister made the comments at a meeting of a parliamentary committee that is investigating allegations that members of Parliament were targeted by foreign interference.
Blair's appearance follows the release of watchdog David Johnston's first report, which found there were serious issues with the way the government handles confidential information.
The former governor general's report concluded that CSIS was aware of indications Chinese officials were contemplating action directed at Canadian MPs, but did not identify negligence at the highest political levels.
Johnston concluded that intelligence about Chinese officials seeking information on Conservative MP Michael Chong didn't reach the prime minister, the public safety minister or Chong himself until after it was leaked and reported by media.
The prime minister's national security adviser, Jody Thomas, told MPs at the committee meeting that in 2021, the memo was sent to deputy ministers of Public Safety, Global Affairs and National Defence.
But it effectively went into a "black hole" and wasn't shared with the appropriate people, she said.
Thomas was the deputy minister of National Defence at the time and was one of the three to receive the memo.
Thomas says there should be redundancy in the system, meaning actionable and non actionable intelligence is discussed, read by multiple people and moved up the ladder as necessary. She says these necessary changes have been made.— Annie Bergeron-Oliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 1, 2023
She said she didn't see it because she was on leave when it was delivered, and the memo would have been destroyed after a certain amount of time for security reasons.
At the time, Johnston's report found that CSIS intended to provide Chong and a second unnamed MP with a briefing. Chong said that he did receive a briefing, but it did not include any details about a threat to his family.
Thomas said she was on leave in July 2021 when memo would have gone to her office. When she got back, Thomas says she “focused on Afghanistan” and memo fell into a bit of a black hole. She was not briefed.— Annie Bergeron-Oliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 1, 2023
Thomas said the memo about Chong was sent to the Privy Council Office in July 2021 and was provided to her predecessor David Morrison, who is currently the deputy minister of foreign affairs, that August.
But she wouldn't say why it wasn't then shared with the prime minister, Chong or other relevant people at the time.
"I'm not going to account for what's happened with my predecessor," she told the committee.
Johnston's report confirmed that CSIS also sent information about the targeting of Chong to the public safety minister and his chief of staff via a top-secret email platform, but they never received it. The public service told Johnston that they don't have access to the right system.
Thomas said it should have been the responsibility of the security apparatus to ensure the information was provided, arguing that his lack of access to the email system was not the primary reason Blair didn't see it.
"Minister Blair would have been given a reading package," she said.
Blair, who was public safety minister at the time, said Thursday afternoon that he, too, first learned about threats against Chong in the media -- and that if he had been briefed about threats against an MP, he would have taken action.
"I didn't have a password to an email account," he told reporters following his appearance. "That's not exactly how this works."
He told MPs on the committee there is no email account where top-secret information is shared with people, but there is a top-secret terminal, and he did not have access to one in his offices.
"If (CSIS) determined that information is not required to be shared with us, and I have no knowledge of that, I would not have the opportunity to act on it," he said, adding that questions about why the information wasn't shared with him should be put to Vigneault.
He said that when CSIS did want to share information with him, he was brought to a secure facility and briefed with printed materials.
"I am not suggesting that CSIS purposely withheld information. They make a determination. They make a determination on the credibility and the seriousness of the intelligence that they've gathered."
So CSIS didn’t think the intelligence needed to be shared with you? Blair responds to Q saying he doesn’t want to speculate, but says one can only conclude that because CSIS didn’t share the info they had analysis that said it wasn’t necessary to do so— Annie Bergeron-Oliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 1, 2023
Thomas said steps have been taken to ensure better information flow since her arrival to the national security adviser position in 2022, and more is now being done to ensure officials are aware of how to consume intelligence.
The Liberal government recently issued a directive that any threats against members of Parliament, their families or their staff must be elevated to the highest political levels, even if CSIS does not deem the threat to be serious or legitimate.
The Liberal government expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May, accusing him of being involved in a plot to intimidate Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong.
Chong's alleged targeting had come after he successfully sponsored a motion in the House of Commons labelling Beijing's treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China a genocide.
"We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs," Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly wrote in a statement at the time, declaring the Toronto-based diplomat as "persona non grata."
In response, China's embassy expelled Canada's consul in Shanghai and issued a statement accusing Canada of breaching international law and acting based on anti-Chinese sentiment. It said the move has "sabotaged" relations between China and Canada, according to an official English translation provided by the embassy, and promised unspecified retaliatory measures.
Thomas told MPs during her committee appearance that proxies of foreign diplomats in Canada continue to be "working contrary to the interests of the diaspora community."
She hesitated to put a number on how many people are involved or speak further about what their activities entail, citing national security considerations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
-- With files from Dylan Robertson.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre spent the summer speaking about housing affordability, a core focus that attendees at the party's Quebec City convention were quick to praise him for. But by the end of the weekend, delegates opted to instead pass policies on contentious social issues. What does that say about the Conservatives' future?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife are separating after 18 years of marriage, and while they plan to co-parent their children, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will no longer be considered the prime minister's spouse in any official capacity.
With a steady lead in the polls and a healthy war chest of political donations, the Conservative Party is rolling out a trio of new advertisements that are being viewed as aiming to redefine and soften Pierre Poilievre's image and messaging.
Trudeau's new House leader wants question period to become an hour Canadians watching can be proud of
If you've tuned in to question period and wondered if that is really how the elected member of Parliament representing you in Ottawa should be acting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new House leader is trying to change that.
In a major cabinet shuffle on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promoted seven rookies to his front bench, dropped seven ministers, and reassigned the majority of cabinet roles. In a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Trudeau orchestrated one of, if not the most consequential reconfigurations to his cabinet since 2015.
Justin Trudeau got one promise right: Canada is back on the world stage. Sadly, it’s for all the wrong reasons, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion column for CTVNews.ca.
Nice try, prime minister. But likely too little, too late and too transparently desperate to serve as a realistic government-salvage strategy, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion column for CTVNews.ca.
Probably no other leader, including Justin Trudeau, has landed in a party leadership with less real-world work experience than Pierre Poilievre, says Don Martin in a column for CTVNews.ca. But Poilievre's an able communicator, and this weekend's Conservative convention is a golden opportunity for him to sell himself as PM-in-waiting.
Ego and vanity are a potent combination in leadership politics, and in his exclusive column for CTVNews.ca, Don Martin writes this condition is infecting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mindset as he seems deadly serious about seeking re-election in 2025.
opinion Don Martin: I've never seen anything quite like the control-everything regime of Trudeau's government
Voters in four byelections delivered status quo results on Monday that show, if you squint hard enough, that the severely tainted Liberal brand has staying power while the Conservatives aren’t resurging enough to threaten as a majority-government-in-waiting, writes Don Martin in an exclusive column for CTVNews.ca.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The day after an RCMP officer was killed and two others were injured while executing a search warrant in Coquitlam, B.C., charges of murder and attempted murder have been laid.
Two groups in the Canadian Sikh diaspora are calling for Canada's political parties to "present a united front" on India after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a "potential link" between the shooting death of a local leader and the Indian government.
The family of a Black high school student in Texas who was suspended over his dreadlocks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Saturday against the state's governor and attorney general, alleging they failed to enforce a new law outlawing discrimination based on hairstyles.
Moneris says systems back online after users across Canada report outages affecting debit, credit payments
The payment processing company Moneris says it has resolved an outage that appeared to affect debit and credit transactions across the country.
There was 'shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners' that informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's public allegation of a potential link between the government of India and the murder of a Canadian citizen, United States Ambassador to Canada David Cohen confirmed to CTV News.
A First Nations premier would head a province for the first time in Canadian history if the New Democrats win the Oct. 3 Manitoba election, and the significance is not lost on party leader Wab Kinew.
The death of a Metro Vancouver RCMP officer who was shot dead while executing a search warrant is reverberating with law enforcement officials across the country.
Smoke has forced Yellowknife to cancel a celebration marking the return of residents to the city after a wildfires-prompted evacuation that lasted for weeks.
When 19-year-old Jaxon Billyboy graduated high school in Williams Lake in June, it was a proud moment for his father Sheldon Bowe.
Ukraine on Saturday morning launched another missile attack on Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-installed official said, a day after an attack on the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet that left a serviceman missing and the main building smouldering.
A fire and subsequent explosions at a golf ball factory in southern Taiwan killed at least five people and injured more than 100 others, and five people are still missing.
The Lebanese army said troops fired tear gas at Israeli soldiers in a disputed area along the tense border Saturday. No one was hurt in the incident.
More badly needed humanitarian aid was on its way to the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh via both Azerbaijan and Armenia on Saturday. The development comes days after Baku reclaimed control of the province and began talks with representatives of its ethnic Armenian population on reintegrating the area, prompting some residents to flee their homes for fear of reprisals.
Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey announced on Saturday that he will run against Sen. Robert Menendez in the state's Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate next year, saying he feels compelled to run against the three-term senator after he and his wife were indicted on sweeping corruption charges.
Israeli airstrikes hit a militant site in Gaza on Saturday for the second time in as many days, the Israeli army said, after Palestinian militants sent incendiary balloons into Israeli farmland and Palestinian protesters threw stones and explosives at soldiers at the separation fence.
U.S. President Joe Biden has gotten the updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu shot, the White House said Saturday.
More than five million Canadians experienced some form of mental health disorder in 2022, a new Statistics Canada study has revealed.
A Toronto woman has completed 10 triathlons in 10 provinces to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research in honour of her mom and all Canadians affected by the disease.
Researchers said on Tuesday they have recovered RNA from the desiccated skin and muscle of a Tasmanian tiger stored since 1891 at a museum in Stockholm.
A Calgary medical student has developed an app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before they set up their practices.
In an ultra-sterile room at a secure factory in Kansas City, U.S. government technicians refurbish the nation's nuclear warheads. The job is exacting: Each warhead has thousands of springs, gears and copper contacts that must work in conjunction to set off a nuclear explosion.
While the party died years ago at MuchMusic's broadcast centre on the corner of Queen and John streets in Toronto, the screening of a new documentary on Friday proved nostalgia for the nation's music station is still very much alive.
Sabato De Sarno wants people to fall in love with Gucci again, calling his debut collection 'Gucci Ancora,' Italian for 'Gucci Again.'
This week, pop culture critic Richard Crouse reviews new movies 'Dumb Money,' 'Expend4bles' and 'Stop Making Sense.'
Ford Motor has offered Canadian union Unifor wage increases of up to 25 per cent in its tentative agreement, the union said on Saturday. The agreement provides a 10 per cent wage increase for the first year followed by increases of two per cent and three per cent through the second and third year and a $10,000 productivity and quality bonus to all employees on the active roll of the company, Unifor said.
Even after escalating its strike against Detroit automakers on Friday, the United Auto Workers union still has plenty of leverage in its effort to force the companies to agree to significant increases in pay and benefits.
A sanctuary just outside of Estevan is giving some of Saskatchewan’s smallest equines with special needs the opportunity for a forever home.
A Minneapolis gallery is asking US$10 million for 'A Walk in the Woods,' the first of more than 400 paintings that Bob Ross produced on-air for his TV series 'The Joy of Painting.'
Cycling company Shimano is recalling some 760,000 bike cranksets in the U.S. and Canada due to a crash hazard that has resulted in several reported injuries.
Canada's women's volleyball team scored a 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-17) win over Mexico on Saturday, but fell short in its bid to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
A new trophy, the Canadian Premier League Shield, will be presented to the regular-season winner. And the North Star Cup will replace the North Star Shield, which was previously awarded to the CPL's playoff champion from 2019 to 2022.
Ryan Reaves wasn't going to sign just anywhere.
U.S. autoworkers expand their strike to 38 locations in 20 states. Biden plans visit to show support
The United Auto Workers union expanded its strike against major carmakers Friday, walking out of all 38 parts-distribution centres operated by General Motors and Jeep and Ram owner Stellantis in 20 states but sparing Ford from further shutdowns.