Trudeau cabinet peeves MPs, Senators over refusal to disclose parliamentarian spies

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians said Monday that some MPs are ‘wittingly or semi-wittingly’ helping foreign governments. MPs and senators increasingly want the culprits to be unmasked and expelled.

Trudeau cabinet peeves MPs, Senators over refusal to disclose parliamentarian spies
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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Members of Parliament and Senators alike want the names of lawmakers who spied for foreigners as calls for clarity fall on deaf ears.

Parliamentarians complained Wednesday they were all “under a cloud” with cabinet’s refusal to disclose names. 

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) said Monday that some MPs are “wittingly or semi-wittingly” helping foreign governments.

The committee report, Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada's Democratic Processes and Institutions, revealed that MPs leaked confidential information to Indian government officials. They advocated on their behalf in exchange for secret payments.

It also revealed that a former MP had maintained a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer and sought a meeting with that officer while in a foreign country.

MPs and senators increasingly want the culprits to be unmasked and expelled, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“All of us are currently under a cloud,” said Senator Percy Downe. Cabinet must take steps to determine if there were spies in the Senate, he said.

“These are particularly concerning examples of behaviour by a few parliamentarians,” said the Foreign Interference report. “Some may be illegal.”

Though the foreign state was not named, the report noted China “is clearly the most prolific actor” in clandestine operations.

“Foreign interference has extended its tentacles into the House,” said Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien, who claimed the 44th Parliament was compromised. 

“Parties must rise to the occasion,” he said.

The last time a parliamentarian was convicted of espionage was in 1947 with the jailing of MP Fred Rose as a Soviet agent. He served six years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act.

A second Communist MP, Dorise Nielsen, lost re-election in 1945 but remained under RCMP surveillance until her defection to China.

MPs and Senators broiled their government representatives for clarity this week but to no avail.

“Will you be asking the Senate Ethics Officer to investigate foreign interference involving senators?” asked Senator Downe. “I am not in possession of information regarding individual parliamentarians,” said Marc Gold, a Government Representative in the Senate. 

“Who are these Liberals?” asked Senator Leo Housakos. “It is shocking that you would stand up here and assume you know who those members are,” replied Senator Gold. “I simply will not give you more of an answer.”

A reporter asked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for reassurance Monday that said MPs would be booted from caucus if they were Liberals. Freeland did not answer the question directly.

“The guarantee I can give to Canadians is that our government takes foreign interference very, very seriously,” said Freeland. “We have put in place tougher measures than existed under the previous conservative government to fight foreign interference,” she added.

“From my perspective, foreign interference is not a partisan issue. Foreign interference is an issue about the national interest.”

During Question Period on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre inquired about their identities. ”He knows better than that,” replied Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“No responsible government would reveal names in circumstances of specific intelligence,” continued LeBlanc. He did not specify what if any steps would be taken against foreign agents.

NSICOP examined roughly 4,000 documents totalling more than 33,000 pages, briefings from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP, and interviews with people including the Prime Minister.

Minister LeBlanc tried to reassure Canadians in testimony to the committee. He said that national security agencies and the police have the resources to investigate and lay charges as they deem appropriate.

“That’s our system in a rule of law democracy. It’s not simply releasing a series of names.”

However, NSICOP continues to fight the Trudeau government for access to all the documents, reads a separate but related report published Wednesday.

The committee only had access to four documents covered by cabinet confidence. It could not access hundreds of others.

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