By Aidan Jonah, The Canada Files, March 17, 2023
On March 16, 2023, on the CBC’s Power & Politics show, ex-Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said two Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents visited him in May 2022 and alerted him to supposed Chinese election interference out of frustration in hopes of him taking action. Stewart said the agents did this because they thought their superiors weren't doing enough on that front. There are now three rogue CSIS spies involved in the Chinagate story.
This CSIS meeting with Stewart was an extension of their campaign to spread fear of foreign interference in Canadian federal politics, to municipal politics (particularly focused in British Columbia). The campaign, which began around the time ex-Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost his seat in the 2021 federal election and claimed foreign interference, originally started with briefings to Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators about the supposed risk of Chinese interference in federal politics in particular.
As noted in a July 2022 The Canada Files (TCF) article on the briefings:
“The documents show CSIS was seeking to raise alarm about alleged foreign interference plots, by China in particular. The Globe and Mail piece mirrored the agency’s push, accepting without scrutiny two National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ reports, which claimed that China intimidates critics in Canada and has ‘diplomats and agents of the United Front [in Canada],’ which is ‘managing the Chinese diaspora.’ …
CSIS internal emails claim that their briefings on supposed foreign interference threats ‘were welcomed by all MPs and received consistently positive reactions.’ A ‘majority of MPs’ recommended that other MPs receive the same briefing, and wanted to know ‘how to deal with large eth[n]ic diaspora in their ridings’ and how they might be affected by ‘individuals and organizations that were involved in FI [foreign interference]’, according to CSIS.
The findings also hint at a troubling relationship between Canada’s public servants and constituents.”
The first two rogue CSIS spies come in during the May 2022 meeting with Stewart.
CSIS agents met with officials in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam for a “similar briefing” around this time. Then, a July 2022 Richmond News article had Richmond’s mayor Malcom Brodie speaking about a recent meeting with CSIS. Questions must be asked about the other two meetings now, did the CSIS agents conducted these briefings have approval from people higher up the proverbial food chain?
The Globe & Mail duo, Steven Chase and Robert Fife, have a tradition of carrying water for CSIS. ATIPs obtained by TCF in 2022 showed that Fife, back in January 2022, emailed CSIS uncritically asking them to explain their campaign of briefing MPs. This resulted in a January 11, 2022, Globe & Mail story, written by Fife and Chase, uncritically pushing paranoia about supposed Chinese influence operations, which featured no voices challenging this narrative.
Chase and Fife have gone on to lead the full-launch of Chinagate, uncritically accepting the word of the third rogue CSIS spy, their source. Sam Cooper (see our articles on his reporting: #1, #2) has predictably followed on the path blazed by Chase and Fife.
CSIS, the Globe & Mail and ATIPs
The emails which revealed Fife’s subservience to CSIS didn’t come from a direct Access to Information Processing (ATIP) request for CSIS communications with reporters, but through one focused on details of their briefing campaign around foreign interference.
Soon after The Canada Files (TCF) broke the story on Fife’s uncritical email to CSIS, we filed follow up ATIP requests focused on Canadian national security focused journalists. One of which was for:
"All email communications between CSIS and Globe & Mail reporters, Robert Fife and Steven Chase. Timeline: January 1, 2021 to present [August 5, 2022]"
CSIS replied with an ATIP file which only contained three pages worth of emails already received via ATIP, which spawned TCF's July article on Fife. Its response letter noted that "portions of the material was exempted by one or more sections" of the Canadian Act governing ATIPs including "one or more of sections 15(1) (as it relates to the efforts of Canada towards detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities), 19(1) or 24(1)." It's a clear admission that significant amounts of Fife and Chase's communications with CSIS were withheld from this response to TCF’s ATIP request.
The Canada Files also filed an ATIP request focusing on the Toronto Star on August 5, 2022, mainly focused on a Toronto Star national security focused reporter. The request also included ex-CTV News freelancer Christy Somos, who was only mentioned as she’d done reporting on national security.
See the aforementioned ATIP request below:
"All email communications between CSIS and Toronto Star reporter, Jeremy Nutall. Also all email communications between CSIS and CTV News Reporter, Christy Somos. Timeline: January 1, 2021."
CSIS refused to confirm or deny "that the records you requested exist." CSIS stated that "such records, if they existed, could reasonably be expected to be exempted under one or more of sections 15(1) (as it relates to the efforts of Canada towards detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities), 16(1)(a) or (c) of the Act."
TCF filed a follow up request in December 2022, which focused on internal CSIS records and communications on Fife, Chase or Global News reporter Sam Cooper, but netted us the same refusal to confirm or deny "that the records you requested exist." CSIS has also refused to disclose records on NED activities in Canada, and did so again for a request filed that day.
TCF also sent CSIS another ATIP request this month. We are looking for communications between January 2021 to this month between Fife and Chase, and CSIS. We will update you when we receive a response from CSIS to this request.
At present, it should be noted that no other news organization has had access to the documents shared with the Globe & Mail. On the CBC, even well-known reporter Chantal Hébert said the reporting on Chinagate has become a “witch-hunt”, “and not just a political witch-hunt but a witch-hunt to which the media is contributing.”
All three CSIS spies in the news, do indeed seem to have gone rogue. However, CSIS has refused to disclose any communications with Fife and Chase, beyond the three pages they released around the CSIS briefing campaign which TCF reported on in July 2022. This also applies for requests focused on communications other national security focused reporters as well.
This raises the possibility that these CSIS spies were not rogue, but part of a broader CSIS campaign to shift Canada’s political landscape for their own gain. If that’s the case, then CSIS has been subverting the elected Liberal government for its own political gain.
Note: For further context on Chinagate, read Justin Podur’s article.
Posted March 26, 2023