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Canada's spy agency accused of negligence and defamation in $5.5M lawsuit

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An RCMP sergeant and a former Vancouver detective have filed a lawsuit that accuses Canada's spy agency of wrongly linking them to an ex-Mountie who is charged with being an agent for China.

Paul McNamara and Peter Merrifield claim that "inaccurate, incomplete, misleading and/or false" information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) cost them the security clearances they need for their jobs.

"To say I'm a national security threat – that makes me angry," McNamara said in an exclusive interview with CTV National News. "I'll challenge you here. And I will go to my grave to prove I'm not a national security threat."

McNamara is a former Vancouver Police Department detective. After retiring he was hired as the program director at an American security firm called VXL Enterprises, and put in charge of uniformed security at the U.S. Embassy and its consulates across Canada. He lost his security clearance and job in 2021, and has not been able to find work since.

Before becoming the vice-president of the RCMP union, Merrifield was a supervisor in the RCMP's protective policing unit. His responsibilities included providing security for the prime minister, the Royal Family and other heads of state.

When he was in that position, Merrifield says he was one of a few Canadians who had "higher than top secret clearance." Merrifield's clearance was suspended for nearly a year between 2022 and 2023.

"The difference between intelligence and evidence boils down to the burden of proof," Merrifield said. "There is no accountability of intelligence."

Peter Merrifield, left, and Paul McNamara. (CTV News)

Filed in Federal Court, their statement of claim includes accusations of defamation and conducting a negligent investigation.

"Unfortunately for McNamara and Merrifield, CSIS pursued a politically motivated agenda designed to show that it was taking a hard line on foreign interference from China, and cast a wide net, pulling in multiple people with some form of connection to individuals with business in that country," the pair claims in court documents.

"Rather than examining and verifying actual information, CSIS simply made incomplete, inaccurate, misleading and false assertions about the Plaintiffs, and provided them to the Plaintiffs' employers, knowing full well the harm that would follow."

The two are seeking more than $5.5 million in damages for loss of income, mental anguish and damaged reputations after CSIS allegedly flagged them during routine security clearance reviews.

"If we don't have a robust, well-run intelligence service, we are doing more harms to Canadians than the foreign state actors are," McNamara said. "China's done nothing to me … but my own internal national security service, it has."

CSIS declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"It would be inappropriate for CSIS to comment on matters currently before the courts," a CSIS spokesperson said in an email to CTV National News.

The lawsuit comes after two weeks of hearings at the public inquiry into foreign interference. In testimony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cabinet and his staff repeated a common refrain that "intelligence wasn't evidence," as they pushed back on CSIS intelligence about Beijing's meddling in the past two elections.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trudeau said, in response to a question about his confidence in Canada's intelligence apparatus, that he has "of course tremendous confidence in the extraordinary women and men who serve in our national security institutions."

"It is extremely important work that's getting more and more difficult every day. But no government and no leader should simply be a passive receiver of information and intelligence," he said.

"We have a role to play in asking questions, on thinking critically, around encouraging further work on questioning sources and pulling out contradictions. That actually is part and parcel of the work that we all need to do to make sure that everything is done to keep Canadians safe."

William Majcher speaks to CTV News in an exclusive interview. (Chris Gargus)

McNamara and Merrifield say their problems stem from knowing and speaking with William Majcher, a former Mountie now facing foreign interference charges. Merrifield says he was subjected to a six-hour interview with CSIS agents with "more than three hours" spent on questions about Majcher.

McNamara and Merrifield claim they had nothing to do with Majcher's work in China.

Majcher was as an undercover officer and investigated money laundering for the RCMP before retiring in 2007. Moving to Hong Kong, he co-founded a corporate asset recovery company that reportedly dealt with Chinese investment banks and law firms to recover stolen assets that were being laundered overseas.

Security experts say this could have involved official anti-corruption programs like Operation Fox Hunt, which the Chinese government has used to "involuntarily" return suspects and fugitives. Rights group Safeguard Defenders claims such programs also target dissidents.

Majcher was charged in July with two counts under the Security of Information Act, which covers crimes pertaining to national security and espionage.

"Majcher allegedly used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts in Canada to obtain intelligence or services to benefit the People's Republic of China," the RCMP said in a July press release. "It is alleged that he contributed to the Chinese government's efforts to identify and intimidate an individual outside the scope of Canadian law."

In an exclusive interview with CTV News while on bail awaiting trial, Majcher denied the allegations.

"I'm a patriot, not a traitor," Majcher said in March. "I'll stand in a courtroom. I'll take a polygraph and I'll challenge any of these people making the accusations to take a polygraph."

Majcher believes he came under suspicion when he was hired by a Chinese think tank to gather information about the Canadian extradition process in the case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was detained in Vancouver in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition request.

Majcher describes himself as a capitalist, not a criminal.

"The fact is, unless you're a government lawyer or a government accountant or working for a corporation, everybody else is freelancing out there," Majcher previously told CTV News. "Everybody's working and hustling for business."

Peter Merrifield, left, and Paul McNamara. (CTV News)

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