Conservative Leader Calls On Liberal Government To Release Names Of MPs Accused Of Helping Foreign States | CBC News

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says that Canadians have a right to know the names of the MPs accused in an explosive new intelligence report of “wittingly” working on behalf of foreign state actors.

On Monday, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a cross-party committee of MPs and senators with top security clearances, released a heavily redacted document alleging some parliamentarians have actively helped foreign governments like China and India meddle in Canadian politics. 

“The national security committee indicates there are members of this House who have knowingly worked for foreign hostile governments. Canadians have a right to know who and what is the information,” Poilievre said during question period Wednesday. “Who are they?”

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, whose portfolio includes both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP, said in response that it would be inappropriate to release the names of MPs under suspicion. 

WATCH | Poilievre calls on government to name MPs linked to foreign collusion by intelligence report 

Poilievre calls on government to name MPs linked to foreign collusion by intelligence reportIn the House of Commons, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said MPs accused in a recent intelligence report of colluding with foreign governments should be named publicly ‘so Canadians can judge.’

“The leader of the opposition knows very well no government, including the government [of] which he was a member, is going to discuss particularities of intelligence information publicly. So he knows better than that,” he said.

He did suggest that Poilievre go through the process of obtaining a security clearance so he can review the confidential information cited in the report.

“He would be much more informed than he is now and we would invite him to do so, so he wouldn’t stand up and cast aspersions on the floor of the House of Commons without any information whatsoever,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc has cast some doubt already on some of the report’s findings, and has suggested it left out important context.

“The government’s concerns centre around the interpretation of intelligence reports, which lacked the necessary caveats inherent to intelligence, as well as the lack of acknowledgement of the full breadth of outreach that has been done with respect to informing parliamentarians about the threat posed by foreign interference,” he said the day the report was released. 

NSICOP chair says it’s up to the RCMP to probe allegations The NSICOP report has sparked a fierce debate about the soundness of its intelligence and whether voters have a right to know whether their MP has been accused of working for another state.

Facing a barrage of questions Wednesday morning before a Liberal caucus meeting, NSICOP chair David McGuinty repeatedly told reporters that he and other members of the committee have taken an oath of secrecy and can’t divulge the names or any material behind the report’s redactions.

“Look, the committee’s hands are tied. We can only release what we release,” he said.

“The members have always wanted to be more transparent, rather than less. We have gone as far as we can in this review to reveal information without being in breach of the Security of Information Act.”

WATCH: NSICOP chair explains why he can’t name names 

NSICOP chair explains why he can’t name parliamentarians cited in foreign interference reportDavid McGuinty, MP and chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, says he and members of the committee who compiled the report could be prosecuted if they release the names of parliamentarians alleged to have conspired with foreign governments.

McGuinty said it’s up to the RCMP to decide what happens next.

“The question of whether or not this issue is followed up on is a question rightly put to the RCMP,” he said. 

“It’s up to the RCMP to decide, on the basis of any intelligence or evidence they may have in their possession, whether they’re going to take steps or not.” 

In a statement issued to CBC News, the RCMP said it can confirm there are “investigations into a broad range of foreign interference in Canada.”

“The RCMP will not provide comment [on] whether there is an active criminal investigation into any parliamentarian,” said the statement. 

“The RCMP must exercise significant caution with respect to public statements related to ongoing investigations. An RCMP confirmation of such an investigation has the potential to cause damage to reputations prior to meeting an appropriate level of proof, or to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”

The statement said the RCMP did not receive information regarding all the matters contained in the report, but the Mounties said they were aware “of the broad range of work being done by partners.”

“Challenges do exist, including the use of intelligence as evidence, that limit the sharing of information for criminal investigations,” the statement said.

“The RCMP and national security partners meet regularly to discuss threats and to ensure there is a level of awareness of each organization’s activity, even though specific details are not always shared.”

Hard to prosecute on intelligence: McGuinty Monday’s report said NSICOP members viewed intelligence suggesting MPs worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials.

In another case cited in the report — based on Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) information shared with NSICOP — a then-member of Parliament maintained a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. The officer’s country of origin was not included in the public report.

NSICOP said some of the cases of foreign interference they examined might have involved illegal activity but are unlikely to end in criminal charges “owing to Canada’s failure to address the long-standing issue of protecting classified information and methods in judicial processes.”

McGuinty acknowledged police have struggled to secure charges based on intelligence.

“It’s difficult to get intelligence in the broad daylight of a courtroom because it speaks to the protection of sources and methods,” he said.

“Look, this is a big issue for intelligence law enforcement folks who have been asking for some improvement in this area.” 

The use of intelligence as evidence has been a long-standing point of contention between Canada’s security agencies, the police and the courts.

The “intelligence to evidence” dilemma involves striking a balance between the need to shield sensitive intelligence and law enforcement’s use of that information, while protecting an accused’s right to a fair trial.

Waning RCMP resources A 2021 report by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), the country’s civilian intelligence oversight body, said flaws in the way Canada’s spy agency and the national police force share information have stalled investigations.

The report said CSIS is under pressure to safeguard operational information — its tactics, methods, where its spies are located. The RCMP is also reluctant to use CSIS’s information because it fears the service’s involvement could jeopardize the chances of a successful prosecution, said the report.

As a result, NSIRA said, the RCMP’s investigations are progressing slowly while CSIS sits on a “trove of intelligence.”  

While NSICOP has access to reams of classified intelligence and can interview senior players, it is prevented from seeing information relating directly to an ongoing investigation by a law enforcement agency.

WATCH | Public safety minister grilled on parliamentarians allegedly involved in foreign interference 

Public safety minister grilled on parliamentarians allegedly involved in foreign interferenceDominic LeBlanc, Canada’s public safety minister, responds to questions on whether he’s comfortable sharing caucus meetings with parliamentarians who are alleged to have conspired with foreign governments.

“For this reason, the committee was unable to discern a clear picture of the investigations that may have been underway in the time period under review,” said the committee’s report.

Members did hear from the RCMP that it set up a a foreign actor interference team in 2020 to coordinate and oversee its foreign interference investigations. But the report said the RCMP was unable to tell NSICOP exactly how many foreign interference investigations it had undertaken over the review period.

“The unit was established using resources from other national security priorities and the RCMP advised the committee that it will be unsustainable without new resources,” said the NSICOP report.

“No charges have been laid in respect of foreign interference in democratic processes and institutions.”

WATCH: Should names of MPs accused of working on behalf of foreign governments be released?

Should names of MPs accused of working on behalf of foreign governments be released?A new national security report alleges some members of Parliament have conspired with foreign actors, but should their names be released? Parliamentary Secretary to the deputy prime minister Ryan Turnbull, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson join Power & Politics to discuss.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who received a security clearance to review foreign-interference materials prepared by former governor general David Johnston last year, said he’s asked for a classified briefing to make sure NDP MPs were not involved.

He also said Wednesday it’s disturbing that the prime minister has had NSICOP’s unredacted report since March and hasn’t acted.

“How can it be that there are members of Parliament, potentially ones sitting in this chamber now, that have knowingly worked with a foreign government to interfere with our democracy and no additional steps are taken? That is wrong,” he said.

“I’m concerned about democracy, I’m concerned about Canadians, I’m concerned about all the diaspora communities that have said for so long they’re worried about being threatened by foreign governments.”

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Liberal Party would be doing an “internal followup.” She did not explain what that meant or state whether any Liberal MP who is accused would be allowed to remain in caucus.

The government has pointed to a recently introduced bill that aims to curb foreign interference in Canadian affairs, from school board elections to the House of Commons and Senate.

Bill C-70, tabled in the House of Commons early last month includes, a host of measures meant to deter and punish foreign interference, including new Criminal Code offences.

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