Oct 1/97: Spy agency given sweeping powers


Vancouver Sun
October 1, 1997, Page A3
Jim Bronskill

[Please note: The following mainstream article may contain distorted or inaccurate information and may be missing important facts and/or context. It is provided for reference purposes only - S.I.S.I.S.]

Ottawa - The federal solicitor-general revealed Tuesday that Canada's spy agency has been granted unprecedented powers over the last two years. Andy Scott admitted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has in some cases had authority to eavesdrop on people without judicial approval - a practice blasted by a Federal Court judge this weekend as unconstitutional.

Prominent criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby said he was flabbergasted CSIS had been handed the power to freely decide whom it could wiretap. "That's the hallmark of a police state," he said. "It's very serious." CSIS requires a warrant approved by the court to electronically eavesdrop on a suspected terrorist or other person considered a threat to Canada. But Scott said judges have in recent years allowed CSIS to tack a special clause on to such warrants that gives the spy agency leeway to eavesdrop on other suspects it discovers in midstream without returning to the court for permission, which presumably takes extra time and effort.

"I'm advised that this particular clause has been used, and the courts have allowed it in the past," Scott said after question period in the House of Commons. "And I understand now that the court has decided that perhaps we should take another look at it." In a decision released Monday, Federal Court Justice Donna McGillis rejected a recent CSIS proposal, approved by Scott, to include the special clause in warrants to investigate a particular security threat. No details of the case were revealed in the ruling. The clause would permit CSIS to listen in on someone the service believed to be a threat to Canadian security.

In effect, it delegates to a CSIS employee powers normally held only by a federal judge, McGillis wrote. "The proposed clause would vest in a service employee the discretion to apply the terms of the warrant against a person, without a judge ever scrutinizing the evidence to determine whether intrusive powers ought to be used against the individual." Nothing in the CSIS Act allows such a move, which would be unconstitutional in any event, she said, citing a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision. Scott said government lawyers were reviewing the Federal Court ruling, and that he hoped to study it in detail today.

He acknowledged signing the CSIS proposal for expanded wiretap powers that McGillis rejected, suggesting he was told the request was nothing out of the ordinary. "The clause in question, I'm advised, has been used over the last couple of years." CSIS representative Marcia Wetherup confirmed the service had used the clause "numerous times" in investigations of foreign nationals visiting Canada. Scott was appointed solicitor-general in June, succeeding Herb Gray. Ruby criticized the ministers and judges who have approved CSIS use of the clause. "They must have all been asleep."


Extensive CSIS activity including interceptions of communications, and surveillance of persons even peripherally connected with the traditionalist sovereignty struggle was revealed during the Gustafsen Lake trial. The demonization of protesters as "terrorists" allows CSIS to target activists.

Canadian Security & Intelligence Service (CSIS)
Phone toll free: 1-800-267-7685
The Security & Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) is supposedly an independent body to review the activities of CSIS and "protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians." Ask them if they have examined CSIS role in the targeting of Indigenous activists at Gustafsen Lake, and how they missed the practices noted in the above article.
Security & Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)
Email: sirc@synapse.net or http://www.sirc-csars.gc.ca/comments/cmts_e.html
Claire Malone: call collect, (613) 990-8441
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To: sirc@synapse.net

Dear SIRC,

Please investigate the activities of CSIS in conjunction with the Gustafsen Lake operation in 1995. Specifically, interceptions of privileged solicitor-client communications between Dr. Bruce Clark, as well as surveillance by CSIS in general. You will, or should be aware that the entire operation was a complete fiasco, and despite the fact that unindicted co-conspirators include highly placed NDP Provincial and Federal officials, I would hope that the targetting of "native extremism" would be exposed for what it is: a thinly disguised colonialist strategem for the suppression of legitimate decolonization, self-determination, and avoidance of the rule of law concerning the lack of jurisdiction of BC and Canada on unceded lands.

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