Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Further to the earlier Hill Times story. Having gone through some of the recent reports (still awaiting a few), my general observation is the lower the representation numbers, the longer the reports and the more words describing the various initiatives underway). That being said, their cultures are different from elsewhere in the public service and thus the challenges greater:

A number of organizations in Canada’s security and intelligence establishment, including the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community, the Department of National Defence, and the Canada Border Services Agency have been conducting campaigns to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act—women, Indigenous people, members of a visible minority, and people with a disability—to self-identify, as part of their efforts to improve data collection and hiring practices.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused on diversity and inclusion issues in the security and intelligence community in its most recent annual report.

The report notes that one of the challenges in the security and intelligence committee surrounds voluntary self-identification.

But the report also notes that “self-identification campaigns and internal communications are [a] way organizations try to increase awareness on these issues,” and that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the Department of National Defence (DND) have conducted campaigns to “demystify the self-identification process and encourage employees to self identify.”

The Hill Times reached out to the four organizations noted in the report for more information on how they have done that.

Communications Security Establishment

Diversity and inclusion is an important element in ensuring that the Canadian security and intelligence community can effectively protect Canada, said Ryan Foreman, a media relations representative with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Mr. Foreman outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the CSE to encourage self-identification, including a 2017 push to increase organizational awareness of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and to explain how a diverse workforce strengthens CSE’s ability to deliver on its mandate.

“This included providing data to managers, and developing strategies to attract job applicants from underrepresented groups,” said Mr. Foreman, who also noted that CSE launched a self-identification campaign called “Show us what CSE is made of,” which was designed to encourage employees to self-identify.

“The messaging for this campaign communicated the importance of employment equity data and its impact on other organizational initiatives, such as recruitment and training,” said Mr. Foreman. “Both the 2017 initiative and the self-identification campaign started in 2018 are on-going.”

Canadian Security and Intelligence Community

“As Canada’s security and intelligence service, it is critical that CSIS reflects the communities it protects, wrote CSIS spokesperson John Townsend in an email to The Hill Times. “To this end, CSIS has implemented an ongoing internal communications campaign to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act to self-identify.”

“The campaign includes an annual Employment Equity questionnaire among other tools to advise employees on the importance of self-identification.”

Ninety per cent of CSIS employees have engaged with these tools, according to Mr. Townsend.

“The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished but our commitment is steadfast and our efforts continue,” wrote Mr. Townsend.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Staff at the Department of National Defence and members of Canadian Armed Forces have returned self-identification forms at a greater rate this year than in the past, thanks to organizational efforts to spread the word about the importance of self-identification, according to Major Smyth, spokesperson for DND.

The Employment Equity Act requires that every member be provided the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated group, but it remains voluntary to do so.

As such, employment equity representation rates are based on a voluntary process and may not represent the actual employment equity representation in CAF, according to Mr. Smyth.

“Overall, the CAF continues to improve upon its self-identification return rates,” said Mr. Smyth. “The first part of the self-identification form is a personal identification portion. For this portion, the regular force achieved its highest return rate yet with 97.5 per cent of [members] having had the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated employment equity group.”

“While the return rates are lower in the primary reserve units, the CAF saw an overall increase in self-identification as designated group members from both regular force and primary reserve members compared to 2017/18.”

“Current representation rates, as of July 2020, for the regular force and the primary reserves combined, were as follows: women, 16 per cent; visible minorities, 9.3 per cent; and Indigenous Peoples, 2.8 per cent.”

DND/CAF did not identify the representation of persons with disabilities as of July 2020 in their response to The Hill Times.

The CAF works closely with Statistics Canada to ensure that “labour market data they provide, and upon which the CAF sets its employment equity representation rate goals, is reflective of the unique occupations and employment criteria of the CAF.”

“DND/CAF is committed to reflecting the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Both long and short term goals have been created, based on the labour market analysis provided by Statistics Canada. We review our progress regularly to ensure that we are always working towards increasing representation rates,” said Mr. Smyth.”

Canadian Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency’s campaign encouraging self-identification began in 2017 and was repeated in 2018, according to Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson with the agency.

“They stressed the importance of understanding our workforce composition and reinforced that employee information would be protected. Recognizing that the Agency’s manual process might be contributing to response rates of 61 per cent, an online form was piloted with success in 2019 and was set to be launched in March 2020 as part of our ‘Your Voice Matters’ campaign. It has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts are focused on how best to virtually promote self-identification,” she said.

Employment Equity Act ‘has served Canada and the public service well,’ says expert

Andrew Griffith, who is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad, told The Hill Times that the Employment Equity Act has served Canada and the public service well, and that the diversity of virtually every group has increased since the act was introduced.

“So the basic structure of the act, I think, has worked in the reporting structure and the data collection, and the publicity that comes with the results,” said Mr. Griffith, who is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute.

“But if you re-open the act, I’m just not sure that it’s worth all that much effort, time, and invariable divisiveness and controversies that it will raise,” said Mr. Griffith. “I’m thinking that if you want to use government time wisely, it would be more effective, I would think, [to look] at specific anti-racism initiatives and look at some of the specific barriers rather than a wholesale of revision of the act, because I think the challenge is less with the act and more with some of the practical stuff.”

Source: Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

Of note. Yet another initiative without apparent follow-up.

Although somewhat dated, this overall picture is unlikely to have changed significantly (in process of requesting updated reports for the CF (non-civilian), RCMP (non-civilian), CSIS and CSE as not covered in the TBS report):


The federal government still has “much work to be done” on addressing diversity and inclusion issues within its intelligence and security apparatus, according to a recent parliamentary committee report, with one leading intelligence expert suggesting more senior leadership within the Privy Council Office with “power and clout” is needed to oversee the problem—and questioning why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s launch of the “Tiger Team” in 2017 meant to address diversity and inclusion issues hasn’t met since July 2018.

In their lengthy 2019 annual report, which was tabled in Parliament only a few days before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown began in March, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused considerable attention on the issue of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.

The review was conducted for several reasons, according to the report, most importantly because “challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion persist in the security and intelligence community even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.”

“These issues are particularly important for organizations responsible for protecting the national security of Canada and the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

The report also notes that the “Tiger Team” established in 2017, created “with the stated aim of ‘exploring, advancing and implementing joint efforts to learn from one another and share best practices to enhance diversity and inclusion within and across [their] organizations through a variety of activities and initiatives,’” has not met since July 2018.

In January 2017, The leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Border Services Agency, CSIS, Canadian Security Establishment, Department of National Defense and the RCMP established the Tiger Team.

National security expert Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Hill Times that the initiative to create a Tiger Team was a product of a push by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) in late 2016, and ultimately resulted from a meeting Mr. Trudeau requested with the heads of agencies in the security and intelligence community as well as with the Privy Council Office.

“Sadly, the tigers seem ultimately to have gone to sleep,” according to Prof. Wark’s April 2020 working paper addressing the NSICOP’s findings. “It is time, perhaps, for the prime minister to crack the whip again.”

“This kind of Tiger Team concept moved into the lane of deliverology, in the sense that it was overseen by the deputy secretary to the cabinet, but I’m not sure that was the original idea—that’s just where it ended up in terms of maintaining some momentum and producing reports for a period of time,” according to Prof. Wark.

When it comes to the specifics of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, it was “probably a mistake to move it into that lane or allow it to be moved into that lane,” said Prof. Wark.

“If an initiative of this kind was going to be sustained and picked up by all the different elements of the security and intelligence community, it needed to be overseen by senior leadership in the PCO [outside] of the deliverology mechanism,” said Prof. Wark. “In other words, it should have been taken up as a priority by the national and security and intelligence advisor, and it’s that senior officer in PCO who would have the power and clout to really make sure that something significant happened in this way.”

“I don’t understand why the national security and intelligence adviser himself did not take this up, and the committee of parliamentarians notes that although it doesn’t attach any explicit criticism to this, the whole Tiger Team effort obviously just faded away all together after a period of time,” said Prof. Wark.

The deputy secretary to the cabinet resides within the PCO, underneath the Clerk, and the national security and intelligence advisor is a very senior deputy minister position that ranks almost as an equivalent position to the clerk of the Privy Council, according to Prof. Wark.

According to PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold, the work of the Tiger Team is ongoing, and currently chaired by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The Government of Canada appreciates the work undertaken by [NSICOP],” according to Mr. Bujold, [and] sees diversity and inclusion as an important means to making its national security and intelligence community even more effective in protecting Canadians,” according to Mr. Bujold in an emailed statement to The Hill Times.

“We have been working for a number of years to improve diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community. This is critical, not just in terms of better representing Canadian communities, but in making security and intelligence agencies more effective at doing their job.”

‘Diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations’

Mr. McGuinty, the committee’s chair, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement to The Hill Times, the executive director of the committee, Rennie Marcoux, wrote that although the report did not make any findings or recommendations as to the national security and intelligence adviser’s role within the Tiger Team, the committee recognizes the merit of the community approach to address diversity and inclusion issues—and that its recommendations reinforce the value of the coordinated effort.

“The security and intelligence community is best placed to determine which individual or office is best suited to lead or direct this work,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

In its conclusions, the report notes that “building diverse and inclusive workforces is essential to the effectiveness of the security and intelligence community.”

When asked to expand, Ms. Marcoux noted that in addition to the “well-documented” benefits of a diverse workplace and inclusive workforce across a large body of research, as well as the committee’s belief that Canada’s public service should reflect the population it serves, “a more diverse workforce ensures that organizations are benefitting from the broad range of perspectives and talent that Canada has to offer.”

“Finally, the committee notes that diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations because it allows them to leverage language skills, community contacts and cultural competencies, and protects against groupthink mindsets that permeate more homogeneous organizations,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

Tim McSorley, national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, told The Hill Times that “there needs to be a level of accountability and transparency in terms of what the words on paper mean.”

“I think a big question is that we see, year-after-year, whether it’s three-year plans or five-year plans or in line with Treasury Board recommendations, it seems like there’s a plan and then the next plan seems to repeat very similar issues around the importance of lowering barriers [around] increasing diversity and inclusion within these organizations,” said Mr. McSorley. “While it does seem that the numbers have gotten slightly better over the last 10 or 11 years, it doesn’t seem like anything new is coming out, it seems that it remains the same question each time a new plan is put together.”

“So what are they doing on the ground to actually change and to increase diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community,” said Mr. McSorley. “Who is accountable if they don’t meet those goals, and what kind of consequences are there?”

When asked about the Tiger Team, Mr. McSorley said that looking at some of the critiques within the report, the fact that it was concentrated solely of members from HR departments was part of the problem.

According to the report, the committee noted several shortcomings with this initiative, including the lack of specific objectives for diversity and inclusion as well as the development of a performance measurement framework to assess the success of its initiatives.

“The representatives from each organization were all from human resources departments and organizations did not seek out members of employment equity groups for membership or participation on the Tiger Team,” according to the report. “[Throughout] its discussions, the Tiger Team focused on short-term initiatives without considering systemic challenges raised in various organization-specific studies or class-action lawsuits (the CAF and the RCMP), such as workplace culture and discrimination.”

‘Things won’t change on their own’

The Abella Commission, which led to the creation of the Employment Equity Act, unfolded in 1984, said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“The first Employment Equity Act was in 1986. The current [act] is 25 years old, and that act calls for serious accountability measures, serious long-term and short-term goal setting, serious monitoring and reviews for organization accountability,” said Ms. Aviv.

“So we always need to be optimistic and hopeful and try to move things forward, but we’ve also been working on these issues for a very long time,” said Ms. Aviv. “There are clear obligations there, obligations that, according to this report, have simply not been met.”

Ms. Aviv said she believes that there is a notion that things are getting better, they get better on their own, and that patience is required to change organizational culture.

“But if you actually look at the trajectory and the amount of time that’s passed, and the amount of harm that’s been done to people in these organizations, and the ill-effect it’s having on the effectiveness of the organizations themselves, then you understand that things won’t change on their own,” said Ms. Aviv.

According to RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin, the RCMP has implemented a number of initiatives to increase the ratio of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous people within their ranks, with objectives to include 30 per cent women, 20 per cent of people from visible minority groups, and 10 per cent Indigenous people.

“We intend to reach these goals through a targeted approach to recruiting, using advertising and marketing to position the RCMP as the employer of choice to people who may not have considered a career in policing,” according to Ms. Fortin. “The RCMP is committed to inclusiveness and diversity of all types within the organization. We believe that the more diverse we are when it comes to gender, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation, the better we are able to serve all Canadians.”

According to DND spokesperson Major T.A. Smyth, “DND and the CAF place unprecedented emphasis on ensuring diversity and gender equality in military human resource management as part of efforts to strengthen the operational force and to position DND and the CAF as inclusive organizations. Diversity is viewed as a source of strength and flexibility to build the capacity of the CAF and the civilian workforce.”

“DND and the CAF are working with other government departments as a community and considering the findings and recommendations of this report to inform future decision making,” according to Mr. Smyth. “Various experiences, knowledge, and skillsets contribute to our operational effectiveness. By increasing the representativeness of our Forces and our civilian personnel to reflect Canadian society, diversity enables DND and CAF to be forward-looking, resilient, and relevant.”

—-

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians made the following recommendations in it’s 2019 Annual Report, released in March 2020:

1. The committee conduct a retrospective review in three to five years to assess the security and intelligence community’s progress in achieving and implementing its diversity goals and inclusion initiatives.

2. The security and intelligence community adopt a consistent and transparent approach to planning and monitoring of employment equity and diversity goals, and conduct regular reviews of their employment policies and practices.

3. The security and intelligence community improve the robustness of its data collection and analysis, including GBA+ assessments of internal staffing and promotion policies and clustering analyses of the workforce.

4. The security and intelligence community develop a common performance measurement framework, and strengthen accountability for diversity and inclusion through meaningful and measurable performance indicators for executives and managers across all organizations.

Source: PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

Why CSIS believes Canada is a ‘permissive target’ for China’s interference

Useful reminder, as Canada faces the ongoing hostage taking of the two Michaels by the Chinese government, of the need for greater caution in dealing with the Chinese government and its various entities:

Canada is an “attractive and permissive target” for Chinese interference that endangers the “foundations of our fundamental institutions, including our system of democracy itself,” according to a recent national security review.

The reason, experts suggest, is because China’s Communist Party has won the support of some influential Canadians by using economic carrots and sticks, while public attention on Beijing’s broad campaign is “almost non-existent.”

The national security review says “for years Canadian Security Intelligence Service has investigated and reported on the threat” of foreign interference. But unlike Canada’s Western intelligence allies, Ottawa hasn’t responded with strong countermeasures.

Chinese-Canadian community leader asks Ottawa to offer support against Beijing influence networks

In an interview, Global News pressed Liberal MP David McGuinty, chair of the national security and intelligence committee, to explain why Canada is “permissive” of China’s methods.

McGuinty said he could only answer by citing the report findings because of its sensitivity. He chose to read this quote: “The People’s Republic of China utilizes its growing economic wealth to mobilize interference operations: ‘with deep coffers and the help of western enablers, the Chinese Communist Party uses money, rather than Communist ideology, as a powerful source of influence, creating parasitic relationships of long-term dependence.’”

‘Sweetheart deals’

The committee’s report named two countries — Russia and China — among those conducting “sophisticated and pervasive foreign interference activities against Canada.”

But intelligence officials and former diplomats, including Canada’s former ambassador to China, believe China is the greater threat, in large part because the country has been successful in “elite capture.”

“China is the No. 1 threat to Canada and has been for some time,” David Mulroney, former ambassador to China, said in an interview.

China has used its economic leverage to secure “the voices” of political and business leaders in Canada with “sweetheart business deals” and “various inducements,” including lucrative board positions or honours in China, he said.

And as a result, Mulroney said he often hears people reciting Beijing’s line on issues such as the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou or are silent in the face of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs and incursions on democracy in Hong Kong.

“There are people a lot more senior than I was in government, and they have some serious business links with China,” Mulroney said. “China is very willing to weaponize trade and investment to compel people to say what they want them to say.”

The argument that Mulroney and experts interviewed by Global News make is not that all Canadian politicians and businesses that have traded with China have been influenced. Rather, they say, Beijing has targeted elites and deftly attempted to interweave the CCP’s interests with Canada’s economic interests, seeking to bend major decisions away from Canada’s democratic values.

And they say Canadians should see Hong Kong as a case study.

But recent events in the United States, Australia and Canada suggest that pushing back on China’s interference could have consequences. In 2019, China called for the firing of an NBA executive who tweeted support for Hong Kong, using the NBA’s business in China as leverage.

And Australia has faced trade sanction threats and was targeted in sophisticated state-based cyberattacks, its government said in June. Australia recently pressed for an international probe of Beijing’s actions in the coronavirus pandemic and Australia’s intelligence experts say China is likely behind the attacks. China denies the accusation.

And on Monday, Beijing warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “stop making irresponsible remarks,” according to The Associated Press, after Trudeau told reporters Beijing’s decision to charge Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with spying was related to the Meng case.

But despite warning signs of China’s incursions, Canadian academics, think tanks and media have been way behind the international curve in scrutinizing China’s “clandestine” tactics, Mulroney said.

“Canada is kind of a sleepy and unaware target,” he said. “We don’t have the same kind of vigilance that you now see in places like Australia and New Zealand. That had better change.”

United Front operations

China uses a vast network of political, business and media operatives directed from Beijing, known as the United Front, in attempts to co-opt Chinese-Canadian communities and leaders, Mulroney and the experts interviewed by Global News said.

In June, Alex Joske, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, released a report aimed at helping international journalists identify and demystify United Front networks.

In it, Joske defines the United Front as “the system at the heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to influence foreign politicians, meddle in ethnic Chinese communities and transfer technologies from abroad … it is an exportation of the CCP’s political system (which) undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage.”

He believes the United Front could be just as active in Canada as it is in Australia, where an alleged United Front leader, billionaire and casino high-roller became a major funder of Australian political parties. An Australian senator also allegedly accepted funds from Chinese agents and touted China’s South China Sea policy against Australia’s position after the billionaire threatened to withdraw a $400,000 political donation.

Joske said in order to understand the United Front, people should look at China’s patient campaign to control Hong Kong, where China has used front groups to co-opt political leaders, tycoons and institutions since the 1990s.

“Hong Kong is a long way down the track,” Joske said. “But by looking at Hong Kong, you understand how the United Front works.”

Joske’s report also underlined the United Front’s mobilization during the COVID-19 pandemic — in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and U.K., Japan, Argentina and the Czech Republic — “to gather increasingly scarce medical supplies from around the world and send them to China.”

And based on China’s success using United Front networks during thecoronavirus pandemic, Beijing can be expected to ramp up the intensity of its United Front interference worldwide as tensions between China and the world rise in the post-COVID-19 landscape, Joske said.

“The CCP’s attempts to interfere in diaspora communities, influence political systems and covertly access valuable and sensitive technology will only grow.”

Joske’s report says United Front pioneers such as Premier Zhou Enlai, a CCP revolutionary, said the United Front should use “the legal to mask the illegal,” and the CCP should be “nestling intelligence within the United Front.”

And Chinese President Xi Jinping has elevated the United Front’s prominence in Beijing’s global plans.

“The United Front … is an important magic weapon for strengthening the party’s ruling position … and an important magic weapon for realizing the China Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” Xi said in a 2015 speech.

But China does not acknowledge the United Front facilitates espionage.

‘Many elected officials’

Experts describe Beijing as holding out carrots and sticks.

And unfortunately, it is Chinese diaspora communities that often face the sticks. According to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, China uses “a range of tactics including threats, harassment, detention of family members abroad and refusal to issue travel documents or visas.”

Chinese-Canadian community leader Gloria Fung, director of democracy advocacy group Canada-Hong Kong Link, says she has seen China’s influence efforts in Canada become increasingly aggressive with both the carrot and the stick.

In the 1990s, United Front networks just made passive political donations to all Canadian political parties, Fung said. Now they are aggressively lobbying for Beijing’s policies, covertly offering political funding from Beijing and attempting to promote covert CCP party members for election, Fung claimed.

And Fung said she believes China has successfully influenced “many elected officials.”

“They could be bribing, offering money or material benefits to targets in the decision-making process,” Fung said. “Many elected officials are offered free tours to China. And many, when they returned, seem to have changed their positions towards China.”

Tensions reached a new level in August 2019, Fung said, when Hong Kong Canadians were targeted in anti-democracy counter-protests in a number of Canadian cities.

Fung pointed to a Hong Kong democracy counter-rally at Toronto’s Old City Hall on Aug. 17, where she says her group was surrounded by students and middle-aged leaders, who Fung associated with Toronto United Front groups.

A similar conflict occurred in Vancouver on Aug. 18 when a pro-China crowd surrounded a church where Hong Kong Canadians were praying.

By comparing photos and video of the event with pictures of meetings involving Chinese consulate officials, Global News sources identified several senior members in the crowd as directors of a pro-CCP association, which Chen Yonglin, a defected Chinese diplomat, alleges is a “controlling level” United Front group in Canada.

The pro-CCP association is part of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, a United Front group that Beijing uses to influence the Chinese diaspora, according to a 2018 report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“United Front work is Beijing’s strategy to influence overseas Chinese communities, foreign governments and other actors … mainly through economic or financial inducement,” the commission’s chair, Robin Cleveland, told Global News. “The CCP considers ethnic Chinese everywhere to ultimately be Chinese subjects, regardless of their citizenship, and seeks to treat them as resources to assist in ‘the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ whether they like it or not.”

A Chinese-Canadian academic ⁠— who is studying Beijing’s influence networks ⁠— agreed with Fung’s assessment of China’s efforts to control community groups.

The academic asked to remain anonymous because of fears that officials in Chinese consulates could interfere with their ongoing research.

“Many in the Chinese-Canadian diaspora do not want to have anything to do with the Chinese government. But unfortunately, immigrants from China and Hong Kong are not completely free from the government’s control and surveillance,” the academic said.

How Australia has combated the United Front

Most experts interviewed by Global News said Australia’s legislative reforms should be a model for other countries combating China’s interference campaigns.

In an interview, McGuinty, the intelligence committee chair, said the report underlined how Australia has taken concrete measures since 2018, including adding new offences to its Criminal Code.

The report says the new offences “provide a high degree of specificity on offences and threat activities, including on whether the activity was in the planning stages, intentional, reckless or funded by a foreign intelligence service.”

The penalties range from 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. And “the legislation creates a new transparency scheme that prescribes the registration of persons acting as agents of foreign principals and requires regular public disclosures.”

Trudeau questioned on reports of pressure from Chinese government on Chinese-Canadian citizens

In an interview, Mulroney said: “We need to invest in national security and insist on greater transparency.”

He said currently, Canadians have no real idea whether influential politicians and businesspersons are acting for China or Canada. And it is extremely difficult to hold Canadian citizens that may be acting against Canadian interests to account under current laws.

“What Australia have done is give transparency requirements some legal teeth,” Mulroney said. “And they use their intelligence apparatus to make the case against people that are not transparent. And I think we need to consider these things so Canadians become far more aware of who is speaking for whom.”

Gloria Fung agreed.

“Legislative tools on corruption and fishy transactions need to be closely monitored and put under Parliament’s radar,” Fung said. “Australia has all kinds of legislative tools to handle political collusion.”

McGuinty was asked by Global News to explain the evident gap between Canadian intelligence’s strong warnings of China’s interference and the federal government’s response.

McGuinty reiterated that the committee recommendations are bipartisan and straightforward, and the committee purposefully chose Australia as an exemplar to be considered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“We believe the government needs to up its game when it comes to foreign interference,” he said. “There is lots of room for improvement.”

‘Comparatively rare’

But University of B.C. China expert Prof. Paul Evans, who has argued for closer ties with China and published research indicating Canadians are losing confidence “about the role of the United States” in global affairs, told Global News “the discourse of ‘capture’ is especially dangerous.”

Evans draws a distinction between influence and “interference activities” and says “it is very difficult to estimate how many such incidents happen in Canada each year.”

“My sense is that they are comparatively rare,” Evans wrote in an email response. “It is unproductive to talk about undermining ‘institutions’ without specifying which ones are being discussed.”

Evans said it is “dangerous” to rely on Australia’s data and examples of foreign interference, and assume the same kinds and scale of interference activity is occurring in Canada.

“We have reached a dangerous phase of our debates about China policy where advocates of engagement, past and present, are being attacked not just for the content of their views and actions but also for their integrity and even loyalty,” Evans wrote. “This is vile terrain and reminiscent of the worst of the McCarthy era and anti-communist actions in the United States in the 1950s.”

Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/7075248/canada-china-interference-permissive-target/
Related commentary of interest:

Groups demand Ottawa take action over CSIS discrimination claims

Of note (CSIS has relatively stronger visible minority representation than most security agencies and issues annual reports as required by the Employment Equity Act as seen in the above chart):

The National Council of Canadian Muslims and two civil liberty organizations say they are “deeply troubled” by recent allegations of religious and racial discrimination within CSIS, and are demanding the federal government take “urgent, proactive and genuine” action to protect the rights of visible minority spies in the workplace.

“Public confidence in the agency demands public accountability,” says a letter that was hand-delivered to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in Ottawa earlier this week. “A categorical culture shift inside CSIS must be demonstrated before the public’s trust can be regained.”

The letter is in response to CBC News stories last week about a lawsuit from a longtime analyst in Canada’s intelligence service who alleges his Muslim faith marked him as a target for harassment, emotional abuse and even physical assaults.

His statement of claim, filed under an identity-masking pseudonym in Federal Court earlier this month, outlines what it says was a pattern of bullying and prejudice stretching back almost two decades that saw the man treated as a “second-class citizen” by co-workers and management.

Among its most disturbing details is an allegation that the agent was humiliated and assaulted while he prayed in his office by colleagues who would utter profanities and throw open his office door, hitting him in the head or body, as he kneeled on the carpet.

“I don’t think there is anybody in terms of the class of employees lower than the practising Muslim at the service,” the analyst told CBC in an exclusive interview.

Letter questions CSIS’s ‘organizational culture’

The letter to the public safety minister, also signed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, references past lawsuits by minority CSIS employees that were eventually settled out of court. It also questions the spy agency’s repeated claims that it has zero tolerance for discrimination in its workplace.

“The fact that Muslim and other minority CSIS employees have resorted to suing the agency in order to come forward and be heard raises many questions about the agency’s organizational culture, and its commitment to resolving its issue beyond making vague public statements,” the letter reads.

It also expresses concern that the agency’s culture of “total secrecy” might be inhibiting other affected employees from bringing misconduct complaints forward, or enabling managers to punish those who dare to voice objections about mistreatment.

“Retaliation by such agencies against truth-tellers is easy and devastatingly effective,” it warns.

A longtime employee is suing Canada’s spy agency for racial and religious discrimination. In this exclusive interview, the man — who can’t be identified by law — tells CBC News how his co-workers allegedly reacted when he would pray in his office. 1:37

As such, the three groups are asking Ottawa to extend federal whistleblower protections to CSIS employees, or give intelligence oversight bodies the explicit power to look into workplace complaints.

“We’re not advocating that these agents or employees reveal any sort of state secrets that would put security at risk,” said Sameha Omer, director of legal affairs for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “What we’re advocating for is that agents be able to be protected under whistleblower legislation. For them to be able to come forward internally, to be able to make that complaint, they need to know that even if they do come forward, they’re not going to face any sort of reprisal.”

Looking for more disclosure

The NCCM and the other signatories would also like more disclosure about the spy agency’s efforts to recruit and promote minorities within its ranks, suggesting that the government mandate “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” audits at least once every five years and share the results with the public.

A 2014 equity audit, released under Access to Information legislation, showed that 14.4 per cent of the spy agency’s 3,000 employees were visible minorities, while 3.6 per cent had disabilities and two per cent were Indigenous. At the time, none of CSIS’s senior managers were minority or Indigenous, and only 17 per cent were female.

Tim McSorley, the national co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group — a coalition of 45 NGOs, unions, professional associations, faith groups and environmental organizations — said the allegations of discrimination within CSIS raise questions about the agency’s external mindset, too.

“It really resonates around those issues of how CSIS approaches the Muslim community at large, if this is what happens to people within their own workplace,” McSorley said. “If this is how they treat a colleague and how they react to somebody’s background and religion in the workplace, particularly someone of the Muslim faith, then what does that signal to the communities that they are meant to be protecting?”

McSorley said his group is hopeful that the Liberal government will take meaningful action to make the intelligence service more accountable to both Parliament and the public.

“[The government] has talked a lot about bringing more transparency,” he said. “I think this provides another real opportunity to them to make good on that.”

Blair’s office declined an interview request, but a statement provided to the CBC says that he is concerned about all allegations of harassment and discrimination.

“We are committed to ensuring that our security agencies are worthy of the trust of Canadians and we are committed to strengthening accountability. Across all agencies and departments, our government will strive to ensure that all employees are treated with fairness, respect and dignity, and we will work tirelessly to foster a workplace that is safe for all,” it reads.

But Omer said that platitudes about diversity and inclusion won’t suffice this time, and that the National Council of Canadian Muslims needs to know what steps CSIS has already taken to confront discrimination in the workplace — and what more they will do in the face of the new allegations.

“Our organization, our community itself, they want answers,” she said. “We do want to know what happened.”

Source: Groups demand Ottawa take action over CSIS discrimination claims

CSIS settles multimillion-dollar lawsuit with employees who claimed workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia

Appears new CSIS director understood the implications and reacted quickly:

Canada’s spy service has settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with five intelligence officers and analysts who claimed they faced years of discrimination because they were gay, Muslim or Black.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service posted a comment from director David Vigneault on the agency’s website Thursday afternoon, stating that the agreement had been reached with the help of a mediator.

“The settlement is in the best interest of all those concerned,” Vigneault wrote. “The complexity of the ever-evolving threat environment requires that all CSIS employees are equipped to give their best. As such, I strongly believe in leading an organization where each employee promotes a workplace which is free from harassment and conducive to the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

CSIS did not release the terms of the settlement, saying they are confidential.

Toronto lawyer John Phillips, who represented the five employees, said he could not comment on the case.

The $35-million lawsuit, launched in July, was a rare public airing of internal complaints at one of Canada’s most secretive organizations and contained detailed allegations about managers who openly espoused Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views.

Some of the most damning claims concerned emails allegedly sent by managers to Toronto intelligence officer “Alex.” (The five employees and managers are identified by pseudonyms as identifying a spy can be considered an offence under Canada’s Security of Information Act.)

“Alex,” is gay and has a Muslim partner. According to the statement of claim, one email allegedly sent in October 2015 stated: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”

Vigneault, who had only been appointed director a few weeks before the lawsuit was launched, responded quickly to the allegations.

As the Star reported in October, he invited the five employees to a lengthy meeting to hear the allegations first-hand. He also released a statement acknowledging that his agency suffers from a workplace climate of “retribution, favouritism, bullying and other problems,” which he said is “categorically unacceptable in a high-functioning, professional organization.”

via CSIS settles multimillion-dollar lawsuit with employees who claimed workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia | Toronto Star

CSIS faces $35-million harassment, discrimination lawsuit

Of the three – CSIS, Canadian Forces and RCMP – CSIS has the best visible minority  numbers:

Canada’s spy agency is being sued by five employees who are looking for upwards of $35 million in damages over allegations of years of harassment and discrimination based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

A statement of claim filed in Federal Court alleges that harassment, bullying and “abuse of authority” is rife within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and that managers condone such behaviour.

The allegations are based on the experiences of five employees, none of whom can be legally identified within the document.

They allege that the harassment they have faced over years has caused them embarrassment, depression, anxiety and loss of income. They also allege that their complaints were ignored or dismissed by senior managers, some of whom suggested they should keep quiet out of fear of reprisal.

None of the allegations in the 54-page document have been tested in court.

In a statement, CSIS director David Vigneault says the agency does not tolerate harassment under any circumstance, which is reflected in the employee code of conduct.

Any allegations of inappropriate behaviour are taken seriously, he says.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have yet to respond to a request for comment.

Source: CSIS faces $35-million harassment, discrimination lawsuit – The Globe and Mail

Watchdog condemns lack of diversity in CSIS senior staff

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001Valid observations but in the context of other security-related agencies, the RCMP and the Canadian Forces, CSIS looks good as indicated in the above chart:

The federal government’s human-rights watchdog has repeatedly admonished the Canadian Security Intelligence Service over a lack of diversity in its upper echelons, according to newly disclosed reports.

Records obtained by The Globe and Mail show that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has conducted two employment equity audits of CSIS over the past decade and, on both occasions, the spy agency was criticized because it had not hired a sufficient number of visible minorities, people with disabilities and indigenous Canadians.

The 2014 and 2011 audits found that none of CSIS’s senior managers were indigenous or visible minorities, and only 17 per cent are women, a decrease of 13 per cent since 2009. “Your organization has a lower overall EE [employment equity] result when compared to separate agencies and is therefore considered to be a less successful employer with respect to EE,” the commission wrote, urging the agency to close gaps in its hiring practices. One of its main challenges, the commission noted, was to increase the diversity of its managerial staff.

Formed three decades ago from a former RCMP intelligence division, CSIS is a $500-million-a-year organization with 3,000 employees. Many of its staff are intelligence officers who work to identify terrorists and other threats to national security. Such work has sometimes led to tensions with indigenous and Muslim groups, who have accused the agency of racial profiling.

The documents, obtained under Access to Information laws, offer a sober assessment of an agency that has at times struggled to attract recruits from varied backgrounds, and sheds new light on the workplace culture of the country’s secretive spy service.

One of the areas in which CSIS exceeded the commission’s targets, which are based on the availability of people from different groups in the work force, is gender equity across its departments. According to a 2014 equity report, 48 per cent of CSIS employees are women, a figure that is above the government average.

And over all, 2 per cent of its employees are indigenous, 3.6 per cent have disabilities and 14.4 per cent are visible minorities. Those numbers are generally representative of the country’s population, but they are slightly below the commission’s targets.

A spokeswoman for CSIS said the agency sees diversity as a “core business strategy,” one that allows its agents to “better understand the demographics of the Canadian communities we protect, therefore better equipping us to collect relevant and accurate intelligence.” The human-rights commission investigates government departments that are less diverse than their peers. Under federal law, every department and agency with at least 500 employees is subject to a review of its work force every three years. If a group of Canadians is not well represented, an audit is done.

The documents also suggest visible minorities and indigenous people were sometimes undervalued within CSIS. Members of those groups faced “attitudinal barriers” from colleagues and did not always receive the training needed to “advance to a higher level either due to lack of time, funding or management support,” a report said.

Source: Watchdog condemns lack of diversity in CSIS senior staff – The Globe and Mail

Spy agencies see sharp rise in number of Canadians involved in terrorist activities abroad – The Globe and Mail

Not totally unsurprising that the numbers have increased, as well as our ability to detect:

Canada’s spy agencies have tracked 180 Canadians who are engaged with terrorist organizations abroad, while another 60 have returned home.

The latest figures mark a significant increase from the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, which identified about 130 people involved in terror-related activities overseas, including 30 taking an active role with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the Nusra Front in Syria.

“The total number of people overseas involved in threat-related activities – and I’m not just talking about Iraq and Syria – is probably around 180,” Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe told The Globe and Mail after testifying before the House of Commons public safety committee. “In Iraq and Syria, we are probably talking close to 100.”

These people are involved in various activities, including direct combat, training, fundraising to support attacks, promoting radical views and planning terrorist violence.

Mr. Coulombe said about 60 suspected foreign fighters have returned to Canada, although he stressed the numbers keep changing almost daily.

Source: Spy agencies see sharp rise in number of Canadians involved in terrorist activities abroad – The Globe and Mail

Phil Gurski’s take on their testimony:

I think the most important message in all this is that despite a rise in those who pose a real terrorist threat, the number is still relatively low, and perhaps manageable – though I will of course leave it to CSIS and the RCMP to make that call – in comparison to other countries.  Our allies in Europe and the Middle East are facing threats that are orders of magnitude larger than ours.  We here in Canada remain more or less safe: that does not mean that the threat is not real and that we can start shaving money and resources from our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  Again, though, it is important to see the positive side of this.  Sorry for the repetition, but the terrorist scourge does not represent an existential threat to this country and most likely never will.  The glass is half full people.

The current terrorist threat environment in Canada

 

Advise to the Liberal government on security oversight and countering violent extremism: Gurski

Phil Gurski’s advice to the Liberal government on oversight and countering violent extremism:

a) whatever model is chosen it has to be a made in Canada one.  I see that the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, is visiting some of our Allies to see how they do things.  This is a good start, but in the end we have to come up with our own solution. We can certainly learn, both the good and the bad, from what others have done.  Yet we have this Canadian tendency to defer to others (“let’s just do what the US is doing!”).  I saw it so many times when I worked for the federal government.  Maybe it’s good ol’ Canadian deference, I don’t know.  But it has to stop.  We have good people and good ideas too.

b) we need to build on what we already have started.  Especially on the CVE front, Public Safety Canada – specifically the Citizen Engagement section – had a wonderfully successful outreach programme in place that was paying off huge dividends before some – ahem, unfortunate – government-led incidents brought it to a standstill.  I know that there are community leaders across Canada who want to restart this.  Not only was it successful here but other countries had expressed interest in learning from ushow to do CVE.  Let us use this as our new jumping off point.

c) we need to inform Canadians.  Yes there are aspects to security intelligence that cannot be disclosed, but regular messaging from the government, and preferably from the heads of CSIS and the RCMP, will serve to keep Canadians in the loop on the nature of the threat we face and avoid the vacuum that currently exists and which is filled by those with little insight or knowledge of what is happening.

d) we need to hear from Canadians at all levels: federal, provincial, territorial, first nations, municipal and average Joes and Jills.  There are some amazing efforts currently in force at the city police level with respect to early intervention – Calgary Police’s Redirect programme and Toronto Police’s Focus Rexdale are but two examples – that are working and should be picked up on.  The solutions we need often begin locally so we need to bring in local, knowledgeable partners.  Let us also ask Canadians what they think.  Perhaps another public Parliamentary set of hearings is warranted.

There.  That’s my two-cents’ worth.  Have at ‘er.  At the end of the day we can do this and do this well.  We already have world class security intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Let’s match that when we create oversight and CVE capability.

Source: Borealis Threat & Risk Consulting

Former CSIS analyst on homegrown terrorism and Islamic doctrine – The Globe and Mail

Good interview with Phil Gurski, former CSIS homegrown terrorism expert, regarding the messages in his new book, The Threat From Within. Last para particularly noteworthy:

You write that extremism is like the aphorism about real estate and location – but “narrative, narrative, narrative.”

What they [al-Qaeda-inspired radicals] are propagating and distributing is this conviction they are responding to our aggression as Westerners, and they are merely defending themselves. And that’s not true, but it doesn’t have to be true to be effective. The whole point of the book is there is no pattern to this. We have to accept that terrorists come from us. They come from Canadian society. They are not off-the-boat immigrants.

You point out, though, the narrative is partly rooted in religious doctrine, or at least concepts like jihad, hijra …

Here’s the dilemma that mainstream Muslims face: The people who commit these acts of terrorism see themselves as actually representative Muslims. In fact, they see themselves as the only true Muslims and start criticizing everyone else as being non-Muslims. So it comes from within Islam, but it is not Islam. How do we accept they have taken pieces of 1,400 years of Islamic history, and use it to their advantage?

You write that fundamentalist imams in Canada should be challenged.

Even if we’re not talking about terrorism, if we’re talking about small pockets of society that will basically advocate intolerance and rejection of other parts of society, do we want a country like that? What the [fundamentalist preachers] do is they are very intolerant and rejectionist of other Muslims, let alone non-Muslims. I think we have an obligation to challenge this, to argue against this.

But our political leaders don’t know the difference between Islamic doctrines.

Politicians are going to do what politicians are going to do. That’s fine. Everyone recognizes if we’re going to talk about this issue, to do something about it at an early level, we need early intervention, before it becomes a security-intelligence issue. The government’s role is to foster and encourage the grassroots that are starting in this country. The government role has to be very much a background role.

But if the problem is narrative, and the narrative has had 1,400 years, how does someone in Ottawa come up with a program to counter it?

The line I like to use – and it really shocks some audiences – is that right now the only solution we have is to start with the four-year-olds. If we can get all the four-year-olds to understand what this narrative is saying and reject it, we’ll be fine.

Like in junior-high assemblies where the police used to say, “Don’t do drugs?”

No, it’s more than that. We as a society have to understand the child you’re raising has to be raised in an environment of tolerance and acceptance. So if you can get that right across the board – not just Muslim communities, not just immigrant communities, but in Wonder Bread white communities – we’re going to be in good shape.

Source: Former CSIS analyst on homegrown terrorism and Islamic doctrine – The Globe and Mail