Canadian feds continue to get a failing grade on intelligence

Intelligence is meant to be shared with those who have a ‘need to know’: why does the Canadian government not get this?

This piece first appeared in the Epoch Times Canada on August 27, 2023.

As a kid growing up in London (Ontario) in the 1960s and 1970s I had it made. I had two older brothers and was able to enjoy hand-me-downs from them as the years went on.

One such benefit was being the recipient of comic books, especially superhero ones. This was of course well before the Marvel/DC universe of blockbuster movies that has largely redefined the genre. I had to settle for actually reading the adventures of Superman, the Hulk, Spiderman, etc. And it was a lot of fun.

At the back of these comic books were pages of ads for all kinds of things. X-ray specs, Charles Atlas he-man training, and other such questionable items. One I recall vividly was the ad for “Sea Monkeys.” These were accompanied by alluring drawings of monkey families, and the suggestion was that I too could have these amazing little creatures as pets (they looked rather alien, antennas and such, in a way).

I never did order sea monkeys and later learned that my decision was the right one, for these “monkeys” were nothing more than brine shrimp, not miniature apes. So much for truth in advertising in the ’60s and ’70s!

Alas, the gap between what some offer and what they deliver in the end is still with us. Except this time it involves national security and, more narrowly, Chinese interference in Canada and what the government knew or didn’t know about this threat.

Some months ago, after the highly inadequate Johnston report on the Trudeau Liberals’ disdain for CSIS reports on Beijing’s actions in Canada, the government came out with a new offer. And it bore an alarming resemblance to “sea monkeys”!

What the government put on the table was a chance for the leaders of the opposition parties (Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, NDP, and Green) to get a once-in-a-lifetime peek behind the top-secret security curtain at what CSIS had provided to the ruling party. That the ruling party pretended not to have seen this intelligence is a whole other issue.

Conservative Leader Poilievre and Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet declined to sign up, fearing that to do so would prevent them from speaking about the allegations publicly. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, however, took the bait. And the latter was less than impressed.

Ms. May noted: “I can’t conclude that David Johnston’s conclusions were reasonable, nor can I conclude they are unreasonable. A document that is laboriously referenced but unavailable does not help me do what David Johnston said we’d be able to do, which was to see how he formed his conclusions and add whether we agree or disagree that his conclusions were reasonable.”

In other words, the promised access turned out to be nothing more than tiny brine shrimp!

That this happened should surprise no one. The Trudeau government has consistently tried to avoid criticism over its handling of the PRC interference affair, claiming it did not know the extent of it. This flies in the face of decades of CSIS intelligence on the matter, intelligence that was sent to the highest officials in the land.

This latest ploy is in keeping with others on this matter: appointing a less than non-partisan David Johnston in the first place to conduct a review, dithering on a public inquiry, accusing critics of anti-Asian racism, etc. All in all, a deplorable reaction to a very real threat to our democracy.

Yes, there are challenges to allowing more and more people into the classified tent, but these are quite easily managed. Those given access are made to understand the sensitivity of the information (sources and methods) and are held to the same standards to protect it as those of us who worked in intelligence in Canada. That the government is still failing to provide relevant data on the issue says something, although exactly what it is afraid of acknowledging is beyond me.

While I am neutral on the need for a public inquiry, I do believe Canadians deserve to be told who dropped the ball (and why) on the nature and scope of Beijing’s attempts to undermine our elections, as well as the extent of their harassment of Chinese Canadians and others. It is quite evident the government is dragging its heels in this regard and, as a consequence, the PRC will assume it can keep doing what it has been doing for decades.

Perhaps it is time for a new approach.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.