ontario news watch

Public safety minister does not have access to top-secret emails from CSIS: Johnston

OTTAWA — Special rapporteur David Johnston found in his first report on foreign interference that Canada’s public safety minister does not have access to top-secret emails that national security officials use to share intelligence — including regarding potential threats against MPs.

The former governor general found that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is aware of indications Chinese officials were contemplating action directed at Chinese-Canadian MPs and their family members abroad, including Conservative MP Michael Chong.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially said the information never left the security agencies involved, but his national security adviser Jody Thomas later confirmed that it reached her predecessor’s office.

Johnston’s report confirms CSIS also sent information to the public safety minister and his chief of staff in a top-secret email — but they never received it, with the public service confirming to Johnston that they don’t have access to the right system.

Chong told a parliamentary committee that failure to notify him of the threat was a breakdown in the machinery of government, and Johnston said it was the most prominent example of poor information processing between security services, the public service and politicians. 

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has since formally directed Canada’s spy agency to investigate and disclose any foreign threats against parliamentarians, their families, their staff members or Parliament itself.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2023. 

The Canadian Press