|By Jen Ross, PoliticsWatch.com
First Web Posted: October 18, 2001 @ 5:00 pm
- 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.''
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
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
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
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
''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
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.