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CSIS does have spies abroad
By Jen Ross, PoliticsWatch.com
First Web Posted: October 18, 2001 @ 5:00 pm

(c) Jen Ross - PoliticsWatch, 2001OTTAWA - Canadian Alliance MPs were surprised to hear that Canada does in fact have foreign intelligence-gathering operations abroad after two top-level officials testified before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration Thursday.

The Alliance and the PC-DR Coalition have been hammering the government for weeks after it was reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has no foreign spies or personnel involved in intelligence-gathering on foreign soil.

At the standing committee meeting, CSIS director Ward Elcock refuted that claim. He said Canadian agents are sent abroad and there are also locally engaged staff abroad with which CSIS has ''liaison.''

He added that CSIS's cooperation with other intelligence agencies and police is ''enormous.''

The statement by CSIS's head honcho came as a surprise to many in the room.

''That's something that I haven't heard of CSIS being involved in before, but they do have the mandate to be able to do that,'' said Canadian Alliance MP Art Hanger. ''Most of their activity has been on the homeland.'' 

(c) Jen Ross - PoliticsWatch, 2001RCMP commissionaire Guiliano Zaccardelli, who also appeared before the committee, insisted that Canada is still one of the safest countries in the world, and he stressed that this is at least partly due to the fact that we have excellent intelligence-gathering capabilities.

During Question Period Wednesday, deputy PC-DRC leader Chuck Strahl suggested that Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley said that to protect the public, Canada needs to establish a permanent foreign-intelligence agency. But Manley told Strahl he ''has it wrong,'' and that there are foreign intelligence-gathering capacities in existing agencies. He added, however, that these were not equivalent to a full-scale foreign intelligence-gathering service.

Hanger suggested the confusion about Canada's intelligence capabilities has arisen because security services have not done a good job of informing the public. He said they could do so without going into details that would compromise national security. 

''The assurances from the government and the bureaucracy have not rested well with the people of this country,'' said Hanger. ''There are still a lot of questions, there's still a lot of uncertainty, and I think those things can be addressed.''

Part of the committee meeting was held in camera, during which Hanger said he learned even more about Canadian capabilities. He said both Elcock and Zaccardelli answered a lot of questions during the public portion, but left many others unanswered, for understandable security reasons. 

One of the questions Bloc MP Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral would have liked to have seen answered was exactly what kind of information will be appearing on the new permanent resident cards for immigrants, which were announced last week.

''Will you include my eye colour ... my bone mass?'' asked Dalphond-Guiral at committee. ''If you refuse to tell me what will be on that card, that makes me even more nervous.''

Elcock did not elaborate, and jokingly excused himself for adding to her worries. 

Zaccardelli commented that the RCMP plans to talk to ethnic communities about security issues. He also said that the North American security perimeter is a misnomer, because as moves towards a ''global alliance of policing'' continue, he said Canadian and American police operate at times ''as if there were no border.''

Alliance immigration critic Paul Forseth commented after the meeting that Elcock and Zaccardelli appeared to be ''squirming in their chairs'' after tough questions were asked, such as the degree of political independence the RCMP does or does not have.


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